Archive for November, 2011

By Imran Khan
My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite gaining independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal – the national poet of Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak English and wore Western clothes.

Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a Mullah.

Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were considered anachronism.

Science had replaced religion and if something couldn’t be logically proved it did not exist. All supernatural stuff was confined to the movies. Philosophers like Darwin, who with his half-baked theory of evolution had supposedly disproved the creation of men and hence religion, were read and revered.

Moreover, European history reflected its awful experience with religion. The horrors committed by the Christian clergy during the Inquisition era had left a powerful impact on the Western mind.

To understand why the West is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see the torture apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of scientists as heretics by the clergy had convinced the Europeans that all religions are regressive.

However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached. Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals.

I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled, humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups.

Hence, it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.

However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him.

All in all I was smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib. After all I had the right credentials in terms of school, university and, above all, acceptability in the English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for. So what led me to do a ‘lota’ on the Brown Sahib culture and instead become a ‘desi’?

Well it did not just happen overnight.

Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the disadvantages of both societies.

In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.

While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions – two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of our existence and two, what happens to us when we die?

It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only life then one must make hay while the sun shines – and in order to do so one needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.

Consequently, in the US, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress while giving its citizens numerous rights, almost 60 percent of the population consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of the human soul. Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their citizens, also have the highest suicide rates. Hence, man is not necessarily content with material well being and needs something more.

Since all morality has it roots in religion, once religion was removed, immorality has progressively grown since the 70s. Its direct impact has been on family life. In the UK, the divorce rate is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all Western societies, but the most disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism. While science always tries to prove the inequality of man (recent survey showing the American Black to be genetically less intelligent than whites) it is only religion that preaches the equality of man.

Between 1991 and 1997, it was estimated that total immigration into Europe was around 520,000, and there were racially motivated attacks all over, especially in Britain, France and Germany. In Pakistan during the Afghan war, we had over four million refugees, and despite the people being so much poorer, there was no racial tension.

There was a sequence of events in the 80s that moved me toward God as the Qur’an says: “There are signs for people of understanding.” One of them was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance was, in fact, the will of Allah. A pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” that my understanding of Islam began to develop.

People like me who were living in the Western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book. We were left with two choices: fight or flight. Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were unfair, I decided to fight. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. Hence I started my research and for me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati, Muhammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of Qur’an.

I will try to explain as concisely as is possible, what “discovering the truth” meant for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says, “Those who believe and do good deeds.” In other words, a Muslim has dual function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.

The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings.

Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one, I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them, one controls them.

By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov-wielding fanatic.

I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.

Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in our society. According to the Qur’an, “Oppression is worse than killing.” In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the will of Allah, you have inner peace.

Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.

What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs that are banned in the West.

One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam.

What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extreme. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.

Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is “no compulsion in religion.” However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism. Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be solved.

The Qur’an calls Muslims “the middle nation”, not of extremes. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of forcing your opinions on anyone else.

Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam, especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.

If Pakistan’s Westernized class starts to study Islam, not only will it be able to help society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. They will also be able to help the Western world by articulating Islamic concepts. Recently, Prince Charles accepted that the Western world can learn from Islam. But how can this happen if the group that is in the best position to project Islam gets its attitudes from the West and considers Islam backward? Islam is a universal religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him) was called a Mercy for all mankind. (Internews)

This article appeared on , a leading English daily in Saudi Arabia.

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Islamic Quotes of wisdom -3-

Posted: November 13, 2011 in Islam, Wisdom
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People need comfort. Some people find it in this, some find it in that and some don’t find it at all.Allah in His infinite Wisdom has designed everything on this planet earth, the universe around and within it to ultimately point to Him. The signs are everywhere.Everything points to Him.You just have to look.

