Hope after 9/11 – Editorial

hope

9/11 will always be marked as one of the turning points in history. How it happened and why it happened has led to a plethora of analysis world over. Each individual tries to make sense out of it. Some have called it a hoax. Some see it as a long range political game. Others perceive it to be the beginning of another crusade. However, they all come to a common conclusion that the fall of the twin towers in Manhattan, New York, has changed the fate of this world forever.

The 2,973 innocent lives taken that day was only the beginning of more wrath to come over many other innocent and unsuspecting people, who have later been slain hundreds of miles away from the original point of incident – the USA. Subsequently, terror has struck across nearly all continents, mostly annihilating the Muslim population through drone attacks, hate crimes, missing people, forced wars and terrorism incidents. After eleven years of mindless war games played by governments globally, the misery still multiplies for the common man on the street.

It may sound as emotional rhetoric, but I wonder how many of the people, who decide the fate of the world, have had to fight at the forefront? Have they ever witnessed how a bomb tears apart not only human flesh but also families, relations among communities and their future? Those, who inflict war on others, are the ones, who call loss of human life collateral damage. For them, dead bodies are figures to be counted. All of this is in the name of a greater cause: to make the world more secure and peaceful, to punish the evil and later, when they lose their battle, make negotiations with their enemy after killing thousands of people. Why couldn’t this dialogue happen right after 9/11? Why was the entire world sold the false idea that waging a ‘war on terror’ was the only way forward?

After eleven years of occupation, overthrowing the Taliban, and bearing a cost of USD 1 million for deploying each US soldier in Afghanistan annually, US forces still do not know what the Holy Quran means to a Muslim. Instead, their troops dump it in garbage outside Afghanistan’s largest airbase at Bagram and call it an unintentional mistake. Amid reassurances, of course, that they have come to build a bright future for the Afghanis. So life after 9/11, in terms of eliminating mistrust, building better inter-faith and community relations, seem static at one point.

Simultaneously, the service 9/11 has paid to Islam is of great significance. Never before Muslims have questioned their own identity like they do today. The weak labels they carried have suddenly begun to hold more meaning for them. They have opened the Holy Book and attached themselves to scholars in order to seek answers for their own guidance and liberation. Their souls have been stirred up. As a result, Islam has emerged as the fastest growing faith in the world. It is not being imposed on anyone. Rather, it is a rational choice.

For Pakistan, it has been an electrifying decade of events. Reluctant masses as an ally of ‘war on terror’ have been led by corrupt and incompetent regimes ruling the country. Following 9/11, by 2003, Pakistan’s total foreign exchange reserves rose to USD 11.48 billion, as a direct result of foreign graces bestowed upon us for fighting their war. I call it their war, because none of the culprits masterminding or executing their terrorist mission were Pakistanis. However, Pakistan has had to pay the highest price in this whole fiasco.

We have lost more than 35,000 soldiers of ours and they still fight on. Our cities have never been more vulnerable to sporadic bomb blasts. Our border relations with our neighbours have been of mistrust. No foreign press ever mentions the sacrifices made by our people, when 9/11 is cited. Instead, even today we are viewed as the black sheep with great suspicion.

Economically, the inflation rate has risen from 4.4% a decade ago to 16% in the year 2011. External debt has doubled to USD 60 billion in 2011 from USD 30 billion. 60.3% of Pakistanis live on less than two dollars a day, as estimated by UNDP. The short-term gain through the financial meaty bone tossed at us in 2011 to side the war on terror is flea infected now.

I wonder – had we mustered up the courage to say ‘no’ to this alliance, then would we have paid a heftier price than we are paying today? Isn’t Pakistan still being bombed with drones on one side and terrorists on the other? How has terrorism curbed in any way globally? Is this world a safer place through pre-emptive wars as envisioned?

I see little reason for us to cheer, unless we seize the moment and unite as a force against the pack of lies being sold to us. Muslims living in Dar-ul-Islam need to exhibit more courage and organize themselves than those coverts and reverts residing in Dar-ul-Kufr. This is the time to rise above petty differences and challenge the status quo.

Label: Muslim; Type: Secular

secular

It is no secret that the world changed after September 11, 2001. Even secular Muslims, who do not display any visible proclamations of their faith and who have always been “camouflaged” amidst the secular society, have had their lives transformed. For instance, Muslim names, such as Mohammad and Akbar, have received additional unwarranted attention, especially at airport security checkpoints. Regular men and women with the “Muslim” tag have been zoomed in for the sake of security. Being treated differently on the basis of their religion has left many secular Muslims feeling confused and even alienated.

Likewise, the second generation Muslims, who have always identified themselves as European or American, for example, are suddenly finding themselves isolated with the label of ‘Muslim’. They are being compelled to choose sides. There is a loud yet peculiarly subtle declaration that says: “You are either American (for instance) or Muslim.” An identity that was previously a comfortable blend of both is being forcefully split. Secular Muslims, grappling with their identity, are reacting to bring about some sense to their existence in Western societies.

Many have tried to bring some sanity to the situation by embracing the identity of a globalized Muslim. They have put aside their cultural identities to integrate Islam into their lives. They also support secular beliefs as long as they don’t overstep the requirements of Islam. Indeed, this identity crisis amongst these Muslims might prove to be more of a boon than a bane in the long run to erase the phobia of Islam.

Box Feature

From the pen of an agnostic Muslim

I don’t have a lot of significant moments to cite in order to state that the events of 9/11 have affected my life. I’m probably one of the luckier ones. I was born here. I have no accent. I don’t wear a Hijab, scarf, or any other clothing that could distinguish me as a Muslim. I don’t even consider myself to be a Muslim. But when people ask me about my heritage, I always tell them I come from a Muslim background and I always find the need to defend the religion when it comes under attack.

I don’t consider myself to be a Muslim for personal reasons. During undergrad, I was majoring in religious studies. My study into the various religions gave me an understanding about the purpose religion can serve: both good and evil.

9/11 was an example of the evil purpose! However, it does not define the entire Islamic religion and those who practice it for good. The most profound effects that 9/11 had for me were in my interactions with others when it came to discussing Islam. I remember a Christian friend innocently asking me if I felt there was some aspect of the religion that contributed to 9/11 and the terrorism that is oftentimes associated with it. The conversation turned into a discussion about religions and how religious beliefs and doctrines, found worldwide, can be used to justify some of humanity’s most despicable acts.

Yes, I have heard of horrible, ignorant acts committed against Muslims in America post-9/11. Once, when my sister was wearing Islamic clothing, a Ridah, to go to the mosque, some neighbours yelled: “Go back to where you came from.” My sister couldn’t believe someone said that to her. Right after 9/11, the mosque my family attended in California decided to post a USA flag in the front yard to show that we were Americans. Many hate crimes were occurring throughout the nation; this act was a precautionary move in order to avoid more serious harm to the mosque. I have heard of my male relatives being stopped at the airport, because of their beards and names, or told they were randomly selected for a bag search, while going through security.

Personally though, I have not had to go through any of these issues. But there was a change for me post 9/11 – talking about being a Muslim or that my family is Muslim seems to have become a fascinating point now. People are very cautious about it, especially those who do not know anything about the religion or those who practice it. People are curious. The religion has been pushed to the forefront and has become a talking point. I feel it every time I hear someone mention the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’ in my presence.

Hope After 9/11 – Globally

hope

Every year, my friend and I put up flyers before Ramadan, inviting others in our college in California to join us for Iftar. We hoped and expected to be contacted by Muslim girls excited at the opportunity of breaking their fasts with other Muslims. Instead, who we found were perhaps far more special – a Japanese student who decided it was crucial for her to learn Arabic in order to understand the Quran better (she later transferred to Al-Azhar to follow her aspirations), and a young seventeen–year-old Mexican girl, who had been hiding her desire to convert to Islam from her parents for three years and wanted to keep her first fast with us.

At a time post 9/11, when Islam was under intense scrutiny throughout the world and especially in the West, it was heart-warming yet mind-boggling how it still attracted young women with such vigour. Adding to the paradox, as political Islamophobia radically increased in Europe, Islam continued to be the fastest growing religion in the same region. Racist nationalistic governments or political parties in countries like France, Norway and Switzerland initiated steps to remove Islamic “symbols”. Niqab was officially banned in France and they wanted to eliminate Halal food options in school canteens. But these steps across a range of countries have not been able to halt the interest towards Islam. In fact, it keeps bouncing back with more intensity. It was no less than a miracle that Daniel Streich, the man responsible for initiating the successful campaign for banning minarets in Switzerland, not only converted to Islam but vowed to make the biggest, most beautiful mosque in Europe to counter his past hatred for the religion.

