Birth Celebrations

Mufti Taqi Usmani – a renowned Islamic scholar –  sheds light on the rulings pertaining to celebrating of the Prophet’s (sa) birthday.

Rabi-ul-Awwal is the mSunnah-and-Bidah_0ost significant month in Islamic history, because humanity was blessed with the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sa). Before his birth, not only the Arabian Peninsula but also the so-called civilized nations of Rome and Persia were in ignorance, superstitions, oppression, and unrest. The holy Prophet (sa) came with the eternal truth of Tauheed (oneness of Allah), the only faith that provided a firm basis for the real concepts of knowledge, equity and peace.

Islamic Celebrations

Thus, the birth of the holy Prophet (sa) was the most significant and remarkable event in human history. Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays or anniversaries, the birthday of the Prophet (sa) would have undoubtedly deserved it more than that of any other person. But that is against the nature of Islamic teachings. That is why, unlike in Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism, there are very few festivals in Islam – two Eids (Eidul-Fitr and Eidul-Adha). The dates of these two Eids do not correspond to the birthday of any outstanding person in Islamic history, nor can their origin be attributed to any particular event of Islamic history.

Both of these Eids are to pay gratitude to Allah (swt). The first event is the completion of the fast of Ramadan, and the second is the completion of Hajj. The manner prescribed for the celebration of these two Eids (festivals) is also different from non-Islamic festivals. There are no formal processions, illumination or other activities showing formal happiness. On the contrary, there are congregational prayers and informal exchange of visits.

No Birthdays

Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person, however great or significant. True that the prophets of Allah are the persons of the highest status amongst all, but even the birthday of the holy Prophet (sa), although the happiest day for the mankind, was neither celebrated by the holy Prophet (sa) himself, nor by his blessed Companions.

The Companions of the holy Prophet (sa) remained alive after him for about a century, and despite their unparalleled and profound love for the Apostle (sa), they never celebrated his birthday or death anniversary. Instead, they devoted their lives to promoting the cause of Islam, bringing his teachings into practice, and conveying his message to the four corners of the world to establish Islamic order in all works of life.

The Origins of Christmas

In fact, commemorating the birth of a distinguished person has never been prescribed by any religion that attributes itself to divine revelation. Originally, it was a custom prevalent in pagan communities. Even Christmas, the famous Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, finds no mention in the Bible or in early Christian writings. It was only in the 4th century after the ascension of Jesus Christ that Christmas was recognized as a regular Christian feast. To quote the 1994 edition of Collier’s Encyclopedia:

“It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from the evidence of the gospels, or from any sound tradition. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, there was considerable opposition in the Church to the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays, although there is some indication that a purely religious commemoration of the birth of Christ was included in the feast of Epiphany. Clement of Alexandria mentions the existence of the feast in Egypt about the year A.D. 200, and we have some evidence that it was observed on various dates in scattered areas. After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century, the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern Churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god, and that the Saturnalia also came at this time.” (p. 403)

This quotation is sufficient to prove the following points:

  1. The commemoration of birthdays was originally a pagan custom, never recognized by a divine scripture or prophetic teaching.
  2. The exact date of the birth of prophet Isa (as) is unknown and impossible to be ascertained.
  3. The commemoration of the birth of prophet Isa (as) was not a recognized practice in the early centuries of Christian history.
  4. It was in the 4th or 5th century that it was recognized as a religious feast and that too under the influence of the pagans, who worshipped the Sun-god.
  5. There was strong opposition to the commemorating of the birthday of prophet Isa (as) by early Christian scholars like Origin, on grounds that it was originally a pagan custom.

Original Islamic Sources

We do not find any instruction regarding the celebration of birthdays and death anniversaries in original Islamic sources. Many Companions of the holy Prophet (sa) passed away during his lifetime, and so did his beloved wife Khadijah (rta) uncle Hamzah (rta). But the holy Prophet (sa) never observed their birthdays or death anniversaries. Neither did he advise his followers to celebrate his own birthday in Rabi-ul-Awwal.

What is Wrong with these Celebrations?

The reason for abstinence from such celebrations is that they divert peoples’ attention from the teachings of Islam to the observance of a few formal activities. Initially, these celebrations may begin with utmost piety. Yet, experience shows that elements of merry-making are ultimately mixed into the celebration.

The Transformation of Christmas

Christmas is a relevant example. This Christian feast was originally innovated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and to remember his teachings. But once the occasion was recognized as a feast, all the secular elements of public festivals crept in. The following quotation from Encyclopedia Britannica is worth mentioning:

“For several centuries Christmas was solely a church anniversary observed by religious services. But as Christianity spread among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice were blended with those of Christianity because of the liberal ruling of Gregory I, the Great, and the cooperation of the missionaries. Thus, Christmas became both religious and secular in its celebration, at times reverent, at others gay.”

Then, the kind of activities that have been adopted into the celebration of Christmas are mentioned in the next paragraph, of which the following quotation is pertinent:

“Merrymaking came to have a share in Christmas observance through popular enthusiasm, even while emphasis was on the religious phase . . . In the wholly decked great halls of the feudal lords, whose hospitality extended to all their friends, tenants and household, was sailing, feasting, singing and games, dancing, masquerading and mummers presenting pantomimes and masques were all part of the festivities.” (p. 643)

This is enough to show, how an apparently innocent feast of reverence is converted into a secular festival, where merrymaking took preference over spiritual activities. Being fully aware of this human psychology, Islam has neither prescribed, nor encouraged and permitted the observance of birthdays and anniversaries.

The Religion is Complete

The Holy Quran has clearly pronounced at the occasion of the last Hajj of the holy Prophet (sa) as: “This day, I have perfected your religion (Deen as in complete code of life) for you.” (Al-Maida 5:3) It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to Muslims through the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the holy Prophet (sa). No one is allowed to add to or take away from it. Such additions are termed by the holy Prophet (sa) as Bidah or innovation. Thus, no verse in the Holy Quran or any teaching in the Sunnah warrant the observance of the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal as a religious feast.

Disagreement about the Date

The observance of the 12th of this month as the birthday of the holy Prophet (sa) is not only an innovation having no Islamic basis, but also the accuracy of this date is questionable. There are different dates suggested in different traditions, but the majority of authentic scholars agree that the holy Prophet (sa) was born on the 9th of Rabi-ul-Awwal. This difference of opinion provides evidence that the observance of the Prophet’s (sa) birthday is not part of Islam; otherwise, the exact date would have been accurately preserved.

No doubt, the life of the holy Prophet (sa) is the most important source of guidance for all Muslims; and every Muslim is under the obligation to learn and study the events of his life and follow the example he set. The narration of his pious biography in itself is a pious act, which invites divine blessings. But the Holy Quran and the Sunnah have not been prescribed for a particular time; rather, to all months and all times. The month of Rabi-ul-Awwal has not been designated by the Shariah as a special season for holding such congregations to commemorate the birth or life of the Holy Prophet (sa). It is thus an innovation (Bidah) to restrict the Seerah meetings to the month of Rabi-ul Awwal, or to believe that the meetings held in this month are more worthy and rewarding than those held on any other date.

Contemporary Seerah Meetings and Shariah

It is often observed, especially in Western countries, that people hold Seerah meetings, where men and women sit together without observing the rules of Hijab. Obviously, in such a situation the teachings of the holy Prophet (sa) are not observed. How can a Seerah meeting be fruitful, when fundamental teachings are openly violated?

In some meetings, the Na’ts (poems) in the memory of the holy Prophet (sa) are recited by women before a male audience, sometimes with music. This is totally against the instructions of the holy Prophet (sa) and is an affront to the sanctity of the Seerah of the holy Prophet (sa).

All other activities often practiced on the twelfth of Rabi-ul-Awwal, such as holding processions, constructing mock tombs of the holy Prophet (sa), illuminating buildings, causing traffic jams and disturbing people by loud speakers, are not warranted by Shariah. Rather, they are based on conscious or unconscious imitation of certain other religions.

Elderly Parents – Handle With Care!

Vol 3- Issue 1  Elderly ParentsYouth is a gift of nature; age is a work of art. The gray in the hair and the wrinkles on the skin reflect close encounters with life. Incidents and emotions many of us have just read about have been lived by many elderly people. Ironically, not much is ever said or done about the elder stratum of our society, though they form a nuclear part of each family.

