Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sexualisation of society



An excellent article in Masud's blog has appeared, and I quote it here:
Sexualisation of society

"A while back, on a Facebook thread, the poster said:
“Never really thought or even realized how much haram there is in Bollywood music videos. Just as much objectification of women as most hiphop videos. It probably aint a good idea to have those videos playing in family restaurants either…My God!!!”
The poster was not an Indo-Pak but I thought that this was a good starting point for a discussion on the issue of sexualisation of society and sexualising media and entertainment.
We know that the sexualiation of society has been going on in the West for decades now, so much so that not much is left that is shocking or taboo anymore. Music videos in particular, and particularly RnB and HipHop seem to be overtly lewd in their form and content and Bollywood isn’t far behind if at all.
Take two old Indian (pre-Bollywood) films about courtesans – the 1972 Pakeezah and the  1981 Umrao Jaan – both dealt with the very difficult subject matter of young girls and women being sold into sexual slavery. With much subtlety, tact and taste, bothe films told two wonderful and deeply sad stories and were masterfully filmed and directed. The two directors didn’t need to appeal to the lowest common denominator and titillate the audience. I suppose the times were different and people wouldn’t have put up with what would then be called lewdness, but it goes to show you CAN make films about such subject matters without descending into lurid and lewd visuals.
In Islamic and indeed in normative and traditional eastern cultures, sex and sexuality is for the private domain and not for the public sphere and this was reflected on screen in such scenes in which a couple approached one another for an intimate moment the camera either panned away or the shot is obscured by a prop or faded to black to reinforce this social and moral convention.
It is utterly disconcerting that, with the prevalence of satellite and cable TV, many South Asian Muslim homes will have Bollywood channels on with all their leery, soft-porn antics there for all to see and not think to flip the channel over. Whilst adults can (and this is highly questionable) perhaps not be affected by such sexually charged imagery, children, on the other hand are. Such images will normalise and desensitise these children to such behaviour and we do see some of that today. Muslim kids previously would have a lot of shame and decorum when it came to sex and sexuality to such a degree that a pre-emptive channel change would occur when one suspected and impending on-screen kiss.
It is important, for morality and particularly Muslim morality, that we instill in our children a sense of shame and embarassament when it comes to sexuality but this must be tempered against the need to discuss matters of a sexual variety when the need arises. What we are ashamed of is crass and open sexuality not sexuality per se.
In a recent New York Times article http://nyti.ms/nvUkSm the author said “When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot. ” This is worrying, we are raising a generation of people who have no idea what morals (and perhaps ethics) are, there is an erosion of these values going on and the first step is the over sexualisation of society and bringing sexuality into the public sphere. Studies have shown that clothes companies are also guilty of this, many companies produce clothes that sexualise young girls, they produce skimpy tops, mini-skirts, make-up, padded bras for pre-pubescent girls, high-heel shoes and all sorts see http://bit.ly/n6yjpc and http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/apr/16/children-clothing-survey-bikini-heels and http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/let-girls-be-girls
The question has to be asked, why society at large has not picked up on this and voiced their concerns? If stores are stock such thing it means that they are selling. Young girls themselves are not buying these items so it must be mums who are buying such things for their young girls. The worrying thing here is that the mums quite clearly don’t see anything wrong in sexualised clothing for their young daughters and the question has to be asked, why? One reason, I am sure, is the fact that the notion of shame and embarassament has gone out of society and the media has helped condition and groom society into shedding shame about sex and sexuality, much to the detriment of society at large. They have taken something private and intimate and put it on display for all and sundry.
“Innocent” programmes like “Hannah Montana” and other pre-teen “girlie” TV shows are quite insidious and pernicious, whilst outwardly they show very strong willed independent young girls who seem in control of their own affairs and destiny, the underlying theme is rebellion which is reinforced by very permissive and passive parental characters in these shows. The other danger here is that young girls from 4 or 5 years and upwards start to indentify with the character and the actor portraying them and grow up with the show and then follow the career of the actor. The actor becomes a role model and as we have seen in the case of the actor playing Hannah Montana – Miley Cyrus – they inevitably end up displaying rampant and unfettered sexuality, in their private as well as their professional lives as soon as they are legally allowed to remove their clothes on-screen. The claim by such actors is that they are comfortable and not ashamed of their bodies and it is through “choice” that they are willing to display their bodies and be sexualised, when the fact of the matter is that they have been conditioned or more accurately groomed for such an eventuality by their agents and by their producers.
Our boys are also affected by what I have mentioned. Studies by psychologists have shown that men see bikin-clad women as objects see:
http://articles.cnn.com/2009-02-19/health/women.bikinis.objects_1_bikini-strip-clubs-sexism?_s=PM:HEALTH
New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis. The research was presented by a professor of psychology at Princeton University.
Access to sexual material is not difficult with the advent of the internet and many parents just do not know what they children get up to online. As useful as the Internet is, it is a double-edged sword and parents must be vigilant. One worrying trend I have noticed amongst young boys in general is  machismo and with that comes the disrespect and the objectification of women. And again there media and popular culture and the passivity of parents is to blame. We have to instill in our boys the respect for women from an early age, how we do this, I don’t know but one of the key elements is for the father to be the role model. His behaviour towards women will colour his sons’ attitude to women. Certainly, peer-pressure and friends will also have a bearing on their psyche, so it is important to know who their friends are. It is also important to stress morals and decorum and certainly talk and counsel your boys about such issues.
Jason Evert a well known Catholic lecturer gives this excellent short talk on the question “Should Christian women wear bikinis?” in which he cites the aforementioned research.
http://youtu.be/WtzIcz7MOkc
I am certainly no expert on these issues, I am a concerned parent of two teenage boys and 7 year old girl. Alhamdulillah, I seem to have navigated this minefield with my boys and I pray that they maintain their morality and sense of shame. I have discussed many things with them in this regard and I have always try to encourage discussion. I have also made it clear that Muslims don’t do girlfriend/boyfriend and we have always spoken about marriage from an early age. As parents we have to embed our ideas first and help make them firm in their hearts and minds.
What is important is to SPEAK TO YOUR CHILDREN and speak to them regularly and then listen to them too. If you want to get them through this it has to be in partnership with them, you have to make them understand you. And finally and by no means least, make dua for them after every salat, that Allah grants them a sense of shame and decorum, and to protect them from that which displeases Him."

