Learning was as serious as faith

09

The word ‘Jamiah’ in Arabic means ‘university’. The word ‘Jami’ stands for ‘Masjid’. Many scholars of the early Muslim civilization saw a clear connection between learning and faith. The first revelation, “Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists).” (Al-Alaq 96:1), was a significant sign to urge the early Muslims to learn new things and share their discoveries.

Travelling teachers, known as Ahl al-Ilm (the people with knowledge), became the means to spread knowledge between towns and cities. By the late ninth century, almost every Masjid housed an elementary school for boys and girls. Kids began school at the age of six. Among the early skills school kids learnt were how to write verses from the Quran and the 99 names of Allah. They then went on to memorize all 6,239 verses of the Noble Book.

The affluent members of the society hired tutors to teach their children at home. Each Muslim school had an exclusive architecture with arched hallways leading to a courtyard for outdoor lessons, a prayer hall, living quarters for students, and an ablution room. Talking, laughing, or joking was not permitted in the classrooms. There were mainly four different types of Muslim schools: regular (primary schools), houses of readers (high schools), houses of Hadeeth (religious schools), and medical schools.

Most schools had libraries filled with books written in Arabic on such advanced topics as chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Education was free, and some students were even provided with books, stipends, and lodging facilities. An Awqaf was set up for building schools, paying salaries to teachers, and arranging meals for students. Much like college students today, students at universities in the Muslim world took entrance examinations, joined study groups, and had to pass final exams to graduate.

According to a travelling geographer, Ibn Hawqal, the city of Palermo in Muslim Sicily had 300 Masajid that taught various subjects in the late tenth century. By the fifteenth century, the Ottomans had revolutionized schools by setting up a kind of learning centre called a Kulliye. Each complex had a Masjid, school, hospital, and dining area.

A quest for advanced education among Muslim scholars led to the spread of universities throughout the Muslim world: Baghdad, Timbuktu in Mali, Fes in Morocco, Bayt al-Hikmah in Tunisia, and countless more.

The spark of learning lit up the Dark Ages in the European world, too. European students travelled back and forth to Muslim cities to study at colleges and to learn Arabic, in order to access the latest discoveries, intellectual advancements, and inventions. This contributed to the spread of Islamic knowledge and the exchange of ideas in the world at that time.

 

Exploring Islamic Schools

By Fizzah Jawed Akhter – Designer & English Language Teacher and

Binte Ruqqayah – Freelance writer

The Golden Age of Islam (750 – 1258 CE) – the apex of thought, reason, and discovery in the Muslim Ummah – resulted from a symbiotic relationship with religion. Thinkers, educators and researchers of that era made huge strides in many different areas because of their clear focus on the problem at hand.

The children of today will become the leaders of the Ummah tomorrow. Their upbringing and education are of utmost importance if we wish to see the return of the Golden Age.

In this article, we will take a look at the current educational system, focusing more closely on the Islamic schools. Although this is not a comprehensive analysis, we hope it will be a platform for thought about the future of the Muslim youth.

Islam holds parents responsible for the education and upbringing of their children. The decision about the schooling of your children is an important one, as it will affect their future. Abdullah ibn Umar (rta) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for them; a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The schooling system in place today offers parents two choices: regular schools and Islamic ones. The crux of the matter is to educate children in a way that best prepares them for facing the challenges of their worldly affairs, while simultaneously inculcating in them values that will shape them into good Muslims. What the parents ultimately choose is mostly in line with their vision for their children.

  Regular School Islamic School
1. Arabic is not offered as a language. Basic Arabic is a subject, along with an explanation of the Quran.
2. Government-defined curriculum (Matric or O’Level) is followed. Government-defined curriculum with integration of Islamic concepts (e.g., creationism vs. evolution) is followed; some schools develop and follow their own curriculum till grade seven or eight.
3. Exposure to unacceptable lifestyle. Homogenous thought and lifestyle.
4. Focus on history as determined by the government/examination board. Focus on Islamic history with a critical analysis.
5. Staff retention is not a problem, as school has a favorable reputation. High rate of staff turnover.
6. Staff understands the mission/vision of the school. Hard to find teachers who understand the school’s values and are suitable role models for kids.
7. In an absence of Quranic education, time allotment of classroom instruction is manageable. Multiple classroom hours are required to balance secular and religious studies.
8. No issues of Hifz programme or staff. It is difficult to manage both.

Islamic Schools in Focus

The strongest argument in favour of Islamic schools is the presence of an Islamic environment and focus on building Muslim identity.

The goals of Islamic schools are noble and worthy; however, the road to achieving their targets is not easy. Elaborating on challenges faced by Islamic schools, Mrs. Shabana Ahmedani, administrator of Little Heaven says: “In today’s world, children are exposed to many temptations. Colourful cartoons, computer games and gadgets of all sorts are all very attractive for them. An absence of role models in the society and an emphasis on material things is confusing them also. We are trying to make Islamic education colourful and interesting, so children are not tempted by unacceptable behaviour and so that ultimately they will acknowledge the Prophet (sa) as their role model and the Quran as their book of guidance. Our method of teaching is giving them hands-on experience, which makes them independent in problem-solving and boosts their confidence level.” It is noteworthy that Little Heaven offers taekwondo classes for its students. In the Taekwondo Championships held at Bay View Academy earlier this year, students from Little Heaven won gold and silver medals in sparring and wood breaking.

Describing the structure of Fajr Academy in Karachi, and the way academic subjects are taught, Mr. Asim Ismail, founder and principal of the school, says: “We don’t teach Islamiat as a subject and we also do not teach anything other than Islamiat. We have developed our own curriculum for all subjects: English, Urdu, advanced knowledge, science, and Math. In Math, we do abacus for which we have received international training. Many schools are coming to adopt this system. There is one school opening in Lahore in August Insha’Allah which is adopting the Fajr model completely. Another will open in Karachi also.” Fajr Academy has a distinguished reading programme. It offers frequent educational trips and exceptional hard skills learning opportunities ranging from teaching kids to build walls to making clocks. Each classroom has 12 students and 2 teachers.

Naheed bintul Yaqeen, Founder of Faith Academy, elaborates on the efforts made by her school with regard to the curriculum. “What sets us apart is our education system that focuses on the effective upbringing of children through character building. We at The Faith Academy do that by synthesizing our own curriculum from the Quran and Hadeeth and incorporating it into the textbooks. We specialize in deriving science from the Quran rather than integrating the Quran into science. Our curriculum talks about Muslim scientists and philosophers whom our students can idealize and recognize as their heroes. Our curriculum focuses on sculpting students who have a very strong faith in Allah (swt) and believe completely in religion, are well-aware of their history and how they have ruled the world in the past, and know how to run the world according to the word of Allah.”

Reflections School is one of the very Islamic schools in Karachi which has a purpose-built campus for the students. It is also distinguished by its strong Arabic programme. One of the faculty members elaborates on some of its strong points: “We hold interpersonal and intrapersonal development workshop for students, teachers, and mothers on a regular basis. Moreover, there are inter-school debates and elocution contests for students. Our students also received A*, A and B grades in the first-ever Arabic CIE papers.”

Islamic schools that are not patronized by renowned figures admit that the main challenge is financial support: “We have so many ideas, and so much talent, but we cannot bring them to fruition, because of a low budget. Our aim is to provide quality education to everyone, and not just to those who can afford it. Some students at our institution are on scholarships, and we also have an old textbook exchange programme,” says a coordinator of an Islamic school. “It is heartening to note that the school does not produce religious robots, and instead, its students know how to critically analyze things.” Despite its budget constraints, the school organizes regular book fairs and sports’ competitions for its students, and gives them opportunities to engage in various activities during the Students’ Week. Its students also visited Tharparkar earlier this year for relief work.

Shazia Khalid, Princpal of Emaan Academy, feels that the mindset of parents who want the fee structure of Islamic schools to be as economical as possible is one of the major challenges. “Also, at times, people feel a mix of Deen and Duniya means that you teach the Quran, Arabic, Salah, etc, and at the same time, you also have music and other ‘modern’ subjects,” she explains. “Our plus point is that we have strong training programmes for our teaching faculty in line with the latest researches of education. Alhumdulillah, we see the results of our efforts in senior classes when girls start observing Hijab and Niqab, talk about and pen their views confidently about the common problems of today’s youth, and get engaged in giving Dawah to others.”

Mr. Atif Iqbal, director of Al Huda International School (AIS), Islamabad, says: “We realized that the existing education system provided no link between religion and the world we live in. The challenges we faced were numerous. Initially, and even now, it is a challenge to find qualified professional teachers with a true understanding of Islam, who can teach those virtues and values to students. There was no standard Islamic studies curriculum available in the market. AIS was a pioneer in developing an Islamic curriculum for the Montessori classes directly under the guidance of Dr. Farhat Hashmi, a renowned Islamic scholar.

We see our students actively and confidently facing the challenges of the real world head-on, Alhumdulillah. The curriculum at AIS incorporates students’ active participation in projects that involve critical thinking and teamwork. Students are encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities, which include competitions within school as well as those at a national and international level, along with sports activities like taekwondo, badminton, table tennis, horse riding, and swimming.”

Unfortunately, one gets the feeling that Islamic schools are working towards their goals independently; even though each school bears their own fruit and is a step in the right direction, joint efforts would do much more for the betterment of education for Muslim children.

Some schools try to remain affordable to the lower middle class while striving to maintain excellence in education. Others compete for elite students, who can pay tuition fees comparable to renowned private schools. Ultimately, it is the Muslim children who suffer.