However, the most interesting aspect of the conversions to Islam is that although the West accuses Islam of suppressing women’s liberties, a large proportion of those embracing Islam happen to be Western women. Camilla Leyland, a 32-year-old single mother embraced Islam in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’. She explains: “I know people will be surprised to hear the words ‘feminism’ and ‘Islam’ in the same breath, but, in fact, the teachings of the Quran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.”

A new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests that the real figure of conversions to Islam in the UK alone could be as high as 100,000 with as many as 5000 conversions in one year alone. The same study suggested that the conversion rate was more in females, and that the average age of converts was twenty-seven. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, admitted that this report was the best intellectual “guesstimate” but added that “either way few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”

Mughal attributed this increase in converts to the prominence of Islam in the public domain and the subsequent public curiosity it provoked. Batool Al-Toma, a 25-year-old Irish born convert to Islam, agrees: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of converts in recent years. The media often tries to pinpoint specifics but the reasons are as varied as the converts themselves.” Islam’s latest convert that surprised the UK was Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, recalls the day she decided to become a Muslim: “It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.”

Another celebrity convert, London-based Kristiane Backer, is a former MTV presenter. Kristiane says: “In the West, we are stressed for super­ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system. Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realized how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one God makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.”

According to Kevin Brice from ­Swansea University, who carried this research out for Faith Matters, the female converts to Islam, “seek spirituality, a higher meaning and tend to be deep thinkers.” The depth of their thought rings true to me. Yuki had told me that when her sister committed suicide for no apparent reason in Japan, it provoked her family to seek the meaning of life, which is what led her to Islam. Her parents were ecstatic that she had found an answer. My much younger Mexican friend bewildered me with her very deep paintings, depicting souls in trouble seeking peace and light in the midst of trouble.

Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey (“From MTV to Mecca”), believes that women who were born Muslims became disillusioned and rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against but the culture. The treasures of the true Islam lead so many to embrace it, despite the steps taken to demoralize its followers and mar the faith. It’s a jewel that those born in Islam perhaps take for granted. The image that can never leave my mind is when my young friend in California took out a beautiful wooden box from her drawer to show me, where she cherishingly saved her most price-less possessions: “Her book on how to pray Salah, her silk scarf and her Quran.”

9/11 – More Than a Decade Later

decade

The Past: Soon after the September 11, 2011 tragedy

By Tasneem Vali, Chicago

I was working at Children’s Memorial Hospital in an elite part of Chicago. A bunch of us would frequent several places for lunch. Our favorite was a Greek restaurant – excellent salads and ambience – that is, until 9/11. The week after that cataclysmic event, Margie and I went to lunch and a customer said: “Go back to where you came from.”

 

Even worse than the hurtful comment was the fact that the proprietor, ‘a friend’, didn’t even bat an eyelid. We left, never to return. That left a scar. I decided I would ‘look’ Muslim and started wearing the Hijab. Maybe this was Allah’s (swt) way to make me realize that my education and other privileges have given me a responsibility. I must be a totem for Muslim women everywhere. The way I behave ‘does’ impact what people think of Islam – it is my responsibility to educate myself and make Islam my Deen.

 

Amir Reza has a similar story. The son of Iranian parents who migrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution, Amir and his siblings were born and raised in Central California in a small, agriculturally-dominated town. He believes 9/11 impacted him when he was at college.

 

“I felt I had to be an advocate for the Muslims when people jokingly used the word ‘terrorist’,” Reza said: “I had to be ready with accurate answers and not let such comments slide.

 

“Another way in which 9/11affected me was during travel. Ironically, I grew a large beard in college, so getting through any airport was a challenge. It felt like for two years, I was always pulled out of line to be searched individually or asked a few more questions than most. But, once they heard me speak, they would lose interest and let me go. However, it was interesting to watch my dad (notoriously paranoid) become worried going through security lines. He would say: ‘With a name like Ali Reza, who knows what they could do.’ I would tell him, that this is no reason for them to do anything – and, of course, we have nothing to hide.”

 

The Present: Life in America Today

 

By J. Samia Mair, Maryland

 

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, Muslims in America face the same kind of fear, misconceptions and prejudice that they had experienced shortly after 9/11. In some ways, it is worse. For example, it has become politically acceptable, even advantageous, for some politicians to make openly prejudicial statements about Islam and the Muslims. A one-time candidate and frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential election said on several occasions that he would not hire Muslims in his administration. Another frontrunner, known for his anti-Muslim statements, described Palestinians as an “invented” people and “terrorists.”

 

Corporate actions concerned with profits also provide a glimpse into the public psyche. Lowe’s, a national home improvement store, recently pulled its advertising for a reality show on American Muslims, because the founder and sole employee of a fringe organization faulted the show for portraying Muslims as ordinary Americans, not terrorists.

 

But the most disturbing and potentially far-reaching impact of 9/11 on Muslims are the new laws that have been adopted to counter terrorism, such as the USA Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism and the transfer of US citizens to foreign authorities, a process known as rendition. So, what we have now is an intrusive and anti-democratic legal system in place that can be utilized against Muslims at any time. What would it take to trigger these measures? Many believe that another attack like 9/11 would do it.

 

In some ways, though, conditions for Muslims have improved since 9/11. People have returned to their daily lives and most do not live fearing an imminent terrorist attack. Many non-Muslims have defended Islam and the rights of Muslims. More people are learning about Islam, and Muslims across the country are speaking out, spreading the truth about our Deen. It is an exciting yet uncertain time for American Muslims. We face both challenges and opportunities. And we have learned over the past decade that we cannot sit idly by and hope for justice and sanity to prevail.

 

The Future: Beyond Those Three Digits

 

By Kiran Ansari, Chicago

 

What happened nearly eleven years ago was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Amid the grief and devastation felt by the American people, Muslims worldwide were also adversely affected in one way or the other. From visa issues and airport security to deportation, arrests and hate crimes, everyone has a story to tell.

 

However, it is time to move on. We cannot remain apologetic for something that we had nothing to do with. American Muslims, in fact, Muslims everywhere around the world need to take an active part in the community, so the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is blurred without any compromise in our beliefs. From volunteering at your child’s school and visiting a sick neighbour to running for public office, if we plan on living in the United States, we have to be involved. As the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, said: “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.”

 

If we think that we have it hard, reading a few pages of the Seerah will show us that our trials are nothing in comparison to what the early Muslims had to go through.

 

Some of us may be parents of U.S. citizens; others may send their kids off to college or vacation in America. So, whether we like it or not, America does play a role in the lives of millions across the globe. We cannot change the past, but it is in our power to mould the future. We cannot change the perceptions of every Islamophobe, but we can at least do our part in changing the way our co-workers, friends and neighbours think of Muslims.

 

“They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:134)

 

As Muslims in America and elsewhere, we cannot risk being lost in a melting pot, where everything simmers into one sauce. We have to be proud of our identity like ingredients in a salad. Even when ‘tossed’ in adversity, each and every one of us should work together while retaining our unique taste, texture and colour.

 

The Past: Soon after the September 11, 2011 tragedy

By Tasneem Vali, Chicago

I was working at Children’s Memorial Hospital in an elite part of Chicago. A bunch of us would frequent several places for lunch. Our favorite was a Greek restaurant – excellent salads and ambience – that is, until 9/11. The week after that cataclysmic event, Margie and I went to lunch and a customer said: “Go back to where you came from.”

Even worse than the hurtful comment was the fact that the proprietor, ‘a friend’, didn’t even bat an eyelid. We left, never to return. That left a scar. I decided I would ‘look’ Muslim and started wearing the Hijab. Maybe this was Allah’s (swt) way to make me realize that my education and other privileges have given me a responsibility. I must be a totem for Muslim women everywhere. The way I behave ‘does’ impact what people think of Islam – it is my responsibility to educate myself and make Islam my Deen.

Amir Reza has a similar story. The son of Iranian parents who migrated to the U.S. just before the Islamic Revolution, Amir and his siblings were born and raised in Central California in a small, agriculturally-dominated town. He believes 9/11 impacted him when he was at college.

“I felt I had to be an advocate for the Muslims when people jokingly used the word ‘terrorist’,” Reza said: “I had to be ready with accurate answers and not let such comments slide.

“Another way in which 9/11affected me was during travel. Ironically, I grew a large beard in college, so getting through any airport was a challenge. It felt like for two years, I was always pulled out of line to be searched individually or asked a few more questions than most. But, once they heard me speak, they would lose interest and let me go. However, it was interesting to watch my dad (notoriously paranoid) become worried going through security lines. He would say: ‘With a name like Ali Reza, who knows what they could do.’ I would tell him, that this is no reason for them to do anything – and, of course, we have nothing to hide.”