Friday, 30 March 2012

Imam Zahid al-Kawthari- Great Scholars of Islam


"Imam al-Kawthari was a true scholar; the scholars knew his knowledge. I knew him years before meeting him. I knew him through his writings in which the light of truth shone forth. I knew him through his commentary of manuscripts which he undertook to publish. By Allah! My amazement at the manuscript did not match my amazement at the commentary of the editor. Even when the original manuscript was a brief epistle, yet the Imam's commentary on it would turn it into a major work that should be read. Truly one's insight and wide erudition show plainly in such commentaries. All this he did with an elegant style, subtle allusions, forceful analysis, accomplished accuracy, and total mastery over his own thought and writing technique. It could not occur to the mind of the reader that he was a non-Arab writer and not patently Arab. ... Yet it is not really astonishing, for he was Turkish in ancestry, education, and everyday life at the time he lived in Istanbul (al-Astana) but his scholarly life was purely Arabic, for he read nothing but Arabic, and nothing filled his head but the shining light of Muhammadan Arabic. ...

"He came from a Caucasus family, as reflected in his vigor, strength, handsome body and spirit, and the quality and depth of his thought. His father moved to Istanbul where he was born in surroundings of guidance and truth. He studied the Islamic sciences until he attained the highest rank in them at around twenty-eight years of age. Then he ascended the ladder of teaching positions until he reached their highest level quite early. He reached the point when he was confronted by those who wanted to separate the world from religion in order to rule the world by other than what Allah has revealed, but he stood in ambush for them despite the fact that he was yet without experience, with everything that a young man at the beginning of his career could hope for. But he chose his Religion over their world. He chose to defend what is still left of Islam rather than have a pleasant life. He preferred to face continuous enmity while obtaining the good pleasure of Allah Most High rather than pleasure and comfort amidst people's approval and the good pleasure of those who held the keys of the lower world. Obtaining the good pleasure of Allah is truly the goal of faith.

"He fought the promoters of atheism (al-ilhâdiyyîn) in power when they tried to shorten the period of study for the religious curriculum when he saw that to shorten it would jeopardize its preliminary and final parts, so he left no stone unturned until he did away with their wish and even lengthened the period that they were trying to cut short, so that students would be able to absorb and digest all the disciplines they needed, especially for non-natives learning in a patent Arabic tongue. ...

"He strove with all his might and effort - may Allah be well-pleased with him - on the loftiest paths until he became Deputy of the Office of Shaykh al-Islam in [Ottoman] Turkey. He was among those known to give such a post its due. He never exceeded bounds so as to please someone high-placed, no matter how great their power over him, eventually preferring to be expelled from his position for the sake of upholding the public good. It is better to be expelled for the sake of truth than to implement falsehood. ...

"Then the lofty-minded, abnegating, Godwary scholar was put to the severest test when he saw his dear country - the Great Land of Islam, the pivot of his strength, the locus of hopes for Muslims - overshadowed by atheism and taken over by those who do not wish any honor for this Religion. The one who clings to his Religion in such a place soon becomes like one clasping a burning coal. Then he finds himself targeted by persecution so that unless he escaped, he would be thrown into some forlorn prisons and blocked from all that is knowledge and teaching. At that point, the Imam faced three choices. Either to remain a prisoner in chains, his knowledge put out in the deep gaol; a harsh fate for a scholar of learning accustomed to teach and guide others, extracting the treasures of the Religion and bringing them to light for the benefit of humankind. Or grovel and flatter and kowtow, short of which he would remain in fetters or even risk losing his life. Or emigrate - and vast are the lands of Allah. He remembered the saying of Allah, {Was not the earth of Allah spacious that you could have migrated therein?} (4:97).

"So he emigrated to Egypt then moved to Syria. He then returned to Cairo, then went back to Damascus again, until he finally settled in Cairo.

"During his trips to Sham and his residence in Cairo he was a beacon of light. His residence expanded into a school to which flocked the students of true knowledge - not the students of schoolish knowledge. Those students were guided to the sources of knowledge through the books that were written when the marketplace of the Islamic sciences was vibrant and the souls of the ulamas thriving with Islam. He coached the minds of those searching students with those sources and directed them to them. At the same time he would explain whatever they found obscure and pour out the abundance of his learning and share the fruits of his thought. ...

"I bear witness that I have heard the praise of eminent personalities and scholars, but I never prided myself with any of it as much as I prided myself with the praise of this magnificent shaykh - for such is a scholarly badge from someone who is truly able to give it. ...

"That noble man who suffered many trials and overcame them, was also afflicted with the loss of loved ones, for he lost his children during his own lifetime, death taking them one after the other. By virtue of his knowledge, he was able to be patient, uttering the statement of the Prophet Ya`qub - peace upon him -, {Patience is beautiful, and the help of Allah must be entreated} (12:18). ... He passed on to his Lord, patient, thankful and praiseful, as the sincere and righteous pass on. May Allah be pleased with him and make him pleased!"

Thursday, 29 March 2012

True Prophetic Example of Helping Today


Abdul Sattar Edhi, subhanAllah we need more people like him. Support the campaign to have him awarded the Nobel Prize

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi- Great Muslim Scholars

Al-Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn al-Junayd, Abu al-Qasim al-Qawariri al-Khazzaz al-Nahawandi al-Baghdadi al-Shafi`i (d. 298). Called Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi or Abu al-Qasim for short. The Imam of the World in his time, shaykh of the Sufis and "Diadem of the Knowers," he accompanied his maternal uncle Sari al-Saqati, al-Harith al-Muhasibi, and others.