The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between adults and their elderly parents. How can we give an aesthetic and meaningful touch to the nature’s most treasured family ties? We can simply turn the occasional tartness into a treat by retaining our own perspective. Following are the tips that focus on the upside of positive attitude and the benefits we may reap.

Recognize the Child in Them     

An old man is twice a child, according to William Shakespeare. No wonder grandparents and their grandchildren often seem to get along so well. However, we apply a different formula to handle both. With kids, we tend to be softer and ignore many questionable situations, taking into account their limited comprehension and experience. Conversely, with older folks we adopt a much harsher attitude, expecting them to demonstrate grace and wisdom always. Just as a child at his worst behaviour needs to be loved and handled with patience, the same applies to the elderly. If we agree that the old age is the second childhood, we should gear ourselves to deal with both likewise – with tolerance!

Help Them Slow Down

If our parents have led a very energetic life, they sometimes refuse to accept that age is catching up with them. Just like any machinery works at its best when it’s new, it needs regular servicing as it depletes. We fail to recognize the signs, and our parents don’t listen to the signals of their body. As children, we also at times expect our parents to function like they did ten years ago. They simply feel frustrated, when they cannot operate with the same vigor and virility. All super parents do get old and need to condition themselves to a gradual slow-down. Children must help them re-schedule their lives with maximum support and assurance that they can still do much but at a slower pace.

Encourage Them to Live on

Age brings multiple complexities in life. Some elderly fall in the trap of taking a pre-mature retirement from the life itself. This may occur after retirement from employment, marriage of children, or death of one of the spouses.  Feeling redundant, they wait around for their candle to blow out. Here, we can give them assuage that if they are alive, they certainly are not worthless.  It means there is still a plenty they can contribute. For example, they can teach the basic language and mathematic skills to the household servants, pass on familial traits (such as cooking or gardening) to their grandchildren, and do much more depending on their interests, mobility, and health.

Pull Them Away from Dangerous Habits

Richard Carlson comments that the elderly have far more years of bad habits to overcome than youngsters. Having generous portions of time available to them, they occasionally negatively capitalize on it by indulging into gossips. This is an indeed hurtful habit for the ambience of the home. Try to explain to them politely, how such loose conversation invites Allah’s (swt) wrath. You may pretend to place the blame on yourself or other factors for enticing them into starting it. This will save them from embarrassment. In case they do not budge from their stance, distract them with other chores and divert the conversation to more general topics. If nothing works, stop lending them your ear.

Dodge the Criticism

Disraeli has said that youth is a blunder, manhood – a struggle and old age – a regret. Criticism is just a way that certain people express themselves. It says less about us than it does about their need to criticize us. At times, due to hardships of life, our parents become habitual critics. Bitterness entrenches so deep in their lives that they can never appreciate a kind gesture or sincere intentions. Here the job is certainly a tough one, as humans temperamentally demand reward and recognition for their efforts. In such situations, just remember that the One, Who really needs to know and see, is Omnipotent and Omniscient. With Allah (swt) lies our ultimate reward.

Give Them Time

Panin once said that in youth the days are short and the years are long, while in old age the years are short and the days long. Sometimes neglect causes parents to behave inappropriately to warrant attention. Especially, when they feel their worth is no more than an old piece of furniture lying around the house. The best way is to engage them in any possible way. We can ask them to play board games with grandchildren or to share some old tales. We can set exclusive time to have tea or snacks with them in their room. We may discuss current affairs, family issues, hobbies or even seek their advice on their areas of expertise. Besides, they may not be around for long.

Try to be in Their Shoes

Age is a wretched combination of sickness, hopelessness, and dependence. When a case of common cold hits us, we end up becoming miserable. Though with medicines and appropriate treatment it goes away, we are cured by the mercy of Allah (swt). In old age, most of the diseases become a permanent condition. The symptoms differ only according to days, nevertheless, they are to stay. It takes nerves of steel and an iron will-power to fight it daily. This may translate into irritation, which is thrown up on others. According to Simone de Beauvoir, it is this very awareness that one is no longer an attractive object that makes life unbearable for so many elderly people.

Recognize Their Resistance to Change

Michel de Montaigio says: “Has anybody ever seen old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present?” Often, older generation refuses to acclimatize itself to new ideas. This is a natural phenomenon. The nostalgia is so overwhelming that it doesn’t let them part with their past, let alone bury it. This makes them overly critical of all that is new and associated with it. They visit down the memory lane and want others to appreciate it with the same zeal. We do not have to start a heated argument, shooting down their perceptions as being old and outdated. Just open up our mind and close our mouth to draw the best out of their experience. When we get off to a good start, our positive attitude feeds on itself.

Listen to Them

Regardless of age, human beings have an instinctual need to be heard. If we consider ourselves, we tend to like the most those friends, who have a heart to hear us out patiently. Schopenhauer said that the first forty years of life give us the text, then the next thirty supply the commentary on it. The elderly like to relive their memories and occasionally share them with others. This may mean having to listen to their tales over and over again. We should take it in our stride with a touch of humour. One day, we may sound like a broken record playing a song over and over again for our children, too. We can all unanimously attest to the fact that the clocks are ticking also for us.

Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawi

Vol 3- Issue1  Abul Qasim Al-ZahrawiAround 940 AD, during the Andalusian Umayyad reign, one of the greatest pioneers of surgery was born – Abul Qasim Khalaf Ibn Al Abbas Al-Zahrawi. European sources referred to Al-Zahrawi as Alzahawi, Ezzahrawi, Zahravius, Aicaravi, Alsahrawi, and even Abulcases, Bulcasis, and Bulcasim, which are derived from his first name.

Little is known about the early life of Al-Zahrawi, probably because his native city El-Zahra was destroyed before his death, in 1011. Nevertheless, he is widely accredited for his role in the field of medicine.

The first known biography of Al-Zahrawi was written approximately 60 years after his death by Andalusian scholar Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm (993-1064), in his book “Jadhwat Al-Muqtabis.” Translated asOn Andalusian Servants,” it mentions Al-Zahrawi as the most prominent physician and surgeon during Umayyad Spain.

“At-Tasrif liman Ajiza ‘an At-Ta’lif” is the remarkable medical encyclopedia written by Al-Zahrawi. Translated as “The Method of Medicine,” and called “At-Tasrif” for short, it is considered a masterpiece in medical research. It consists of 30 large volumes; a result of approximately 50 years of commitment to the advancement of medicine, particularly the field of surgery. It is also good source for learning more about Al-Zahrawi’s methods, life and personality.

“At-Tasrif” includes various topics, such as surgery, ophthalmology, pharmacology, nutrition, obstetrics, maternal and child health, and the anatomy and physiology of the human body. His clinical methods encouraged the careful examination of each case individually and advised against following books word for word, in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

The largest section in “At-Tasrif” is solely about surgery. It is regarded as the first Arabic work to deal with the topic extensively. Al-Zahrawi provided illustrations and explanations of the use of about 200 surgical instruments, most of which were invented by him. Noteworthy examples include an apparatus for removing foreign objects from the throat, a device for the internal examination of the ear, and another for the internal inspection of the urethra.

Moreover, Al-Zahrawi is regarded as the earliest leading plastic surgeon, as numerous surgeries he had performed would be defined as forms of plastic surgery today. He also excelled in the field of dentistry; his encyclopedia included a description of many dental operations, a discussion about the problem of deformed teeth and how to fix these defects. He also developed the technique of preparing artificial teeth.

Al-Zahrawi emphasized the significance of a good relationship between the doctor and his patients, highlighting the importance of winning their trust and ensuring their wellbeing, regardless of their social status. He also enjoyed sharing his knowledge with his students, whom he called “my children.” Thus, being a respectable, humane, and honest individual, Al-Zahrawi was appointed the personal physician of King Al-Hakam II of Spain.

The Western world was introduced to Al-Zahrawi with the translation of his work, the first being in Latin by Gerard of Cremona. Along with Ibn Sina’s “the Canon,” Al-Zahrawi’s book was widely used as a medical text in the universities of Europe from the 12th to the 17th Centuries. He also influenced the field of surgery; for example, the French surgeon Guy de Chauliac quoted “At-Tasrif” more than 200 times in his book “Great Surgery” (1363).