Perspective of Parents

Let us hear what parents of children attending Islamic schools have to say.

Fozia Seraj, whose children attend Usman Public School, says: “Kids in my extended family, who go to a regular school, have no Islamic integration regarding their knowledge of science and language. Alhumdulillah, an Islamic school has given my kids confidence and they speak their mind. The kind of jobs offered to people graduating from regular schools leads them into a world of materialism. Insha’Allah, my kids will have a sense of accountability and Islamic morals, which will help them in leading a responsible life.”

Umm Hamza says: “My son is being taught Tafseer in a way that he enjoys. He knows when the particular Surah was revealed and its meaning. (An Islamic school) helps in improving a child’s overall behaviour. I, as a parent, feel that it is not only the school’s responsibility to inculcate values and impart knowledge – parents should reinforce them at home, too.” Her children study at Reflections School.

A parent of a 13-year-old Hafidh gives us his point of view: “He was at an Islamic school till grade four; then, he was in a Madrasah till grade six and finally in a public school in Canada for the past two years. I see my son is grounded in his identity as a Muslim, since his initial education was in an Islamic environment. Those early years helped establish his identity as a Muslim.”

Amna, whose four daughters go to an Islamic school, describes the difference between regular schools and Islamic ones: “My kids bring home Eid cards made in class, as opposed to Valentine’s Day cards. Also, it has been inculcated in my kids since kindergarten to make Salah at the right time – it is part of the school’s practice. I am ultimately responsible for them and will protect them as long as I can. As for the lack of extracurricular activities and English proficiency, I just supplement it privately; to me, the environment offered by this Islamic school is very important.”

A mother, who has three children at AIS Islamabad, says “My youngest one (obtained admission in) Al Huda International School through scholarship and it is the best thing that has ever happened. My son, who was extremely shy and an introvert, started coming out of his shell. His confidence level has increased; he no longer hides in corners when guests come around, and his English language skills have improved immensely.”

A mother of two students, who attend Fajr Academy, shares: “I can see strong leadership abilities emerge in my kids as young as 5 and 7: they speak fluent English, utter manageable Arabic, quote from the Quran, express opinions, and offer sensitivity towards the society with solutions accompanied.”

In conclusion, parents themselves have to decide what their ultimate goals for their children are. Instead of outsourcing the moulding of our children to someone else, we have to assume more responsibility ourselves. Allah (swt) has given children rights over their parents: to be raised as enlightened, responsible Muslim adults.

Spotlight on the Islamic School System in the US

By Humaira Khan

In a rapidly changing global society, where moral standards are in constant flux, is Islamic education a necessity, rather than a choice, for our children?

“Here in the USA,” says Ahsan Ali, member of the Huda Academy School Board, “we do not take Islamic education for granted. The whole purpose of an Islamic education is to dispel any identity confusion (so that) the children know they are Muslim and are not embarrassed about it. Rather, they feel proud of the fact and don’t pretend to be anybody else.”

This is a tall order for any Muslim community to undertake. The challenges are many and the road is long.

“Lack of funding is a major issue,” says Ali. “The public school system is often so good that it is very hard for families (to choose) to commit six to ten thousand dollars annually to a private school.”

On the one hand, there is a need for the Islamic schools to remain competitive with public and private institutions in terms of curricula and in meeting national and state standards. On the other, they have to deal with the critics of the Islamic school system: those who do not want an Islamic education and view it as unnecessary, or those who want it but generally consider the education being provided to be inadequate.

In a small Muslim community, this creates a vicious cycle: poor recruitment means lack of funds to run the school, which means foregoing certain essentials. This, in turn, leads to a struggle to maintain standards with inadequate resources, which becomes the reason for some people to give up on the school.

Abu Diab attended Huda Academy when it was a newly-established school. She is now a pre-medical student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Huda Academy provided me with a moral reference and an Islamic backbone,” she says. “It established a framework for my character that I often looked back upon when faced with challenges. Huda was not a very large school; yet it had a culture of its own, which I didn’t properly recognize or appreciate till I left. This culture entrenched in me a self-confidence that allowed me to be comfortable with my Islamic identity when I left the school.”

Parents and community members should find this testimonial eye-opening. It shows us the importance of being a part of Islamic education efforts in the West for the sake of our community’s children – with sincerity and a healthy dose of far-sightedness.

What is Guidance?

Narrated Abu Musa (rtam) that the Prophet (sa) said: “The example of guidance and knowledge (the Quran and the Sunnah) with which Allah (swt) has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the Earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed rain water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance. (And) another portion of it was hard and held the rain water and Allah (swt) benefitted the people with it and they utilized it for drinking, making their animals drink from it and irrigating the land for cultivation. (And) a portion of it was barren which could neither hold the water nor bring forth vegetation (then that land gave no benefits). The first is the example of the person who comprehends Allah’s (swt) religion (Islam) and gets benefit (from the knowledge) which Allah (swt) has revealed through me (the Prophet [sa]) and learns and then teaches it to others. The last example is that of a person who does not care for it and does not take Allah’s (swt) guidance revealed through me (He is like that barren land).” (Bukhari)

Guidance is of two kinds:

  1. Guidance of Taufiq: It is totally from Allah (swt), that is, He (swt) opens one’s heart to receive the truth (from disbelief to belief in Islamic monotheism).
  2. Guidance of Irshad: It has come via Allah’s (swt) messengers and pious preachers who preached the truth, that is, Islamic monotheism.

Is Your Child Intelligent?

14

Many years ago, a mother was desperately searching for her son around the house. After a frantic hunt, lasting nearly two hours, she decided to check their less-ventured-in storeroom. As she stepped in, she was amazed at the sight. Her son was trying to balance himself in a very difficult half-seated position on an egg, so that he wouldn’t break it. He was sweating due to his long and intense effort. The mother, as expected, decided to give him a piece of her mind. When the boy saw his mom moving towards him, he quickly motioned for her to stay silent and stop. But the mother, in her volcanic frame of mind, ignored all warnings and requests and just marched forward, scolding him. Frustrated, the boy got up and complained: “Just another hour and the chick would have hatched!”

Flabbergasted, the mom said: “What?”

The boy was visibly disappointed: “You ruined my experiment. I was sitting on this egg to find out how long it would take to hatch.”

This amusing boy was Thomas Edison (1847-1931), a self-educated scientist with over 1000 inventions in the world. Like many other geniuses, he did not fare well at school. In fact, he was branded as a poor student: someone the parents could not mention with much pride.

At another time, in England, there was another boy who was branded as a failure. His parents spent their hard-earned money to get him a decent education, but he only brought them shame. Not able to tolerate the humiliation, they sent him away to a boarding school and did not even visit him because they were so upset with him.

Giving up hope of the boy’s admission to university, the parents tried to send him to the armed forces that apparently required less academic intelligence. After their son’s two failed attempts to clear the entrance test for the army, the parents hired the country’s most expensive tutor who had a 24-year track record of excellence.

After battling the young man tooth and nail, the teacher managed to get him into the forces by a narrow margin. The boy was the last on the list of the recruits, and hence, the teacher’s honour was ‘saved’ along with the sanity of the parents.

This boy was Winston Churchill (1874-1965), a winner of the Nobel Prize in literature and twice Prime Minister of England. Highly regarded biographers state that: “Great Britain is great because of Sir Winston Churchill.” Please note that he, too, was labelled a poor student by the conventional schooling system.

A teacher of Albert Einstein said the following about him: “Mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was seriously advised not to consider studying science as he was termed weak. It was fortunate that Einstein paid no heed to that advice, or the world would have been deprived of a great mind.

What is intelligence?

This has been the world’s favourite subject for the past three thousand years. Ulema, thinkers, and researchers have all debated over it. The last hundred years have seen educational psychology come into existence. Some thirty years ago, Mr. Howard Gardener, the Dean of the Faculty of Educational Psychology at the prestigious Harvard University, researched for six years the first stage of his theory of multiple intelligences. He headed a team that studied a large cohort of two thousand children. It was established that Gardener’s theory did indeed hold true and his research received much attention in academic circles.

According to Gardener, intelligence is not a singular entity but is multi-dimensional. So it cannot be measured in any one area but has many domains. In this way, all children are intelligent, just in different ways. They can solve problems and create products of value. This phenomenal discovery has impacted the world of education significantly in the past twenty years. Kids can survive and excel through any one of the discovered intelligences and so they should be permitted to grow and develop in and master a specific area.

What the geniuses and experts in education state

“Everybody is a genius; but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein)

“Kids go to school and college and get through, but they don’t seem to care about using their minds. School doesn’t have the kind of long-term positive impact that it should.” (Howard Gardener)

“Human intelligence is richer and more dynamic than we have been led to believe by formal academic education.” (Sir Ken Robinson)

Why children fail?

“Curiosity is the basis of every child.” (Imam Ghazali) At birth, every child is an intelligent being of Allah (swt). However, as children venture into the world of grown-ups, many adults, based on their acquired knowledge and skills, term them as unwise and, at times, downright stupid. Let’s draw a comparison: if we, as adults, know nothing, or very little, about automobile engineering, our motor mechanic will consider us to be ignorant and stupid, too. We treat our children in a similar manner and kill their intelligence by:

  1. Doubting them;
  2. Sharing our doubt with others;
  3. Telling our children our own doubts about them and eventually making them doubt themselves;
  4. Making them believe that they are actually unintelligent.