The Mu`tazili (a sect based on philosophy) al-Ka`bi said: "My eyes did not see his like. Writers came to hear him for his linguistic mastery, philosophers for the sharpness of his speech, poets for his eloquence, and kalam scholars for the contents of his speech."


He took fiqh from Abu Thawr - in whose circle he would give fatwas at twenty years of age - and, it was also said, from Sufyan al-Thawri. He once said: "Allah did not bring out a single science on earth accessible to people except he gave me a share in its knowledge." He used to go to the market every day, open his shop, and commence praying four hundred rak`as until closing time.


Al-Junayd went on pilgrimage on foot thirty times. 



When his uncle asked him to speak from the pulpit he deprecated himself, but then saw the Prophet  in his dream ordering him to speak. 



Among his sayings about the Sufi Path: "Whoever does not memorize the Qur'an and write hadith is not fit to be followed in this matter. For our science is controlled by the Book and the Sunnah."


His student Abu al-`Abbas ibn Surayj would say, whenever he defeated his adversaries in debate: "This is from the blessing of my sittings with al-Junayd." 


Once a young Christian asked him: "What is the meaning of the Prophet's hadith: 'Beware the vision of the believer for he sees with the light of Allah'?"2 Al-Junayd remained immersed in thought then lifted his head and said: "Submit, for the time has come for you to accept Islam." The young man embraced Islam on the spot. 

Al-Junayd defined the Knower (al-`arif) as "He who addresses your secret although you are silent."

He also said "The Sufi is like the earth: both the righteous and the sinners walk upon it. He is like the clouds: they give shade to all things. He is like the raindrop: it waters all things."


And:
"The Sufi is like the earth: every kind of abomination is thrown upon it, but naught but every kind of goodness grows from it." 




On his deathbed he recited the Qur'an incessantly. Al-Jariri related that he told him: "O Abu al-Qasim! Put yourself at ease."

He replied: "O Abu Muhammad! Do you know anyone that is more in need of Qur'an at this time, when my record is being folded up?" He finished one khatma then started over until he recited seventy verses of Sura al-Baqara, then he died. Ibn `Imad al-Hanbali said: "If we were to speak of his merits we could fill volumes."
Before his death Junayd ordered that all the saying of knowledge attributed to him which people have written down should be buried. When people asked him the reason he said, "When the people have the knowledge of the Prophet of Allah with them, I desire that I may meet Allah Ta'ala in the state that there remains nothing attributed to me".

After his death Shaykh Ja'far al-Khaldi saw him in a dream. Ja'far al-Khaldi asked Junayd "How did Allah Ta'ala treat you?"

Imam Junayd replied:
"Those subtle signs were finished, those phrases disappeared, those sciences were annihilated, those illustrations were erased and nothing helped us except some rak`ats which we used to pray before dawn".

For more info on him, see:
http://www.sunnah.org/history/Scholars/imam_junayd.htm

and
http://seekersguidance.org/blog/2009/11/a-true-hajj-amazing-explanation-of-imam-junaid-al-baghdadi/ 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Making cooking a good deed

Sadly many people today look down upon cooking in the house and don't want to do it. Others do it, but without the right intention.



If one thinks about it, one can earn a huge reward if one makes the intention that providing the food or drink will give energy to the eater to pray, live, and do good deeds. So if one intends cooking for that reason, then inshaAllah one will get the reward of the eaters ibadah (worship) and other good deeds (such as allowing the person to go work, to help people, to fast and so on).

Thus you see the feminist opposition to women cooking (although both genders can and should cook) is very superficial and limited to the material life.

Let's try to do good deeds and help others to do them, and remind people of them:)


The Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said "Actions are according to intentions"

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Chance to Debate in Malaysia


The search for truth is the most fundamental thing in to humans. It is something that is deep in the heart, but sadly it gets clouded by emotions and irrationality.

In today’s Malaysia, public debates are not common and this leads to many misunderstandings and large gaps between different groups, and even ignorance of what they say. To leave issues on differences to the side and to ignore them also leads to hidden feelings of hatred. This is all because often one side will give a distorted view of the opposition, but not get the chance to have the opposition clarify it, or that the laymen argue amongst each other and don’t actually have the sound understanding to represent one of the sides, thus promoting misunderstandings.

Rather what should be done is that the best/most suitable people from each side should be given platforms in the public to debate the differences, so then people can make informed decisions about which side is on the truth and what is correct. This should not just be done on political issues, but also on issues of religion.  

It is like when a person makes a claim against another person (and the religionists make claims about others), and the case gets taken to court to decide which side is right and each has to bring its evidences and witnesses. Otherwise anyone can claim whatever s/he wants, and deceive people.

For too long has there been hatred and misunderstandings between different religionists, it is time that they discuss their differences openly, so we (the people) can see who is with the stronger and logical arguments, and which side has the truth.

If a religion or belief claims that its book is holy, or that God exists, and another says that it is not, then the most knowledgeable person from each side should come up and prove their claim, and discuss and debate the matter. Even if it’s not the best person, then it should someone who is qualified (that is the minimum condition) in the matter. After all, if one scholar (whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian) is claiming with certainty that s/he has the truth, then the person should be able to prove that. If one can’t, then let people know that the person and belief doesn’t have any grounds for saying that what it believes is the truth whilst asking others to follow it.

It is time we went back to the times where open discussion and debate amongst different viewpoints was done in a civilised manner. Take the example of the Muslim world and the Byzantines, the Caliph sent Qadi Abu Bakr al-Baqillani to debate the best Christian scholars in the Byzantine empire, in front of the Emperor. Not only was there one or two debates, but they arranged another debate with the head of their church, in a great event attended by the emperor, politicians and people of influence in government and church.  Or take the example where an atheist asked that the best debater debate with him, so Imam Abu Hanifa debated and defeated the atheist in the Muslim empire.

