Formula for Peace

By Alia Ahmed

Once, there was a king, who offered a prize to any artist that would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried their luck. The king looked at all the representations, and only two fascinated him. Ultimately, he had to choose between them.

The first depiction was that of a placid lake with mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. It seemed a perfect picture of peace.

The other image had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was an enraged sky, from which rain fell and lightening flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a furious, foaming waterfall. Apparently, this was not all, for when the king looked closely behind the waterfall, he saw a tiny bush growing in the crack of a rock. In that bush, a mother bird had built her peewee nest. In the midst of the rush of angry water, the mother bird sat on her nest in perfect peace.

Guess, which one turned out to be the award-winning illustration? Yes, the second one. Why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean being in a quiet place void of trouble or hard work. Peace means being in the midst of it all and still remaining cool, calm, and composed in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

This narration compels one to ponder and cogitate. Since the basic unit of the human kind is an individual human, it is evident that in order to achieve peace in the outer world, it must first be attained within the heart of that individual. Consequently, outer peace, or world peace, is a by-product of personal tranquility and mental satisfaction of individuals that inhabit it. Thomas Kempis said: “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring peace to others.”

Some people are of the opinion that peace will only be achieved, when they control every single element in their lives. Maybe they are just oblivious to the fact that this is not possible. One must understand the difference between things that are within our control and things that are beyond. The concept of predestination (Qadar) is central to this understanding. Religious scholars and intellectuals are of the view that tribulation and distress in today’s world may have a perspicuous cause-we have lost the path that leads to salvation, because we are missing out on Allah’s (swt) cardinal instructions.

Inner peace is a feeling of calmness and satisfaction within our hearts. But the delicate question is: how can that be attained? ‘Iman’ – the true faith in Allah (swt) and the beliefs, on which the Islamic faith is based – is the only real fountain for one’s inner calmness and rapture. This Arabic word is derived from the root word ‘Amn’, pointing towards peace and tranquility that a believer enjoys in his heart as a result of practising and bolstering these beliefs. There must be no half-hearted consents but total submission to God’s commands. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Truly, in remembering Allah (swt) do hearts find rest” (Ra’d 13:28). Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (swt), leads to Allah (swt) consciousness, which persuasively brings forth total submission to His commands. Thereupon, it is imperative that in order to bring tranquility into our lives, we must live according to His commandments.

Another significant factor that massively contributes towards acquiring a complacent soul is ‘Shukr’ – thankfulness to Allah (swt). ‘Shukr’ is derived from the root word, ‘sh-k-r,’ and it literally refers to ‘when a cow feeds on less fodder but gives more milk’. Conspicuously, it indicates, how we as believers should be. We should be grateful to Allah (swt) under all circumstances. We must learn to develop a sense of gratitude within ourselves for all the blessings we have received. Most of us have a great deal in our lives to make us blissfully content, but, unfortunately, we lack the ability to acknowledge and appreciate it. A lot is taken for granted and this ingratitude prevents us from attaining tranquility within our hearts. As Melody Beattie says: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Gratitude (Shukr) is considered to be the best and the highest of all the stations of faith (Iman). Gratitude also includes in itself the virtue of patience (Sabr). When we look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (sa), we find that there is nothing greater than his patience and gratitude. He was ‘Saboor’ and ‘Shakoor’. The reality is that as servants of Allah (swt), we can be in one of the two states during our lifetime. Either we enjoy a bounty, for which we should be thankful for, or we may be suffering a calamity that we should meet with patience and forbearance. Muslim states the Hadeeth: “Amazing is the believer, for whatever Allah (swt) decrees for him! If he is tested with a bounty, he is grateful for it, and this is better for him; and if he is afflicted with hardship, he is patient with it, and this is better for him.”

Patience has three main forms:

(a) patience for avoiding the prohibitions and sins,

(b) patience for acts of worship and obedience,

(c) patience required in the face of afflictions and hardships.

The Quran explicitly mentions the finest tools that may be applied to help ease the effects of suffering and hardship: patience (Sabr) and prayer (Dhikr). It is stated in Surat-al-Baqarah, verse 152-153: “Therefore, remember Me (by praying, glorifying (Dhikr)). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for my countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. O you, who believe! Seek help in patience and Salah (the prayer). Truly, Allah (swt) is with the As-Sabireen (the patient).” One may conclude that ‘Sakina’ – peace and tranquility within the heart – is a gift from Allah (swt), and the most essential ingredients that contribute to a serene and placid heart are: remembrance of Allah (swt), gratitude and patience. Consequently, a heart that remains thankful and patient, while in constant remembrance of its Creator, can never lose peace of mind.

Salam means Peace

peaceDid you know that the greeting “As-Salam Alaikum” is as old as man himself?

After Adam (as) was created, he was instructed by Allah (swt) to approach a group of angels that sat there and greet them. He was told to listen to their reply as it would be the greeting to be used by him and his offspring. Adam (as) went to them and said: “‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied: ‘As-Salamu-‘Alaika Wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah (swt)’s Mercy be on you).’ So they increased his greeting with ‘Wa Rahmatullah.’ (Bukhari)

Allah (swt) loves the greeting of Salam, which he has commanded all Muslims to share amongst themselves too. It’s a sincere prayer of peace, mercy and blessings from one Muslim to his other Muslim brother.

On the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) will also address his faithful believers with the same salutation of peace as is mentioned in Quran: “(It will be said to them): Salam (peace be upon you) – a Word from the Lord (Allah (swt)). Most Merciful.” (Ya-sin 36:58)

Similarly, Allah (swt)’s innocent and pure Creations, the angels will also greet true believers with Salam: “Their greeting on the Day they shall meet Him will be ‘Salam: Peace (i.e., the angels will say to them: Salam Alaikum)!’ And He has prepared for them a generous reward (i.e., Paradise).” (Al-Ahzab 33:44)

Etiquettes of using the greeting of Salam, put forward by Muhammad (sa) are:

  • When a person approaches an assembly he should greet them, and then greet them again when he leaves them. (Abu Dawood)
  • It is enough if one from a group of people passing by gives the greeting on their behalf and it is enough for those who are sitting if one of them replies. (Abu Dawood)
  • A younger person should greet the older person first. (Bukhari)
  • A person who is walking should greet the person who is sitting. (Bukhari)
  • The smaller group should greet the larger group. (Bukhari)
  • One who is riding should greet the one who is walking. (Bukhari)
  • On entering one’s house one should greet those inside. (Nur 24:27)
  • On leaving one’s house, one should greet everyone within the house. (Baihaqi)

Furthermore we have been told: “When one of you meets his fellow brother, he should salute him: then if he meets him again after a tree, wall or stone has come between them, he should salute him.” (Abu Dawood) Greeting one another is a right Muslim brothers have upon each other, regardless of whether they are acquainted or not. Remember the first Salam is more meritorious than the second, so make it a point to greet all that you meet and do not forget to return the greetings you receive. As-Salam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu!

Yusuf Bin Tashfin

Tasneem Vali tells the story of Yusuf Bin Tashfin – a Moravid king of Northern Africa, who “saved Muslims from themselves”

Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, has its heroes and so do the throes of history. However, there are also lesser-known heroes – those, who neither conquered foreign lands nor established Islam there, but saved Muslims from themselves. These are the heroes we need to discuss and emulate, if Islam is to achieve a global recognition again. This is the story of Yusuf Bin Tashfin, a Moravid king of Northern Africa, who ruled around 479 A.H. (1086 C.E.).