The spiritual warrior is he who breaks an idol;and the idol of each person is his Ego.- Imam Abul Qasim al-Qushayri[from al-Risala al-Qushayrriya]

  • Put aside your pride, Set down your arrogance, And remember your grave.- Ali ibn Abu Talib (radiAllahu anhu)
  • To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.
  • Pride is concerned with who is right.Humility is concerned with what is right.
  • Truthfulness is composed of justice and courage.- Ibn Hazm[Kitab al-Akhlaq wa al-Siyar fi Mudawat al-Nufus]
  • Seeking knowledge at an Young age is like engraving on a stone.- Hasan al-Basri
  • When we look for strength in ourselves, we will be weak.When we look for strength in Allah, we will be invincible.
  • The hypocrite looks for faults; the believer looks for excuses.- Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
Never break a Muslim heart by refusing what he offers you, whenyou know that anything that comes to you through him is in reality fromGod, and he is only His powerless and compelled means. Imam al Haddad[from ‘Book of Assistance’]
  • We should be thankful.One of the greatest parts of our spiritual path should be thankfulness.No matter what happens.No matter what happens.
  • Knowledge is not what is memorised.Knowledge is what benefits.- Imam Shafi’ (In other words, that which has results)
  • The Qur’an guides you to the recognition of your illnesses and to their remedies.Your illness are your sins,and your medicine is seeking Allah’s Forgiveness.- Qatadah
  • Every drop of sweatand every breath we take in life,if not taken for the sake of Allah,will lead to regret and sorrowon the Day of Judgment- Ibn Al-Qayyim
  • Ali ibn abi Talib (radiAllahu anhu) in his letter to malik e Ashtar, when sending him to a town which was half Muslim and half non Muslim:”O Malik, remember they are either your brothers in faith or your equal sin humanity”
Never do I argue with a man with a desire to hear him saywhat is wrong, or to expose him and win victory over him.Whenever I face an opponent in debate I silently pray -O Lord, help him so that truth may flow from his heartand on his tongue, and so that if truth is on my side, he may follow me;and if truth be on his side, I may follow him.- Imam Ash-Shafi (rahimullah)
  • If you wish to know which sciences and acts are the most important and beneficial for you, imagine that you are to die the next day and return to God to stand before Him and be asked to account for your knowledge, behavior, and all your affairs and states, subsequently to be taken either to the Garden or the Fire. What you see there as most important and useful to you is precisely what you must now give priority and attachment to; whereas what you find useless, unimportant,frivolous, or simply of no great necessity is what you must neither pursue nor occupy yourself with in this life. Meditate on this matter and reflect well; it is of tremendous benefit to those who have discernment and are concerned about their appointed time, their return to God, their salvation, and their success in the Hereafter, which is better and more enduring (Quran 87:17). Success is in the Hand of God, to whom belong all graces, for He bestows them on whomever He wills; and God’s graces are immense!- Imam al-Haddad[from ‘Knowledge and Wisdom’ translated by Mostafa Badawi, Starlatch Press, 2001]
  • Those who Know they do not Know that to Know is to Know what they do not Know!- (Aveccina) Ali Sina
  • Who does greater evil than he who is reminded of the signs of the Lord,then turns away from them?- Qur’an, 32:22
  • “The word “shams” (sun) is feminine, and “qamar” (moon) is masculine.The sun burns itself out to give light and life to everything around, andthe moon is muneer, meaning it reflects the light. Within itself it has nolight; it radiates the brilliance of the sun. So when we shine as men, theimplication is that we are reflecting the glorious light of our women. MayAllah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala be pleased with them.”- Shaykh Abdullah Adhami
“We need spirited, energetic and strong young people whose hearts arefilled with life, enthusiasm, zeal and dynamism; whose souls are full of ambition, aspiration and vigor and have great goals, rising and aspiringto reach them until they eventually arrive at their destination.”- Hasan al-Banna

Half of Your Faith (Tariq Ramadan)

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Islam
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How many men and women prepare themselves to live as a couple, as a family?