Why don’t we take our kids’ interest seriously? There are three characteristics of interest:

  1. Sustainable interest. A child shows self-initiated enquiry and original pursuit for something. However, interests switch fast from 0 till 10 years of age. There is a difference between wish and interest. Wishes to be someone or do something disappear as fast as they appear, while interests remain strong.
  2. Urge for excellence. The child demonstrates a natural desire to do his/her best at something of his/her intense liking and doesn’t need to be reminded, pushed, or pulled in any direction. The child doesn’t mind investing himself in it and enjoys every moment of engagement.
  3. Expression of creativity. He/she finds a means to express his/her intelligence. Sometimes the child can also excel in a more than one area. For example, an apt writer can also be a brilliant illustrator or a child with strong social skills can also be a great mathematician.

Charter of children’s recognition

  1. Listen to, and acknowledge, children without losing your temper. A child may come and show you his scribbles today. But he could be an artist of tomorrow in the making.
  2. Recognize the individuality of every child instead of comparing kids. With adults, we tend to do this in their absence. But with children, we are audacious enough to do it in their presence.
  3. Treat children with unconditional respect and trust.

This is challenging for parents and educationists to implement and internalize.

Our Prophet (sa) recognized people for their unique intelligence and channelized it for Islam. Every Sahabi was distinct in his conduct and contribution. Together they were a constellation of stars under the brilliant guidance of the beloved Messenger (sa). They were as diverse as the world Allah (swt) has created for us with all its splendour and marvels. In the words of Howard Gardener: “Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences.”

Muslims critically need to conquer each and every domain if they want to rise as global leaders and ignite their multiple intelligences. Within the boundaries of Shariah, there is a vast open field. We should not be hobbling and limping in shoes made by others. We were meant to fly by leaps and bounds.

Tu Shaheen hai basera ker

Paharon kee chattanon per

(Allama Iqbal)

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan, based on a workshop conducted by Mr. Siddiqui.

 

Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives – Part 7

hujurat

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah (swt). Verily, Allah (swt) is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hujurat 49:12)

This verse teaches us how to deal with people who are not present with us. It addresses the believers and points out three things.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

  1. Avoid suspicion. ‘Ijtanibu’ means ‘to avoid or abstain from something’. Allah (swt) orders us to stay away from ‘much’ of suspicion. Suspicion is not totally forbidden because doubt can sometimes be good. The word ‘Dhan’ in Arabic actually means ‘to assume or think’. Therefore, ‘Dhan Al-Khayr’ means to think well about fellow Muslims. You may not be sure about them, but you should think well about them from what appears to you. This is allowed and also recommended. You deal with them, according to what you see of them; do not worry about their heart and what they may be hiding from you.

Then there is also ‘Dhan Al Su’ which is thinking badly of people. There are two parts to this: one is allowed/recommended and the other is forbidden.

  1. Allowed: Sometimes you see that people are negative and do questionable actions; in this case, it is allowed to doubt and be suspicious of them. For example, a person is just standing there and staring at you; in order to protect yourself, you have to be wary and suspicious of the person’s intentions.
  2. Forbidden: Someone is doing something positive but you still doubt their actions. For example, you see a person praying, yet you doubt his or her faith and say that he or she is praying only to show off. This is Haram.

وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا

  1. Do not spy. Spying is secret listening or looking at what is meant to be concealed from you. The verb is mentioned in plural form; hence, it is collectively addressed to all the believers. This starts from Dhan. The person who has suspicions will then keep thinking about it, until he or she starts to spy.

Everybody has defects or imperfections that need to stay covered; we should not uncover these private matters and invade people’s space.

The Messenger (sa) told his companions not to bring him news of what people say and do, because he wanted his heart to be pure when he met them. His advice was to deal with people in the way they appeared.

When you spy on people, your judgement becomes clouded and you cannot view them the same way anymore. The Messenger (sa) dealt with the hypocrites as normal Muslims, based only on how they appeared.

وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا

  1. Do not backbite. Think before you speak. If someone backbites in front of you, be sure that he or she will backbite about you. Therefore, you cannot trust a person who talks about people behind their backs.

There are permissible situations for backbiting, such as at the time of a marriage proposal. In such a case, if you know the person about whom somebody is asking, then you are obliged to tell them the facts and the absolute truth that you know about him or her. For example, if a man is stingy or has a temper, you have to mention it.

Backbiting is permissible also in the case of an Amanah (trust). For example, if an oppressed person speaks to the authorities about an oppressor, he is allowed to speak the truth and uncover all the evil things the oppressor has done. Likewise, a person can relate a situation to his sincere friend and ask for Naseeha and advice; however, care must be taken not to share more information than necessary.

At the time of the Messenger (sa), there was a woman whose husband was very stingy and would not feed her and her son. She went to him for advice and he asked her to take what was sufficient for her and her son. She did not take more than what she needed for sustenance. (Bukhari)

A Parable about Backbiting

Allah (swt) draws a picture in the Quran for two major sins, in order for us to understand the seriousness of the matter and how dangerous these sins are for us. Allah (swt) says:

أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ

“Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting).”

The four keywords to note here are: eat, flesh, dead, and brother. A person eats with desire and out of hunger. The image of a person eating flesh is disgusting in itself, even more so, if he is eating the flesh of a dead human, and that too of his dead brother. Moreover, it is human nature to dislike dead bodies; so how can a person relish the flesh of a dead brother?

Allah (swt) uses the word ‘brother’ because there is a relationship between you and the person you are talking about: he is your brother in Islam and this is a relationship established among you by Allah (swt). You are insulting the relationship that Allah (swt) has placed between you; this means you are mocking and insulting Allah (swt).

ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Fear Allah (swt) and repent, because He is the One who accepts a person’s repentance and is Merciful.”

There’s a combination of hope and fear in this verse, which draws parallels with how a Mutaqqi is. He is fearful of Allah’s (swt) punishment and, therefore, eager to rush to Allah’s (swt) mercy.

Transcribed and adapted by Shaheera Vakani (Jeddah).

 

Dealing with Grief and Sadness in the Light of Surah Yusuf

grief

Like most stories from the Quran, there are some important life lessons that stem from Surah Yusuf. This entire Surah is dedicated to a story in a chronological order. Most importantly, it teaches us how to deal with sadness, anguish, and difficult situations in life. Allah (swt) essentially describes two characters who suffer and deal with a lot of grief in their lives: Prophet Yaqoob (as) and his son, Prophet Yusuf (as).

We can apply these examples to our own difficulties. This is similar to how Prophet Muhammad (sa) received this Surah at a time when he was facing a tough time in life: during the Year of Grief, his beloved wife Khadijah (rtaf) and his supportive uncle, Abu Talib, passed away. He was signalled to seek counsel through Surah Yusuf, so surely we can do the same.

We learn from this Surah about Yaqoob’s (as) excessive love for his son, Yusuf (sa) and also that his brothers are so jealous of their father’s attachment to Yusuf (as) that they plot to get rid of him.

We also discover that Yusuf (as) tells his father of a dream he saw. Yaqoob (as) interprets the dream and realizes that his son will become a prophet. He warns Yusuf (as) not to mention the dream to his brothers because he is worried for him. Similarly, many years later, Yaqoob (as) fears for his son Bin Yamin when he is left behind in Egypt. Generally, Yaqoob (as), by nature, is concerned about his children and their well-being. He is known to give sound practical advice to his children throughout the narrative. However, we learn that his advice or plans do not necessarily turn out the way he wishes, because Allah (swt) has greater outcomes planned.

Yaqoob (as) advises his son not to share this dream with his brothers because they might plan against him. Even though Yusuf’s (as) brothers did not learn about his dream, they went ahead and schemed against him anyway. In this regard, we have to realize that there are always two plans at work: one is the plan a human maps out, and then there is a greater plan, of the greatest of planners, Allah (swt). Sometimes our plans and hopes for the future coincide with Allah’s (swt) decisions, but at times, they don’t.

Assume you’ve just been hired and are on your way to purchase a new home. Everything seems to be working out just fine. Suddenly, the employers reconsider their decision and the seller of the house changes his mind. You are now hit by an unexpected turn in life; this is not the way you had it planned! This is not what you had wanted! What you experience next is sadness, grief, and depression. After this phase, we might experience a state of disbelief driven by extreme sadness. We might question our destiny, asking why Allah (swt) did this to us.

After hearing about Yusuf’s (as) dream, Yaqoob (as) harbours high hopes for him. He ends the congratulatory response to his son by saying: “…Verily, your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:6) Note the two names of Allah (swt) mentioned in this Surah: Aleem and Hakeem. Hakeem means He possesses all the wisdom, and Aleem pertains to Allah’s (swt) knowledge. These are words of hope which Yaqoob (as) utters, because he trusts the knowledge and wisdom of Allah (swt). Basically, what he’s telling his son is that he has high hopes for him but only Allah (swt) knows what is really going to happen.

These attributes of Allah (swt) are mentioned a second time when another son of Yaqoob (as), Bin Yamin, is left behind in Egypt. Saddened by the news, Yaqoob (as) once more mentions that “…Truly He! Only He is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:83) By saying that Allah (swt) is All-Knowledgeable, you have already affirmed that Allah (swt) knows what you’re going through. Thus, the second time Yaqoob (as) mentions these words, he says them as words of trust.

They are mentioned a third time by Yusuf (as) towards the end of the story when he finally reunites with his family in Egypt. He acknowledges Allah’s (swt) attributes by saying: “…Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will. Truly He! Only He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Yusuf 12:100) He never forgot the words he heard as a child. Yusuf (as) realized that he went through many problems in his life because Allah (swt) was subtly planning something great for him.