It was almost 350 years since Tariq Bin Ziyad had conquered Spain (Andalus) and secured Islam as the religion there. Under Muslim rule, Spain was the seat of learning and culture. Mediterranean trade flourished, and Spain became a haven for enlightenment and renaissance. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa, including knowledge about mathematics, science, and philosophy. They created a state that reflected the Muslim way of life and thirst for scientific knowledge.

During this time, Andalus was a centrally governed Muslim state, reflecting the Islamic tradition. After an initial period of affluence, the Muslim Spain became fragmented into smaller kingdoms (Taifas), which continuously fought amongst themselves. The most important of these were Córdoba, Seville, Granada, Toledo, Lisbon, Zaragoza, Murcia, and Valencia. The Taifas were ruled by thoughtless rulers, who fought amongst themselves and thus plunged their populations into debt.

The Christian ruler of Castile, Alfonso VI, saw this as a window of opportunity and seized it. He started collecting taxes from the smaller Muslim kingdoms. Soon, the Muslim population was suffering from lack of daily necessities. Meanwhile, the rulers were indulging in every imaginable vice.

In response to this injustice, a delegation from the suffering lands went to see Yusuf Bin Tashfin. This delegation included Ulema, philosophers, and prominent citizens. Yusuf could not ignore the plea of his brethren. After consulting his Ulema, Yusuf issued a public call to join his army for defending Spain from Alfonso VI.

Since Yusuf had only five hundred ships for sending his troops of 16,000, they proceeded in stages, landing on the shores of Seville, which was governed by a Muslim ruler Mutamid. The troops were greeted with pomp and glory, and soon Yusuf began planning his attack. He did not partake in the extravagant feast laid out in his honour; instead, he prayed to Allah (swt) for victory. Together with their Spanish counterparts, the numbers of Yusuf’s army reached 20,000 only.

On the hills of Zallaka, the armies faced each other. Being a true follower of Islam, Yusuf invited Alfonso to accept Islam as his religion or pay Jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslims in a Muslim state for granting them protection). The irony is that Alfonso refused and asked Yusuf to pay Jizya instead!

Yusuf possessed a keen military mind. He hid the African troops on a hill behind the barricades and faced Alfonso with only three thousand soldiers. The plan was that when Alfonso’s troops would cut through the Muslim ranks, the reinforcements would charge down the hill, trapping the Christians in between. The plan worked and Alfonso was defeated. Thus, the Muslim rule in Spain was ensured for another four hundred years.

It is easy to conquer, vanquish or defeat, but it is much harder to settle, establish, and maintain. Let’s follow Yusuf Bin Tashfin – let’s all take steps to re-establish Islam as a part of our lives.

Islamic Social Etiquette

etiquetteAllah (swt) states in the holy Quran: “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah (swt) Muhammad (sa) you have a good example to follow, if you hope for (the meeting with) Allah (swt) and the Last Day, and remember Allah (swt) much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Therefore, the Prophet (sa) is the best role model for every Muslim that has provided numerous examples in every aspect of human behaviour. The following pearls from his social etiquettes are enlightening.

Spreading the greeting of Salam

The Messenger of Allah (sa) commanded us to do seven things: to visit the sick, to attend funerals, to bless a Muslim, when he sneezes, to support the weak, to help the one, who is oppressed, to spread Salam (peace), and to help people fulfil their oaths. (Bukhari, Muslim)

He also said: “By the One, in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise, until you believe, and you will not believe, until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do, you will love one another? Spread Salam amongst yourselves.” (Muslim)

Unfortunately, today in Islamic societies this greeting has been replaced by foreign ones, especially among new generations, who are either ashamed or consider it old-fashioned to use the Islamic greeting. Obviously, they are unaware that a simple ‘Assalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu’ can earn them thirty rewards from Allah (swt)!

Not entering anyone’s house without his permission

Allah (swt) commands: “O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that you may take heed.” (An-Nur 24:27)

Islam urges Muslims to do the following, when visiting others: “Whenever the Prophet (sa) came to a door seeking permission to enter, he did not stand facing it. He would stand to the right or to the left, and if he was given permission, he would enter; otherwise, he would leave.” (Bukhari)

Impatiently ringing the doorbell, yelling out the in mates name, and grumbling, when the person we had intended to visit is unavailable, are signs of impoliteness and impertinence. They have no room in a Muslim’s life.

Sitting wherever one finds room in a gathering

In a gathering, a Muslim should sit wherever he finds space. He is neither to push through the people in order to sit at the head of the gathering, nor make another give up his space for him. The Prophet (sa) taught his companions to adopt these etiquettes, when joining a gathering.

Jabir Ibn Samurah (rta) said: “When we came to the Prophet (sa), we would sit, wherever we found room.” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “None of you should make another get up, then sit in his place. All of you should move up and make space (for the latecomer).” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The basic instruction is to accommodate and show courtesy. Nowadays, it is common not to leave any space available, because of improper seating arrangements, and the latecomer is usually forced to stand. Similarly, some make grand arrivals without realizing the disturbance they cause to an ongoing gathering or speech.

Avoiding yawning in a gathering

The Prophet (sa) advised Muslims: “If any of you wants to yawn, then let him suppress it as much as possible.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

If the urge to yawn cannot be resisted, then a Muslim should cover his mouth with his hand. The Prophet (sa) commanded: “If any of you yawns, let him cover his mouth with his hand, so that the Shaytan does not enter.” (Muslim)

Yawning is not only rude but a sign of boredom that may hurt the feelings of others. Even the very sophisticated manage to shock you, when they open their mouths as wide as a hippopotamus in the middle of a conversation.

Following the Islamic etiquette, when sneezing

Islam also teaches a Muslim, what he should say, when he sneezes, and what he should say, when he hears another sneeze.

Abu Hurairah (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Allah (swt) likes the act of sneezing and dislikes the act of yawning. When any one of you sneezes and says ‘Alhamdulillah’, then he has the right to hear every Muslim say – ‘Yarhamuk Allah’. But yawning is from Shaytan, so if anyone of you feels the urge to yawn, he should resist it as much as he can, for when any of you yawns, the Shaytan laughs at him.’” (Bukhari)

Not looking into other people’s houses

A true Muslim does not spy on his host or pry into that, which does not concern him. The Prophet (sa) warned those, who let their gaze wander in gatherings in an attempt to see things that are none of their business.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever looks into someone’s house without his permission, then it is permissible for the people of the house to take his eyes out.” (Muslim)

Not finding fault with others

The Prophet (sa) issued a stern warning against the danger of slandering other people’s honour and exposing their faults.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not hurt the feelings of the servants of Allah (swt), do not embarrass them, do not seek to expose their faults; whoever seeks to expose the faults of his Muslim brother, Allah (swt) will seek to expose his faults and expose him, even if he hides in the innermost part of his home.” (Ahmad)

Apart from the above, there are numerous other social etiquettes that will be discussed in future issues, Insha’Allah.