The Present: Life in America Today

By J. Samia Mair, Maryland

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, Muslims in America face the same kind of fear, misconceptions and prejudice that they had experienced shortly after 9/11. In some ways, it is worse. For example, it has become politically acceptable, even advantageous, for some politicians to make openly prejudicial statements about Islam and the Muslims. A one-time candidate and frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential election said on several occasions that he would not hire Muslims in his administration. Another frontrunner, known for his anti-Muslim statements, described Palestinians as an “invented” people and “terrorists.”

Corporate actions concerned with profits also provide a glimpse into the public psyche. Lowe’s, a national home improvement store, recently pulled its advertising for a reality show on American Muslims, because the founder and sole employee of a fringe organization faulted the show for portraying Muslims as ordinary Americans, not terrorists.

But the most disturbing and potentially far-reaching impact of 9/11 on Muslims are the new laws that have been adopted to counter terrorism, such as the USA Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which, among other things, allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism and the transfer of US citizens to foreign authorities, a process known as rendition. So, what we have now is an intrusive and anti-democratic legal system in place that can be utilized against Muslims at any time. What would it take to trigger these measures? Many believe that another attack like 9/11 would do it.

In some ways, though, conditions for Muslims have improved since 9/11. People have returned to their daily lives and most do not live fearing an imminent terrorist attack. Many non-Muslims have defended Islam and the rights of Muslims. More people are learning about Islam, and Muslims across the country are speaking out, spreading the truth about our Deen. It is an exciting yet uncertain time for American Muslims. We face both challenges and opportunities. And we have learned over the past decade that we cannot sit idly by and hope for justice and sanity to prevail.

The Future: Beyond Those Three Digits

By Kiran Ansari, Chicago

What happened nearly eleven years ago was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Amid the grief and devastation felt by the American people, Muslims worldwide were also adversely affected in one way or the other. From visa issues and airport security to deportation, arrests and hate crimes, everyone has a story to tell.

However, it is time to move on. We cannot remain apologetic for something that we had nothing to do with. American Muslims, in fact, Muslims everywhere around the world need to take an active part in the community, so the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is blurred without any compromise in our beliefs. From volunteering at your child’s school and visiting a sick neighbour to running for public office, if we plan on living in the United States, we have to be involved. As the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, said: “If you are not at the table, you will be on the menu.”

If we think that we have it hard, reading a few pages of the Seerah will show us that our trials are nothing in comparison to what the early Muslims had to go through.

Some of us may be parents of U.S. citizens; others may send their kids off to college or vacation in America. So, whether we like it or not, America does play a role in the lives of millions across the globe. We cannot change the past, but it is in our power to mould the future. We cannot change the perceptions of every Islamophobe, but we can at least do our part in changing the way our co-workers, friends and neighbours think of Muslims.

“They shall receive the reward of what they earned and you of what you earn.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:134)

As Muslims in America and elsewhere, we cannot risk being lost in a melting pot, where everything simmers into one sauce. We have to be proud of our identity like ingredients in a salad. Even when ‘tossed’ in adversity, each and every one of us should work together while retaining our unique taste, texture and colour.

Hope After 9/11 – Globally

By Fiza Fatima Asar

London-based social media marketer for the non-profit sector

Every year, my friend and I put up flyers before Ramadan, inviting others in our college in California to join us for Iftar. We hoped and expected to be contacted by Muslim girls excited at the opportunity of breaking their fasts with other Muslims. Instead, who we found were perhaps far more special – a Japanese student who decided it was crucial for her to learn Arabic in order to understand the Quran better (she later transferred to Al-Azhar to follow her aspirations), and a young seventeen–year-old Mexican girl, who had been hiding her desire to convert to Islam from her parents for three years and wanted to keep her first fast with us.

At a time post 9/11, when Islam was under intense scrutiny throughout the world and especially in the West, it was heart-warming yet mind-boggling how it still attracted young women with such vigour. Adding to the paradox, as political Islamophobia radically increased in Europe, Islam continued to be the fastest growing religion in the same region. Racist nationalistic governments or political parties in countries like France, Norway and Switzerland initiated steps to remove Islamic “symbols”. Niqab was officially banned in France and they wanted to eliminate Halal food options in school canteens. But these steps across a range of countries have not been able to halt the interest towards Islam. In fact, it keeps bouncing back with more intensity. It was no less than a miracle that Daniel Streich, the man responsible for initiating the successful campaign for banning minarets in Switzerland, not only converted to Islam but vowed to make the biggest, most beautiful mosque in Europe to counter his past hatred for the religion.

However, the most interesting aspect of the conversions to Islam is that although the West accuses Islam of suppressing women’s liberties, a large proportion of those embracing Islam happen to be Western women. Camilla Leyland, a 32-year-old single mother embraced Islam in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’. She explains: “I know people will be surprised to hear the words ‘feminism’ and ‘Islam’ in the same breath, but, in fact, the teachings of the Quran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.”

A new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests that the real figure of conversions to Islam in the UK alone could be as high as 100,000 with as many as 5000 conversions in one year alone. The same study suggested that the conversion rate was more in females, and that the average age of converts was twenty-seven. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, admitted that this report was the best intellectual “guesstimate” but added that “either way few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”

Mughal attributed this increase in converts to the prominence of Islam in the public domain and the subsequent public curiosity it provoked. Batool Al-Toma, a 25-year-old Irish born convert to Islam, agrees: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of converts in recent years. The media often tries to pinpoint specifics but the reasons are as varied as the converts themselves.” Islam’s latest convert that surprised the UK was Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, recalls the day she decided to become a Muslim: “It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.”

Another celebrity convert, London-based Kristiane Backer, is a former MTV presenter. Kristiane says: “In the West, we are stressed for super­ficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system. Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realized how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one God makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.”

According to Kevin Brice from ­Swansea University, who carried this research out for Faith Matters, the female converts to Islam, “seek spirituality, a higher meaning and tend to be deep thinkers.” The depth of their thought rings true to me. Yuki had told me that when her sister committed suicide for no apparent reason in Japan, it provoked her family to seek the meaning of life, which is what led her to Islam. Her parents were ecstatic that she had found an answer. My much younger Mexican friend bewildered me with her very deep paintings, depicting souls in trouble seeking peace and light in the midst of trouble.

Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey (“From MTV to Mecca”), believes that women who were born Muslims became disillusioned and rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against but the culture. The treasures of the true Islam lead so many to embrace it, despite the steps taken to demoralize its followers and mar the faith. It’s a jewel that those born in Islam perhaps take for granted. The image that can never leave my mind is when my young friend in California took out a beautiful wooden box from her drawer to show me, where she cherishingly saved her most price-less possessions: “Her book on how to pray Salah, her silk scarf and her Quran.”

Pity The Nation

pity the nation

Pity the Nation…

By Khalil Gibran

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave,
eats a bread it does not harvest,…
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.

In 1998, an event in Pakistan drew elation across the Muslim world – we became the first and only Muslim nuclear power, Alhumdulillah. We, the vanguard of the Islamic Ummah, delivered the latest WMD (weapon of mass destruction) now in Muslim hands. After all, Allah (swt) has commanded us: “And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know…” (Al-Anfal, 8:60)

Armed with the latest technology, Pakistan was all set before 9/11 to take its rightful place in the comity of nations; it had earned their honour and respect. Two major world conflicts had been on Pakistan’s agenda since its creation and remained to that fateful day: Palestine and Kashmir. Both involved Muslims in the ‘little guy’ position, and both had the financial, political and social support of the people of Pakistan.

The Soviet-Afghan War was another crucial political stance that Pakistan chose to back. It supervised the entire war, aiding the winning Afghans, and in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR and its withdrawal, influenced the political landscape that resulted in the Taliban gaining power in Afghanistan. Pakistan now had a protected western border.

Iran, Pakistan’s other important Muslim neighbour, received undoubting support during the Gulf War (Iran/Iraq in the 1980s), eventually winning against the Saddam regime.

Thus, contrary to the CFR’s report (Council on Foreign Relations) which states “that Pakistan used to be a world pariah: censured and sanctioned for its nuclear ambitions”, Pakistan’s geographic location enabled it to provide a leading voice and play a decisive role in major international issues.

Post 9/11, Pakistan was offered a choice, a dichotomous choice – to consider only two alternatives when, in fact, there were additional options (shades of grey between the extremes). An incorrect logic (fallacy) was used in an attempt to force a choice: “If you are not with us, you are against us.”

One man, the then all-powerful General Musharraf, decided to make the biggest U-turn any country has ever made in its history, regarding its foreign policy. He ‘volunteered’ Pakistan in the US’s ‘War on Terror’, initially for a paltry $ 4.2 billion (approx. $26 per person). This quickly turned into a ‘War of Terror’ for Pakistan.