Some think about it, others are already committed to it. We hear of stories… and one is sometimes moved by the expectations and hopes of some, and sometimes saddened by the painful life experiences of others. Perhaps you are also, sisters and brothers, preparing yourselves to engage in this life experience of marriage, known as half of your faith. Or perhaps you have already started sharing your life with someone. In this, your expectations, thank God, were more than met but sometimes doubts have emerged. This… is not what you had expected.

Brothers and sisters, nothing should be idealized.

The perfect husband or the perfect wife only exists in your dreams. God has given you, as He has given others, noble qualities and intelligence. God has given you, as He has given others, faults and deficiencies. Perfection is not given to you or any human being. 

It is not enough to share the same faith, the same principles and the same hopes to make an ideal couple. How many young couples have been under the illusion that their future life will be harmonious as if being Muslim was enough for a successful marriage? As if their union was based solely on the meeting of two worlds founded on the same principles that one respects or on the rules which one applies. 

This illusion, which yesterday promised a small earthly paradise, today makes life a difficult struggle  How many speak about “the principles of marriage in Islam” and actually live the reality of a torn, ravaged and frustrated existence?

Today, more than ever, living as a married couple has become a real challenge. Around us, men and women meet and leave each other in a modern society in which they confuse freedom and the absence of accountability as love and flexibility.

Living as a couple is not without its challenges – preparing yourself, learning and constantly trying to reach out to the other with patience, depth and tenderness. Although it is true that the principles of Islam bring you together, or will bring you together, you must remember each day that the person with whom you share your life comes with his or her own history, wounds, sensitivities and hopes. Learn to listen, to understand, to observe, to accompany.

Living as a couple is the greatest of tests: a test of patience, of attention, of the ability to listen for unspoken words, of self-control, of mending one’s faults, of healing the wounds. In each of these tests, there are two parties. It isn’t easy. A meaningful effort has to be grounded in the deepest sense of spirituality, a jihad, in the most intense meaning of the term. The jihad of love which reminds that feelings have to be taken care of. They are maintained, deepened, rooted through your shared challenges and your patience 

Patience and attention to the hearts, in a couple, will lead them towards the light, God willing. Remember, brothers and sisters, the last of the Prophets (peace be on him), an example for eternity, so attentive, so tender, and so patient. He did not only remind the Umma of principles, he enlightened with his presence, his listening, and his love. 

Before being the mother of his children, his wife was a woman, his spouse, a person he discovered each day, a person whom he accompanied and who accompanied him; subject of his attention, a testimony of his love. He knew the meaning of silence, the power of a touch, the complicity of a shared glance, the pleasure in a smile, and the kindness found in being attentive.

There are those who idealize the other so much they never really see their partners and those who leave each other too quickly without taking the time to know each other. We are reminded of the principles Islam, its depth, its spirituality, its essence. Living as a couple, forming a relationship, being patient in adversity, loving to the extent of enduring, grounding by way of reforming is an initiation to spirituality. Knowing how to be one with God assures greater comfort in being together as two. A challenge, a test, far from the ideal, close to reality.

Sisters and brothers, you must prepare yourselves to live one of the most beautiful tests of life. It requires all from you, your heart, your conscience, and your efforts. The road is long. One must learn to demand, to share, and to forgive…indefinitely. 

Of the things permitted by God, divorce is the most detested. Living as a couple is difficult: remember that your wife is woman before being the mother of your children; remember that your husband is a man before being the father of your children. Know how to live as a couple, within your family…in front of God and in front of your children.

This meeting place, these efforts will result in a sense of protection: They are your garments and you are their garments. Know how to be patient, learn how to be affectionate, offer forgiveness, and you will attain the spirituality of the protected, the proximity of the ones that are close. Faith then becomes your source of light and “his or her” presence, becomes your source of protection; the test of your heart, the energy of your love, half of your faith.

I pray to God that this love be the school of your efforts and the light of your patience.