Iman – The Foundation of Islam

Vol 2-Issue2  ImaanJust by looking at today’s events, one can clearly see that Muslim communities are suffering. Naturally, a lot of soul searching is being done to diagnose the problem. I remember my teacher once told me that all the rewards, which Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran, are for the true believers, i.e., Mumineen. So the Iman (Faith) of people is crucial. My question was: what is Iman? Like others, I wonder if we have really understood this word. One would assume that every Muslim, who says the Shahadatain, has Iman. But is Iman just a declaration of faith? Or is Iman only a belief in the heart? Or do actions and deeds together configure in Iman? Let us consider the answers to these questions one at a time.

1. Declaration of faith goes together with the belief in the heart.

Abdullah Bin Ubbay lived in Medina at the time of the Prophet (sa) and he had declared himself to be a Muslim. Although he prayed with the Muslims, Allah (swt) did not accept his faith, because his heart contained doubts about Allah (swt) and his Messenger (sa). He was later on declared to be the greatest hypocrite of his time. A Muslim’s Iman is complete only when he loves Allah (swt) and his Messenger (sa) more than himself.

2. Iman is not only a belief in the heart but in actions and the deeds as well.

Abu Talib was the uncle of the Prophet (sa). He recognized the truth of Islam, but he did not declare this with his tongue. Neither did this belief culminate into good deeds. He neither expressed approval nor submit to the will of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) declared him to be a disbeliever. Clearly, belief without expressing it in the form of words and deeds will not make one a believer.

Since Iman is the foundation of Islam, it has been very clearly explained in the Quran and the Sunnah. According to, Ibn Qayyim once wrote that Iman is composed of the following components:

1. Having the knowledge of what the Prophet (sa) taught.

2. Having complete and firm belief in what he brought.

3. Verbally professing this belief.

4. Submitting to what he brought out of humility and love.

5. Acting in accord with what the Prophet (sa) brought, both outwardly and inwardly. Implementing it and calling to its path according to one’s ability.

Ibn Uthaimeen has emphasized the fact that Iman is not simply composed of belief in the heart. I is a declaration that requires acceptance and submission.

The locus of Iman is the heart, tongue and action. It is also stated that Iman increases or decreases. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And when the verses are recited to them, they (the verses) increase their faith.” (Al-Anfal 8:2)

It is also clear from this that a believer’s Iman increases with the Dhikr of Allah (swt) and decreases with Fawahish (Indecency). In another verse, Allah (swt) says: “It is He who sends down tranquility into the hearts of the believers, in order that faith may be added to their faith.” (Al-Fath 48:4)

When a person’s Iman decreases he comes down from the high level of being called Mu’min to being a Muslim and vice versa. Iman can also leave the heart of a Muslim for a short period of time. The proof of this is in the statement of the Prophet (sa): “When a person commits adultery, Iman leaves him and remains above his head like an awning, when he discontinues this behavior, Iman comes back to him.” (Tirmidhi)

Three basic points for every Muslim to remember with regard to Iman:

Minimum level of Iman necessary to prevent one from the eternal hellfire.

A Muslim, should believe in every thing that is from Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). He should show a readiness and willingness to adhere to all the do’s and don’ts of Islamic teachings.

(1) Level of Iman necessary to save a person from going to the hellfire even for a short period of time: A Muslim should fulfill all the obligations upon him with respect to Allah (swt). He should fulfill all his duties with regards to people. Lastly, he should keep away from all that is forbidden. A person in this category is a true believer or a Mu’min as Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “The (true) believers are only those, who, when Allah (swt) is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts, and when His verses are recited to them, these increase their faith. And they put their trust in their Lord. Those, who establish the prayer and spend out of what We have provided them.” (Al-Anfal 8:2-3)

(2) Level of Iman necessary to be in the highest rank of Paradise:

These are the people possesing complete Iman. They strive to perform much more than the required deeds. They miss no opportunity to do well to people around them and always avoid causing harm to them. Their every act is done with excellence, i.e., Ihsan. These people are called Mohsineen. The Prophet (sa) said: “Ihsan is to worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion, then you must consider that He is seeing you.” (Bukhari)

On the basis of Iman, people are divided into two categories: Disbelievers and believers, and among the believers there can be some, whom Allah (swt) can categorize as hypocrites. Believers are further divided into three categories, each higher in rank than the other: Muslim, Mumin and Muhsin. Let all the Muslims collectively strive to be true believers and seek help from Allah (swt) in doing so. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “And seek help through patience and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive (to Allah (swt)).” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)

Beautiful Names

Vol 2-Issue 2 Beautiful namesAl-Aziz: The Eminent

This word encompasses three meanings:

1. Allah (swt) is so significant that nothing exists like Him,

2. Allah (swt) is also the One, of whom there is intense need,

3. Allah (swt) is in the unseen world, so it is difficult to see, feel or touch Him.

It is also difficult to comprehend His essence, only Allah (swt) knows Himself in the absolute sense.

Al-Aziz is a combination of all these meanings. This word is also translated as The Exalted in might; it comes from the word “to be strong,” “to be rare,” “to be respected.” It is mentioned in the Quran 89 times.

Often, Allah (swt) has combined this word with wisdom, although His Power is absolute, He uses His Power with wisdom. Similarly, Allah (swt) has used power with the ability to take retribution for wrong actions.

Allah (swt) is also Aziz ur Raheem, His power is combined with the attribute of mercy. Similarly, it is also used with the word Ghafoor, which means His Ability to forgive.

‘Izza’ means ‘dignity’ and ‘honour’ in Surah Mominoon, Allah (swt) mentions that Izza is for Allah (swt), and for His messengers, and for the believers.

In Surah Fatir, Allah (swt) mentions that all dignity and strength belongs to Him.

Al-Jabbar: The Compeller

Allah (swt) is the One, who implements His will in such a way that all creation is compelled to obey; and no one will prevail over Him. He is the One, from whose grasp nothing escapes.

When a human being is described as Jabbar, it usually means a tyrant possessing pride and power. This is an attribute, which human beings should not try to inculcate.

Al-Jabbar has also been described as He, who repairs all broken things, who completes that which is incomplete, and who has the ability, with force, to make people do whatever He wants.

The name, Al-Jabbar has appeared only once in the Quran – in Surah Hashr, verse 23.

Al-Mutakabbir: The Proud

It comes from a word which means ‘to consider oneself great.’ Allah (swt) is truly proud. Everything is unworthy of consideration in relation to Him. He sees greatness and majesty only in regard to Himself and looks upon all creation as a King looks upon His subjects. His pride is true pride, because all this is true only for Allah (swt), the Great and the Glorious.

Al-Mutakabbir; the Majestic, is He, who shows His Greatness in all things and in all ways. The only One, who has the right to this attribute is Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) quoted Allah (swt), in a Hadith Qudsi, saying,”Majesty is My cloak and Grandeur is My garment; whoever contends with Me regarding either of them I will break his back and cast him into the fire” (Muslim).

If a human being is Mutakabbir, then Allah (swt) seals his heart. In Surah Ghafir, (Also known as Surah Momin) verse 35, Allah (swt) says: “Like that Allah (swt) puts a stamp on every haughty arrogant heart.”

Travel Brunei

Vol 2-Issue 2 BruneiTo the casual visitor, the Abode of Peace lives up to its name despite its current infrastructure, contemporary architecture, and wide roads with the latest cars.

History

Brunei is a relatively new country, having achieved its independence from Britain in 1983. The nation’s main benefactor was the Sultan’s family. Using the country’s oil revenues, this royal family began to modernize the country and improve its infrastructure for their people.