Taking up arms in Islam can be classified into three categories:

  • Self-defence: where the individual is authorized to take action to protect himself.
  • Retaliation: this involves the state. An individual cannot retaliate, or else you will have people killing each other at will, resulting in chaos.
  • Pre-emptive violence: this also involves the state. The when-a-country-hasn’t-done-anything-yet-but-might-do-something-in-the-future-so-we-should-go-after-it-now stance.

It suffices to say that none of the above applied to Pakistan, when it decided to enter the ‘War on Terror’. Being on the invading side against former friends that Pakistan had helped meant abandoning all its previous policies, resulting in the loss of Pakistan’s world stature and respect. More importantly, Pakistan had no religious, legal or any other type of reason to become a party in this war.

What has Pakistan lost? Politically, it lost its allies, its integrity in the international arena and became infamous for having a corrupt government and being a creator of terrorists and terrorism. Economically, it has lost $ 2 trillion, and experienced an inflation rise of 300%. Loss of human life stands at several tens of thousands. Drone attacks have wreaked havoc in the tribal belt, traditionally Pakistan’s line of defense on the western front. But these are merely facts and figures.

Pity the nation that has lost its youth to senseless pursuits, where the price of bread is ten times more than the SMS package offered by cellular phone companies – targeting the teens and tweens of Pakistan.

Pity the nation that has lost its voice of morality in the pandemonium of clinking coins, where the concept that ‘might is right’ prevails and the common man has no hope for justice, or the time to pursue it due to the rising living expenses.

Pity the nation that has betrayed its citizens in exchange for friendship with the bully, where the government trades its citizens to please the tyrant and buries its head in the sand when the common man asks for justice, for instance, drone attacks, the Raymond Davis case.

Lord Macaulay, in his 1835 address to the British parliament said: “Do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage…for if the Indians (prior to partition) think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem…and they will become what we want them: a truly dominated nation.”

Pity the nation that will not understand, that will not teach its children and youth its history, and that will not admonish its young when they belittle all that is theirs in favour of all that is foreign.

Pity the nation that has lost its identity; we love our country from afar. Let someone else suffer the suicide bombings, drone attacks, etc. Acquire money and travel to greener pastures. Pakistan has seen a mass exodus of qualified people, while the country needs these people in order to progress.

However, there is hope, for Allah (swt) says: “O You who believe! Take not as (your) Bitanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends, etc.) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse, indeed we have made plain to you the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) if you understand.” (Al-Imran, 3:118)

All is not lost, only if we understand and act. We have the technology; we must educate and focus on our youth. Life after 9/11 in Pakistan is not a struggle; it is a focused move ahead towards a common goal – to revive Pakistan’s economy, education and moral status internationality, to reverse the ‘brain drain’ and to trust the ultimate design that Allah (swt) has for us. Ameen.

Box Feature

Are you contributing towards the positive in Pakistan, a decade after 9/11?

  • Are you trying to encourage unity among yourselves, regardless of what you want and what you do (in terms of age group, profession, etc.)?
  • Are you endorsing merit and justice in your own capacity?
  • Are you buying Pakistani products to help the local economy?
  • Are you curbing wastage?
  • Are you putting on hold an extravagant lifestyle?
  • Are you educating yourself and others about Islam, and the responsibilities that come with it?
  • Are you discouraging foreign cultural invasion?
  • Are you setting a personal example for youth and children?
  • Are you refraining from patronizing incompetent people based on ethnicity?
  • Are you boycotting corrupt politicians and their parties?

Box Feature 2

Positive trends in Pakistan post 9/11

  • Masajid are thriving in great numbers.
  • Muslim lifestyle publications have penetrated the market.
  • There are a myriad of workshops on Islamic guidance and counselling.
  • Schools have been established with integrated curriculum (Deen+Duniya).
  • An Islamic financial system is in place.
  • There is a more conscious endorsement of the Shariah dress code.
  • More individuals at all levels are coming forward to found and fund welfare organizations
  • Pakistan is the leading Muslim country to pay Zakah.
  • Pakistanis are realizing their identity as a Muslim.

In a nutshell, Islam is returning to the Muslims. Yes, Pakistanis are not perfect. We need to work harder, and with more competence and cooperation. However, there is great hope. We should not feel dejected and give into maligning and mud-slinging. Self-criticism should be aimed towards improvement and not disappointment and pessimism.

Conversion of Yvonne Ridley to Islam

yvonne

The conversion of a prominent English lady journalist, Yvonne Ridley, to Islam is not something ignorable in the recent history. By embracing Islam a few years back, Ridley has, in fact, stunned the Western world. Unfortunately, such a thick smoke of bigotry has been spread around Islam by the so-called “civilized and educated Westerners” that it appears to them as a mere symbol of terror and tyranny. Conversion to Islam, therefore, by a distinguished personality, a woman in particular, amid this prejudiced environment, seems something unbelievable.

Yvonne Ridley (now Mariam Ridley) had no specific awareness of Islam before 2001 or the 9/11 incident. But astonishingly, the circumstances took a sudden turn, and Islam became the centre of Ridley’s thoughts. Professionally, she had been deputed to Afghanistan as a journalist by her newspaper for covering then-ruling Taliban, who were and are still regarded as the rigid, rude, uncultured and merciless warlords. Also, the Taliban had remained reluctant towards the western media, which had been exhibiting a hostile attitude against them.

Ridley entered into Afghanistan, donned with a long Burqa as a safety measure. Unfortunately, she was detected by the Taliban and immediately taken into custody. As a routine practice, the Western journalists always keep themselves ready to face any sort of risk, in pursuit of acquiring breaking news. Likewise, Ridley probably was also determined to face any sort of challenge inside Afghanistan for the same purpose. Unluckily, however, she was spotted and, as stated above, was imprisoned.

The interesting element in the story, however, is that the detention Ridley had suspected before and for whose evasion she had attired Burqa proved conversely a blessing to her. Her confinement in a house for ten consecutive days shook her from within. The Taliban’s compassionate and kind conduct toward Ridley pressed her to seek answers from her heart to such question as: “Are they really the rude and hard-hearted people, as my friends in the media portray?”

Detention of Ridley by the Taliban, however, provoked the entire ‘civilized’ society of the West, leading to a vast circulation of prejudiced and concocted news in their periodicals about the Taliban. With the detention of Ridley, the West had, in their sense, acquired a vivid and candid proof of the Taliban’s barbarism, whereas the facts were quite contrary. An absolutely unique and positive conduct was portrayed to the lady by the Taliban. Also, Ridley might have expected a torturous treatment from them, namely sexual abuse or physical assaults. However, no such behaviour was ever extended to her. Instead, they demonstrated a treatment which a brother extends to his sister or a father exercises over his daughter. This attitude obviously opened the eyes of Ridley and forced her to reconsider Islam. Later, after her release from the captivity, she disclosed to the media that the Taliban had left no stone unturned to leave a nice impression over her through their conduct.

“They honoured my feminism,” she once narrated. “Although the face veiling (Hijab) did never appeal to me, they made it incumbent over them to practice it with me. They never beat me,” she added, “never starved me and never insulted me. Any time they intended to visit me, they first used to knock my room’s door. They also provided me an absolute isolation for my lavatory requirements.” Ridley went on to narrate: “I remained in their confinement for ten days but never did they attempt to touch or sit just close to me, because of which I remained ever fearless from them.”

Still, however, upon return to her native land, the UK, after her captivity, the media flocked to her in an attempt to pick every minute detail of the Taliban’s conduct. “Were you ever molested, deemed like a toy, starved, gang raped or tortured?” A series of such questions were forwarded to her, but quashing their stance, Ridley replied: “No, no, never. They were never rude. They were nice fellows, aware of my pains and sorrows. They acknowledged the respect of women all the time. Although known as uncivilized Mullahs (clerics) by us, their behaviour still was marvelous.” But in place of getting pacified, the biased media flashed disgusting news against the Taliban in their journals: “She has been brainwashed. She is uttering all this because of the Taliban’s coercion. She is hiding several facts.” And so on and so forth.

Then, once in England, her mind instigated her to re-study Islam: a religion whose imitators had so nobly treated her when they could have exercised any cruelty. “Let it be revisited,” she decided. Taking in her hands the Holy Quran, the basic source of the Muslim faith, she exclaimed without the least hesitation that the Quran was the only book awarding peace and justice to the entire world. In a response to the editor of “Sunday Telegraph”, London, Ridley remarked: “I have found the Quran to be a beautifully written book prompting nothing but peace, love and understanding.” More amazingly, she added that the Burqas have been her favourite dress since then, and she puts them in her suitcase on every journey. “I still have the original one I was arrested in,” she informed.