Anyone else in Yusuf’s (as) place would have lost all hope, but he was steadfast in his faith in Allah (swt). Imagine what he went through! As a child, he was hated by his brothers, kidnapped, and sold away as a slave in a house where he was treated well at first, but eventually had to deal with a psychotic woman, who caused him to be imprisoned.

He went through a lot of problems! However, when he looks back at his life he says: “…He was indeed good to me…” (Yusuf 12:100) He adds another phrase: “…Certainly, my Lord is the Most Courteous and Kind unto whom He will…” (Yusuf 12:100)

Another attribute specified in the Surah is Allah’s (swt) dominance over matters. At first, we cannot understand why Allah (swt) is making Yusuf (as) go through all this trouble. But soon it all makes sense. In the Quran, Allah (swt) mentions that He “…established Yusuf (Joseph) in the land…” (Yusuf 12:21). This verse implies that all these events are occurring for Yusuf’s (as) benefit, not against him. Allah (swt) further clarifies that this is happening to Yusuf (as) so that “…We might teach him the interpretation of events…” (Yusuf 12:21) It now makes sense why Yusuf (as) ends up in the home of a minister. Naturally, the minister’s home is one where other dignitaries visit and discuss important political and economic matters. Yusuf (as) has the opportunity to listen in to the conversations as he goes about doing his work. Indeed, from the well to the caravan and to the minister’s home, Allah (swt) planned and decided that this is how Yusuf (as) will be exposed to learning the interpretation of speech.

This proves that Allah (swt) was dominant over Yusuf (as) and his matters. All events, including Yusuf’s (as) stay in jail, were critical because it was the way Allah (swt) chose for Yusuf (as) to come out and gain position as a minister himself. He mentions: “…And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not.” (Yusuf 12:21)

From this Surah, we learn four names or attributes of Allah (swt): Ghalib (the Dominant), Lateef (Most Courteous and Kind), Aleem (All-Knowing) and Hakeem (All-Wise). It is important to seek counsel from this Surah because it displays how Allah’s (swt) plans work. Yes, it is extremely difficult to face grief and unexpected situations, but we need to realize and believe that these events are occurring by Allah’s (swt) will. We can seek inspiration from Yusuf’s (as) story and learn to trust Allah’s (swt) plans, especially when our lives seem to be breaking apart. Believe that Allah (swt) is taking you somewhere better.

An unabridged version of this lecture transcription is available at www.nakcollection.com. It has been abridged and edited for hiba with their permission.

 

Positive Teaching

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My parents emphasized the value of having good teachers all my life. Why? Because such individuals teach you what can’t be bought with money. They are the path to Jannah. They are on the path of the Rasool (sa). Can you put a price on Jannah? No.

These teachers consider each boy and girl in their care to be the one man and woman they will prepare for tomorrow’s Ummah. They work with a sense of responsibility and the intention to transform their students. This attitude makes such teachers phenomenal.

I went to a Catholic school. It was one of the best in academics but very shallow in terms of moral values.

Later, as an adult, I started to question what was lacking in the Tarbiyah offered by teachers today? After much deliberation, the answer came to me. With the amazing explosion of information that is easily accessible, cheap to use, and fast-paced, we no longer need teachers. What we need are Nasihoon and Murrabbis, who can direct children to what is truly important, and become the children’s coaches, guides and mentors.

When I travelled to Madinah University, I could not speak a sentence of Arabic, except such necessary words as Hammam (bath area), Taam (meal), etc. After spending two weeks in that place with my friend, I told him: “Brother, we are in the wrong place.” But then something truly fantastic happened. I came upon a man by the name of Abdul Kareem. He was a teacher with a smile. In two weeks, he made me dream in Arabic.

In Rajistan (India), a professor conducted an experiment in one of the poorest areas. He took some illiterate children who had never attended any school and had no exposure to computers. The professor assigned to them a project to discover how viruses and cells replicated and behaved. Next, he put up a computer screen for them to access the information. Through Skype, he also connected them to their old grandmother, who lived far away. She was a very encouraging person, whose job was to offer appreciation to the kids every day about their project for the next two months. Guess what? Those kids delivered. They found a way to learn.

A teacher does irreparable damage to a student with an attitude of negativity. Negativity not only destroys the children’s minds but also mars their creativity. Allah (swt) expects us to develop those in our care into Mumineen, the strong believers, the ones who have a purpose in life. Look at the Prophet (sa). The man was orphaned at a tender age, had no materialistic comforts in life, never received a formal education, and experienced harsh opposition from merciless enemies; yet, he smiled, he appreciated others, and he loved and cared for all. It was like hope and belief rising from ashes.

Read the Quran and observe how positive it is. Reflect over the story of Yusuf (as). When he was thrown into a dark well by his own brothers, Allah (swt) revealed to him that one day, he would be in a position to inform them of their wrongdoings. Hope was extended in the face of an adverse situation.

Similarly, Maryam (as) was despondent when she was enduring labour pains as a single and unwed mother. Allah’s (swt) angel again advised her to eat from the branch of Nakhlah (soft and sweet dates), as sugar causes comfort to the body and reduces pain.

Musa’s (as) mother was commanded by Allah (swt) to place him in a basket and set him afloat on the river Nile; it was the worst nightmare for her as a mother to part with her baby. But it was Allah (swt), Who promised her that He would reunite them again. And so it was.

Once, a Sahabi was drunk. As per the Shariah, Muhammad (sa) ordered eighty lashes for him. Later, he was brought to the Prophet (sa) again on the same charge. One of the men present cursed him. The Prophet (sa) corrected his attitude immediately, stating: “Do not swear at him, for he loves Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa).” (Bukhari)

At the time of the battle of Khandaq, a trench was dug around Madinah as a military strategy. The work came to a halt at the last boulder that would just not break. Far away, rising dust caused by galloping horsemen indicated the approach of the disbelievers’ army. This could easily have been a time of panic and tension. But how does Allah’s Messenger (sa) react? He took the pick axe and called out: “Rome is yours. Allahu Akbar!” The first blow broke the boulder smaller, and a light shone from it. “Sham is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The second blow broke it further down, and another light escaped from the rock. “Persia is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The third blow crumbled the rock to pieces and another light shone through.

The Prophet (sa) faced all the tests positively. The question is: how positive are we as educators and parents? Most of us were raised with negativity. We need to unlearn a lot of that to be able to deal positively with our own children. A shepherd cannot blame the sheep for being eaten. Similarly, a happy team is a winning team.

In any organization, the leader is not just there to enjoy privileges and blow his own trumpet. He will have to own not only the success of each team member but also their failures. This is how “Mercy Mission” works. A very apt example is of an economic crisis in the corporate world faced by Ford. The CEO of Ford called a one-day meeting of all important employees and spent the whole day discussing nothing but the company’s vision, their dreams, and how they had once wanted to achieve them so badly. This was the turning point for the company. The belief to do the impossible breathed a new life into them. The leader looked in the eyes of negativity and said to it: “We’re not giving up.”

There are two ways to build a ship: you can either tell your team how to build it and supervise them down to the finest detail, or you can share with them the beauty of the ocean, inspire them to sail to explore the Khalq (creation) of Allah (swt) and then wait and see what the team builds.

Sen Sui said: “The legacy of a leader is the number of leaders he creates.” Today, we do not need managers to control anymore. We need leaders to inspire. Likewise, we do not need teachers who dictate, but Murrabis that guide and give hope to their children to do their best. The attitude of arrogance will have to go. As teachers, we must realize that there is no one particular way to solve a problem. There are multiple ways to get to the solution.

The people of tomorrow are in school today. Unlock their minds and do not restrict them. If we build schools and lose the spirit, what is the gain? Education should be 20% teacher-led and 80% student-led. We need to teach them to empower themselves. Fear doesn’t achieve the results that love and belief do. Educators and parents will have to make a conscious decision about how they will impact the children under their care. This might mean we need to re-learn how to teach.

May Allah (swt) grant our children the Taufiq to discover something truly amazing and new for the benefit of other people. Ameen!

Based on a workshop hosted by Fajr Academy, Karachi. Adapted by Rana Rais Khan.

 

Finding Fatimah

18

The world has known many Fatimahs, the most famous and revered one in the Muslim Ummah being Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (sa), whom we meet in the books of Seerah.

Recently, I came across one more exemplary Fatimah, who was born to a Tunisian businessman in the year 800 AD. Fatimah bint Mohammad al-Fihri is known as the founder of the oldest university in the world.

Along with her sister, Maryam, Fatimah al-Fihri left her city of birth in order to help their father expand his business. Rather like today, changing homes back in the ninth century was no easy task. But the bustling city of Fes soon became a friend to the family as the two sisters helped Mohammad al-Fihri settle in Morocco.

Their newfound happiness did not last for as long as they may have hoped. Mohammad al-Fihri passed away, leaving the girls without any close family member. However, he left for the girls a respectable amount of money in his will, a clear message that he trusted his daughters to build for themselves a place in this world. Fatimah and Maryam had previously lived comfortably and money matters were mostly left to the discretion of their father. After his death, however, the sisters took bold yet noble decisions about what to do with the money that was now theirs.

Living in the cultural and spiritual centre of ninth century Morocco, Fatimah was deeply inspired by the study of art, religion, history, and architectural design. She gravitated towards this vibrant community and the values it upheld, to which she was no longer a stranger. For the al-Fihri sisters, nothing could reduce the pain of losing their father better than giving back to their community. Hence, they decided to invest in the society around them. The money they had inherited was used to lay the foundations of what were initially two Masajid: Al-Andalus and Al-Qarawiyyin. The constructions of both were supervised by Maryam and Fatimah respectively.