Al-Zahrawi’s influence is still felt today as many modern medical methods find their roots in “At-Tasrif.” Al-Zahrawi’s efforts and dedication have surely paid off, as they have benefited the Islamic empire during his time and greatly contributed towards the advancement of medicine.

The Prophet’s Compassion for Children

CompassionAmatullah Abdullah brings to our attention the need of children for role models and not critics. Prophet’s (sa) dealings with children is an example for us to follow.

Children are a great blessing of Allah (swt). With their tender hearts, they can be moulded into righteous people only by means of a positive approach. Islam considers children to be an Amanah (trust) given to the family, and says it is Fard (obligatory) for the family to raise children in a righteous manner. One child should not be favoured over another. In Islam, both male and female children should be treated equally and should be loved and cherished. Children have certain rights over their parents: it is the family’s obligation to shelter, feed, clothe, educate, support, nurture, and love them.

The Prophet (sa) is the model for the whole humankind. His attitude towards children was always compassionate and merciful. Being fond of children, Prophet Muhammad (sa) showed great interest in playing with them. His involvement in children’s games shows us the great importance of playing with our children. He played with the children, who had come back from Abyssinia, and tried to speak in Abyssinian with them. It was his practice to give lifts on his camel to children, when he returned from journeys.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) never held back his love for children and always expressed his fondness of them. Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “I went along with Allah’s Messenger (sa) at a time during the day but he did not talk to me, and I did not talk to him, until he reached the market of Banu Qainuqa. He came back to the tent of Fatimah (rta) and said: ‘Is the little chap (meaning Hasan (rta)) there?’ We were under the impression that his mother had detained him in order to bathe him, dress him, and garland him with a sweet garland. Not much time had passed that he Hasan (rta) came running, until both of them embraced each other. There upon Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘O Allah (swt), I love him; love him and love one, who loves him'” (Muslim).

Anas Ibn Malik (rta), the servant of the Prophet (sa), had another recollection: “I never saw anyone, who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger (sa). His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up his son and kiss him, then come back.” (Muslim)

The Prophet’s (sa) love for children was not restricted only to his children and grandchildren. The scope of his mercy and affection embraced all children. A Hadeeth narrated by Usamah Ibn Zaid (rta) shows this humane aspect of the Prophet’s (sa) personality: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) used to put me on (one of) his thighs and put Hasan Ibn Ali (rta) on his other thigh, and then embrace us and say: ‘O Allah (swt)! Please, be merciful to them, as I am merciful to them'” (Bukhari).

Some people, who were not able to understand the power of expressing love to children, wondered, why the Prophet (sa) played with children and took such an interest in them. Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) kissed Al-Hasan Ibn Ali (rta), while Al-Aqra` Ibn Habis At-Tamim was sitting with him. Al-Aqra said: ‘I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.’ The Prophet (sa) cast a look at him and said: ‘Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.'” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) was always concerned about everyone’s feelings. The following Hadeeth narrated by Anas Ibn Malik (rta) proves his thoughtful character: “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘(It happens that) I start the prayer intending to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I shorten the prayer, because I know that the cries of the child will incite its mother’s passions.'” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) was always patient and considerate with children and took great care not to hurt their tender feelings. Abu Qatadah has narrated: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) came towards us, while carrying Umamah the daughter of Abi Al-`As (Prophet’s (sa) granddaughter) over his shoulder. He prayed, and when he wanted to bow, he put her down, and when he stood up, he lifted her up.” (Bukhari)

Umm Khalid has narrated: “I (the daughter of Khalid Ibn Said) went to Allah’s Messenger (sa) with my father, and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Sanah, Sanah!’ (Abdullah, the narrator, said that ‘Sanah’ meant ‘good’ in the Ethiopian language). I then started playing with the seal of prophethood (between the Prophet’s (sa) shoulders), and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Leave her.’ The Prophet (sa) then invoked Allah (swt) to grant her a long life thrice.” (Bukhari)

In another narration, we see the Prophet’s (sa) tolerance towards children. Aisha (rta) has narrated: “The Prophet (sa) took a child in his lap … and then the child urinated on him, so he asked for water and poured it over the place of the urine” (Bukhari). No hue and cry was raised, nobody was embarrassed or reprimanded.

The following is yet another saying of the Prophet (sa), which proves that Muslims should be conscious about treating their children justly: “Fear Allah (swt) and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Once, as Muslims were preparing for the battle of Badr, Zaid Ibn Thabit (rta), not yet thirteen, walked up to the Prophet (sa) and said: “I dedicate myself to you, Messenger of Allah (swt). Permit me to be with you and to fight the enemies of Allah (swt) under your banner.” The Prophet (sa) commended him for his courage but refused to enlist him, because he was still too young. It was his caring and tender nature never to burden anyone beyond his capacity.

The above Hadeeths illustrate the Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) attitude towards children, which should be followed by the whole humankind. He emphasized the importance of showing compassion and kindness towards children and with his own example instructed about the significance of expressing love to them. This is the only way to earn our children’s respect and everlasting love. The Prophet (sa) never lured any child with material belongings or reprimanded any kid to show, who is the boss. Why then every single one of them grew up to love him? There are great lessons for all parents and elders in the Prophet’s (sa) remarkable yet simple strategies of handling the youth and children. He spoke the language kids wanted to here – a language of patience, understanding and respect.

The Call towards Allah (swt)

Vol 3-Issue 1 The Call towards Allah swtAllah (swt) states: “Has there come to you the story of Musa? When His Lord called him in the sacred valley of Tuwa, ‘Go to Firaun; verily, he has transgressed all bounds (in crimes, sins, polytheism, disbelief). And say to him: ‘Would you purify yourself (from the sin of disbelief by becoming a believer)?'” (An-Naziat 79:15-18)

The above verse introduces an intriguing aspect of Dawah (invitation to Islam). Allah (swt) commands His messengers to convey the message of truth to the leaders of nations, regardless of how evil they are. They were not instructed to organize a gathering for them to attend, but diligently initiate a dialogue. This strategy teaches us to present Islamic material, including the Quran and Seerah of the Prophet (sa), whenever we find the chance. Weddings, childbirth, job promotion or house warming parties are opportunities to present others with Dawah based gifts.

Truth is nurtured in the open with no fears or double standards and has a pure life of its own. More significantly, Allah (swt) the Dispenser of all affairs supports it.  Thus, a Daa’ee does not need to use clandestine or hushed up policies to convey His message. Secondly, a Daa’ee’s message remains constant. He does not condition it to the external environment to impress a few for short-term profits, while concealing facts that may otherwise anger those in power. A beautiful example remains with Jafar Ibn Abi Talib (rta) when Negus, the Christian King of Abyssiniah, granted Muslims political asylum during the first migration in the history of Islam. This enraged the disbelievers of Makkah who decided to send the leading politicians of the Arab world Amr Ibn Al-Aas and Abdullah Ibn Abi Rabeeah with expensive gifts for the king. The two attempted to poison the kind-hearted king’s mind with tales about the Muslims. Being a far-sighted and just ruler, Negus allowed the Muslims to present their case, before he made his decision.

Jafar (rta) was chosen as the Muslim ambassador. When his delegation reached the court, they greeted the king and sat down. Amr Ibn Al-Aas quickly observed, how they arrogantly refused to prostrate before Negus as was protocol. Upon inquiring, Jafar (rta) explained that Muslims were only to bow before Allah (swt), and prostrating before any of His creations would amount to its worship. Then, he eloquently explained the tenets of Islam and how, they transformed them into a humane and caring community.

Negus asked him about the revelations their Prophet received from Allah (swt). Jafar (rta) took advantage of the opportunity and recited Surat Maryam in such a heartrending manner that it left Negus in tears and his courtiers speechless. The king confirmed that it seemed that these verses and those in the Bible were of the same Divine origin. Negus then turned to the emissaries of Quraish and declared that the refugees were people of sound character and could continue to live in Abyssinia for as long as they pleased.