And the example of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is also well known where a Christian delegation from Najran came to the Mosque and debated with the Prophet. He didn’t quick them out or treat them badly, but had a public discussion and debate to reveal which side was on the truth. The Qur’an commented on this "Say, `O People of the Book, come now to a fair principle common to both of us, that we do not worship aught but God, that we do not associate aught with Him and that we do not take one another as lords besides God.' But if they turn away, then say, `Bear witness that we are Muslims.”[Qur'an, 3:64]

Many of us believe that we decide the truth through reason and objective evidence, so that is our common ground. Thus let us see which belief is supported by historical, logical, scientific evidences. Let us not appeal to emotions and prejudices in arguments. Let the representatives reveal the arguments to the public in front of the opposition, and let the people decide. They should be sincere in the search for the truth, and critically analyse the arguments of the opposition, and accept them if they’re the truth.

Imam Shafi’i said: “I have never debated with someone who I want to make a mistake. And I have never debated someone except I say to them, O’ Allah, put the truth in his heart and on his tongue. If I am on the truth he will follow me, and if he is on the truth then I will follow him.

But is the Malaysian public ready for it you may ask? But I ask “is any society ready for it?” You will always have some people who can’t reason, or who are not educated, but by having these platforms of debate, they can learn (by God’s will) to reason. This is by having intellectual/qualified people debating (they may say when debating “such is an emotional argument, not logical, and here is why...” and give thought provoking questions), not just some random people. 

Furthermore Muslim scholars should be free to speak their mind and make their own khutbas (unlike in many Malaysian states where the government sadly makes its own scripts and appoints its own Imams). It is a pity that Muslim scholars can speak more about Islam and make their own khutbas in the UK than in Muslim countries like Malaysia. Traditionally the image of many scholars has been destroyed when they have been perceived to be close to the government (although in some conditions it is allowed). This is because the independence of the scholars from all  governmental institutions is paramount and something that great scholars like Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal fought for.

 Sheikh Muhammad Ya'qoubi


Though different Muslims specialise on different topics, amongst the Muslim debaters willing to debate on the issue of secularism, Islam, or atheism in Malaysia is Hamza Tzortsis. He has debated leading secularist and atheist professors throughout the world masha’Allah. Others who are good at inter-religious debates throughout the world include Dr Zakir Naik and Sheikh Muhammad al-Ya'qoubi (he opposed the brutal Syrian govt, and debated leading orientalists (those who specialise in attacking Islam) and made them shiver through his logical and sound Islamic arguments in Scandinavia). So Malaysia can benefit through having Muslim speakers/debaters from outside Malaysia, or inside Malaysia, since we are all one body of believers as the Prophet said: "“Wisdom is the lost property of the believer; he takes it from wherever he finds.” (Tirmidhi)


Sunday, 25 March 2012

Muslim Characters part 3- Muslim Lion Comedy


The Hidden Muslim- no one knows he's Muslim. He keeps a low profile is paranoid and doesn't pray, in case he's found out and arrested by the MIA (Muslim intelligence agency). He says 'don't call me Mohammed, call me Mo'. 

The Cultural- wears hijab for cultural reasons, often awra (like legs or chest, or even hair showing). She says 'Islam is in the heart, not about praying, even if I hate other people'. This though the Prophet said "'Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it." (Muslim)

Jumu'ah in snow Kazakhstan


The boss- orders everyone around and expects to be followed, as if he's divinely ordained as the boss. He says 'Aslan sweep the prayer hall, Mo kill the coakroaches, sisters clean the kitchen'!

The old- seems to have been at university since the uni opened. He never seems to finish his PhD, or seems to do many PhDs and degrees. He says 'back in the days, I was the only Muslim, I worked hard to make this prayer hall and then you come and make it dirty!'

The charitable- seems to be involved in every charity project and initiative. Its basically his life, and he has a big heart and sincere concern. He says 'are you coming to the save the palestinians protest? The Muslims need help too! And so do the pandas, and the little muffin women, and the refugees, and the Kashmiris, and the fairies! Ah so much to do!'

The political- much concerned about the modern political climate and wants to peacefully change things. He says' the kuffar have enslaved the Muslims, we must save the Muslims, free free Muslims!'

The worshipful- whenever he is seen, he is praying. A watcher asks 'how does he still manage to come first in his class?'

The da'ee (inviter to Islam)- really enthusiastic about the religion and wants to give everyone the chance to experience the peace and beauty of Islam, and save them from hell. He says 'you can get everything you can dream and wish for, if you just obey Allah in Islam. How many brothers and sisters do you have? only 2, ah! You can have 1.3 billion!'

The superficial- focuses too much on appearance, putting lots of make up and perfume whilst neglecting purification of the heart. She says 'how do I look today? Don't I look awesome, such that you want intensify your gaze in front of me?'.  This though the Qur'an says "
Adorn not yourselves with the adornment of the Time of Ignorance." (Qur'an, 33:33)

The competitive- copies and tries to beat whatever everyone else has done. He says 'oh he climbed ben nevis? I'm going to climb 3 mountains in a day now'

The doubter- has extensive doubts about Islam and life, and tries to confuse others. People wonder why he hasn't committed suicide. He says 'there's no proof for our existence'.

The confused- doesn't know what to follow. He says 'why can't Islam be black and white, like art?  
The nasheed wannabe- tries to impress girls by forming a nasheed boy band and opting to give the adhaan in a nasheedy, beautiful voice. Randomly busts tunes when girls come, such as “you can take meee, but you can’t eat meeee, yah!”

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Selfishness, Selflessness and the Modern World


 Innocent brotherhood

As time has gone by, the people have gone further from the Prophetic way (of Islam and all the Prophets). And so the people have lost much of the sunnah and piety, so that the amount of sincere and righteous Muslims has decreased. It has fallen to such an extent that it has related to the increased selfishness in society.