In 869 AD, Fatimah decided it was time to expand the mosque into a Madrassah, which went on to be recognized as a state university in 1963. In his book “Madrasah and University in the Middle Ages”, George Makdisi writes: “…back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.”

During the course of Islamic history, Al-Qarawiyyin became more than a university that housed a Masjid; it soon began housing the greatest minds of the European Middle Ages. Many notable scholars of the time either studied or taught at Al-Qarawiyyin, including Ibn Khaldun, Leo Africanus, and Ibn al-Arabi. The university gained fame among the scholars from all over the world, such as Maimonides (Ibn Maimun) and Muhammad al-Idris, a cartographer, whose maps were widely used during the Renaissance, especially in European quests to explore uncharted lands.

The university expanded very rapidly. With additional construction done in the twelfth century, Al-Qarawiyyin came to be regarded as the largest mosque in North Africa. That was the time when the Masjid gained its current structure, which can now accommodate around twenty-two thousand worshippers.

In a brutal attempt to massacre Muslim civilization during the Spanish Inquisition, many Muslims and scholars were expelled from Spain. They found a refuge in Fes, where they shared their wisdom and their cultural insights about arts and sciences. While the Spanish Inquisition of the thirteenth century was a dark and difficult time for Muslim scholars, al-Fihri’s institution became a much-needed symbol of hope for the devastated Muslim academia.

In his book “Islamic Education in Europe” (2009), Ednan Aslan writes how the Muslim community “maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge.” This resulted in the centres becoming “places where teachers and students of that time would meet” and “where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates.” He writes that in the ninth century, it is not to be taken as a coincidence that the establishment of the Qarawiyyin University in Fes was followed by Az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. Aslan writes: “The university model, which in the West was widespread starting only from the twelfth century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period.”

Before her death in 880 AD, Fatimah al-Fihri was titled Umme Banin, the Mother of the Children. She was remembered to have stood true to her oath to keep fasting till the construction of the Masjid was completed. She prayed in the Masjid for the first time as an act of gratitude to Allah (swt). The city of Kairouan was no longer a stranger to the two sisters, Fatimah and Maryam, both of whom had made wise and important choices in their youth.

As a Muslimah, the world I live in asks me to stop looking into the past; however, it is there that I find hope for the future. Perhaps there is a Fatimah al-Fihri out there reading my words. If she is, we must help her in her quest to create a space, where learning takes place for all the seekers of knowledge.

 

The Doors to Mercy

doors of mercy

  1. The Quran. Allah (swt) has termed the Quran as Rahmah (mercy) in about twenty places in His Book. It is the consoler of hearts that accompanies us throughout the journey and will be there when everyone will forsake us. It is the only key to eternal success. Therefore, let us make a sincere effort this month to befriend the Quran. Go beyond the speedy recital and read with deep understanding, deducing lessons for a lifetime. Set achievable goals from one Ramadan to the next for the recitation and understanding of the Quran. If you learn the word by word translation of three Ayahs daily along with their Tafseer, you will cover the first six parts by the next Ramadan.
  2. Muhammad (sa) – mercy for mankind. His words, commandments, and even the smallest of his Sunnahs, bring about tranquility and ease for those who abide by them. Allah (swt) says: “And obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) that you may obtain mercy.” (Ale-Imran 3:132) The most effective way of connecting with the Prophet (sa) is to start reading a book of Seerah in the month of Ramadan. You can also select a number of Sunnahs and try your best to follow them throughout the blessed month.
  3. Striving for the cause of Islam. Playing or watching cricket matches, watching movies, reading novels, and sleeping: these are the much-loved time killing tools we employ in Ramadan. Jihad (or struggle) is one of the most rewarding acts in the sight of Allah (swt) and a definite source of His mercy. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s religion) and have striven hard in the way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s mercy.” (Al-Baqarah 2:218) Think of what you have done to uphold the name of Allah (swt) in your home and community. What portion of your health, wealth, time, and capabilities are you using for Allah’s (swt) sake?
  4. Asking for forgiveness. Prophet Salih (as) said to his people: “Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah that you may receive mercy?” (An-Namal 27:46) Believers are advised to ask for forgiveness in the last hours of the night. Wake up ten minutes earlier for Suhoor, pray two Rakahs, and invoke Allah (swt) for mercy and forgiveness. Keep your tongue occupied with the Duas of forgiveness throughout Ramadan, especially during the last ten nights. Indeed, we have an example in the Prophet (sa), who used to make Astaghfar more than a hundred times every day.
  5. Ihsan and Taqwa. Beautify your acts of worship with Ihsan. Instead of worshipping in a habitually rushed manner, make an effort to adorn your prayer with attentiveness, your fast with staying away from sins, and all your actions with sincerity. Want a double portion of mercy? Taqwa will get you there! Allah (swt) says: “Fear Allah and believe in His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)); He will give you a double portion of His Mercy.” (Al-Hadid 57:28) Taqwa is to tame the galloping heart, stop wherever Allah (swt) wants you to stop, and race forward wherever He wants you to – all of that comes with practice and Duas!

The Fiqh of Love

fiqh of love

It is human nature to love. But what is true love? What does it imply? Is it just about boy-meets-girl and their fairytale happily-ever-after that the media, novels, movies, magazines, commercials, and billboards of today project? Is ‘that’ love or is love something far deeper, and more meaningful, noble, and pure?

Love – A Forbidden Word?

Views on love in the Muslim community range from the extremely liberal (‘love is good and everything prior to marriage is okay’) to the strictly conservative (‘love is a big no-no’). At times, it is even perceived to be a forbidden topic. The blame lies with us that such an innate emotion as love is so misunderstood by us. We need to learn how beautifully Islam has taught us all about love.

The Love We Know

The dictionary explains the word ‘love’ as follows: a strong positive regard or affection; a feeling of intense affection, without restrictions. However, our notions about love today are largely based on what is shown by the media: two individuals falling madly in love with each other. The world is perfect as long as they are together. They will never fight or have any differences. In the movie world, it is the society that is against them, and the couple will go to any length (really, ‘any’ length) to be with each other.

Fairytales, with which our minds are fed from a very tender age, cause even more harm. Prince Charming comes and takes the poor, oppressed protagonist far, far away. The way the female protagonists are always portrayed as flawlessly beautiful leads us to believe that love is all about appearance and outward appeal. We need to get real.

Love-101

Love seems to be the only issue that matters these days. There is an over-emphasis on the portrayal of love as something associated with singing romantic songs, and depicting scenes of how true love conquers all. Is this kind of love “ultimately fulfilling” and the only thing to strive for?

Many of us know that real love does not work this way. Yet tantalizing images affect our hopes for romance, which may cause disappointment in the long run. Our thinking is shaped by what we are exposed to. As a result, our life begins to echo the stories we see on the screen.

Divine Perspective of Love

“Love is neither disapproved of by religion, nor prohibited by the law. For every heart is in Allah’s (swt) hands.” (Ibn Hazm)

“And among His signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” (Ar-Rum 30:21)

Over time, the word ‘love’ has gained a negative connotation. People relate it to many things that it should not be associated with. Hence, they feel shy or embarrassed when the topic comes up. The reality, however, is that the word ‘love’ is often used in the Quran and the Sunnah to describe love for our parents, for our brothers and sisters in Islam, and of course, for our spouses. Thus, love is not something to be ashamed of.

Regarding his wife Khadijah (rta), the Prophet (sa) once said: “Verily, I was filled with love for her.” (Muslim)

The love our Prophet (sa) had for his wives in general, and Khadijah (rtaf) and Aisha (rtaf) in particular, illustrates how love makes relationships beautiful. There is a lot to learn from the life of the Prophet (sa)!

Is Loving Someone a Sin?

Love brings stability and security when dealt with correctly. At the same time, we can never have full control over love, and it cannot remain hidden either. This poses the dilemma of how to address being in love.

Having the feeling of love in the heart is not a sin. Sinning occurs when a person decides to act upon that love in a Haram way, such as talking continually to the person he or she loves, dating, and engaging in fornication. Even staring at the other person can be Haram!

Love Someone? Get Married!

Marriage is the only happily-ever-after for two people in this Dunya and the next. The Prophet (sa) said: “There is nothing better for two who love one another than marriage.” (Ibn Majah)

What can be better for us than what the Prophet of Allah (sa) has liked for us? If you like someone, send the proposal for Nikah. Islam is modern enough to endorse a father asking a suitable man’s hand for his daughter. Umar (rtam) asked first Abu Bakr (rtam) and later Usman (rtam) to marry his daughter, Hafsa (rtaf). Islam even permits an older lady to send a proposal for a younger, pious man as in the case of Khadijah (rtaf) and Muhammad (sa). Don’t wait for your career to settle or for your degree to be in your pocket. There will always be a new achievement to attain. Why not do all that with a righteous spouse by your side?

Our Friends

“A man follows the religion of his friend, so each of you should consider whom he befriends.” (Abu Dawood)

Can there be a better example of how our friends influence us than this Hadeeth? Mutaqqi (Allah-fearing) friends can make our Jannah, while the damage an evil friend can inflict needs no elaboration. Our friends shape our thinking. So choose your friends wisely!

The Surroundings

We are a part of what we see. Psychological studies go at length to prove how explicitly our environment determines our behaviour. For example, a person, who is not used to the open mixing of opposite genders, will be taken aback at the way girls and guys often hang out together at educational institutions. Repeated exposure to such situations will make that person accustomed to it. Sadly, the movies we watch, the books we read, and the places we frequent are making us more and more accustomed to lewdness.