As Amr saw his plot becoming futile, he made one last malicious attempt by requesting the king to demand Islam’s point of view about Isa (as). Jafar (rta) stated the truth only. Prophet Muhammad (sa) had told them that Isa (as) was the servant and messenger of Allah (swt), and he was also the spirit and Word of Allah (swt). Negus was so delighted to hear this complete answer that he beat his palm on the floor and returned all of Amr’s gifts and refused to hand over the Muslims. Jafar (rta) believed in the truth and hence uttered it with conviction, in spite of a potential threatening situation. Such is the miracle of truth.

Victims of Discontent

Vol 3-Issue1 Victims Of discontentAamir, a middle-manager at a financial institution, complains of a measly salary compared to the workload he is entrusted with. Nafisa, a housewife, is livid due to her husband’s lack of interest in the household matters.

In these times of unbridled materialism, we are guided by our earthly possessions and seldom worry about the permissibility in faith of a particular course of action. What was unthinkable a few years ago is very much Halal these days. Take interest, for example – a myriad of bankers justify a conventional bank-based income by virtue of new fangled logic. Usury, they say, is what was disallowed in Islam, and not interest, which is a mere profit for the use of money.

Ironically, the type of people described above are the ones most discontent with their existence. If we look deeper into the causes of such discontent, Islam offers many answers. Prophet Muhammad (sa) provided us a role model in terms of contented living. There were instances, when the Prophet (sa) survived on a few dates. Yet, he never showed discontent with his fate and exhorted the faithful not to worry too much about “why this has not been given to us by Allah (swt)?”

Amr Ibn Taghlib has narrated: “Some property or something was brought to Allah’s Apostle (sa) and he distributed it. He gave to some men and ignored the others. Later, he got the news of his being admonished by those, whom he had ignored. So he glorified and praised Allah (swt) and said: ‘Amma ba’du. By Allah (swt), I may give to a man and ignore another, although the one whom I ignore is more beloved to me than the one whom I give. But I give to some people, as I feel that they have no patience and no contentment in their hearts, and I leave those who are patient and self-contented with the goodness and wealth, which Allah (swt) has put into their hearts, and ‘Amr Ibn Taghlib is one of them.'” Amr added: “By Allah (swt)! Those words of Allah’s Apostle (sa) are more beloved to me than the best red camels.” (Bukhari)

Islam does not discourage ambition per se. However, it is disallowed for us to reach a state of being constantly dissatisfied with our present and intoxicated with achieving more than our peers / neighbours / colleagues / relatives.

What medicine does Islam prescribe for avoiding such a state of discontent? Through His Messenger (sa), Allah (swt) has taught us ways to cope with the disease of discontent – a disease, which cripples the spirit. Remembering Allah (swt) is the cure for the constant human complaining. Allah (swt) says: “Those who believed (in the Oneness of Allah (swt) – Islamic Monotheism), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah (swt): verily, in the remembrance of Allah (swt) do hearts find rest.” (Ar-Ra’d 13:28)
Narrated by Abu Huraira (rta): “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Riches does not mean having a great amount of property, but riches is self-contentment.'” (Bukhari)

In a world full of tantalizing wealth and tempting positions of power, it is quite natural to get swayed in this sea of inebriated desire to acquire more, which always seems elusive.

May Allah (swt) protect us all from the constant desires of our Nafs, make us do more Dhikr, and be content within ourselves. A Muslims’ focus is on the Hereafter – discontent with our worldly lives will make us lose focus from our primary goal.

Characters can counter caricatures

cartoonBy now, we are all well-aware of the blasphemous caricatures publication by the Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten, in September last year. France Soir, a Paris daily reprinted the cartoons along with a German paper, this January. Le Temps in Geneva and Budapest’s Magyar Hirlap also played their part. Spain’s ABC newspaper and Periodico de Catalunya put on display the photographs of papers, which had published the cartoons. The list goes on, including other European dailies such as France’s Le Mande.

The Muslims all over the world have condemned the publication of these caricatures and as a result, we have witnessed a variety of protests and demonstrations.  There is a call from all quarters for a complete boycott of Danish products.  Inevitably, this event has created deep resentment and has concurrently enraged the sentiments of the Muslim community the world over. And I feel myself a strong part of this community. But having said that, I feel that this problem should be confronted with more suitable means.

We raised our voices when “The Satanic Verses” was brought into the market. We chanted slogans and sent numerous emails asking Muslims the world over to boycott all Jewish products. But did all of that bear any fruitful results? I think not.

Before reacting against any form of bigotry, we must first analyze what we wish to eventually gain from it.  Do we just want to show that we are incredibly devout Muslims who will not take a word against Islam? Or do we want to leave a lasting image on the world that no matter what you do, you cannot shake our faith, our principles and our commitment.  We are a strong nation, which shall never waver, no matter how strong the trial may be Insha’Allah.

When the companions (rta) claimed loyalty to Allah’s Apostle (sa), they proved every word of it by following the Prophets’s (sa) Sunnah and the Quran to the core. They lived the faith and not just pay lip service. They ascertained it by passing along Allah’s (swt) message to the whole world with dignity and honour, regarding it as their fundamental duty.

They earned Allah’s (swt) pleasure Who glorified them. Don’t we wish to be like them? If our answer is yes, then we must first look into ourselves before we blame others. Are we the appropriate ambassadors of Islam? Are we submitting to Allah (swt) whole-heartedly, or are we simply following some odd rituals with a heavy heart? Are we strong enough to observe the message brought by our Prophet (sa) and have we made it imperative upon us to deliver it to the rest of mankind?

Let’s check ourselves and then our family, our neighbours, our countrymen…

The task is endless and we have a lot to do. There is no time to be wasted. One life may not be enough to cause a noticeable change. But one life, no matter how small, is enough to prove to the world that it was worth living.

Let’s make a pledge to ourselves that we shall be a beacon of light for everyone around us by genuinely reflecting the image of Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Ummah. It is my conviction that if we mend our ways the world will be at our feet. Our Prophet (sa) won the hearts of even the greatest enemies of Islam, simply by submitting completely to the will of Allah (swt). We simply need to step out of the shadows of respect and reverence and build up the courage to practically apply and deliver what the Prophet (sa) brought to the mankind.

Travel Bangladesh

Vol 3-Issue 1 Travel BangladeshThe erstwhile Bengali Babu (sir) is always delighted to engage in philosophical discourse upon the most esoteric subjects. In spite of pressure from so many directions, the people of Bengal have retained a very nice sense of humor. This has probably been their only salvation. They seem to enjoy life in-spite of the chaos and troubles they face.

Dhaka

Dhaka was founded during the 10th century. It served as the Mogul capital of Bengal from 1608 to 1704 and was a trading center for British, French, and Dutch interests before coming under British rule in 1765. In 1905, it was again named the capital of Bengal, and in 1956, it became the capital of East Pakistan. The Romanized spelling of the Bengali name was changed from Dacca to Dhaka in 1982.

Dhaka is divided into the old city and the new city, and many residential and industrial communities. It is located in one of the world’s leading rice and jute growing regions. Its industries include textiles (jute, muslin, cotton) and food processing, especially rice milling. A variety of other consumer goods are also manufactured here. Boasting a happy blend of old and new architectural trends, Dhaka has been developing fast as a modern city and is throbbing with activities in all spheres of life.

Chittagong

Chittagong was described by the Chinese traveler poet Huen Tsang (7th century) as “a sleeping beauty emerging from mists and water,” and given the title of “Porto Grande” by the 16th century Portuguese seafarers. Even today it remains true to both descriptions. Chittagong, the second largest city of Bangladesh and a busy international seaport, is an ideal vacation spot. Its green hills and forests, its broad sandy beaches, and its fine cool climate always attract holiday-makers. The city’s many industries, powered by a hydroelectric plant up the river, use the products of the area – jute, cotton, rice, tea, petroleum (from offshore installations), and bamboo.

Khulna

Khulna, one of the country’s industrial cities with its nearly 2 million people, stands on the Rupsa River. Some of the biggest jute mills in the country are located here. Khulna is connected to Dhaka by road, boat and air via Jessore. Accommodation and eating facilities are available.

Popular Products

Pink Pearl: Pink pearls are the best buy in Dhaka. These natural products are unparallel in luster. The rich and exuberant cultural heritage of Bangladesh is depicted vividly in its traditional jewellery.