Eventually, she stood up to proclaim: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.” By pronouncing this, she meant that her conversion to Islam was in no way coerced and that she had willfully thrown herself into the fold of Islam.

From then onwards, Ridley became a Muslim who remains ever impatient for the enhancement of her faith. Her soul then did not permit her to sit calm anymore. She already had in her mind the commandment of Allah (swt): “Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allah) magnify!” (Al-Muddaththir, 74:2-3)

She bore the standard of Islam in her hands and devoted herself to its circulation, declaring publicly that Islam was the religion most suited to her.

I, the writer, once came across a comment made by a Muslim revert upon her acceptance of Islam, wherein she had stated: “I have not just embraced Islam but, in fact, have returned to it.” In other words, she had returned to her original and natural religion. She was referring to a Hadeeth, which informs that every infant coming into the world is born on natural faith (Islam), but later his parents, kinsmen and friends drag him towards some other faith (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.). Likewise, Ridley had not just embraced Islam but had returned to her original belief.

The lesson we can learn from this story is that if the Muslims would correct their attitudes from within (their interactions, discourses, manners, etc.) and cultivate in themselves the charisma that attracts people, one-third of the world population, to speak safely, may fall into the folds of Islam.

Ridley is now a practicing Muslim, deeming it her due obligation to propagate and expand the truth of faith, which she has discovered. When she delivers speeches, travels across the world and wears a full-length Burqa, you will notice in her a lady, who is emotional for the circulation of Islamic tenets. We immensely respect her for returning to the original and natural faith.

The “Happening” City of Samarkand

samarkand

Samarkand is better known today as the second largest city of Uzbekistan. It is also a centre for Islamic scholarly studies.

Founded in 700 BC, Samarkand was one of the main centres of Iranian civilization from its early days. Although it was a Persian-speaking region, it was not strictly a part of Iran.

It was at the start of the 8th century CE that Samarkand came under Arab control. Under the Abbasid rule, the first ever paper mill in the Islamic world was found in Samarkand. This invention then spread to the rest of the Islamic world, and from there to Europe.

The Travels of Marco Polo, where Polo records his journey along the Silk Road, describes Samarkand as, “a very large and splendid city.”

In 1220 CE, the Mongols arrived. Genghis Khan and his troops pillaged the city completely. The town took many decades to recover from this and similar disasters.

In 1370 CE, Tamerlane decided to make Samarkand the capital of his empire, which extended from India to Turkey. During the next 35 years he built a new city and populated it with artisans and craftsmen from all the other places he had conquered. Tamerlane enjoyed a reputation as a patron of the arts and Samarkand grew to become the centre of the region of Transoxiana.

In 1420 CE, the great astronomer, Ulugh Beg, built a Madrasah in Samarkand, named the Ulugh Beg Madrasah. It became an important centre for astronomical study and only invited those scholars of whom he personally approved and whom he respected academically. At its peak, it had between 60 and 70 astronomers working there.

In 1424, Beg began building the observatory to support the astronomical study at the Madrasah. It was completed five years later in 1429. Beg assigned his assistant and scholar Ali Qushji to take charge of the Ulugh Beg Observatory which was called Samarkand Observatory at that time.

The observatory was destroyed in 1449 and was only re-discovered in 1908, by a Uzbek-Russian archaeologist from Samarkand named V. L. Vyatkin.

In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List.

Ramadan – Scriptural vs. Cultural

ramadan

How does Islam manifest itself in Ramadan today? We witness a struggle between two forces – the traditional version or the cultural baggage versus Ramadan as it was brought and enforced by Muhammad (sa).

Abu Umamah (rta) has reported: “A man came to the Messenger (sa) and asked him to advise the man about something that would lead him to Paradise. The Prophet (sa) instructed him to fast.” (An-Nasai) It is generally misunderstood that fasting begins and ends with Ramadan. In the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, fasting was perennial.

According to the scriptural perspective, the greatest challenge of the fast is not to give up food, drink or sexual relations during the daylight hours. Rather, it is a means to train the human will. When we give up the Halal (permissible) for a month to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt), it should then become possible for us to give up Haram (forbidden) for the remaining eleven months of the year.

Hence, the simplest definition of an acceptable fast would be to do what Allah (swt) loves and to forsake what Allah (swt) hates.

How much of tradition can a believer incorporate in his fast without marring Ramadan’s original essence?

A customary element, which has emerged, is that Ramadan is the month of feasting. Actually, fasting and feasting are two different worlds. During Ramadan, Muslim around the world indulge in eating as if there will be no tomorrow, whether that later results in cholesterol issues, diabetes, acidity, etc.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported ten years ago that there were more obese people recorded in human history than starving people. The three meals an average American partakes in one day is equivalent to what 25 poor individuals eat in one day in certain African and South Asian countries.

This is an extreme way to look at life; if life is not pleasant or enjoyable, it is not worth living. For this very reason, we hear people committing suicide or wishing they could end their lives if they contract a terminal illness. We even hear of doctor-death going around, facilitating death for these patients as they find no joy in life. This mindset of over-indulgence and feasting destroys the human will. Fasting, on the other hand, disciplines it.

Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “They are like cattle, nay even more astray…” (Al-A’raf, 7:179)

We need to understand that Allah (swt) has created angels with intellect and no desires. He has created animals with desires and no intellect. Human beings are the only creation with intellect and desires. But if humans give up their intellect and fall for desires, they start to behave like animals. Animals can’t fast. They only know how to feast. Similarly, when humans give up their desires and only work with their intellect, they become angelic.

It is a well known Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) that “the worse container a human can fill is his stomach.” (Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

On another occasion, he mentioned: “We should eat one-third food, drink one-third water and leave one-third room for air/breathing.” (Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

During Ramadan, our test begins at Sahoor (pre-dawn meal) and determines whether we lay a foundation of feasting or fasting. If we have eaten to the brim, our system will take nearly ten hours to digest all that. By the time the digestive system has taken care of the Sahoor, we are ready for Iftaar (fast-breaking meal), when we reload our stomachs. We travel from one excessive point to the other. According to research, the highest number of cases of digestive disorders stream into the emergency wards during Ramadan.

Where does the fault lie? Is it in traditions such as piling up a guest’s plate even though he categorically refuses anymore, and thinking that it is a Sunnah to over-feed your guests? Or, do we think that over-consumption of food is a means of expressing gratitude to the Lord? How do we sift the real Islam from the cultural one?

If we do not carry authentic knowledge, we automatically start depending on traditions. Traditions, at times, lead us to innovations. And all innovations will end up in Hellfire. So, if fasting, which is meant to be our vehicle to Paradise, is not taking us there, where are we headed?

We have a choice. If we didn’t, Allah (swt) would have removed this responsibility from us. Allah (swt) never burdens any soul beyond their capacity.

We should commit and change our Ramadan pattern. Begin by making an intention to fast in the night before the dawn. One who does not make an intention has no fast. This helps us reflect upon the reason of the meal, which is not to celebrate. It will remind us that we are now boarding the vehicle that will take us to Paradise. How did the Prophet (sa) drive this vehicle? We will be encouraged to study the Sunnah. We will be living the life of Ihsan – a life that is conscious of Allah (swt).

An official statement or Dua is not necessary. However, it is important that we focus and prioritize our mind on the fast and plan that this is not going to be a feast; rather, it will be a fast. We will experience hunger pangs during the day. How else will we appreciate the blessings of Allah (swt) and feel the pain of the destitute? So, pause for a moment to check your intention. Then take a light Sahoor such as olives, egg, brown bread, etc. Pray Fajr in congregation.

The second part of the test will be at the time of Iftar. Will we board that cultural feasting train that we can’t control and head down the misguided path? Or, are we going to make Dua, eat a few dates, drink water, pray Maghrib in congregation, and then take a moderate meal?

The Prophet (sa) said that Allah (swt) says: “Every act of Adam’s descendants is for themselves, except fasting. It is meant for Me alone, and I alone will give the reward for it.” (Sahih Muslim)

Place your fast on the prophetic scale. What and how much did he eat? Did he prevent over-indulgence? Did he ever advise us to fast for 30 days and end up gaining 5 kg at the end of Ramadan? Muslims were meant to be a balanced nation with moderate behaviour. We were warned not to fall victim to extremism, like the People of the Book. Feasting is extremism.

May Allah (swt) help us to fast the way He has prescribed. Ameen.

This article is based on a lectureshop organized by “LiveDeen” in 2011. It has been transcribed for Hiba by Rana Rais Khan.

Top Five Ways to Prepare for Laylat-ul-Qadr

laylat ul-qadr

The Night of Power and Destiny – Laylat-ul-Qadr – is almost here. We all know that worship done in this night is better than that done in a thousand months! Can we think of any other night or day in our lives that could be more special than this one night? Yet, it is our birthdays and anniversaries, the hyped up mother’s and father’s days that take up all our attention and tireless planning! And here is Laylat-ul-Qadr, the perfection of all nights, and what is it that we do?