Food

The special thing about Bruneian cooking is the miscegenation of various cultures that have settled in the country. Hence, it tastes a little bit Malaysian, Filipino, Thai, Indonesian and Chinese.

If you are on a tight budget, then head to the hawker centers that offer fine delicacies at reasonable prices. Some of the favorite dishes are Satay, noodles, whole roasted chickens, grilled fish, and steamboats. From Western meals to local delicacies, one of their selling statements is that they have a melting pot of dishes guaranteed to make the mouth water profusely.

  • Roti Prata – a kind of fried bread served with Dahl and Sambal or fish/chicken curry. Can also be ordered with eggs (Roti Telur).
  • Nasi Lemak – coconut rice served with anchovy Sambal (spicy sauce), peanuts, eggs, and cucumbers.
  • Lontong – cubes of rice served with Sayur Lodeh, a vegetable curry made with coconut milk and turmeric.
  • Mee Goreng – fried noodles. Turmeric powder is used to give this dish a nice orange colour.
  • Nasi Goreng – fried rice.

Special Interests

Most activities in Brunei are of the organized, lycra-sports-gear, pay-to-play variety. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium is of Olympic proportions and includes a track and field complex, a tennis center, squash courts and a swimming pool. Golfers can enjoy an international standard course at Mentiri Golf Club, as well as a driving range near the airport. You can also hear the pins rattle at the bowling alley on Jalan Tutong.

Festivals

In Brunei, festivals are always celebrated with colour and enthusiasm. Young and old from different races come together in the spirit of unity.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Hari Raya is a time for celebration after the fasting month of Ramadan. Prayers are held in the early morning all out the country mosques on the first day of Shawwal marking Hari Raya.

Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day

The formation of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces is commemorated every year on the 31st of May with a military parade.

Hari Raya Aidiladha

It marks the time, when Muslims embark on the Hajj. A usual practice – for those who can afford it – is to sacrifice goats and cows.

Places of Interest

Following are some famous locations worth a visit:

  • Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque – situated in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, it flaunts a gold dome, observation deck, finest marble, carpets and furnishings.
  • Jerudong Park – located in nearby Jerudong and is basically Disneyland for free. A big ride and entertainment complex that provides the only night recreation in Brunei.
  • The Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque – grand and opulent, with shimmering golden domes and intricately ornamental minarets set in a landscape of gardens and fountains. This mosque is undoubtedly the most magnificent in Brunei today.
  • Kampung Ayer “Villages on Water” – Brunei’s famous water village.
  • Yayasan Complex – a sparkling new shopping complex built by the Sultan. Contains a nice public square in the center from which you can get a stunning view at night.
  • Masjid Jamek Asr Hassanil Bolkiah – this mosque was built to commemorate the 25th year of the reign of the present Sultan.
  • Ulu Temburong National Park – ferries to Temburong leave Bandar Seri Begawan whenever full from the Jalan Residency jetty in the center of the city. From Temburong, access to the park itself is by Temuai, or longboat. Not so easy to get to but something worth considering, if you want to get off the tourist trail.
  • Gadong’s ‘The Mall’– Brunei’s first, recently opened, largest and the most sophisticated shopping complex with more than 150 shops and a hotel.
  • Brunei Museum – attractions: artifacts of the history of Brunei Darussalam, both ancient and the relatively recent. Among the most interesting items are ancient canons, gongs, and kettles. There is also an exhibition on different ethnic communities in the country.
  • Malay Technology Museum – attractions: technological tools utilized by the Malays in ancient times.
  • Royal Regalia Building – attractions: artifacts used in royal ceremonies, the Royal Chariot, the gold and silver ceremonial armory, and the jewel-encrusted crowns.
  • Brunei History Centre – established in 1982, the Brunei History Center was founded to undertake research on the rich history of Brunei Darussalam.
  • Lapau and Dewan Majlis – traditional royal ceremonies are normally held here. Adjoining the Lapau is the Dewan Majlis or Parliament House.
  • Tasek Recreational Park – this is one of the oldest recreational parks within the city. For those, who want to get away from the noisy traffic of the city, this park is an ideal place to spend some time.
  • Tamu Kianggeh – the Tamu, or open market, is where one can find a wide variety of items including local dishes, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and handicrafts.
  • The Istana Nurul Iman and Taman Persiaran Damuan – it is the largest residential palace in the world, and its golden domes, vaulting roof, and riverside setting make it a spectacular object for photographers.
  • Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Complex – it is a commercial and shopping complex, designed to generate revenue for a foundation dedicated to the welfare of the people.

This tiny oil-rich Islamic sultanate lying on the northwest coast of Borneo is known chiefly for the fabulous wealth of its Sultan, its tax-free subsidized society, and the fact that (statistically at least) its 280,000 people enjoy one of the highest per capita income on earth.

Say ‘Yes!’ to Yoghurt

Naba Basar explains why this milk product should be a part of everyone’s diet.

Cleopatra bathed in this milk product for a smooth and tender complexion. Genghis Khan fed it to his soldiers to give them courage. Though a cherished food in the Middle Eastern and Central Asian lands for centuries, only recently has yoghurt gained universal popularity. It was discovered about 5,000 years ago on the Mesopotamian plains. Later, the Turks introduced it into Eastern and Central Europe, giving it the name – yoghurt.

Modern nutritionists have justified its reputation as an almost medicinal food. The Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria found in yoghurt, which convert pasteurized milk to yoghurt during fermentation, aid in digestion of food within an hour of consumption. Humans produce this digestive enzyme naturally during childhood, but it declines, when we reach adulthood.

Yoghurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12. It is so protein-dense that it is now considered a meat alternative. It has been proven that yoghurt contains a teeming load of healthy bacteria – about 100 million per gram. Its antibiotic effects help combat infections and protect the stomach lining from toxins, as it flourishes in the digestive tract. Containing high levels of natural prostaglandins, yoghurt can prevent diarrhoea and dysentery – especially in infants.

Yoghurt helps prevent cancer in colon by suppressing activity that converts harmless chemicals into carcinogenic agents. It is also known to help prevent yeast infections. As a source of calcium, yoghurt can even prevent osteoporosis. Many doctors recommend live yoghurt for patients on antibiotics to replenish good bacteria. Some argue that yoghurt live cultures may reduce the occurrence of colds, allergies, and hay fever. It also counteracts lactose intolerance by its association with lactase.

Much more easily digestible than milk, yoghurt is ideal for pregnant women, children, the aged, and the sick. In addition, it is believed that regular eaters of this fermented milk tend to have clear skin and find no problem in enjoying a good night’s sleep. Yoghurt also reduces bad breath and internal gas and keeps vaginal flora in balance.

Increased yogurt consumption may help increase one’s resistance to immune – related diseases, such as cancer and infections, particularly gastrointestinal infections. Partly, this increased resistance is because of the live and active cultures (LAC) found in yoghurt.

Contrary to the general notion, yoghurt is not fattening. For those wishing to cut down on the amount of fat, cholesterol, and calories in their diets, yoghurt made from skimmed milk is highly recommended. In preparing meals, brands labeled low-fat and low-cholesterol can be substituted for mayonnaise, sour cream or similar products. This will result in tremendous improvement in diets – at times working wonders.