Pearl jewellery is all hand-made by artisans, belonging to a traditional class of craftsmen, who have practiced this fine art for generations.

Gold & Silver: A wide range of gold and silver ornaments, silver filigree works, etc., are considered by many travelers to be unparalleled.

Ornaments in Bangladesh have been used from pre-historic times and for a variety of reasons. In addition to their aesthetic charm, jewellery has been the traditional form of savings, prized because it can be easily converted into money.

Brass & Copperware: Among the best buys here are brass and copperware trays, wall decorations, vases, etc., all hand-made with fine engravings and filigree work. Products made from hides and skins of animals and reptiles, intricate woodcarvings, cane and bamboo products, conch shell, bangles, embroidered quilts, Jamdani and silk fabrics can also be bought. These are available in the DIT market and a number of exclusive shops on New Elephant Road in Dhaka.

Museums
National Museum

In 1993, this museum was established and was called Dhaka Museum. In 1983, it was shifted to a new building and was renamed National Museum. It has 40 galleries and is a four storied building. It has four departments:

1.      Natural History,

2.      History and Classical Art,

3.      Ethnography and Decorative Art, and

4.      Contemporary Art and World Civilization.

Folk Art Museum

The Folk Art Museum was established in 1975 to fulfill the dream of celebrated painter Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin. There is a rich collection of different materials and forms of aesthetic and utilitarian values. All of this reflects the sentiments, impulses, temperament, moods, idiosyncrasies, and expertise of artists and artisans. It is a national museum depicting the art heritage of Bangladesh, exhibiting objects of exceptional design and skill.

Ethnological Museum

In the national progress, the Ethnological Museum stands as a milestone. There are ample facilities available for ethnological research. It is one of the best-specialized museums in South East Asia.
Archaeological Museums
Every place of archaeological importance houses a small archeological museum, i.e., at Lalbagh Fort, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur, and Mainamati.
Tribal Museum

 The only Tribal Cultural Museum in the Hill Tracts region was established at Rangamati town in 1978, and is run by the Tribal Cultural Institute. It preserves valuable objects and articles of different tribes depicting their socio economic, cultural and historical tradition. These include typical tribal attire; ornaments; arms and ammunitions; coins; statues made of wood, bronze and other metals; ivory products; handicrafts; paintings on tribal life etc.

Food

Bangladeshi cooking is a culinary art form. A taste tantalizing blend of wonderful and fragrant spices that will keep you coming back for more. Many non-Bangladeshis have probably eaten Bangladeshi food without knowing. For example, over 80 percent of the “Indian” restaurants in the U.K. serve Bangladeshi food. If you loved it, it was probably Bangladeshi. Bengali cooking is also known for it’s wide array of sweets made from milk: Rasho-gollah, Kalo-jam, Shandesh, Mishti doi, Shemai, Chamcham … the names go on and on.

Relations with Pakistan

In February 2006, Bangladesh Premier Khaleda Zia visited Pakistan. Four MoUs (memoranda of understanding) were signed and discussion was held to finalise the FTA (free trade agreement) aimed at enhancing bilateral trade. The MoUs pertained to agricultural research, tourism, import, export, setting up of a standardized and quality control authority in Pakistan and a standard testing institution in Bangladesh.

Pakistan wants to benefit from Bangladesh’s experiences in macro-finance, social sector and population welfare whereas it can extend support to Bangladesh in IT and some other sectors.

Fact file

Contributed by Affaf Jamal

Nearly 83 percent of the population of Bangladesh claimed Islam as its religion in the 1980s, giving the country one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in the world. Muslims constitute 88 percent of the population of Bangladesh, most of them are Sunnis, but there is a small Shi’a community. The remainder of the population follow Hinduism (11%), Buddhism and Christianity. There are also small populations of Sikhs, Bahá’ís, animists and Ahmadis.

Religion has always been a strong part of identity. A survey in late 2003 confirmed that religion is the first choice by a citizen for self-identification; atheism is extremely rare. In spite of the general personal commitment to Islam by the Muslims of Bangladesh, observance of Islamic rituals and tenets varies according to social position, locale, and personal considerations.

Islam has made the peace loving people a brave and philanthropic community. Before Islam, the people of this region were chained in the caste system of Hinduism. The longing for a peaceful life with social justice has been the driving force of Bangladesh`s journey towards a true welfare society.

Squeeze Success From Sickness

Vol 3-Issue 1 Squeeze Success from Sickness

An episode of sickness is usually considered a hindrance, preventing one from doing much else than lying dormant and waiting for either health or death. Not so for the believers!  Sickness, like all phases of man’s life, can be an opportunity to use the faculties (heart, tongue, etc.) Allah (swt) has blessed us with for earning His favour and gathering reward. Here are some suggestions:

Submission to Allah’s (swt) will

To begin with, it would be a good idea to refrain from complaining, as illness, just like health, is from Allah (swt). “No disaster strikes except by Allah’s (swt) permission, and whosoever believes in Allah (swt), He guides his heart. Allah (swt) is the Knower of all things.” (At-Taghabun 64:11)

Be patient and express submission to Allah’s (swt) will, for illness may be a test or a cleansing of sins, washing away the burden we carry into the Hereafter. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “No Muslim is afflicted with harm because of sickness or some other inconvenience, but that Allah (swt) will remove his sins for him as a tree sheds its leaves.” (Bukhari)

Have good thoughts and expectations from Allah (swt)

Thinking cheerful thoughts always helps to alleviate misery; moreover, we have been cautioned: “None of you should die without having good expectations in Allah (swt).” (Muslim)

Fear, hope, and repentance

Through our lives, we must fear Allah’s (swt) punishment for our sins; therefore, repent from them and hope for His Mercy, especially in times of sickness. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) once pointed out to a dying man: “The two (fear and hope) cannot come together in a man’s heart at such a time without Allah (swt) giving him what he hopes for and granting him security from what he fears.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Reading the Quran and other Islamic books

Sickness brings a halt to one’s usual time-consuming activities; thus, this is a good time to read and reflect upon the Quran. Contemplating on Allah’s (swt) Words brings a person closer to his Creator, and this in itself can be a source of healing: “We sent down of the Quran that which is a healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss.” (Al-Isra 17:82) Reading Islamic books furthers our understanding of Allah’s (swt) decree.

Dhikr and supplications         

Dhikr and supplications demonstrate our conviction that only Allah (swt) is the One capable of helping us. These are the means for strengthening one’s ties with Allah (swt) and placing our affairs in His Hands. Various forms of Dhikr and supplications are recommended in the Quran and Hadeeth, which aid in bringing an ailing person into the company of Allah (swt) as the Prophet (sa) has said that Allah (swt) says: “I am with My servant, when he remembers Me and his lips move to mention Me.” (Ahmad)

Do not ask for death

Regardless of how severe one’s sickness may be, a person should never ask for death. Allah’s Messenger (sa) admonished: “So do good to your best ability, and let none of you wish for death: if he is righteous, he may have; and if he is a sinner, he may have a chance to repent.” (Bukhari)

However, we can ask Allah (swt) to bless us with the rank of a martyr: “(He) Who sought martyrdom with sincerity will be ranked by Allah (swt) among the martyrs, even if he died on his bed.” (Muslim)

Cleanliness

“Cleanliness is half of faith.” (Muslim) An ailing person should endeavor to keep his body and clothing, as clean as he is able. If water is unavailable or harmful for the ailing person, other items can be used (tissues, cotton pads, leaves, etc.), to cleanse away impurities (pus, urine, feces, etc.).  Similarly, in the case of Wudu, a person may perform Tayammum. Bleeding from a wound does not invalidate Wudu; during battles the companions of the Prophet (sa) maintained Salah, despite their wounds. Moreover, a nice wash can be refreshing, aiding in recovery and preventing further illness.

Maintaining ritual acts of worship

All ritual acts of worship carry their own reward. Hence, it is essential that they are not neglected during illness, or (as in the case of Salah) delayed, because one is “just not feeling up to it.” The Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Pray standing; if you cannot, pray sitting; if you cannot, pray on your side.” (Bukhari)

Though the ailing is exempted from fasting, missed obligatory fasts must be made up, when health returns. If the sickness is chronic, we have been instructed to feed one poor person per fast.