The righteous predecessors would prepare for the last nights of Ramadan and for Laylat-ul-Qadr. Here are the top five things we can also do in order to prepare for the Night of Destiny:

1. Clean up – on the outside

Take a Ghusl and make sure you are completely clean. According to Ibn Jareer, the righteous predecessors “used to prefer Ghusl every night of the last ten nights, and an-Nakha’i used to make Ghusl every night of the last ten nights. Some of them would make Ghusl and get perfumed on the nights when it was most hoped to be Laylat-ul-Qadr.”

2. Put on your best perfume

Perfume yourself! It is time to meet the Lord and the King of the Worlds in prayer – nothing should stop you from looking and smelling your best. Some of the righteous predecessors would even perfume the Masajid on the nights they hoped would be Laylat-ul-Qadr. We can even do this in our homes. (A note of caution for the ladies: If you are planning to go out to the Masjid or a congregation for Taraweeh, then do not perfume yourself. However, there is no reason you can’t look your best, while avoiding anything Haram.)

3. Take out your best dress

Tamim ad-Dari (rta) had a garment he had bought for 1000 dirhams, which he would only wear on the night which he hoped would be the Laylat-ul-Qadr. We don’t need to spend beyond our means to buy expensive clothes for this night, but if you have a dress you’ve been saving for a special occasion or a dress that you absolutely love, this is the night to wear it! Who has more right to your beauty than the very Creator, Who gave you this perfect form?

4. Clean up – on the inside too

Aisha (rta) asked the Prophet (sa): “O Messenger of Allah, if I know what night is the night of Qadr, what should I say during it?” He replied: “Say: ‘O Allah, You are the One, Who pardons greatly and loves to pardon, so pardon me.’” (Ahmad, Ibn-Majah and At-Tirmidhi)

It’s time not only to be our cleanest and best on the outside, but also on the inside! Ask Allah’s (swt) forgiveness for all your wrongdoings – intentional or unintentional. Let go of all your grudges! Forgive those who have hurt you, and hope for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness in return!

5. Make the best of this blessed opportunity

It sounds almost unbelievable that one night could be equal to one thousand months! But this is Allah (swt), our Lord, promising us! He is giving us an unparalleled gift on this special night, and we should make the best of it. Spend this night in Qiyam (standing in prayer) and beg Him for forgiveness. Make a list of what you want in this world and the next and ask Him for everything this night.

Remember, Laylat-ul-Qadr is THE event of the year! Don’t miss it!

Your Circle of Influence

circle

“O God! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How many of us find ourselves frustrated and ready to bang our heads against the wall? Pro-activity is all about taking responsibility and the initiative to focus on things in our lives about which we can do something. Perhaps, they can be better understood through a well-acclaimed research about the ‘circle of influence’ and the ‘circle of concern.’

The circle of concern is the larger circle that encompasses everything that affects your life. The circle of influence is the smaller circle within the circle of concern that includes the things about which you can actually do something.

While reacting, we tend to focus on our circle of concern, which overshadows our circle of influence. The nature of the energy in the circle of concern is negative. When this is combined with neglect of the influence circle, the space of our influence becomes smaller. Thus, you give up the power to change many things that you could have otherwise.

Pro-active people tend to focus more on their circle of influence, so their reactive space is bigger.

A lady in her seventies once shared that she was brought up like a princess. She was pampered and cared for to every extent possible. She was a beautiful young maiden, who read romantic novels and had a bright and sunny disposition. Then, she was married into a family, whose habits were just opposite of what she had been brought up with. From morning till noon, she was expected to cook, clean and housekeep for a large family. Her husband was away at work for most of the time. Even when he was home, he hardly stood up for her. She seldom visited her parents. Her mother-in-law was extremely rigid and bossed her around. Her whole life seemed to be out of her control and dominated by others. She felt caged because she couldn’t make even a single decision for herself.

Then, she realised that it was a dead end, and she could do nothing to reduce her circle of concern. Turning bitter would not make her life better in any way.

Time went by and the woman endured all pain with great forbearance. When it was her time to become a mother-in-law, she had two choices: either to drag her children through the same difficult path she had walked or take an entirely different road to create new possibilities. The woman chose to do the latter. Instead of depriving her daughters-in-law from the opportunities and happiness she had missed out in her own life, she worked in her influence to help them create more loving homes based on respect and freedom of choice. One person’s decision to pro-actively change the status quo touched the lives of generations to come. Even though it took decades to achieve, it changed the lives of many after her.

How can you tell in which circle you are?

The best way to tell whether you are in your circle of concern or in your circle of influence is to listen to your own language. Hear yourself out:

· Circle of Concern

Your language will be accusing and over-reactive:

  1. “I can’t believe the way these kids are behaving! They are driving me crazy!”
  2.  “My spouse is so inconsiderate!”
  3. “Why can’t my mother-in-law just leave us alone and settle on the moon?”

· Circle of Influence

Your language will be pro-active and confident about the things you can improve or change:

  1. “I can help create rules in my family that will enable the children to learn about the consequences of their behaviour. I can look for opportunities to teach and reinforce positive behaviour.”
  2. “I can begin to be considerate. I can model the kind of loving interaction I would like to see in my marriage.”
  3. “I can learn more about my mother-in-law and the causes of her behaviour. I can seek to understand her and to forgive her. I can decide to ensure that this behaviour does not become part of my interactions with my married children in future.”

Your own level of pro-activity/reactivity

In order to get a deeper insight into your own level of pro-activity or reactivity, you might like to try the following experiment. You may ask your spouse or a friend to become your partner and help you give feedback:

  1. Identify a particular problem in your family.
  2. Describe it to your partner in reactive terms. Work hard and focus on your circle of concern. Try to convince your partner that the problem under discussion is absolutely not your fault.
  3. Now describe the same problem to your partner in a pro-active way. Focus on your response in the circle of influence. Convince your partner that you can make a real difference in this situation.
  4. Now consider the difference in the two descriptions. Which one resembles your normal pattern of behaviour when marital issues or family problems arise?

If you discover more reactive tendencies through the language you use, you can be more responsible about it. Notice the word ‘response-able.’ It means the ability to choose your own response. That is the essence of pro-activity. Learning and using pro-active words and phrases works wonders. When you consistently hear yourself using responsible language, you take yourself more seriously, too. You begin to believe in your own hidden potential. When others witness you modelling pro-activity, they also try to work in their circle of influence.

At the end of the day, it is all about knowing oneself in order to deal best with others. Remember, the change begins with us not with the others. It also begins by working in the circle of influence and learning to leave the circle of concern alone, and saying ‘Qadr’Allah’ (Whatever Allah swt wills). Great marriages are not a case of accidents. They are achievements one has to strive for, sometimes even for years.

Learning to let go

let go

Controlling comes to many parents naturally and quite spontaneously, regardless of the age of the child. It is literally on ‘auto’ mode. And it is obviously meant to be in the best interest of the children.

When your children fall, you run to help them get up. When they don’t do well in exams, you step in to take over the reins. You dictate or influence their career choices. You pick the perfect spouse for them. And even after they are married and have had children of their own, you tell them they are inexperienced and immature, and you continue to make decisions for them.

However, the real problem occurs when your child’s spouse, who probably isn’t used to being dictated, experiences suffocation of independence. He/she becomes frustrated and in most cases vents out this anger on your child. This complicates relationships not only between your son/daughter and their better halves but also between you and them. Eventually, in most cases, a mandatory distance is assumed, either by moving out of joint family set-ups or, in some extreme cases, even travelling to a far away country.

Sadly, well-meaning parents often do not realize the actual reason behind the bitter turn of relationship between them and their married offspring, which could be avoided by a sensible role adjustment on their part. As parents, you can assume the role of a guide and mentor when your children have become adults, as compared to your initial role of a decision-maker when your kids are young and dependent. Here, I would like to share my positive experience with my mother-in-law.

Why do I love my mum-in-law?

Yes, I am sane to state that. No, we are not related. Yes, I have also lived with and without her in the same family unit. But still, after my own mum (which is only natural), I love and admire my mum-in-law the most. And I would like to share with you some remarkable traits she has demonstrated with her four married sons and two married daughters that I have witnessed in fourteen years.

  1. I’ll call you if you are busy/lazy

Being the youngest in my family, I was often careless about establishing family protocol. Hence, when my husband and I got married and started living in our dream home by ourselves, it was quite often very easy to completely forget the world outside this dream. My husband would obviously call up his mum daily and even go to meet her often. But with a full time job, I would wiggle out of the situation and stay at home after work. In all such incidents, my mum-in-law initiated to call me up, just to find out how I was doing, without ever complaining. That embarrassed me so much that gradually I tried to build time to call and meet her up, realizing that it was the only decent thing to do on my part.