All types of milk, ranging from reindeer to cow, can be utilized in the making of yoghurt. However, the nutrient and fat values vary depending on whether it is prepared from cream, whole, partly-skimmed or skimmed milk, and if it has additives, such as fruits or syrups.

As for yoghurt’s taste, the more cream is used the tastier. However, if made from skimmed milk, it is somewhat weaker in flavour but also lower in fat and calories.

Besides its notional value, yoghurt is high in protein, convenient, marvelously versatile, and adaptable – a naturally sweet, tangy, and smooth milk product. It adds richness, flavour, and an appetizing aroma to myriad of dishes. The possibilities of cooking with this cultured milk are infinite. It blends well with cheese, eggs, grains, meats, fruits, vegetables and makes an excellent marinade. Delicious when flavoured with syrups, nuts, herbs and spices, it enhances and is enhanced by other ingredients of foods.

Dishes prepared from yoghurt, especially in the Arab world, are endless. In numerous Muslim countries, yoghurt is often drunk to break the Ramadan fast. A yoghurt drink is the thirst quenching beverage much favoured by most strata of North African society. During hot summer days, cold soups similar to the famous Spanish Gazpacho are on the menu in many Arab homes. In winter, nothing is more satisfying than Libaniyah, a piping hot soup made from yoghurt, garlic, mint, and rice.

Labneh, a type of cheese made by placing yoghurt in a cloth bag and allowing it to drain, is a favourite healthy breakfast and snack food or a tasty dip, enjoyed in the Middle East. However, in the greater areas of Syria, Sheesh Barak, a type of dumpling in yoghurt, is the king of yoghurt dishes. To the peasants, a steaming hot aromatic bowl of Sheesh Barak is heaven-sent on cold winter days.

Because of its appealing taste and healthy properties, yoghurt continues to command the interest of cooks and medical scientists around the world. Researchers are continuously investigating the beneficial effects this nutritious food may have in reducing cholesterol levels and preventing a good number of diseases.

According to a new study published in The Lancet, the British Medical Association Journal, treating pregnant women with ‘good bacteria’ such as Lactobacillus in yoghurt may prevent thousands of children from contracting asthma by strengthening the baby’s fledgling immune system before birth. For postmenopausal women, increasing calcium intake may be critical in helping to reduce bone loss. A recent study showed that women three to six years past menopause, who increased their calcium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day for three years, slowed bone loss. Scientific evidence also indicates that for the elderly, calcium lowers the rate of bone loss and lessens the effects of osteoporosis. The results are promising.

Conflict Resolution in Schools

Conflict is a natural, vital part of life. Teaching our youth, how to manage conflict in a productive way, can help to reduce incidents of violent behavior. Conflict Resolution Education is a beneficial component of a comprehensive violence prevention and intervention program used in schools.

Experts identify four school-based conflict resolution strategies which can be employed in other settings also. These are commonly known as:

(1) Peer Mediation Approach                                               

This strategy enables specially trained student mediators to work with their peers in resolving conflicts. It has been reported that this approach to conflict resolution reduced playground fighting to the extent that peer mediators found themselves out of job.

(2) Process Curriculum Approach

Teachers implement the Process Curriculum Approach by devoting a specific time – a daily lesson – to the principles and processes of conflict resolution. This helps disputants envision scenarios and generate options for achieving results.

(3) Peaceable Classroom Approach

This is an integration of conflict resolution in the curriculum and daily management of the classroom. Instructional methods of cooperative learning and academic controversy are used, thus decreasing the need of teacher to address the problems directly.

(4) Peaceable School Approach

The Peaceable School Approach incorporates the above three approaches for creating schools, where conflict resolution is adopted by every member of the school community. These schools promote a climate that challenges all its members to believe and act on the understanding that a diverse, non-violent society is a realistic goal.

Constructive Criticism and Conflict

Here are some constructive feedback techniques which volunteers and supervisors can use for avoiding anger and conflict.

(a) Use positive language. Such questions as “did you ever try to do it, like this?” are much better as compared to, “You never seem to get this right.”
(b) Constructive feedback comes without strings. The supervisors should present feedback in an unthreatening manner designed to help. This allows the student to ask questions, take risks with the new things, and not to fear retribution or rejection.
(c) Be specific. Even if the student has several areas needing improvement, stick with one at a time.
(d) Set the tone for change. It may be outlining new training, assigning a mentor, monitoring by volunteer or supervisor, and giving an award, when the change is fully implemented.

The 5 Win/Win Steps

1. Cool down – those involved in the conflict are asked to collect their thoughts calmly.

2. I feel… – one person explains their side of the story, using the “I feel” message.

3. You feel… – the listener paraphrases what was said.

4. Brainstorm – those involved suggest ideas to solve the problem.

5. Shake hands – this is the ending step, signaling that all is done and things are okay.

Note: Steps #2 and #3 are done twice.

Literature

Literature is a natural vehicle for teaching. Stories dealing with conflict management can be used as tools for observing and reinforcing conflict management concepts and skills. While reading the stories, the teacher may do the following:

1. Stop reading at the point of conflict and ask: “What is the conflict? How do you think it will be resolved?”

2. After completing the story, ask: “How was the conflict resolved? Was it an effective, win-win resolution? Would you have done differently?”

The Garbage Can

The teacher explains that the classroom is a positive place for learning. Furthermore, she understands that the students are often carrying to school a lot of problems, which she refers to as garbage: they may have gotten up late, missed the bus or had an argument. This garbage is distracting and might interfere with learning in class. Therefore, students are encouraged to deposit all negative thoughts and feelings into an imaginary garbage can outside the classroom.

Taking a Look at Conflict Behavior

Students are asked to analyze a situation of conflict they were recently involved in by answering the following questions:

  • What happened?
  • How did you feel?
  • What did you do?
  • Did this resolve the conflict?
  • If not, what could you have done to solve it?
  • What will you do next time?

Conflict Web Subject

This activity invites students to consider the big picture of the conflict.

1. In the center of a paper, the word ‘conflict’ is written and circled.

2. Students suggest associations and memories the word ‘conflict’ evokes. A line is drawn from the main circle, and each suggestion is written down.

3. The web continues to grow, as long as interest remains high.

This is followed by a discussion about the elements all conflicts seem to have in common, and the actions that make the conflict worse or cool it down.

Options for Conflict Resolution

Active Listening – have one-to-one meetings with each of the conflicting parties. Do not offer or promise resolution; rather, assure each side of a safe, non-judgmental, and confidential forum for talking.

Shuttle/Liaison – seek to help each side to articulate their grievances and needs in a way that the other side can recognize and understand. This helps both to step back and calmly analyze what is happening, as well as find constructive ways of expressing their concerns.

Encounter/Facilitate – serve as a facilitator and bring the parties together to facilitate the process.

Seek Support – call someone unrelated to the conflict to assist you and/or the parties in working through their conflict.

‘I feel’ Messages

These messages allow the students to voice their feelings.

Building an ‘I feel’ Message I feel ______ (explain, how it made you feel)

When ______(tell the person exactly, what they did)

I want ______(say, what you want from them)

Examples:
“I feel mad, when you don’t listen to me.”

“I feel sad, when you call me names.”

Adopting such strategies for conflict management will enable our kids to deal with conflict, empathize with their peers, and, eventually, work towards creating an environment of mutual understanding all around them, Insha’Allah.