“So, whoever among you is ill or on a journey, the same number (should be made up) from other days. As for those who can afford it, they have to offer a ransom by feeding a poor person (for every day).” (Al-Baqarah 2:184)

Increase good deeds

Use sickness as a chance to increase in good deeds by giving charity, maintaining good manners with those around you, and allowing visitors to come see you (which bestows reward for both them and you). The Prophet (sa) has said: “The secret Sadaqah (charity) extinguishes the Lord’s anger; preserving the ties of kinship increases the life span; and rendering good to people protects from evil fatalities.” (Baihaqi)

Additionally, a good word can save a person from the fire (Bukhari); accordingly, advise your family to do good, as Allah (swt) has said: “They believe in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, they enjoin good and forbid evil and rush in emulating each other in good deeds. These are the righteous people.” (Al-Imran 3:114)

These are just a few acts to be kept in mind for productively using a period of illness to expand one’s reserve of good deeds, acquire more rewards, and rise in the ranks of the righteous, Insha’Allah.

Merits of Studying Social Sciences

Vol 3-Issue 1 Merits of Social sciencesIn Pakistan, students’ choice of subjects depends essentially on two factors. First, whether or not the subject can be cleared with the least possible effort, and second, whether it scores or not. Whether or not a subject is in lieu with the capabilities of the student is a factor that is mostly ignored. Social science subjects are one such category that are looked down upon by most students as being thoroughly useless. The opinion of the majority holds that there is no point in studying a subject that promises little marks and low percentage.

Also, social sciences (generally part of a larger field called ‘Arts’) are mostly looked down upon as subjects that can be cleared, albeit with a low mark and minimum study time. At the university level especially, most students see these subjects as lower in prestige, simply because there is little understanding or conceptual studies involved. Plus, many students believe that they require minimum effort.

However practically speaking, studying of social sciences subjects does involve a huge effort as well as promises a lot more than just marks and percentage. Following are some of the merits of studying social sciences. Do bear in mind that these merits vary according to the teacher and the system in which social sciences are taught. This writer is referring mainly to the study of social science subjects at ‘A’ levels and university.

A good command over the language

Examination in social sciences mainly involves writing essays rather than solving multiple choice or structured questions. Writing out answers to such questions, whether in an assignment, test or examination, requires not just knowledge but good command of the language being used. Varied sentence structure, proper use of tenses, a good introduction, efficient paragraphing, and adequate proof of planning have to be apparent. Hence, memorizing the textbook will only take one so far in this examination. This, in my opinion, is the very first merit of studying subjects such as economics and sociology. They strengthen your language skills.

Improved expression

As mentioned above, it isn’t just knowledge that is required to excel in this category of subjects. When solving questions, you’ll have to demonstrate that you have understood the question and the issue being discussed. In other words, you have to efficiently express yourself. A question like: “To what extent will fiscal policy solve the problem of inflation?” involves not just writing out facts about the fiscal policy memorized from your notes, but also expressing your own opinion about how it will solve a given macroeconomic problem. The same is true for other subjects in this category. Consistent practice will definitely improve your power of expression in writing.

Improved study skills

From the above two points, it naturally follows that rote learning is essentially a limited option, when studying social sciences. Hence, while reading a textbook or studying some other reference material, you’ll have to rely on such study skills as mind mapping, listing points, etc., to memorize the important phrases, points and definitions. As you proceed with each chapter, your study skills will definitely improve and get ample of practice as well.

Development of analytical and critical thinking skills

You can never rely on only one textbook, when studying for social sciences. There are always a range of books and material to go through, and you’re hardly required to reproduce them. Most of the times you will be asked to state your opinion and support it fully from what you have studied. In this, you will demonstrate that you have the skills to select material relevant to the question being asked, analyze it critically, and then state your opinion accordingly by expressing yourself in the best way possible. Therefore, with such subjects as women studies and psychology, you can develop your analytical and critical thinking skills.

Awareness of current affairs

Most of the time, courses of social sciences require a knowledge and understanding of related global issues. So essentially you have to keep up with what is going on in the world and ensure that you use all your study skills and power of expression to reflect it in your exam or assignment. Some social science subjects’ syllabi have some specific issues mentioned; hence, a student has to keep up with them in the newspapers and astutely follow relevant news stories.

So there you have it. Those studying social sciences aren’t the ‘morons’ they often get labeled as, nor do they deserve the most uncalled-for insult from the scientific community as those, who couldn’t get admission elsewhere, or have an easy time of it, because they do not have to study at all. As can be gauged from the above points, social sciences are definitely not easy to study nor easy to pass and shouldn’t be looked down upon as inferior.

Cultivating Positive Child Behaviour

Vol 3-Issue  Cultivating Positive behaviourTime-out

If your child is acting up, the best way to remove him from what he is doing is giving him some quiet time alone. This technique, known as a ‘time-out,’ is an effective, nonviolent way to shape behaviour. But there are some keys to successful time-outs:

(1)   Understand what time-out is and isn’t

Time-out isn’t a punishment, but rather a time to allow the child some time alone to help him calm down, as well as teach him without setting negative examples, such as shouting.

(2)   Implement time-outs, when your child is ready

Because toddlers find it hard to sit still, time-out for a fixed time won’t work and can result in a chasing game. So first, try to distinguish between your toddler’s natural inquisitiveness and willful disobedience. Distraction can work better with toddlers.

(3)   Show and tell

Time-out works best for your child between ages two and three, especially, if it is explained ahead of time. Explain to him what it means. Some parents find it useful to act this out or to use a doll or teddy bear to demonstrate taking time-out.

(4)   Be flexible on the specifics

With a toddler, your goal is simply to introduce the idea of an enforced break in the action so a minute or two is enough. The period should be long enough to refocus his attention, but not so long that he gets frustrated. One option may be to have him sit long enough to say his ABC’s once or twice, then redirect him to a different activity.

Along the same lines, some schools have introduced the concept of the ‘thinking chair.’ When a child misbehaves, he is asked to discontinue all actions and quietly settle into this chair and think about his behavior. This helps him gather composure and dispel negative energy.

Teaching your toddler to share

“Mine!” your toddler shouts, as he grabs a toy from his playmate, and eventually, one squabble leads to another. Before you scream with exasperation, remember that most toddlers are not developmentally ready to share. Sharing is a learned activity and takes time. So what to do:

(1)   Practice taking turns

You flip one page of your toddler’s bedtime book, and he flips the next. Or take turns pushing a toy car down a ramp. Try also the give-and-take games. You hug his teddy bear and give it to him to hug and return to you. He’ll begin to learn that taking turns and sharing can be fun, and that giving up his things doesn’t mean he’ll never get them back.

(2)   Don’t punish stinginess

If you tell your two years old that he’s selfish, or discipline him, when he doesn’t share, you’ll encourage resentment, not generosity. Never punish a child, especially a toddler, for not sharing.

(3)   Cheer little steps towards sharing

Toddlers sometimes show their possessions and even let others touch them without actually letting go of them. Encourage this ‘proto-sharing’ by telling your toddler, how nice it is that he’s showing his toy. Eventually, bolstered by your praise, he’ll feel secure enough to loosen his grip.

(4)   Lead by example

The best way for your toddler to learn generosity is by witnessing it. So share your ice cream with him. Use the word share to describe what you’re doing. Let him see you give and take, compromise, and share with others.

Role Reversal

Mother in lawBy an appreciative mother-in-law

I must share, how fortunate I am to have a wonderful daughter-in-law. Alhumdullilah! I know that it sounds unbelievable, but it is true. No, she is not retarded. Actually, she is a warm and caring girl, just the way she was, when I chose her for my son.

What is the secret behind this relationship? I can think of many, the obvious being Allah’s (swt) mercy on us, and the wonderful friends around us. They are caring souls, who gently yet immediately point out to me every time I am being insensitive, and they also remind me of my days as a Bahu (daughter-in-law).