It All Starts with a Thought

Hence, what we have to control foremost is what we think about. Not paying attention to what crosses your mind is asking for trouble because every action begins with a wandering thought. The thought results in action if we do not stop it there and then. Repeated action becomes a habit, and a habit may become an addiction. Thus, we may end up facing many trials which could have been avoided with some self control.

To keep the matters of the heart in check, the following are essential:

  1. If you like someone, marry him or her. Don’t just let it hang there.
  2. If you cannot marry, fast.
  3. Cover the Awrah, as ordained by the Shariah.
  4. Do Dhikr, as it drives away all evil thoughts.
  5. Avoid free mixing of opposite genders and seclusion (Khalwah) with non-Mahrams.
  6. Guard your senses.
  7. Look for good companions.

May Allah (swt) guide us to the right path and make us among the Muttaqeen. Ameen.

A brief transcription of a workshop conducted by Sister Binte Mobin, organized by Youth Talk, Karachi. Transcribed by Maham Irfan.

 

Fun & Learn Teaching Aids

 

Living in the West, we all worry about how to teach our children facts about Islam that kids in Muslim countries learn just by being in the right environment. My 6-year-old daughter started memorizing Juz Amma, and when she got to Surah Al-Fajr, I realized I did not know the order of Surahs beyond that point. If I did not know, how could I teach my kids, especially when we always stress that teaching by example is the best?

Having a few years of teaching experience, I decided to utilize all the study aids I had used as an English teacher and even design my own ‘fun & learn’ system. Following are a few ideas. For maximum benefit, you should do these together with your kids. When I used to teach, I realized that the questions students asked and the ingenious solutions to problems they came up with were better than anything I could have imagined. Let your kids teach you.

  1. Mnemonic. This is an aid that helps you memorize something. To memorize the names of the first 10 Surahs, we came up with this story:

At the party, Isra opened the door. It smelled like someone was cooking beef (cow) Biryani; Uncle Imran’s family invited us in. The women were supposed to be served first from a buffet set on the table. The aroma was so awesome, everyone rushed like cattle from downstairs, upstairs, and all heights, behaving like they were distributing spoils of war. Nanijan made them all stop and do Tawbah for behaving in such a manner. We recited prophet Yunus’s Dua.

All you have to do is make up stories with your children. You can use five to ten names in a story. Type them out and read them often, so you and your children can memorize the names.

  1. Graphic Organizers. These come in several categories and are used for pictorial representation of a concept. For example, you can use a tree form to teach kids the Prophet’s (sa) family members. Attached is one that I found on the net (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_tree_of_Muhammad/), but you can design one with your kids for better information retention. It could be in the shape of a tree, a flower, etc.
  1. Lap Books. Basically, these are a handy reference for the child that she herself creates with all the information at her fingertips. They are amazing and there are templates available on the net. All you have to do is download and work on them with your kids. We did one about Akhlaq. The templates are available to download from: http://imanshomeschool.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/a-z-of-akhlaq-lapbook/.

LearnAids1

  1. Student Teachers. Have siblings or friends’ kids teach a class, and you will be amazed at the result. I did this by assigning different topics to groups of students; they would make a presentation and a worksheet for ‘recall activity’. Following are some that my son, Bilal, made about animals in the Quran for his 6-year-old sister.

LearnAids2

There was a matching sheet of English and Arabic names of animals. The second was a word search from a free website http://www.superkids.com/aweb/tools/words/search/.

  1. Choose a topic and list down all the words that come to mind. Then use these to explain and discuss the topic. We use a cool tool (wordle.net) to brainstorm. Following is our Wordle on Islamic heritage. It was not too fancy, but through discussion we added more words that we had missed like science, discovery, etc.

LearnAids3

There are other sites that offer mind mapping and wikis. Your family fun is just a Google away. Whatever you do and however you choose to teach and learn with your kids, make it fun, involve the entire family and use technology (the latest techniques in teaching and the computer/iPad).

 

This Ramadan will be a Different One!

Ramadan

After breaking the fast, while still on my prayer mat, I was secretly hoping and praying that it wouldn’t be the last fast of Ramadan. Somehow I wasn’t that thrilled about Eid this time. I was rather withdrawn and passive. Obviously, Eid was not the reason for my distress; instead, it was the fact that Ramadan was ending.

Having understood the virtues and experienced the numerous blessings of Ramadan, I was anxious that I had not gained enough from the blessed month. “But there is always next Ramadan,” I reassured myself. “What makes you so sure that you will live that long?” a part of me responded. The growing debate between my conscience and Nafs (lowly base self prone to sin) made me more uncomfortable. The ticking of the clock made me desperate, and I felt like grabbing every second of the passing time.

I started having flashbacks of what little I did the entire month, as opposed to all that I could have done to seek the pleasure of my Rabb: the voluntary deeds I could have performed in addition to the regular rituals. I felt guilty, realizing that the enemy resided within me, and that enemy was my own Nafs.

“Forget it! You don’t have what it takes to be pious. If you couldn’t take charge of yourself in Ramadan, when Shaitan was chained, then what chance do you have for self-purification after Ramadan?” my Nafs condemned me. Tears of regret and remorse rolled down my cheeks into my hands raised in Dua. I promised myself that if I would be allowed to witness next Ramadan then it would have to be a different one and definitely a better one.

The first step towards attaining a goal is to be prepared. Therefore, I devised a pre Ramadan checklist. “This Ramadan will be a different one!” clenching my Ramadan checklist, I announced to myself in a resolute tone.

I thought of sharing it with you all, hoping that it will be of benefit to you as well, Insha’Allah.

My Ramadan Checklist

  • Make lots of Dua to be able to witness Ramadan with Hidayah (guidance), Hikmah (wisdom) and Aafia (well-being) as well as to be blessed with Barakah in your time, so that you can make the most of each day.
  • Regulate Your Routine. Try giving up on late nights and late mornings at least two weeks before Ramadan, in order to set your routine for Taraweeh and Qiyam-ul-Layl.
  • Quran Recitation. Start your Quranic recitation with understanding and contemplation at least ten days before Ramadan, so that by the end of the blessed month you do not feel the urge to rush the completion of the Glorious Quran.
  • Memorization of Duas. A month before Ramadan, you can try to memorize at least one new Dua every week. This way you will be able to gain more Khair during the month of forgiveness.
  • Grocery Shopping. Make sure that you have organized and stored all your groceries at least a week before Ramadan.
  • Ramadan Menu. Pre-planned menus will help you focus on more important tasks. Keep the menu as simple as possible, as it is a Sunnah to do so.
  • Adequate Eating Habits. Do not consume too much fried food, as it tends to lower your energy level.
  • Iftar Parties. If you invite people for Iftar, avoid mixed gatherings and extravagance.
  • Eid Shopping. Ramadan is a golden month for attaining Khair for our Akhirah, not for grabbing the best bargains at shopping malls. Do not lose this opportunity and focus on satisfying your Nafs instead. Complete your shopping before Ramadan.
  • Daily Checklist. Prepare a daily checklist of ‘things to do’ for the next day. This way, you will not be preoccupied with thoughts of mundane tasks and will be able to focus on your worship.
  • Supererogatory Acts. Form the habit of performing voluntary acts (prayers, fasts, charity, etc.) after your obligatory worship, in order to earn extra rewards.

Abu Hurayrah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah said: My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties (obligatory acts) I have enjoined upon him. My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works, such that I shall love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask (something) of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (Bukhari)

  • Daily Dhikr. Set your practice of the morning and evening Adhkar two weeks before Ramadan. Try to keep your tongue moist with Dhikr, for example: Astaghfirullah, Subhan Allah, Alhumdulillah, Subhan Allah e Wabihamdihi, while doing routine things like cooking and cleaning. This way your ordinary tasks will turn into acts of worship, Insha’Allah.
  • Duas before Fajr. A month before Ramadan, try to get up just ten to fifteen minutes before Fajr. This is that part of the night when Allah (swt) descends to the lowest heaven and accepts the Duas of His slaves. How can we miss such an opportunity, such an honour?
  • Spiritual Boost. Assign a specific time during the day for listening to Quranic recitation or an Iman-boosting lecture to help you stay high-spirited throughout the busy day.
  • Lessons for Children. Invest at least thirty minutes in sharing Deen-related material with your children. Make the lesson interesting and interactive. For example, read a story from the Quran or stories of the prophets; tell them a Hadeeth and try to act on it with them; switch on a short talk by a scholar, listen to it with them and discuss what you have learned.
  • Sharing Blessings. Arrange your cupboards a month before Ramadan and separate the items that you have not used for over six to ten months. Neatly sort and stack them in boxes to give away in charity.
  • A few months before Ramadan, get your children to help you make a little charity box, so that they can learn the importance of Sadaqah and start collecting money in it. When you go for your pre-Ramadan Eid shopping, buy a few gifts for the poor and wrap them nicely to give them out a day or two before Eid. Charity expiates sins and its virtues increase in this blessed month.

Ramadan offers excellent opportunities for reaping the utmost Khair (goodness). Imagine if you were told about a clearance sale at the best mall in town; wouldn’t you want to grab every valuable item in your reach? Definitely! Then why should we waste this opportunity to attain the pleasure of the One Who loves us beyond our perception?

May Allah (swt) help us make the most of our life, until we meet Him in Jannat-al-Firdaus, Ameen.

 

Maintaining Productivity while not Praying

productivity

Being a Muslim means submitting to Allah’s (swt) laws, as He chose them to be. Some women tend to go into depression as their monthly cycles start or when postnatal bleeding begins. Not being able to pray or fast, they think there is nothing they can do to get closer to Allah (swt) and a sense of spiritual deprivation creeps in.