As society and culture has become more selfish (through materialism, love of dunya etc), more people became influenced by the selfishness. And it kept increasing every decade (and even years at times), such that it has become the norm, and the path that people think is good and aspire to. They think its a "dog eat dog eat world", a "cut throat economy", and that we need to care for ourselves because no one will care for us. It became so accepted that people in general tended to think that there are no people who are pious, sincere or selfless. Thus they negated the existence of the Awliya (friends of Allah swt) of the present (and in many cases, of the past).

The selfish people (which is the norm in society, even amongst Muslims) struggle to overcome their selfishness (which includes their desires) if they try, and because of their ego, they think that if they can't do it (become selfless), then no one can. So they assume wrongly about the selfless people, deny their existence, and treat them like the selfless are selfish people. Since the Prophet said A believer is a mirror of the believer.” [Abu Dawud], the selfish person is seeing his own selfishness in the other.

This leads to people who are struggling and want to be selfless, to be treated badly. They try to help others, and prefers others to themselves, and give sincere advice, yet the selfish person thinks "he must have a self-interest or bad intention in this, or must be weird, or let me just use him and ignore him when he's no use". Since these selfless people are often weak, the pressures and maltreatment of society makes them give up and think 'why should I be nice if everyone just uses me and thinks me as a fool if I'm nice?' Sometimes such struggling people might continue to fight the temptation to be selfish, but eventually they “crack” and convert. Even those who don't normally struggle, and are brought up as selfless people often convert to the selfish.  Thus the cycle of selfishness is vicious and converts more of the selfless to the selfish, leading to the eventual destruction of humanity through its becoming like animals (actually even worse since many animals sacrifice themselves for their species).



The selfish trait is valued by society since it fulfills the desires/nafs (as a person gets what s/he wants and self-interests) and increases consumption/profits (that's why firms encourage selfishness) and leads to greater competition. Many of these selfish people are actually normally nice, they may help in a lot of charitable activities, or outwardly act Islamic, but actually they are selfish due to their inner feelings and actions towards other people, using them for their goals, and assuming bad about them without clear reason. They need the purify their hearts, through the Islamic science of tasawwuf.

However Allah swt has promised us, through the Prophet, that there will continue to be selfless, righteous, people on the Earth. They are exemplars of Islam, and the real representatives of the Prophet, reminding people of how it must have been at the time of the Prophet, and how humans can reach the highest of stations, through selflessness and proper following of Islam. This is despite the vast majority of society having fallen prey to their desires and selfishness. The selfless will succeed eventually. The Prophet said “The Abdal (the 40 best people alive) from my nation did not enter into Paradise with their actions, but rather through the mercy of Allah, through the unparalleled generosity of their souls, the fact that they hold no grudge or hatred against anyone and their hearts being at peace with everyone, and through mercy for the entirety of Muslims.” (Bayhaqi)

So those who want to be selfless, yet are selfish, should not judge other people, nor treat them as if they are selfish, since verily they could be of the Awliya, and you may not know the hidden states of that person. Rather assume the best in people (as long as reasonable), and if you start treating people selflessly, and reminder others of it, and propagate Islam (through words and actions, such as importance of keeping your word and honesty). And if you find them make mistakes, remember that Ibn Munazil said ““The believer seeks excuses for their brethren, while the hypocrite seeks out the faults of their brethren.””

Look for the selfless people, the awliya (they can be male or female) so that their company helps improve you and make you of the selfless, and shows you that such people exist. If you look in the right place, you will insha’Allah find them.

Though the selfless are misunderstood and abused in society and are very rare, their status, rank, value and honour are elevated and make the best of people. It is like the more rare a diamond is, the higher its value.



The Qur'anic example (which is obviously real) that we should follow on selflessness is " and give them preference over themselves even though they were in need of that" (59:9)

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Book of Earning- Book Review


The Book of Earning a Livelihood





“The Book of Earning a Livelihood” is an excellent and much needed book that is more relevant now than ever, since the age of materialism afflicts us with greater force than ever before. It may be the earliest book in economics (and Islamic economics) and when economics is defined according to its original definition of “household management”, this is one of the earliest books on the subject of economics (yes etymology is also discussed in the book).

The book is written by the one of the greatest Muslim scholars, Imam Muhammed ash-Shaybani (born 132 AH so is a very early book), the genius and leading Mujtahid and student of Imam Abu Hanifa, and teacher of Imam Shafi’i. Dr Adi Setia has done an excellent job in translating it, as he has been focusing on translating early Islamic texts related to economics.

 At the same time the book shows the comprehensiveness of Islam to encompass all aspects and relate them to each other so beautifully. That is beautifully expressed when the writer explains the Qur’anic verse “And help each other to kindness and conscience” (Ma’ida, v2)  as including helping and cooperating with other people through working/job (thus earning), which allows a person to then feed himself/herself and get enough energy to worship Allah swt.  This means for example that the person who initially helped the other through work (like giving a job or making clothes), will get the reward of the worship of the employee. Thus we get a new perspective in hiring employees, and in working, and in helping people (even feeding them), and the task of hiring people becomes one connected to Allah swt and reward, if the intention is correct.

The book is divided into 50 chapters and 3 appendixes in 330+ pages. It was supposed to be 1000 chapters, but the author died before he could write more, revealing the widespread knowledge of Imam Shaybani. As the title suggests discusses the various aspects related to earning and spending, often bringing thought provoking insights, and relates them to ethics, Islam and philosophy.

The chapters range from issues of whether gratitude when being rich is better or being patient when poor, whether one who gives money is better or the one who takes, whether marriage is better or worship, what is the limit to spending on oneself, is agriculture better than commerce, is work better than worship, how various trades relate to each other, dealing with wealth and so on, whilst using the Qur’an and Sunnah as evidence. It shows how the early scholars thought and related Islam to the day to day lives of the people.

The book emphasises the need of circulating money from the rich to the poor, instead of just between the rich, and to not do things that would make the poor jealous. This is done by discussions of the virtues of giving, and the obligation to give, and controlling one’s lifestyle.