  1. I’ll wait and watch if you need my advice

Whenever there was a rift among her offspring and their spouses, I noticed that my mum-in-law didn’t just land from the sky like a paratrooper with custom-made advice for them to follow. She silently waited and watched, allowing petty issues to be resolved by themselves. Only when things started to get out of control or the children sought her advice, did she step in to counsel each party gently without ever taking sides. This, in my sight, is one of the noblest qualities my mum-in-law possesses, for which she is appreciated by all.

  1. I’ll pro-actively care for you

She cared for each soul like no one else ever did. Who would let her daughter-in-law sleep in because she is pregnant and unwell? Who would cook her daughter-in-law’s favourite meals to cheer her up in her baby blues after the delivery? Well, she is an exception by all means.

  1. I’ll let the romance bloom

When I hear horror tales of malice and envy between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, I am stumped. The only experience I had was to see my mum-in-law instructing her sons to take their tired wives for an outing after a hard day’s work. Or, cracking funny jokes with them as a couple, which lifted the mood in the house immediately. I could tell that she was a romantic at heart and loved to see it thrive between her married kids and their spouses.

  1. I’ll be heard because I have heard you

Only because she treated everyone so kindly, everyone wanted to hear her out when she spoke. The family members, old or young, had absolute trust in her. They realized that she would never exploit or betray. So when my mum-in-law lost her temper, no one dared to speak up. In fact, almost everyone agreed with her willingly each time. They didn’t find their independence being challenged. They knew that they had been given a fair chance to think and work as an adult. But the matter required a deeper insight, so mum-in-law was there to help resolve it.

  1. I’ll not tolerate any misgivings in the family

If there was one thing my mum-in-law had no patience for, it was backbiting. She simply hated it, when one of her daughters-in-law wanted to tell on another. She highly discouraged this habit.

  1. Decide for yourself

Whether it was deciding the menu for dinner, décor preferences, name of the very first child, which school to send the children, or planning a family vacation, my mum-in-law granted full freedom to her married children and their spouses to decide on their own. She never felt the least bit insecure, if she wasn’t consulted or simply informed of any decision made by one of her married child’s nuclear family.

Lastly, it’s not that her humble and loving nature always brought her happiness. In spite of being such an accommodating individual, sometimes she has had to face hardships at the hands of her kids. She is an exemplary human being and gives so much love and independence to her kids; hence, she receives a great share of it back. Every son and daughter-in-law welcomes her to come and stay with them. She is not a burden but a wonderful and pleasant company to be with. She is showered with respect and love by all. As a token of our love, we always happily buy generous presents for her.

May Allah (swt) help us appreciate her more, for she is truly the binding force of the family maintaining much peace and tranquility. May Allah (swt) also help us reap rewards by serving her well and earning Jannah eventually, Ameen. I know one day I would aspire to be a mum-in-law just like her – loving unconditionally.

The Slave’s False Claim

slave

Once, a man came to Caliph Mansoor. He complained about another man who, he alleged, was hoarding wealth and weapons for Banu Ummayah.

The Caliph ordered his chief of police to set out and arrest the offender. The police did as told, and soon, the offender was standing before the Caliph.

“We have been informed that you are hoarding wealth and weapons, entrusted to you by Banu Ummayah. We order you to present all the wealth and weapons before us, and turn them over to the state treasury.”

The man calmly asked the Caliph: “Ameer Al-Mumineen! Are you one of the inheritors of Banu Ummayah?”

The Caliph replied in the negative.

The man inquired: “Have Banu Ummayah left a will, saying that you should inherit their wealth and weapons?”

Again, the Caliph answered no.

“Then why are you asking me about their wealth and weapons?” the man queried.

Caliph Mansoor bowed his head. Finally, he said: “Look, Banu Ummayah committed many atrocities against the people and usurped their wealth unlawfully. I only want this wealth, which was confiscated illegally in the first place, to be handed over to the state treasury.”

“Ameer Al-Mumineen!” The man explained. “You need more solid evidence to prove in the court of law that the wealth and weapons, which have been entrusted to me, are indeed the same ones which were confiscated illegally. You do know that Banu Ummayah had personal wealth as well.”

Caliph Mansoor thought for a while and then addressed his chief of police: “This man is absolutely right. We have no authority to take away the wealth which was entrusted to him.”

He turned to the man and said: “If you have any need, speak up.”

The man requested: “I want to see those who complained to you about me. By Allah, I do not have anything belonging to Banu Ummayah – they never entrusted any wealth or weapon to me.”

Caliph Mansoor ordered for the complainant to be presented. When he arrived, the ‘offender’ exclaimed: “This is my slave! He borrowed five hundred Dinars from me and then ran away. I have written proof of this transaction.”

When Caliph Mansoor glared at the complainant, he admitted: “Yes, I am his slave, and I ran away after borrowing the Dinars. Then, I conspired against him and complained to you. I wanted him to be arrested and executed. But Allah (swt) made all my plans unsuccessful.”

“I have gifted the five hundred Dinars to him,” said the man. “And I give him five hundred more for coming here.”

The Caliph appreciated this gesture and both men left. Caliph Mansoor would later remember this man and the way he successfully argued with him.

Adapted (with permission) from “Sunehray Huroof” published by “Darussalam”. Translated and compiled for Hiba by Umm Ibrahim.

Khushu Salah

khushu

Why do most of us find ourselves mentally absent in our prayer? The rituals proceed mechanically, but our hearts and souls are somewhere else. Hence, the communication with Allah (swt) ends with no contact established at all. Our hearts remain restless and our minds stay invaded with satanic thoughts. Our Salah fails to bring any positive impact on our lives.

Khushu Salah is attained through Hudoor Al-Qalb (treasure of the heart) and Fahm (understanding). Discussed below is Hudoor al Qalb:

  1. Araja (hope)

When we face Allah (swt) in Salah, we must believe in His mercy and magnanimity. We must yearn for forgiveness, hoping that even if our sins reach the sky, only Allah (swt) will erase them and renew our faith. This hope acts as a healing balm for broken hearts and de-motivated spirits. In case of an illness, do we long and hope to be healed before visiting a doctor? Imagine – Allah (swt) is the Creator of that doctor, the medicines he will prescribe, and the treatment he will suggest. It is all pre-ordained. Shouldn’t we then only pin all our hopes in Allah (swt) and desperately long for our meeting with him in Salah for all our needs and wants?

  1. Alhaiba (fear and magnificence)

In our worldly lives, we fear many objects and people, due to the danger they pose to us. For instance: naked electric wires, a fierce lion or an absconding criminal. As Muslims, we do not feel threatened or endangered by Allah (swt). Instead, it is the Ilm or knowledge of His infinite power that grants us this feeling of smallness. We feel insignificant before our Creator, realizing the magnitude of His might. For Him, this world is no bigger than a mustard seed, which He can carry on His palm. Comprehending our weakness, we tremble in fear before the majesty of Allah (swt). Naturally, in Salah, when we are standing before such a powerful God, how can we become heedless?

  1. Hubullah (love of Allah (swt))

When we count the blessings bestowed by Allah (swt) on us, we are overwhelmed with love for Him. What He grants us and whatever He prevents us from are all bounties from Him. If a friend gifts us something, don’t we feel a special affection for him/her? Whenever we look at the gift, we begin to think about him/her. Now, imagine the Creator, Who has gifted every single thing in our possession, whether it is our physical body, our abilities, our soul, our feelings, the air we breathe, the sunlight we cherish, the food we relish, the money we spend or the health we enjoy. And this is not even a give and take relationship. Allah (swt) gives in spite of His creation’s disobedience towards Him. Wouldn’t that create a surge of love within a sincere worshipper to express his gratitude towards Allah (swt) at least five times a day for countless bounties in return?

  1. Haya (shyness)

What is a man’s greatest fear? To be exposed for his wrongdoings before others. He tries to keep all his dark secrets behind locked doors. In fact, sometimes we are so ashamed of our certain deeds that we don’t even like to think about them even in solitude. It is as if there is a dark room which we have bolted and do not ever wish to enter. Allah (swt) is the only One, Who knows all, as He is Al-Aleem. When we stand before him in Salah, we realize that there is no veil between our sins and Allah (swt). This should cause us to feel shy and alert. Allah (swt) conceals all the sins of His true believers as He knows how ashamed His slaves are for their past slights. This shyness creates humility in the worshipper, and he bows even lower before his Rabb in Salah.