But what if we change our thinking? What if we accept it as Allah’s (swt) decree? If this is part of Allah’s (swt) plan, then it must be beneficial for us. He would not be pleased by our complaining, would He?

Monthly cycles and postnatal bleeding indicate that our bodies are working exactly the way nature intended them to. It shows that we are normal, and good health is a blessing we should not underestimate. Reflect on the following Ayah from the Quran: “…and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah Knows but you do not know.” (Al-Baqarah 2:216)

Having accepted the inconvenience as part of Allah’s (swt) decree, let us now shift our attention to the ways we can make this time productive.

  1. Permissible Acts of Worship

Only Salah and fasting is not allowed. You can still do a lot of other Ibadah that will take care of your spiritual needs.

  1. Dhikr

Let us begin with the lightest deed. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever says: ‘Subhan-Allahi wa Bihamdi’ (How far from imperfections Allah is, and I praise Him) a hundred times during the day, his sins are wiped away, even if they are like the foam of the sea.” (Bukhari)

This neither takes much time, nor requires a state of ritual purity. Yet, the reward is amazing and keeps you connected to Allah (swt). There are several other similar short words of remembrance that do not require opening the Quran. Some other examples are: ‘Subhan Allah’ and ‘La Illaha Illa Allah’. What about Istighfar? We are always in need of seeking forgiveness from Allah (swt), aren’t we?

You can also recite the daily morning and evening supplications. If you do not know these Duas, this might be the time to memorize them.

  1. Listening to the Quran

While there is a disagreement over whether or not it is allowed to touch the Quran during menstruation, you can certainly listen to the recitation on a CD, cell phone or online. If you are trying to beautify your recitation, Allah (swt) has provided you with the time to focus on it now.

  1. Tahajjud

Performing Tahajjud Salah is not the only way to get your Duas answered or to seek nearness to Allah (swt). If you are awake at this hour but cannot pray, get up, make Wudhu and just sit and talk to Allah (swt). Talk to Him like you would at the end of prayer. Why miss out on this splendid opportunity? He listens when you call upon Him.

  1. Voluntary Charity

Invest the time you save on Salah and fasting by focusing on Sadaqah (voluntary charity). Is there any relative of yours that needs assistance? Maybe it’s a neighbour, an orphan child, or another needy person? Find out and be of assistance to them in whatever way you can. Charity is not limited to financial assistance only. For example, some women volunteer to babysit for other sisters to allow them some free time to focus on their Fard (obligatory) worship.

  1. Acquiring Knowledge

Islam lays great emphasis upon acquiring beneficial knowledge. This is evident by the numerous Duas that the Prophet (sa) taught us. In the Quran, knowledgeable people have been addressed as Ulul-Albab, meaning ‘the people of intellect’ or ‘people of understanding’. They are distinguished from those who live their lives mindlessly and deny the signs of Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) says: “Shall he, then, who knows that what has been revealed unto you (O Muhammad (sa)) from your Lord is the truth, be like him who is blind? But it is only the men of understanding that pay heed.” (Ar-Rad 13:19)

Sisters, utilize this time for gaining knowledge. We will not identify reminders unless we have the wisdom to understand them. Read Islamic literature. Read about the life of the Prophet (sa), his companions, and those after them.

  1. Attending Religious Gatherings and Lectures

Umm Atiya narrates: “We were ordered to bring out our menstruating women and veiled women in the religious gatherings and invocation of Muslims on the two Eid festivals. These menstruating women were to keep away from their Musalla (praying area).” (Bukhari)

By attending religious gatherings or lectures, you will not only gain knowledge but also boost your Iman. Moreover, when the angels will be making entries in their journals, regarding who strove in the cause of Allah (swt), your name will also be added to that list. Isn’t it a ‘win-win’ situation?

You could have been sitting in front of the television and catching up on the latest drama episode but you chose to give this time to Allah (swt).

  1. Other Activities
  1. Cooking

For you as daughters, wives, or mothers, family is your first priority. One of the requests that men in our lives have is nicely cooked food. It does not mean you should not cook otherwise, but now you can try out that special recipe, which you have been setting aside due to shortage of time. Cook simple but nutritious meals for your family. However, avoid excess. Control your budget, because we are answerable for our wealth on the Day of Judgement. If Allah (swt) has given you beyond your needs, spend on those who are less privileged. It is their right upon you. Somebody might be starving to death while you are preparing expensive gourmet to satisfy your Nafs.

  1. Shopping

Have you been thinking of buying some household items but were held back by the long, strenuous hours in the shopping malls? Check that off your to-do-list now. Use this time to do those important or not-so-important tasks of the worldly life. Why give up some time from your worship, when Allah (swt) gives an opportunity to do so in another way? However, always recite the Dua prescribed to us by the Prophet (sa) before entering the market. This will protect us from over-indulgence and wastefulness, Insha’Allah!

These are only some of the ways for making your time productive. Do not be emotionally stressed by this natural phase of life. It was decreed by Allah (swt).

When we understand the Hikmah (wisdom) behind Allah’s (swt) plans, our perspective changes; we become more internally content and at ease. Moreover, it allows us to submit willingly and practice our Deen confidently. Which of Allah’s (swt) favours can we deny?

May Allah (swt) bless us with the Hikmah to make the most of our Ramadan. Ameen.

 

Time Management, the Sunnah Way

time management sunnah

  1. Set Your Goals in Life
  • Your goals will shape your life and your schedule.
  • When doing any task, always begin with the end in mind.
  1. Self-Discipline is the Key
  • Break such habits as procrastination and laziness.
  • Make a weekly schedule along with a daily one and stick to it.
  • Realize the difference between urgent and important. The urgent things may not always be important.
  • Everything else will fit in automatically.
  • Avoid distractions caused by such unimportant things as messages, posts, tweets, and mails.
  • If the task is large or time-consuming, divide it into small chunks and start working on it immediately. Don’t procrastinate.
  • Allah (swt) does not expect immediate results from us. He wants us to grow and learn on a constant basis, as He loves consistent good deeds. Even the Shariah was revealed gradually.
  1. Delegate and Take a Break
  • Avoid burnout and fatigue. Narrated Abdullah bin Amr (rta): News of my daily fasting and praying every night throughout the night reached the Prophet (sa). He sent for me or I met him, and he said: “I have been informed that you fast everyday and pray every night (all the night). Fast (for some days) and give up fasting (for some days); pray and sleep, for your eyes have a right on you, and your body and your family (i.e., wife) have a right on you.” The Prophet (sa) said, twice: “Whoever fasts daily throughout his life is just as the one who does not fast at all.” (Bukhari)
  • Recharge yourself. Make time for Halal fun with your family; it is Sunnah.
  • Do teamwork. Delegate tasks to others, if they are able and willing to do it.
  • The Prophet (sa) used to delegate tasks to his companions according to their abilities.
  1. Eliminate Time-Wasters (Al-Laghw)
  • Eliminate things that don’t give you any benefit, especially the Haram ones.
  • Even if the time wasters aren’t Haram, it is better to replace them with something productive.
  • A good example is from Imam an-Nawawi’s childhood: he used to prefer studying rather than playing outside with the other kids. He prioritized studying over other usual things because that’s what he really wanted to do.
  1. Bonus Tips
  • Multi-task only if it is beneficial. Avoid it where it is harmful, for example, during family time.
  • Keep positive company. Be with those who increase your Iman, and who motivate and stimulate you to accomplish your goals.
  • Be open to advice and correction. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t let your ego stop you from growing.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ politely if somebody wants you to do something that distracts you from your schedule.
  • Stay fit and healthy, because the opposite of fitness is laziness. Health and fitness are a part of Deen.
  • Strive for excellence. Do everything with Ihsan. This is the characteristic of a true Muslim.
  • One way to discipline yourself, or to break bad habits, is by giving a fine in the form of charity every time you indulge in that behaviour .
  • Reward yourself with small treats when you stick to your routine or accomplish your goals. A nice ice-cream would work.

Transcribed by Ahmed Faraz. This is an abridged transcription of a webinar conducted by Shaykh Kamdar. For complete transcription, visit www.hibamagazine.com.

 

 

The Social Impact of Borrowed Living

borrowed living

The one-world materialistic consumer culture, which is deliberately being promoted throughout the globe, is affecting us. We are falling into the trap of living a lifestyle based on loans: house loans, car loans, education loans, investment loans, credit cards, digital money, and money borrowed from friends and family. All this is affecting us, our families, and our society in a negative manner. Let us study the impact of borrowed living and look at some ways to counter it.

Responsible borrowing may sometimes be inevitable. The Prophet (sa) once borrowed from a Jew. The problem is a lifestyle of borrowed living which is being promoted nowadays. Most of such transactions are based on Riba and lead to a never-ending vicious cycle, which is intended to trap the borrower, adversely impacting him, his family, and the whole society.

The primary impact of borrowing is on the borrower. It affects his character as he becomes prone to lying, deceiving, making false promises and cheating. He also becomes a victim of corruption in trying to pay back the monthly installments to his creditors with whom his relations can easily turn sour. They say that if you want to destroy your friendship, borrow from a friend. Such a person becomes hated in the society. People curse him for not paying back on time. He becomes lonely and sometimes, even depressed and suicidal.

Such people are prone to be led away from truth and reality. They live in the artificial world of advertisements, movies, music, and perpetual entertainment, which help them find comfort and draw them away from focusing on their problems. They develop a mentality of constantly acquiring things, rather than taking care of the weak. They look down on others, who apparently have less than them, and as they do not give the Zakat (due to their loans), the poor become envious of them. With easy access to loans, the borrower has little motivation to develop good work ethics, enterprise, planning, accountability, responsibility, innovation, reform, service, learning, and vision in his work. All this promotes a hollow ostentatious lifestyle, without any meaning, spirituality, or wisdom.