Related to controlling our food appetites, a very interesting Hadith of the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) is quoted about one of the signs of the Last Hour, which may refer to the modern idea of buffets where tables circulate round, and the bowls move round, is “large bowls (of food) are circulated around their table spreads, whilst (divine) condemnation descends on them” (pg 92, also similar in TIrmidhi).

In the appendix (which forms about 40% of the book) are a lot of gifts offered by Adi Setia to the readers since he includes excellent discussions on money management in Islam, a new vision of an Islamic gift based economy, and reflections over interfaith dialogue over tackling structural greed in society. One gets the immediate thought that Adi Setia is a new critical genius (he teaches Islamic philosophy of science and the Islamic worldview at IIUM) that the Muslim world should appreciate more. His ideas reflect the way that Muslims who brought the Muslim world to the golden age thought, i.e. by looking at different types of knowledge through an Islamic worldview, and critically and solidly engaging with them masha'Allah.
This is shown by how he gives a framework for the economy by using the Qur’an to show that man’s wants should be limited, that needs take priority, that there is an abundance of resources (contrary to the scarcity view of many people), and that man should turn to Allah swt since He will give more. So the revival of the world from its modern ecological destruction lies in returning to Allah swt.

In conclusion, though I only covered a few points in the review, this book is a welcome addition to both the Muslim and non-Muslim world, and applying its ideas leads to a new and refreshing step forward in solving many of the world’s problems.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Fakhr ad-Din ar-Razi- Great Scholars of Islam


Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn1 Abu `Abd Allah al-Qurashi, al-Bakri, al-Taymi, al-Tabaristani al-Shafi`i, known as Ibn al-Khatib and as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (543-606), Shaykh al-Islam, the imam of the learned scholars of kalam and the foundations of belief, a major jurist of the Shafi`i school, specialist of usul, Sufi, commentator of the Qur'an, philologist, genealogist, heresiographer, logician, and physician. "An ocean that contains more pearls than the ocean." The principal spokesman of Ahl al-Sunna in his time, he refuted all the sects with which he came into contact, particularly the multifarious groups of the Mu`tazila, Shi`a, and Hashwiyya as well as  the Jews and Christians.

A student of his father Khatib al-Rayy Diya' al-Din `Umar and Majd al-Din al-Jili al-Maraghi principally, then Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi and Kamal al-Din al-Simnani, he memorized early on Imam al-Haramayn's work in kalam entitled al-Shamil. He began his scholarly career in poverty and died at sixty-three at the height of fame and wealth, poisoned, it is said, by the Karramiyya of Herat who were envious of his great following among the princes of Khurasan.

A superb teacher, al-Razi could debate and preach in both Arabic and Persian, and he answered gracefully and at length the questions of the scholars of all four schools in Herat. He would often break into emotional states while preaching, moving to tears whoever listened to him. He was expelled from Khwarizm and Transoxiana by the Mu`tazila and returned to his native Rayy where he authored a series of works which achieved widespread fame in a short time.

 Imam al-Razi said in his "Testament" (wasiyya):
 "I have explored the ways of kalam and the methods of philosophy, and I did not see in them a benefit that compares with the benefit I found in the Qur'an. For the latter hurries us to acknowledge that greatness and majesty belong only to Allah, precluding us from involvement into the explication of objections and contentions. This is for no other reason than because human minds find themselves deadened in those deep, vexing exercises and obscure ways [of kalam and philosophy].
 Therefore, I say that everything that stands established by literal proofs concerning the necessity of Allah's existence, His oneness, His exemption from any and all partners, as well as His beginninglessness and pre-existence, His disposal of all things, His exclusive efficacy: that is what I also believe, and what I hope to meet Allah with.
 As for what is ultimately subtle and unclear, as well as all that is mentioned in the Qur'an and the sound books of hadith that specifically bears one meaning: it is all exactly as the text says. Whatever is otherwise, I say: O God of the worlds, I see that all of creation concur that You are the most generous of all generous ones,  and the most merciful of them; therefore, concerning anything I wrote or thought, I bear witness that if You saw that I tried to declare true something false, or declare false something true, then do with me as I deserve; but if you saw that I only tried to declare transcendent whatever I considered truly transcendent, and believed so truthfully, then let Your mercy be commensurate with my intention, not with my outcome....
 As for the books which I authored and in which I listed and explicated countless questions, let whoever looks into them remember me kindly and pray for me out of compassion and benevolence, or else, strike out any wrong words. For I did not intend other than abundant investigation and the sharpening of thought, all the while relying upon Allah"
 Ibn al-Subki quotes the following lines of poetry from Imam al-Razi:
  "The daring of minds ends in shackles,   Most of mankind's undertakings are folly.   Our souls are indifferent to what our bodies do,   And the sum of our lives is affliction and harm.   We did not benefit from our lifelong search   Except in collecting what these said, and those.   Atop many a mountain men have triumphed   And gone, while the mountains remained.   How many men and states have we seen  Goaded to disappear one and all."


For more, see:
http://www.sunnah.org/history/Scholars/al_fakhr_al_razi.htm

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Keep company of pious



Excellent video by Sheikh Saqqaf:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4azpa8hPtY&feature=player_embedded

Another benefit is the fact that the one who loves them, connects with them, and takes them as allies will be among them and merit Allah's love and entry into Paradise. 

This is supported by the mass-transmitted hadith: 

A person is with whom he loves.

It is also borne out by the hadith of Ahmad and others with a rigorously authentic chain from Ubada b. al-Samit in a raised form, who said, 

Allah Most High said,

My love is merited by those who love one another for My sake; My love is merited by those who maintain relationships for My sake; My love is merited by those who offer advice to each other for My sake; My love is merited by those who visit one another for My sake; and My love is merited by those strive to help one another for My sake. Those who love one another for My sake shall be on pulpits of light. Their position shall be envied by the Prophets, veracious, and martyrs.
 