I think that this is the common problem we mothers-in-law have. We have forgotten our days, when we were newly married, very sensitive, eager to please, but were not quite sure how! Especially, if we were married into a joint family, we had to be very careful not to tread on anyone’s toes. If we showed concern for our mothers-in-law, our sisters-in-law would brand us as ‘Chamchis’ (flatterers). If we would mind our own business, we would be called ‘cold fish.’ It just seemed like a no win situation! But I want to remind us all of what we pledged to ourselves at that time – that we would never do the same to our daughters-in-law!

We pledged that we would fuss over them, when they would be newly married, for they were coming into a strange home, with people, who have different ways of life. We would help them through their initial awkwardness, encourage them when they would make an effort, over look or gently explain when they would make a ‘faux pas.’

We pledged we would make them feel special, when they would conceive. We swore that we would let them name their babies and invite all their friends and relatives to the Aqeeqah. We said that we would not interfere in the children’s upbringing, especially where discipline was concerned. If they are old enough to be married and have children, then they are old enough to make their own decisions. They will be questioned in the Akhirah about their children – not us!

Narrated by Anas (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “No one of you becomes a true believer, until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

I know, you are probably thinking this is a Bahu (daughter-in-law) writing, pretending to be a Saas (mother-in-law). Let me now turn my attention to the Bahus (daughters-in-law).

Try to visualize yourself as the mother-in-law, which you will, Insha’Allah, be one day. How this beautiful, young girl comes into your son’s life, and all of a sudden, you cease to exist for him. How you endured the pangs of childbirth, the sleepless nights, stress during his exams, kept a stiff upper lip each time he was bullied. Where will you be then? Old age and redundancy is not a very exciting prospect, is it?  I bet all the mothers-in-law are misty-eyed and are nodding their heads.

Seriously girls, are you so insecure that if your husband comes home from work and first goes to meet his mother, you feel he loves you any less? If he doesn’t do so, you should encourage him to start. Remember, we are role models for our kids. Our attitude and behavior will set the trend for theirs. If they have seen their grandparents being given respect, they will do the same for their parents and elders.

Anas Ibn Malik (rta) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “If a young man honours an older person on account of his age, Allah (swt) appoints someone to show reverence to him in his old age.” (Tirmidhi)

We are all humans and make mistakes; no one is perfect. If we want perfection in others, we should examine ourselves first. Are we perfect? Don’t we err? If we expect others to overlook our mistakes and forgive us, then we should do the same. Let’s not have any expectations from anyone, because we will always be disappointed.

How often we make excuses for our mother’s behaviour, where our Bhabis (brothers’ wives) are concerned; let us use that same compassion for our mothers-in-law.

Words of advice: Cultivate friendships with well-meaning, sensible, older women as I have with sincere younger friends. They will, Insha’Allah, help you understand your mothers-in-law. Don’t involve your mum, she will naturally be biased towards you and will then harbor ill feelings towards your ma-in-law, and that, definitely, will not help the situation.

Before signing off, I do not want to do any disservice to my late mother-in-law, may Allah (swt) rest her soul in peace. She was a wonderful mother-in-law as is my mother. I have been very fortunate to have such amazing role models, Alhumdullilah.

What are We Sowing?

Vol 3-Issue 1 What are we sowingWe reap what we plant. In a far away land, a long time ago, a boy was born blind. His widowed mother – the good Muslimah that she was – did not lose hope in her Dua and pray she did, continuously. A few years later, the boy’s sight returned. Al-humdulillah.

She realized that her village was not befitting for her son to excel in Islamic education, so with her son in hand, she migrated to Makkah. There she saw that he was being instructed in Quran and Hadeeth, the latter becoming the young man’s focus. He went out far and wide collecting Hadeeth and compiled a Hadeeth book that sits next to the Quran in authenticity, forgetting not his mother that had raised him well. His mother named him Muhammad Ibn Ismail, and many of us know him today as ‘Al-Imam Al-Bukhari.’

Consequently, how often is it that a farmer plants wheat and it comes out as a sunflower? You may say, never! For how can someone farm the seed of one plant and expect some other plant to grow. It just does not happen. Similarly, some parents leave their children waddling in the mud of television, music, movies, and disbelieving friends. Then when the child reaches grade 12 and asks to go to the final dance with a girlfriend, or when he enters university and stops praying, or when he gets married to a Kafir and himself becomes one, then the parents say: “What happened?”

It is the harvest of what we planted. If we do not raise our children to be obedient, where do we expect them to learn? If we do not practice Islam ourselves, who will be our children’s example? How do you teach a child to wake up for Fajr, when he sees his own father and mother sleeping in, day after day? You may ask, how do I raise my children to be good Muslims, obedient to their parents? Consider the following:

Firstly: Be wise – prioritize. Children will only hold in high esteem what parents give significance to. If straight A’s in school, achievements in sports and laurels for other extra curricular activities is what mom and dad will aim for their child and provide grounds to acquire, that is just what the child will earn. If parents pay no heed to their kid’s spiritual development alongside they cannot expect him / her to turn into a saint and obey Allah (swt) unconditionally. Simply because it was never a priority set out for him in his early life.

Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik missed a son of his during Jumuah one week. When he met him later, he asked him: “Why did you miss Jumuah?” His son replied: “My donkey couldn’t make the trip.” His father then said: “Couldn’t you have walked!” For an entire year after that, Hisham Ibn Abd Al-Malik made his son walk to Jumuah.

Secondly: The piety of the father and mother reaches the children. In the Quran, Allah (swt) recalls for us the story of Khidr (as), and how he rebuilt a wall for two orphans: “And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town. Under it was a treasure belonging to them and their father was a righteous man…”  (Al-Kahf 18:82)

Allah (swt) protected these orphans because of the piety of their father. In Tafseer it is said that it was their grandfather seven generations back!

Sa’eed Ibn Jubayr said: “I often lengthen my Salah for the sake of my son, perhaps Allah (swt) may protect him (because of it).”

The bitter pill is that if we want to reform our children, we start fixing ourselves first. When we shout at them with clenched fists, a throbbing pulse, and a foul language sprinkled with accusations, what kind of a role model do we present? An immature adult who clearly has things out of control but wants to show his kids who is the boss?

Sow the seeds of patience, forgiveness, and understanding at home. Quit being careless, judgmental or extremely uptight about trivial stuff. Insha’Allah, you will see spring in bloom. Just remember the law of nature ‘what you sow is what you reap.’ And no harvest comes overnight. It only appears in time.

Mother – Our Door to Paradise

Vol 3-Issue 1 MotherBy Umm Isam and Muhammad Al Shareef

When my brother learnt about his bosses’ mother’s sad demise, he went to pay his condolences to him. His boss, a director of a multinational corporation established in the UAE, explained helplessly: “I can’t go back to my native country. It’s too dirty. Besides, my brother is arranging the funeral. I am so depressed that I am flying out to Hong Kong for a break.”

My brother just stared at this man in absolute silence and disbelief. This is not fiction. It actually happened.

Another mother that I am reminded of is my grandmother, whom I often caught holding on to my uncle’s crumbled graduation photograph that had seen better days. She held on to it for almost twenty years or so before dying, hoping that one day her son would come to visit her. Her son, who was not able to do so because he had a phobia of flying by planes. Can you believe that? This is not fiction either. It actually happened.

These were the sons, who gave up Paradise for trivial pursuits of the world.

Islam has a special place for parents, especially mothers. The following are some examples of it:

Allah (swt) has commanded us: “And your Lord decreed that you should worship none but Him and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both attain old age in your life, then do not say to them Uff (a word of disrespect), nor shout at them; rather address them in terms of honour. And lower for them the wing of submission and humility through mercy. And say: ‘My Lord! Grant them Your Mercy, as they brought me up when I was small.'” (Al-Isra 17:23-24)

Ad-Daylami collected from Al-Husayn Ibn Ali (rta) that the Prophet (sa) had said: “If Allah (swt) knew any smaller word than uff (tsk) to be disrespectful to parents, He would have decreed it to be Haram!”

Ibn Hazm has said: “(Obeying ones parents) means placing their pleasure above the pleasure of anyone else, including ourselves, our wife, and kids, etc.; obeying them in everything they command or forbid, whether it agrees with our desires or not. Offering them with everything they desire, whether they ask for it or not that too with kindness and mercy.” But balance is essential. Obedience to parents does not also mean that one should be disobedient to Allah (swt) or denies rights of other relations such as spouse and children. Wisdom and justice should be the guiding factors for every offspring.

Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-Aas (rta) reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “(Of the) major sins are: to ascribe partners to Allah (swt), disobey parents, murder someone, and to take a false oath (intentionally).” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported: a person came to Messenger of Allah (sa) and asked: “Who among people is most deserving of my fine treatment?” He said: “Your mother.” He again asked: “Who next?” “Your mother” the Prophet (sa) replied again. He asked “Who next?” The Prophet (sa) said:  “Your mother.” He again asked: “Then who?” Thereupon he said: “Then your father.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The rights of a mother are three times more important than the father. Mainly because there are three troubles the mother suffers exclusively without the father sharing them.

Firstly she carries a baby in her womb for nine months in a state of weakness. Secondly she suffers labour pains to bring her child into this world. Thirdly for two years she suckles her baby, which disturbs her health, sleep and comfort. An ordinary individual cannot even dream of sacrificing selflessly to such an extent for another person.

Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-Aas (rta) has said: “A man came to the Prophet (sa) to give him his pledge of allegiance. He said: ‘I have come to pledge allegiance to you for Hijrah! And I have left both my parents behind crying.’ The Prophet (sa) commanded him: ‘Go back and the same way that you made them cry, make them laugh.'” (Ahmad)

Narrated Mu’aawiyah Ibn Jaahimah As-Sulamee (rta): “My father Jaahimah (rta) went to the Prophet (sa) and asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah (swt), I would like to go out and fight for the sake of Allah (swt), and I have come to you for advice.’ The Prophet (sa) asked him: ‘Is your mother alive?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ ‘Then stay near her,’ advised the Prophet (sa), ‘for at her feet is Jannah!'” (Ahmad and An-Nisai)

During the funeral of his mother, Al-Haarith Al-Aklee (rta) wept. When asked for the reason of his tears he said: “Why should I not cry, when one of my doors to Paradise has now closed?”

Those, who consider that Islam has given scant rights to women, must know that Allah (swt) has thrown every believer’s Paradise at his or her mother’s feet. This is the value of women in Islam and worth of an able mother. Can anyone match that?

Abul-Aas Ibnur-Rabi (rta)

Vol 3-Issue 1 Abul-Aas Ibnur- RabiHis name was Abul-Aas Ibnur-Rabi (rta) from the clan of Abd Shams, a wealthy family. From his tribe Abul-Aas (rta) acquired the love of trade. People would entrust him with their money for investment. His aunt Khadijah (rta), the wife of the Prophet (sa), treated him as if he were one of her own children. When Zainab (rta), the daughter of the Prophet (sa), matured, she was given in marriage to Abul-Aas (rta).

Allah (swt) sent Muhammad (sa) as His messenger with the religion of Islam. His wife and daughters believed him, however, his son-in-law found it difficult to embrace Islam. The Quraish began plotting against the Prophet (sa) and went to Abul-Aas (rta), asking him to divorce his wife, so that the Prophet (sa) becomes preoccupied with the responsibility, but he refused to do so.

Other daughters of the Prophet (sa) married to the pagans were divorced and returned. The Prophet (sa) was not displeased. After the Prophet (sa) migrated to Madinah, the Quraish set out to confront Muslims at Badr. Abul-Aas (rta) was compelled to join them, although he did not hate Muslims. The battle resulted in terrible defeat for the Quraish, as their leadership was broken. Abul-Aas (rta) was among those, who were captured. The Prophet (sa) required each of the captives to pay a ransom for his release. Zainab (rta) sent a necklace as ransom money to rescue her husband. This necklace was given to her by her late mother Khadijah (rta). When the Prophet (sa) received the necklace of his beloved wife, Khadijah (rta), it greatly saddened him. Consequently, the Prophet (sa) made his son-in-law’s release contingent upon his commitment to send Zainab (rta) to Madinah as soon as possible.

Abul-Aas (rta) prepared to fulfill his promise as soon as he reached Makkah. He remained in Makkah for some time after the departure of his wife. He then went to Syria on business and on his way back to Makkah, a battalion of Muslim army surprised him. Abul-Aas (rta) fled. When night fell, he slipped into Madinah and asked his wife Zainab (rta) for her protection, and she gave it to him.

The next morning, during Fajr prayers, Zainab (rta) called out: “Hear me, everyone! I am Zainab, daughter of Muhammad. I have granted my protection to Abul-Aas, and I ask you to do the same.” The Prophet (sa) left the Masjid, went home, and told his daughter: “Treat him as an honoured guest, but you must know you are not his wife.” This was mainly because Allah (swt) had revealed verses instructing believers that they could not marry or stay married to pagans, unless they convert to Islam.

Abul-Aas’s (rta) captured property was returned to him. When he went to claim it, people asked him to embrace Islam, but he would not agree. Abul-Aas (rta) took the caravan from Madinah with all of its contents back to Makkah. When he arrived, he gave what he could to all those, who had entrusted him with their property for commerce, asking: “Listen all of you. Do I owe any of you any money, which I have not yet repaid?  They replied: “No, may Allah (swt) reward you, for you have always been loyal and generous to us.” He said: “Then I have given everyone his due, and now I wish you to know that I bear witness that there is no God save Allah (swt), and that Muhammad (sa) is the messenger of Allah (swt).” Thus, he declared his conversion to Islam in Makkah.

He left Makkah with a contented heart and headed for Madinah. The Prophet (rta) welcomed him with all due honour and presented Zainab (rta) to him again, saying: “He spoke to me truthfully, and he kept the promise he made to me.”

Interesting Analogies

AnalogiesAnalogies can sometimes make it easier to understand concepts. Once we relate a particular idea to an every day situation, it sinks in better. Here, I have tried to put together analogies I have read and heard from different scholars in English and Urdu. May Allah (swt) reward them all for trying to help us understand His commands better.

Analogy Concept
Club Membership You’re on the waiting list for membership to an exclusive club. Finally, you use connections, pay a hefty sum, and sign the dotted line. To keep your membership privileges, you need to adhere to all the rules, even if some are inconvenient. If swimming is allowed up to 6 pm, you cannot squeeze in an extra hour at night. You can’t pick and choose the rules you wish to follow or your membership could be revoked. Enter into Islam completely In Surah Al-Baqarah 2:208, Allah (swt) commands us to enter into Islam completely. We cannot pick and choose, which commandment we find easy and which we can ignore. If we want to remain members of this exclusive club, we need to remind ourselves that we cannot voluntarily choose prayer times or skip Hajj rituals. We can’t break rules and still flaunt our membership card at the entry check-post to Jannah.
InvestingImagine a stock that gives you a guaranteed ten, seventy or even seven hundred-fold return on your principal. Who wouldn’t want to invest every penny in such a lucrative deal? Imagine an account that keeps on increasing in value even after you’re dead? Who wouldn’t want to set up such an account? Sadqah Jaariyah (continued benefit)Spending in the way of Allah (swt) out of what you love (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:177) – not a bare minimum, where you don’t even feel the pinch – has great returns guaranteed without the fine print.

Building a school, paying for a water fountain or leaving behind righteous children are a few forms of Sadqah Jaariyah.

RentingDo we spend all our time, energy, and money maintaining a rent-a-car? Would we spend thousands re-decorating our hotel room? No. We know it’s a temporary possession that we have to part with soon and, hence, we use it, but don’t form an extreme attachment to it. Material possessionsIf we keep telling ourselves that our jewellery, designer clothes, and cars will not last forever, perhaps we’ll love them less and consider them as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our life is like a train journey, in which we don’t know the station we would get off at.
ExamsIf you’re appearing for an exam at a reputed institution, the length of an answer is not as important as is how well you understood the question and how clear your concepts are. Nevertheless, you can still have doubts that the examiner might not mark the paper fairly. The Day of ResurrectionIn the most crucial exam of our lives, our deeds will not be counted – rather, they will be weighed. Two people, who have both performed their daily prayers, may be rewarded differently depending on their intention, concentration, new Surahs recited, and the manner of performing each action. Every one of us standing on the Last Day knows that our Examiner is al-Aadil (the Just), and we will not be treated unfairly.