Ijarah – Islamic Leasing

Vol 2 Issue2 IjaraahWhat is Ijarah?

Ijarah means: ‘to transfer the usage of a non-consumable asset by the owner (the lessor) to another person (the lessee) for an agreed period, at an agreed price (rent).’

Basic Rules of Ijarah

  • Transferring the usufruct, not the ownership, for an agreed period, at an agreed price.
  • The non-consumable asset should have identifiable value and quantity.
  • The lessor bears all liabilities of ownership, while the lessee is responsible for those of the use of property. (Example: The property tax should be paid by the lessor, while the water and electricity bills referable to the use of the house should be borne by the lessee.)
  • Throughout the leasing period, the lessee bears the risk of ownership, i.e., the reduction in the value of the real estate or any harm caused by the factors beyond the control of the lessee. However, the lessee is liable to compensate the lessor for any loss due to his/her negligence. After the lease period completes, the remaining asset should be given back to the owner (the lessor).

Additional Rules

  • The asset can be insured, preferably through a Takaful (Islamic insurance) company, at the expense of the lessor, not the lessee.
  • Ideally, the rent charged for the leased asset and its periodical increase should be benchmarked to the current prevailing market rates of the pool of similar assets classes. However, in practice, banks usually use interest rates as benchmarks. Although not preferable, these bank benchmarks can be used, until a suitable Islamic based benchmark becomes available.

Differences between Ijarah and Conventional Leasing

Leasing such as, Murabaha, is not originally an Islamic mode of financing. However, Islamic financial institutions adopted it by making some relevant modifications in the structure of the leasing contract (i.e., its terms and conditions), in order to conform it to the rules of Islamic Shariah.

In conventional leasing, instead of offering an interest-bearing loan, banks and leasing companies provide to the lessee an asset along with the risk of ownership. Many basic features of the conventional lease are Islamic, except these two:

1. In Ijarah, the lessee’s liability for the rent starts, when the lessee takes delivery of the asset and not from the day the price has been paid, either directly or through the lessee.

2. In Ijarah, there is no hire purchase arrangement at the start of the leasing contract. After the leasing period has ended, the lessor can, under a separate contract, sell the previously leased asset to the lessee or any other person. Unlike conventional leasing agreements, the Ijarah contract itself should not contain the ‘express clause,’ a pre-condition of gift or sale at the end of the lease period.

How Ijarah is practiced

An asset, usually a car, machine, equipment or household durables, is leased to the lessee on an agreed fixed rental payments for a maximum of 5 years. After the end of the leasing period, through another contract the asset is usually sold to the lessee at the book value of the asset.

In Pakistan, Ijarah form of financing is provided by Islamic Banks, Islamic windows of Commercial Banks and Modarabas. The Ijarah structuring is the most common method used for Islamic Sukuks (bonds).

Note: The prevalent system of Islamic banking the world over is least permissible and truly not the ultimate and ideal solution. It is only a step towards creating an interest free environment to provide Muslims with an option. Much needs to be achieved keeping in view the injunctions of Quran.

Physically Fit Kids

Vol 2-Issue2 Physically fit kidsFundamental movement skills are the basis for the skills your child will use later in life to pursue recreational and competitive sport activities. They include locomotive movements (walking, running, jumping, skipping, balancing, climbing, hanging, swinging, pushing, and pulling) and motor skills (throwing, catching, and kicking).

Acquiring competence and confidence in movement will enhance your child’s overall co-ordination and nurture his self-esteem. Your child will build up his fitness to develop good aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, speed, alertness, and reaction.

From an early age, your child has to acquire good spatial awareness (both in personal and general space), develop body awareness, as well as learn to move with effort and in relationship with others. Children need to learn to move, but at the same time, they need to move to learn.

A child, who is physically active from an early age and receives positive, enjoyable, and successful movement experiences, will continue to pursue activity on a regular basis throughout his lifetime. The benefits in terms of general well-being are physiological, psychological (emotional stability), and academic.

Make fitness fun

Children attain fitness by doing activities they enjoy. When parents impose exercise on them, they are creating an uphill battle of resistance. Usually, the interest of young children is short and changes quickly. Their attention span is inconsistent, and they tire easily. Be reasonable about the degree of physical exertion you require from them.

Play

Through playing, your child explores, expresses, and discovers many aspects of life. Play can also help your child to realize the real value of fitness and to learn the ‘social graces.’

Understand the ‘want-fear’ premise

Adults work on fitness out of such fears as heart attack or weight-gain. Children are too detached from this ‘fear’ factor; therefore, from an early age, we need to develop in our children the ‘want to’ attitude. This can be achieved by always making activities enjoyable.

Teach body management

Children need to be able to manage their bodies and feel comfortable with moving. A child, who does not like to be active because movement is difficult for him, will have coordination problems and develop a tendency to become over- weight and lethargic. An over-weight child and a child who lacks coordination and flexibility will look for excuses to be inactive. This will, in turn, affect his growth, general fitness, and social development. Therefore, we must engage children in enjoyable coordination activities.

Be aware of child’s growth and development

Your child’s bones have not yet fully developed. Movement will ensure the growth of strong bones and muscles; therefore, it is important that your child engages in appropriate movement for his age group activities.

Be a positive role model

Children learn by watching their elders. Be a positive role model by showing enthusiasm. Provide a constructive feedback to your child – encourage and praise him.

See FITNESS as a ‘big’ picture

It is important to emphasize that the physical fitness is only one part of general well-being, which also includes: nutrition, play, mental health, quality sleep, and emotional health. For a child to be functioning at his optimal pace, there must be a balance of all these components. They all are the ‘life keys’ to the ‘big’ picture.

Be aware of exercise ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’

First, always warm up your child with low to moderate activities. Movements should be gentle and rhythmical, then gradually increased in intensity. Try to use all the major muscle groups in the warm up activity. Cold muscles should never be stretched. Avoid ballistic movements when stretching. Avoid exercises that hyper extend any joint areas. Do not use massive weight bearing exercises. Children should use their own body weight to develop strength.

Develop a knowing attitude and an exercise habit

Develop a knowing attitude, not just a fitness attitude. Get your child used to being active and doing exercise. Your child should know why exercise is good for him.

General guidelines to follow

  1. Make activity a family affair.
  2. Set an example – be a good role model.
  3. Turn the television off to encourage your child to go out and play.
  4. Develop regularity and habit in doing activity. Produce a timetable but make it flexible and adjustable.
  5. Be aware of your child’s physical capabilities.
  6. Develop, check, and reinforce good posture.
  7. Foster good sleeping and eating habits.
  8. Encourage drinking water every day.
  9. Develop spatial awareness – general and personal.
  10. Develop a good sense of balance.
  11. Develop upper body strength, reaction, and alertness.
  12. Do relaxation activities.
  13. Develop flexibility – upper and lower body.
  14. Develop agility – quickness.
  15. Develop eye-hand coordination, foot-eye coordination.