FROM the book by Sayyid Muhammad b. Ja‘far b. Idris al-Kattani

The misleading nature of emotional speech and dehumanisation

An excellent article from Sheikhy Notes by Sheikh Arfan Shah:

http://sheikhynotes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/misleading-nature-of-emotional-speech.html



In declarations is magic,” (Al-Bukhari) the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him) eloquently put something that we need to understand.
Politicians know the art of manipulating words to inspire their audience. They have speeches that are well prepared and set out in manner to excite their audience into displays of arrogant partisanship. This is the problem with emotional speech it moves were sometimes the truth does not. The truth is almost always delivered in rational manner which is not the case for lies because lies are delivered in a manner that the person finds hard to deny.
This is not something specific to politics as this happens in all spheres of our lives. Many speakers get overexcited and we think that they are correct because our ear drums have taken a severe beating. This is almost never the case. Sit back and examine what the words that are actually said, then you’ll find ignorance and arrogance hiding in-between. This is the essence of misleading speech. It sounds wonderful but once you break it down then it is nothing but inflated speech without substance.

The cause?
Invariably the cause is partisanship. Rational examination of the ‘other’ side is never done as no quarter is given to them. No matter if the other side do any good or not, everything is discounted because we hate them therefore no good could ever come them.
So when we are all gathered together one of them speaks using foul and abusive language. We all accept it because if we do not them we will be accused of following the other side. Now we have truly entered a sect and now we are no longer part of the mainstream.

Mainstream Sunni Islam is not about partisanship nor is about following scholars who have twisted the Sunnah to allow them to swear and apostatize whole groups of Muslims. This has never been the case is Classical Sunni Islam.
Another cause, is when we experience difficulty and are unwavering in our response for immediate justice. The brutality of some regimes in the world has lead to many condemnations of certain leaders. Yet the Muslims seem to be totally unaware of how the leaders work. They will do anything in their power to hold onto power.

Killing is just nothing to many of them but do not let that fool you because think who are happily selling these regimes weapons? Do they care? The followers of the Prophets are being killed and they are counting the profits made in the arms trade. The innocent people count their dead relatives. Have we not seen oppressor before in the Muslim world? It is something new? Look at the story of Pharaoh and Musa (upon him peace). Many leaders won’t go unless they go in a box. And if you think the west is going to save you then you have been successfully brainwashed by western media.

Dehumanisation
Dehumanisation of Muslims is something that has happened for centuries but ask yourself one question, why? The answer is simple when you remove the humanity from someone them you ‘engineering consent’ to their murder. The war of terrorism has cost the lives of more innocent people that the actual terrorists. Innocent civilians such as those of Iraq and Afghanistan who had nothing to do with anything but because they lived in a land, they became targets. 


Recently sixteen civilians were killed by one of the occupying forces in Afghanistan. But who cares because they are subhuman anyway? Who cares about the brutality of the torture the Iraqi’s faced in secret airbases? Who cares about the Geneva Convention? Human rights who cares that only for us not them. Who calls for those when we do what we like to them because they are not with us they are against us! This is part of the diatribe that you will hear which lead the cost of the lives of innocents.
“Dehumanisation and attribution of blame reduce our ability to empathise with the victims in croding their human status and holding them responsible for their own fates.” (The New Order of war by Bob Breacher p.207.)
So ask yourself again is emotional speech misleading? You must answer yes especially when it’s not accompanied without any truth.

The media
The media is full of incorrect reports and false information but when you are constantly reminded of these things it becomes difficult to reject them. The media is full of reports that constantly dehumanise Muslims and for this reason the press has come under much scrutiny and not a moment too soon. Why hasn’t any wealth Muslim thought about purchasing a large broadsheet and put in balanced information? Why bother when I have my Ferrari and my football club? That’s all I need. None of it will benefit you in the afterlife.  
Why is it that we let the television talk you all night yet you no let an unrighteous person into your house? Yet the television is worse because its filling you with unrighteous thoughts and ideas. This is how they have conquered the mind of just about every individual who watches it. Take the television out of the house and throw it away! The box has colonized millions of minds forget about sending an army send a ship load of Televisions.

Beware!
Know there are people who want to influence you into thinking like them. They want you to tow the party line, they want to become like them. So its time to think and ponder about the information that you are being given, ponder the validity of it.
Think and research yourself look into at trusted sources of information then make your own mind up. Do not be a docile vegetable that accepts whatever you are told open your eyes and use your brain. If I was a non Muslim I would like to know what Islam is and not rely on the sources of misinformation that are being presented. Similarly, a Muslim should look at his own sources of misinformation and compare them to the classical sources. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Islam Under Attack? Review of Malaysian Insider Article of Syazwan


My friend brother Syazwan has written another in the Malaysian Insider (1). After the previous disastrous and erroneous article by him, this one is much better Alhamdulillah.  When I refer to “author”, I mean Syazwan.

I liked that he highlighted the Prophetic mercy and gentleness, and that some of the stuff done in Malaysia aren’t actually Islamic. So he had a good aim in that, I guess trying to give a good image of Islam to non-Muslims.  And Muslims definitely need to become pro-active, instead of reactive. However he made some errors which I deem should be corrected insha’Allah.

The area I found problematic is on Erykah Badu. It seems like she didn’t know that having Allah as a name as tattoo is wrong, and she should be informed and corrected of that, with wisdom. Whilst the Prophetic hadith about the man who urinated in the Mosque shows that we should be gentle in correcting people, or should use ways of wisdom in correction, the author has made a misleading point.  

The author said “[the Prophet] let the Bedouin man be because he did not know any better.”, where as in fact the Hadith/narration states “The Messenger of Allah called him (Bedouin) over and said to him, “Any kind of urine or filth is not suitable for these masjids. Instead they are only [appropriate] for the remembrance of Allah, the Prayer, and the recitation of the Qur’an,”” (Muslim). So the Prophet did inform the Bedouin of the error. And the Bedouin said ““The Prophet (saw) stood before me – may my mother and father be ransom for him – and he (saw) neither cursed nor scolded nor hit [me]“ (Ahmed).