A person living such a lifestyle is deprived of all the blessings, as his transactions are based on Riba, which Allah (swt) has promised to make devoid of any blessings. He lives a wasteful life, and Allah (swt) calls such spendthrifts the ‘brothers of Shaitan’. The borrower’s relationship with Allah (swt) becomes weak as he begins to fear people and the future instead of Him. He always feels guilty and dissatisfied with life, trying to find an escape from his predicament. This weak relationship with Allah (swt) causes his relationships with those around him to deteriorate. He starts perceiving his family, colleagues, neighbours, friends, relatives, etc., as potential creditors. Becoming entrapped in this mentality, he only manages to increase for himself the pressure of his financial problems.

As an Ameer of the family, a man is supposed to provide Halal income, protection, and good Tarbiyah for those under his authority. All these become difficult for a borrower. His family becomes addicted to the easy life, and their demands increase day by day. This leads to family problems and misunderstandings. From a young age, children learn from their parents the destructive character traits that come with borrowed living.

A society, in which the majority of people are trapped in such a mindset, develops serious social problems. These destroy its very fabric, leading to deceit, thefts, violence, crime, killings, addictions, increase in materialism, and loss of spirituality. People become concerned only with competing with each other in acquiring things and living out enviable fashions and trends. They lose sight of what matters most in life and live out the hollow lifestyles of the celebrities they watch on the mainstream media. At a macro level, even governments sell their independence through financial enslavement, which affects millions of citizens.

A Way Out

The solution to these maladies is to not get trapped in a credit-based system in the first place. Try not to take any loan ever, if you can help it. Instead of a credit card, use cash, or at least a debit card. If credit cards are unavoidable, you can ask your bank to automatically pay the monthly balance from your account. The best cure is to change your lifestyle and live within your means. Instead of living a materialistic lifestyle, adopt a spiritual one. Engage in learning and teaching, rather than shopping and partying. Adopt the Sunnah in your daily routine.

Realize that the Prophet (sa) called the market the worst place and the Masjid the best. When you enter the market, recite the Dua for it. When you do go out for shopping, always make a list before leaving the house. Only buy the items on the list. Do it like a chore on fixed times on a weekly basis, not like an outing or entertainment which the mall culture these days promotes. Spend the least possible amount of time shopping. Do it without the wife and kids and after a meal. If you can help it, do not visit the market in between your weekly trips.

Make priorities for spending. For example, you may decide to spend on charity, learning, and health, while cutting expenditures in other areas. Engage in free entertainment like going to parks and beaches, instead of going to movies and malls. Eat at home by learning or asking your wife to learn to cook your children’s favorite fast foods like donuts, cookies, cakes, and pizzas. You can do it as a family weekend in the kitchen once in a while. Buy off season clothing. Do your Eid shopping months in advance before the prices rise. Go on vacations locally, instead of going to faraway places.

Brothers, who are about to tie the knot, should take into consideration the spending priorities of their spouse-to-be. If she is known to spend on extravagant fashions, etc, will you be able to provide that through your loan-free Halal income? Also consider future responsibilities once the family begins and grows. A girl with simple and realistic needs will be closer to Allah (swt), easy to please and caring.

The Prophet (sa) refused to lead the funeral prayer for those who had outstanding loans. The following Hadeeth confirms this. A dead person was brought to the Prophet (sa) so that he might lead the funeral prayer for him. He asked: “Is he in debt?” When the people replied in the negative, he led the funeral prayer. Another dead person was brought and he asked: “Is he in debt?” They said: “Yes.” He (refused to lead the prayer and) said: “Lead the prayer of your friend.” Abu Qatadah said: “O Allah’s Messenger (sa)! I undertake to pay his debt.” Allah’s Messenger (sa) then led his funeral prayer. (Bukhari) Even Halal loans are not encouraged, due to all the reasons cited above.

Today’s social architects promote borrowed living. They aim to keep the general public deluded and entrapped so that they keep earning and prospering at their expense. As practicing Muslims, we should see through their schemes and neutralize them. Borrowed living affects not only the individual, but also the family and society. Resolve to live within your means by adopting a simple Sunnah lifestyle with known priority areas for spending. A slave of Allah (swt) does not rest until he frees himself from all forms of enslavement. This includes financial slavery.

 

Ethics of Auto Repair

ethics of auto repair

On the Day of Judgement, every detail – be it a screw or a nut – will be accounted for.

It has been reported that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The happiness of a person in this world depends on four components: a righteous and obedient wife; a spacious and comfortable abode; good neighbours; practical and comfortable means of transportation.” (Ibn Hibban and Ahmad)

In this article, we will take a closer look at the fourth component or, more specifically, the technical servicing of a means of transportation.

Up until the twentieth century, animals were the most widely used means of transportation worldwide. When the first automobiles appeared, animals started losing their ground; they were eventually pushed aside completely as Europe and the US began the mass production of automobiles.

Due to global technical developments, the automobile, which was once a luxury, has now become a mere means of transportation. In some countries, the number of automobiles is roughly equivalent to the adult population. The number of cars per 1,000 persons is 508 in Europe, 540 in Japan, and 776 in the US.

With an increasing numbers of automobiles, there is also an increased need for specialists qualified to service cars. No driver can avoid seeking the help of an auto mechanic, even if it is just for changing a tyre or car oil. The frequency of seeking the help of a mechanic depends on various factors, such as the condition, year of manufacture, and brand of the car, as well as the driving capabilities of the car owner. The gentler you are towards your ‘steel horse’, the less frequent will be your visits to the auto service.

Sheikh Saeed Alfandi Al-Chirkavi and Imam Kuramuhammad-haji Ramazanov, two great contemporary Muslim scholars, have extensively discussed in their writings the ethics of driving and auto repair.

Selecting the Best Auto Mechanic

Good auto mechanics are always in great demand. Just like in any other field of work, Islam prescribes certain ethical norms and requirements for auto mechanics. The most important principle a mechanic should follow is: to service and repair any automobile as if it was his own, or, like a famous saying goes, “do the work, as if you are doing it for yourself.”

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “None of you will truly believe until you wish for your brother what you wish for yourself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Auto Repair Ethics

Although the above discussion should suffice, it is important to mention some ethical norms that must be observed by all auto mechanics:

  • Clear intention to help people and earn, through this, the pleasure of Allah (swt).
  • Aim to earn only by fair means, without deception.
  • Don’t miss Salah, no matter how much work is at hand.
  • Since cleanliness is half of faith, it is very much desired to keep the auto repair shop clean and neat. Clients will also feel good about visiting a well-maintained and clean car service.
  • During work hours, it is desirable to keep the radio tuned to an Islamic channel with the aim of acquiring Islamic knowledge.
  • In the course of work, car oil comes into contact with the skin of mechanics. For Wudhu to be valid, the body parts that need to be washed should not have any water resistant materials on them. Therefore, before making Wudhu, mechanics have to remove all traces of oil from their hands. It is recommended to work in gloves.

Professional Traits

  • First of all, the mechanic has to be well-versed in his trade and have a good understanding about the specialties of different types of transportation. He should continuously keep himself updated about the latest information on car repairs and should raise his qualifications by learning from more experienced mechanics.
  • After evaluating each individual case, the mechanic should not start fixing the auto if he does not have the required skills and knowledge for it.
  • The mechanic should keep in mind the safety of the owner of the car and others on the road. More specifically, he should consider how the auto might behave in traffic situations once he completes his work on it.
  • The mechanic should do honest work with the client’s best interests in mind.

What is Forbidden

Under no conditions should a mechanic cheat his client. Sometimes a sly and unfair mechanic may use the ignorance of his client regarding the technical specifics of his car and:

  • Deceive him by asking to pay for work which is not done;
  • Make the client buy new spare parts in his shop, although there was no need to replace the old ones;
  • Replace a well-functioning car part with a faulty one.

There are numerous ways of cheating through which the mechanic can earn considerable amounts of money. In Islam, such dealings are forbidden. Money earned by such means will not result in blessings. Moreover, such unlawful dealings may bring upon the mechanic severe illness, loss of property, and other afflictions, as it has been said: “Beware of the curse of the oppressed. There is no barrier between such Dua and the Most High.” Car mechanics should keep this in mind, as there is no other word than oppression for unethical practices.

What Should an Unfair Mechanic Do?

A mechanic, who earns his wealth through Haram ways, must know that on the Day of Judgement, he will experience severe difficulties. Every cheated client will come and ask from him his due share. Every smallest detail – be it a screw or a nut – will be accounted for on that day.

Compared with these difficulties on the Day of Judgement, is it not easier to earn your bread by Halal means? We will receive what has been decreed for us. However, ours is the choice by what means our Rizq (provision) will come to us.

So what should an unfair car mechanic do if he has realized his mistake? The answer is self-evident: repent, while there is still time. He should try to recall what he has done wrong, and set it right. Also, he should never cheat again! He should know that he must pay back all those from whom he has taken Haram money; he should find the wronged clients, pay them back, and ask forgiveness. It is easier to set things right in this world than to give to the wronged clients your good deeds on the Day of Judgement and take on yourself their sins.

If you do not know the clients you have wronged and are unable to find them even after searching for them, give the amount you owed them in charity. Also, keep asking the Most High for forgiveness.

Source: http://islam.ru/content/obshestvo/etika-remonta-avtomobilya. Translated by Laila Brence.