  1. Kalamahu (conversation with Allah (swt))

How would we feel if someone greeted us cheerfully and before we could even return his salutation, he turns away to occupy himself with other errands? He stays with us, but hardly pays any attention to us. This is probably the condition of our Salah, too. The magical key is to believe that Salah is a conversation between Allah (swt) and His slave. And it takes two to carry out that talk. When we call out “Allahu Akbar” Allah (swt) turns to us. The Lord of the worlds, our Owner, and our Cherisher wants to hear what we have to say to Him. Even for our most important meeting, we dress up, rehearse our conversation and practise beforehand. Imagine Salah as an exclusive meeting between us and our Rabb. Can we think of standing in His court negligently?

An understanding (Fahm) of the translation of all Surahs we recite in our prayer is a must, too. Otherwise, we will never be able to feel our prayers. Ideally, we can select a single Ayat everyday, try to ponder over its meaning and then reflect with deeper understanding. Surely, how long will it take us to do just that? Fifteen minutes at the most, if we are very sincere in our efforts. Can’t we spare even fifteen minutes daily out of the twenty-four hours our Creator has granted us? This will be worth an investment that will almost immediately make a difference to the quality of our prayers and relationship with Allah (swt), Insha’Allah.

It is Salah that helps us express our joys, concerns, bashfulness, confidence, hopes, fears, love and anger in the most appropriate manner. It is not as if Allah (swt) doesn’t know what is going on in our lives. But He has chosen for us to adopt this medium of conversation with Him. We are temporarily disconnected from the hustle and bustle of our worldly lives so that we can enter into quiet serenity with just Him as our Disposer.

May Allah (swt) grant us all Khushu in our Salahs in this beautiful month of Ramadan and beyond. Ameen. The benefits are unimaginable and unexplainable.

Be Observant and Complimentary

enjoy your life

The Prophet (sa) had an observant and caring personality. He would make others feel valued and give them the impression that they were important to him. He valued their efforts, no matter how insignificant they were. When he missed them, he mentioned them with good words, encouraging others to do the same.

There was a dark-skinned lady in Madinah, who was a righteous believer. She used to clean the Masjid. The Prophet (sa) would see her every now and then, and marvel at her keenness. Later, several days went by and the Prophet (sa) did not see her. When he asked about her, his companions said: “She has passed away, O Messenger of Allah.” “Why did you not inform me about this?” replied the Prophet (sa).

The companions began to minimize the importance of her death, saying that she was a poor and obscure person – she was not worthy enough for the Prophet (sa) to be informed about her death. They also said: “She died in the middle of the night, so we did not want to wake you up.”

After her death, the Prophet (sa) was very keen to pray for the woman, even if the people deemed it to be insignificant. He asked his men to lead him to her grave. The Prophet (sa) prayed and said: “These graves are filled with darkness for their dwellers, but Allah (swt) illuminates them when I pray over them.”

Unfortunately, we live in a society where kindness is not valued. But we shouldn’t be discouraged by worrying about what certain others think. I remember another incident that happened to someone I know.

A young man, whom I know, was once invited to a great wedding ceremony, where very important people were also invited. He passed by a marketplace on his way and entered a perfume shop. He pretended that he wanted to buy a perfume. The shopkeeper welcomed him kindly and began to spray various brands on him.

When this friend of ours managed to cover his entire garment with perfume, he said to the shopkeeper, “Thank you very much! If any of these perfumes impress me, I might return to you.”

He then rushed off to the ceremony. He finally arrived and sat next to his friend Khalid, but Khalid did not seem to notice the scent or even pass a comment. This friend of mine then asked Khalid: “Can’t you smell the beautiful scent?”

“No,” he replied.

My friend said: “Your nose must be blocked!”

Upon hearing this, Khalid responded: “If my nose was blocked, I would not have smelt your foul odour!”

Adapted (with permission) from “Enjoy Your Life” published by Darussalam. Compiled for Hiba by Bisma Ishtiaq.

Stand Up for Justice

justice

By Rayed Afzal – Teachers’ trainer and homeschooling father

You might have skipped it the last time, but if you ever get a chance to look at the pictures or the video footage of the first million march that was held to restore the Supreme Court of Pakistan, then look out for five girls catching candies from the trucks full of lawyers on the Murree road of Rawalpindi.

That was near the end of our geography cum history, cum sociology lesson. Did I say lesson? Well, if you bear in mind for a moment that the twelve-hundred-kilometre-long journey we took in our Honda City was part of our five daughters’ education, then it surely was a lesson worth remembering.

It was an exciting time. My late father would have nothing else to discuss at the dinner table, except for the role a strong judiciary plays in the wellbeing of a society. Our five daughters listened to him diligently.

On some days you teach children, while on others you learn from them. It was after dinner. The million march was still a week ahead, and, as usual, dad was going nonstop talking about the merits of a free judiciary, when suddenly, out of nowhere, Safia, then aged twelve, asked: “So, Grandpa, what are you going to do about it?”

The time froze at that moment, as everyone in our living room, sitting or lying leisurely, just got up and started looking at each other. I let the silence rule for a few minutes and then announced: “Let’s go for the Million March!” The girls got up and rushed to pack, without realizing that the departure was still a week away.

We left Karachi early morning. Our first stop was Nawabshah. The car was packed with essentials, foods and books. The family friends in Nawabshah offered us the traditional Sindhi hospitality. The most interesting were the local dignitaries, who were invited for dinner – they wanted to know why we thought restoring judiciary was so important that we were taking up a 1200-kilometre-journey for that purpose.

My five girls listened attentively, while forming some opinions of their own, without uttering anything. The meeting adjourned late and then we all hit the beds for our next part of the journey to Multan. Along the way, the girls learned a few things about banana plantations, sugar mills and cotton fields. We made it a point to stop occasionally to explore such unique experiences as dates drying, cotton picking, etc.

Multan was no different from the previous stop. Hoards of people at my sister-in-law’s house were amazed to see five young girls making a journey just to show their commitment to a cause. Next morning, it was all the way to Rawalpindi, with a stopover at Khewra salt mines. The semi dried terrain of Sindh and rural Punjab were replaced first by green fields of central Punjab and then by the mountains.

We reached Rawalpindi a day before the big day. The next morning, my daughters got up with zeal, knowing that it might be midnight, before they will be able to return home. Each one of us was responsible for arranging a personal potable water bottle, candy bars, caps and reading materials. At nine, the ‘warriors’ came out of the home, all ready to be part of a historical event.

We reached the Constitution Avenue pretty early. Since there was not much to do, we went around sight seeing. “This is where the chief justice belongs,” I remember Grandpa pointing at the Supreme Court building and telling the girls. “And this is where we will make sure he comes,” I remember Maria, then eleven, adding with full conviction. Around lunch time, the excitement was running high – we couldn’t wait for the caravans of people from all walks of life to reach the destination. While taking the last bites of his lunch, Grandpa came up with an idea: “What if we head back to Rawalpindi and meet the carvan at Murree road. We would be the first to welcome them into the twin cities.”

That was an excellent idea. All of us jumped back into the car and headed back to Pindi. The road going towards Pindi was deserted – not a soul was on the road. Once on the Murree Road, we parked the car almost in the middle of the road and waited for the caravans to appear from the opposite direction. For the next two hours, we sat in the car reading, taking a nap or just taking a stroll on the deserted road, while occasionally looking south, hoping to be the first to announce the coming of the caravans.

If there’s ever a silence before the storm, then we surely felt it that day. In the midst of this silence, finally, we could see the trucks moving slowly in our direction. As the caravan got near, the rumbling of trucks was taken over by the chanting of thousands: “Justice Tere Janisar Bay Shumar Bay Shumar” (“Chief Justice, your loyal supporters are numerous!”). The first truck passing us by was so excited to be ‘welcomed’ by five young girls that they threw their flags, banners, fruit juices and toffees at them. That really excited the sisters. They grabbed the flags, got on top of our Honda and waved vigorously. The youngest one (finding no place on the roof) felt at ease on my shoulders, only to come down occasionally to grab candies thrown at her.

The flow of energy between the five girls, who had waited a good six hours for the caravans to reach, and the lawyers, who were on the truck for the last twelve hours, was amazing. My role was reduced to a person introducing people of any significance, passing us by at a distance. Every person wanted the girls to respond to his or her chanting, or catch a candy thrown by him or her. The whole caravan took three hours to cross from start to finish, and my daughters welcomed each one of them, standing the whole time.

Heat, excitement, thrill and learning – it was surely a package deal that day. As a matter of fact, the whole experience has turned much of the typical syllabus books of social studies into a pleasure reading. Girls can relate much of what they read about Pakistan to this particular journey. But more than anything, they have learned to stand up for justice: a learning that’s worth more than what they will learn in a lifetime!

The writer’s research work can be accessed on www.eastonline.com.pk