He made an erroneous claim when he said “even though the singer was able to perform in the most populous Muslim nation in the world: our neighbour Indonesia.” So basically he is saying that just because she could have her concert in Indonesia, she should be able to have it in Malaysia too. Its like saying that if Indonesia allows prostitution and corrupt leaders to have refuge in Indonesia, then Malaysia should do it too! Rather the correct way is that we shouldn’t compare Malaysia with other countries, except in trying to make Malaysia more Islamically correct. Furthermore we should compare Malaysia and its actions/policies with Islam, and make them more Islamic.

As for the idea of concerts, all traditional/Sunni scholars would agree that these concerts are haram since there’s 1) a woman singing in front of men, 2) she is not covering her awra (private parts like hair, chest etc), 3) has musical instruments, 4) singing songs that aren’t Islamic and don’t remind one of Allah swt. The combination of all of those factors make the concert haram. So when an event is haram, Muslims shouldn’t host them, and should actually try to ban them.

This is based on the Hadith where the Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever amongst you sees anything objectionable, let him change it with his hand, if he is not able, then with his tongue, and if he is not even able to do so, then with his heart, and the latter is the weakest form of faith." (Muslim)

The Malaysian government did right for banning it (even if the reasons given are different) Alhamdulillah, and they should ban more haram stuff that destroys the morals of society.

The author tries countering it (I anticipate) by saying “Do we stop the photos from circulating on the Internet then? Should we shut down Google image search just to ensure that the vulnerable and fragile minds of our youngsters are protected from seeing the “evil” photo?”

In Islam, we are required to do our best in stopping an evil. So take the example of pornography. The Malaysian government should try its best to block pornographic sites, and shouldn’t give permission for them (or other haram) to be hosted in Malaysia. But for stuff beyond its control, it is not held responsible. It can’t stop google, since it leads to other good searches.

See the Hadiths (many of the hadiths are authentic. Note even the use of the feminine word for singer) where the Prophet said:
“When my Ummah begin doing fifteen things, they will be inflicted with tribulations, and (from those 15 things He said): “When female singers and musical instruments become common” (Sunan Tirmizi).

“Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi).

“On the day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress” (Recorded by Ibn Asakir & Ibn al-Misri).

Furthermore the writer says, about the picture of a female showing her awra, “For your information, this writer is looking at the photo (again) as he writes. Alhamdulillah! My faith is intact, insyaAllah.”
That admission of a sin is not something to be glad about.  The Qur’an says "Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do” (Surah Nur, v30)

A Muslim is not allowed to look at the awra of another person on purpose. The Prophet said “The fornication of the eyes is looking at that which is forbidden.” (Muslim)


Sayyidina Anas said: “I was once on my way to see Uthman ibn Affan (RA) when I passed a woman on the way so I looked at her and my eyes focused upon her beauty. I then met Uthman who said to me: ‘a person comes to me with the signs of zina (fornication) apparent in his eyes. Do you not know that the zina of the eyes is looking. You will repent or i will punish you.’ I said: ‘a revelation sent down after the Prophet?’ he replied: ‘No, this is firasah (insight of believer)”.


In my humble opinion, I think the author has made the title misleading and grossly exaggerated the situation. People who propound the views that Syazwan refuted (like the raiding Mosque one) will never succeed, and will remaina  minority. Islam is not under major attack or threat from “conservatives”, but is from Islamophobes and ignorant Muslims, or westernised liberal Muslims who reject the Qur’an and Sunnah and instead invent an Islam that suits their desires. So the author would do much more benefit in tackling that issue and removing the ignorance of the knowledge of Islam amongst many ”Muslims.”

For the previous article of Syazwan Zainal, see: "A criticism of Islamic practices in Malaysia"
http://muslim-lion.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/criticising-islam-malaysian-insider.html

1)      1) Islam under attack in Malaysia? By Syazwan Zainal http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/opinion/article/islam-under-attack-in-malaysia



River Nile and Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab


The following is an amazing event which occurred during the life of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA), in which Allah (SWT) demonstrated a miracle and his immense mercy to the people of Egypt.
'Umar ibn al-Khattab (Radiyallhu 'Anhu), the second Khalifa, Amir Al Mu’meneen  assigned Amr bin al 'Aas (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) as the Governor in Egypt. One day some of the Egyptians came to 'Amr bin al 'Aas (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) and told him that every year they must sacrifice a beautiful young girl  (putting new nice clothes & jewelry) into the Nile River in order to make it flow. And if they don't sacrifice a girl, then the river will not flow and the nation will be deprived of water. Whereupon, 'Amr bin al 'Aas (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) said "This is a practice of Jahiliyya and you are not allowed to do this anymore”. Thus, in that particular year, the Egyptians did not sacrifice a young girl. Allah wished to test the people of Egypt by causing the Nile River to run short of water. The condition became so bad, that the people of Egypt threatened Amr bin al 'Aas that they would leave Egypt if he did not allow them to sacrifice a girl in order to flow the river.

After hearing this, 'Amir bin al 'Aas (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) wrote a letter addressed to 'Amir Al Mu'mineen, 'Umar bin al-Khattab (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) in which he wrote exactly what had happened and his response to the people of Egypt.  Umar (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) wrote two letters in response, one addressed to 'Amir bin al 'Aas (Radiyallhu 'Anhu) and the other one to the Nile River. In the first letter, he wrote that 'Amr bin al 'Aas had done the right thing and also instructed him to throw the second letter into the Nile River. The letter addressed to the Nile River read:

Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem


"From the servant of Allah and leader of the believers, Umar ibn al Khattab to the Nile River:
If you flow with your will because a girl is sacrificed to you, then know that we are not in need of you, but if you flow because it is Allah (SWT) who wills for you to flow, then flow."

It was reported that the next day, the Nile River was filled with 16 dirah (1 dirah is about 1 feet) and has never dried and will not dry until the day of Qiyamah!
Source: Al Bidaya wa an-Nihaya by Ibn Kathir.