Source : http://www.tariqramadan.com/

Islamic Quotes of Wisdom – 2 –

Posted: November 7, 2011 in Islam, Wisdom
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If you make intense supplication and the timing of the answer is delayed,do not despair of it.His reply to you is guaranteed;but in the way He chooses,not the way you choose,and at the moment He desires,not the moment you desire.- Ibn Ata’illah Iskandari[Al-hikam al-‘Ata’iyyah]

Allah doesn’t like injustice. He loveth not those who do wrong. If you end up suffering injustice, we do not know what Allah has planned inthe bigger picture of things. Allah is The Just; and will bring justice. If not now, then in the hereafter.

All are stricken and you are safe?
All got it wrong and you got it right?
All are blameworthy, and you have excuses?

Knowledge is of two kinds: that which is absorbed and that which is heard. And that which is heard does not profit if it is not absorbed.- Ali ibn abi Talib (radiAllah anhu)

  • Joy and sorrow are the light and shade of life;without light and shade no picture is clear.- Inayat Khan
  • Sins.It wouldn’t achieve anything, except points in your book of deeds.
  • The only lasting beauty is the beauty of the heart- Jalaluddin al-Rumi.
  • Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.
  • The candle is not there to illuminate itself – Nawab Jan-Fishan Khan.
If it is not truthful and not helpful, don’t say it. If it is truthful and not helpful, don’t say it. If it is not truthful and helpful, don’t say it. If it is truthful and helpful, wait for the right time.

Imam al-Shafi’ in his final sickness said:When my heart was hardened and my courses constrained I made my hope a stairway to Your forgiveness My sin burdened me heavily,but when I measured it by Your forgiveness Lord,Your forgiveness was the greater.

O Lord!
If I worship You from fear of Hell, cast me into Hell.If I worship You from desire for Paradise, deny me Paradise but if I worship You for Your own sake,then withhold not from me Your Eternal Beauty- Rabia al-Adawiya

 

If you make demands on Him, you doubt Him.If you seek Him, you are absent from Him.If you seek other-than-Him, you are shameless before Him.If you make demands on other-than-Him, you are distant from Him.- Ibn Ata’illah Iskandari[Al-hikam al-‘Ata’iyyah]

‘Work for your terrestrial life in proportion to your location in it, and work for your afterlife in proportion to your eternity in it. – abu Hamidal-Ghazali

My son, when you pray, do it like a person who is bidding farewell to this world, and don’t assume you will have another chance to pray again. My son, know that a believer dies in between two deeds, one he offers for today, where he will get immediate blessings, and the second deed is what he offers towards the day of resurrection, and that is where he will gain the ultimate benefits- Muadh Ibn Jabal (radiAllahu anhu)

Eid Al-Adha

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Islam
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This is the celebration of sacrifice which comes two months and ten days after ‘Eid al-Fitr. Muslims celebrate the sacrifice of the lamb in place of Ishmael (Isma’il) by his father, Abraham. On this day, after Salat al-‘Eid (the prescribed ‘Eid prayers), Muslims sacrifice an animal: a ram, goat, sheep, cow or camel. The meat is divided into three parts: one part is distributed among the poor and needy, one part is distributed among relatives and friends and one part is used by the family. This is also a major holiday for Muslims to visit each other and give gifts to the children. ‘Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijja, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and again depends upon the crescent sighting for the first of the month. For those people who have gone to Makkah for Hajj (the pilgrimage), staying in the Plain of Arafat on the 9th of Dhul Hijja is the most important event. However, for those not performing Hajj, ‘Eid al-Adha is the 10th of Dhul Hijja and one of the two most important celebrations of the year. In the Arabian Peninsula the calendar follows the local crescent sighting criterion, whereas in the U.S., the local crescent sighting is used for the determination of dates. Eid al-Adha may be celebrated for four days from the 10th to the 13th of Dhul Hijja.