Strategies for encouraging a reluctant child

  1. Observe why your child is reluctant. Insecurity, over-weight, poor coordination, low self-esteem, fear of failure, and feeling of being unsafe may be among the causes.
  2. Create a safe, fun, and positive environment. Ensure that there is no physical threat, ridicule, bullying, or put-downs. No ‘emotional hurts.’
  3. Provide immediate feedback. Give praise and encouragement.
  4. Try to experience success within a short period of time.
  5. From time to time, offer incentive or reward. Instant rewards are praise and encouragement. A reward could follow a goal – “after cycling, we will go to have an ice cream.”
  6. Keep within the limits of your child’s abilities. Do not force them or be constantly after them.
  7. Do not be over protective.
  8. Do not confuse the child’s needs with his wants. A young child does not have the experience to know, what is good for him. A child will express his want to watch television, for example, rather than his need for exercise. In this situation, we have to impose on the child our knowledge about the importance of exercise and encourage him to play outside regularly.
  9. Establish firmness and consistency. Insist on doing some activity together and stick to it.
  10. Vary activities to sustain your child’s interest.

Keeping in mind the above mentioned tips, parents should select fitness activities that would be suitable for their children. There are many good books available on the subject, which incorporate a variety of fun, fitness based activities.

Engaging yourself and your child in enjoyable fitness activities is one of the best ways to spend ‘quality time’ together. Get down to it and good luck!

When the Better Half Returns Home (Part 2)

better halfOur last issue offered tips to the lady of the house in working smarter and resolving domestic conflicts. This time, we will take a paradigm shift and throw light on how the men of the house can contribute to strengthening marital relationships and avoid trivial conflicts by demonstrating more of generosity and loving kindness towards their better halves.

Tips for Man of the House

  1. On returning from work, before you step into your home turf, take a deep breath and relax your body. Thank Allah (swt) for another incredibly exhausting but successful day to get over. Count the many blessings sitting on your platter, such as your health, home, family, job, and life itself that we generally take for granted.
  2. Switch off your working man mode. Never let office troubles to tag along home, because they will neither let your mind relax nor enable you to enjoy your family life. Initially the task may seem insurmountable, however, with practice and effort you will learn to control your thoughts. Most certainly you would never want your wife to keep calling you at work for leaking taps and blocked drains, since that is not the place or time to discuss it. Similarly, it is unfair to steal family’s quality time for work worries.
  3. Greet your wife and family with a genuine smile. You do not have to drag your feet and carry a frowning face or a gruff gesture to validate, how you had to rough it up at work. As someone wisely said that the most beautiful attire you can wear is a smile, and it is not even expensive!
  4. Sit down, take a glass of cool water and remove your shoes. If you have kids, ask them to get your slippers or put away your shoes or briefcase for you.
  5. Take a minute to look at each and every family member to notice some positive difference either in their appearance or mannerisms. It may give you an opportunity to make their day by uttering a compliment. Bovee states – the small courtesies sweeten life, the greater ennoble it. At times a good sense of humour also unwinds stress and lifts low moods.
  6. If you have old parents living with you, give exclusive fifteen minutes to half an hour to them, depending upon your arrival time. You may request for a snack or tea with them, while they chat with you or even share their concerns. They will love the priority and significance you give them and shower their blessings on you.
  7. Spend quality time with your kids to enhance bonding. You may offer Isha prayers together. If time permits, play a game, listen to their stories at school or simply ask them questions about their day. If they are ready to hit the bed, help them change or brush their teeth. You may read a book to them or simply share an interesting incident with them. This is also a suitable time to narrate a Prophet’s story, revise Duas and Surahs or simply teach your kids to thank Allah (swt) for His blessings He bestowed upon the family during the day.
  8. You may take some time to relax yourself by simply doing what you like. Take a shower, change clothes, take dinner, watch television, read the newspaper, chat on the phone or simply lie down peacefully.
  9. But wait! Before you go out like a light, make time for a heart to heart with your sweetheart! Who? Your wife, of course! Ask her, how her day was, and what stormy seas she had to sail through to keep the peace and quiet of your life intact. A man once shared with Richard Carlson (Psychologist) that for every 5% he improved his listening skills, his marriage improved by a whopping 50%.
  10. Motivation and acknowledgment are the key words for the crossword puzzle of most marriages. While you may have attended workshops and seminars teaching you to reward and recognize your team and peers on the job, make no mistake that everybody operates on the same pattern. It is sad that we are quick to recognize and compliment complete strangers, but unconsciously and at times deliberately choose to ignore our loved ones, who deserve our appreciation the most. Dishing out genuine praise is one of the intangibles of life. There is no way to quantify exactly how much good it does. But it can improve any relationship enormously.

The fact is that you live only once. Is it really worth making yourself miserable all your life? Never! Don’t let miseries get in your way of living to the fullest, because it won’t happen again. You will live only once! So be wise and embrace life with gratitude. All the best and happy living!

From the diary of the young

Vol 2-Issue2 From the diary of the youngMonday,

June 21, 2004.

8.59 p.m.

These six months have been wonderful, poignant, eye-opening, enervating. Being a 20-year-old may not exactly be the most wonderful thing since childhood – but I would not exchange this period of my life with any other known or unknown one. My ideals are still being built, my sense of practicality isn’t too refined yet, but then again, I’d rather feed on my idealism. The world has not lost its charm – it does, however, seem bleaker than it once was. People take me seriously only because I do not reciprocate their gravity. If I did, God knows, I’d either be in tears or in constant fits of rage.

Hope has a renewed form and rain isn’t entirely unromantic – as long as the lights aren’t out. From the kaleidoscope of life, this is the time, when I’m laughing out loud, a booming hearty laugh. This is the age, when I have the time and the mind to hang out with my close group of friends at our popular hangouts. This is when I can get away with funky jewellery, mismatched clothing, unwashed dyed hair and too obviously coloured lenses. This is the time, when I get excited about a new dress, low mobile phone rates or at the opening of a new restaurant. This is when I’m confident enough to believe that I can change the world. This is when I’m scared about it all too… but not enough to back off.

The apple is red – shiny red. My horizon goes beyond my sight, yet my decisions are my own. Life is good. It does sting sometimes. But it doesn’t stop my eyes from welling up, when I read about twenty or so innocent teenagers being slaughtered in Thailand or Iraq. I’m still indignant at the low amount of taxes on cigarettes. I’m taken aback by the flaws in our educational system. My world is limited, but it is full. It is full of hope, dreams, ambition, strength, love, and faith. I know I will not always feel this invigorated. Nobody stays young forever. But all my experiences are my investments – and my life to come will build on these assets. Youth is not an age that passes. It is not a vacation from life that you’d merely like to remember fondly. It’s a filling station. You get the fuel you want — all the supplies, hope, joy, wonderful memories, corny jokes, laughs, and strength — to carry you through.

I see Allah (swt) as my Guardian. I see Him as my Hope… maybe that is why I am not afraid of things big and small, come what may. Perhaps it is this Way of Light that helps us define the fine line between youth being reckless and youth being confident.

I have been laughed at for thinking that I am able to make changes … in the way people think and in the moulds of society. But I cannot find my laughter, when I see a young Ali (rta) or a young Ayesha (rta) working in the way of Deen … age cannot be enclosed in stereotypes … it is the power of Allah (swt) that puts us through all our hurdles and all our struggles, when we are young and bright; old and gray.

Manners of Reading the Quran

Vol 2-Issue2 Manners of reading Quran

  • Be careful when you handle this holy book. Remember, it is not an ordinary book. We need to do the following for giving to the glorious Quran its due respect:
  • Before you begin reciting from the Quran, seek refuge with Allah (swt) from the Satan, by saying – ‘Aoodhu Billahi Minashaitanir Rajim.’
  • Take Allah (swt)’s name, before you begin to read, by saying – ‘Bismillah.’
  • Try your best to be in the state of Wudu, when reciting from the Quran, and sit in a clean place.
  • Begin reading with a clear intention of seeking only Allah (swt)’s pleasure, not any other worldly gain.
  • Turn the pages gently and slowly to the required page. It is best, if you use a bookmark at the place you finished last, so that there is no unnecessary flipping of pages.
  • Maintain humility, tranquility, and respect, while reading the Quran.
  • Read the Quran in a moderate voice.
  • Read the verses with short pauses in between.
  • Be careful about the Makharij (pronunciation of the letters). Give every letter its due right.
  • Read the Quran attentively, calmly, and sincerely.
  • Ponder over the words of the Quran and make efforts to act upon them.
  • Be grateful, when the verses of Shukr (being grateful) are mentioned and seek refuge with Allah (swt), when asked.
  • Listen quietly and attentively, when the Quran is being read.
  • Do not put the Quran on the floor or near a person’s feet.
  • Do not leave the Quran open, when not being used, or turn it face down on the table.
  • Do not step over the Quran, if it is lying on the ground or at a low level, such as a prayer mat.
  • Do not use the Quran as a support to write on.
  • Do not place things on the top of the Quran.
  • Do not scribble unnecessary things on the pages of your Quran.
  • Do not touch the Quran with dirty hands.
  • Make sure you keep the Quran out of the reach of children that may tear its pages.
  • Do not eat, while reading from the Quran.
  • Sit in a proper, respectable position when reading it.
  • Try not to talk in between, while reciting from the Quran.
  • Keep the Quran in a clean place.
  • Learn as much as you can about the Quran by reading an authentic translation in the language of your preference.
  • Keep the Quran within your reach and in sight.
  • Let no day pass, without reading or reciting from the Quran.

Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed

Roomana Rais Khan familiarizes us with ‘the sword of Allah (swt)’ on earth.

Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed (rta) was born in a prominent family of the Quraysh tribe. He was a strong and courageous soldier, trained in horsemanship and the use of all types of weapons.

In the battle of Uhud, he showed superior military skill against the Muslims, and as a result was appointed Commander General by the Quraysh. His Muslim brother sent him a letter from Madina and mentioned the Prophet’s (sa) concern for Khalid (rta). This impressed Khalid (rta) so much that he travelled to Madina on the 1st of Safar, 8 A.H. and embraced Islam.

Khalid’s (rta) ultimate battle was that of Mutah in the 8 A.H., when 3000 Muslims fought against an army of 200,000 men. After three Muslim commanders were martyred consecutively, Khalid (rta) led the army, and as a result, the Mujahideen were able to retreat intact. Because of this, the Prophet (sa) gave him the title of ‘the sword of Allah (swt).’ During this battle Khalid (rta) also broke nine swords and there were only twelve casualties.

In the battle of Hunain 8 A.H., many Muslims fled and only 12 Companions, including Khalid (rta), remained to protect the Prophet (sa).

After the death of the Prophet (sa), Abu Bakr (rta) used Khalid’s (rta) services in the wars against apostasy, false prophets, and those, who stopped paying Zakat. He commanded a large division against Musailimah the liar in the battle of Yamamah in 11 A.H. Despite Musailimah’s strong and well-equipped army, Khalid (rta) was able to slay Musailimah himself. Thus, the threat of the imposter was buried forever.

When the Roman Emperor challenged the Muslims with an army of 240,000, Muslims made great self-sacrifice and displayed steadfastness. Under Khalid’s (rta) influence, one of the Roman commanders, by the name of Jerjah, embraced Islam.

During the war against the Romans, Khalid (rta) received news from Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) about the death of Abu Bakr’s (rta), and new orders to hand over command to Abu Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah (rta). It did not matter to Khalid (rta) as long as he was able to carry out his duties towards Allah (swt). He concealed the news, till they had gained victory. Upon seeing this gesture of Khalid’s, (rta) Abu Ubaidah (rta) kissed him on his forehead and praised his greatness.

There was only one thing that Khalid (rta) treasured obsessively-his helmet. In the battle of Al-Yarmuk, he lost it and exhausted himself and others searching for it. He kept it for luck, for it had some of the hairs of the Prophet’s (sa) forehead. He said: “It makes me feel optimistic that victory is within reach.”

When he died in 21 A.H., his mother took one last look at the hero, commended him to Allah’s (swt) protection and said: “There are far, far better than a thousand men, who flung themselves into the battlefield. Do you ask me about his valor? He was much more courageous than a huge lion that protects its cubs in the time of danger. Do you ask me about his generosity? He was far more generous than an overwhelming torrential rain that slides down from the mountains.” Umar’s (rta) eyes flowed with tears and he said: “You spoke the truth. By Allah (swt), he was everything you said he was.”

“Sorry” Made Easy

Vol 2- Issue 2 Sorry  made easyA friend arrives late for an appointment. Your teacher criticizes you in public. Your cousin loses the book you lent her. An acquaintance passes a remark that ends up hurting your feelings. Yet, none of them say they are sorry. No doubt, you get upset at the fact that people do not realize their mistakes and apologize for them.

However, in all fairness, are they the only ones to blame or are we partially responsible as well? How often have many of us made it difficult for others to apologize? I mean, finally someone musters up the courage to admit ones mistake and then apologizes only to get bad reactions in return for their noble efforts. I once heard a woman say, “Sometimes, if you say sorry to someone, they think themselves superior and act haughtily.” Imagine it was you apologizing, wouldn’t you like your apology to be accepted and your mistake forgiven, instead of being jeered at?

It is equally important to learn to accept the apology of others as well as forgive graciously and humbly. We can actually cultivate such courteous behavior by recalling the rewards Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran to those who forgive: “Those who spend (in Allah’s (swt) Cause – deeds of charity, alms, etc.) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah (swt) loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Al-Imran 3:134)

Allah (swt) the Almighty, the Creator of all things, with His infinite Mercy constantly forgives our sins, so why should not to forgive others?

Here are a few things for you to remember the next time someone apologizes to you. Know that it is not the time for digging up and settling old scores. You will only end up making things worse. If you need to clear misconceptions about the issue at hand, do not discuss it in an accusatory manner. Instead, provide constructive advice whenever possible. Indeed, some of us really do not know how to react or what to say, when somebody apologizes to us. Try saying something pleasant like: “Everybody makes mistakes,” or “I know you didn’t really mean it.” A smile at times is enough, or maybe a hug or pat on the arm or shoulder. By the way, a kind gesture goes a long way. And once you accept someone’s apology, let bygones truly be bygones. Neither dwell on it, nor talk about it with others.

We should strive to cultivate this noble trait from a young age. How? By responding to other peoples’ apologies with warmth and encouragement, making them feel comfortable about admitting their faults. If you do so, they will always be ready to admit their mistakes without shying away. And don’t forget to own up and apologize to them for your mistakes, too.

Finally, be sensitive to and recognize nonverbal apologies. Some people, like parents, older siblings, teachers, or elder relatives, find it difficult to make verbal apologies to those they consider their subordinates. Or maybe they just find it hard to do so. They usually prefer to make amends through kind deeds, praise, or nice gestures, such as, giving flowers or gifts. So, please recognize and accept both the conventional and unconventional forms of apologies.