The Storm

Jan 11 - The storm

By Abdul Malik Al-Qasim

These were the most exciting days of my life; the countdown to my wedding. Everything had been prepared a week earlier than the wedding date. I was now engrossed in blissful dreams. I started spending some quiet time at my new home, envisioning my life there with my wife.

One day, as I was having tea and reading a newspaper at my new home, I came across an article, which highly recommended a full medical examination for those, who were about to get married. I decided to give it a try.

The first step was inevitably a blood test to ascertain that everything was alright. I gave my blood and then went back to collect the results three days later. I was quite sure that this whole exercise had been a waste of time. I was beginning to wonder what had possessed me to undergo the medical examination, when I realized that the doctor was looking at me gravely. He said: “You have blood cancer.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Shock and denial was written all over my face. “Don’t fear anything, it’s just a suspicion,” said the doctor. “We’ll just repeat this test.” I couldn’t move. The doctor helped me stand, but I collapsed and started breathing heavily, unsure whether I was still alive.

The doctor examined me and tried to assure me that everything depended on the results of the second test. But I was no longer listening. I was overwhelmed with misery and worry. As I was driving my car home, I stopped at the side of road and closed my eyes. I thought about myself, my family and… her. What will I tell her? If the tests confirmed my ailment, should I tell her or stay silent? Sooner or later, I would have to decide, whether there should be a wedding or not. Inevitably, I couldn’t sleep that night.

In the morning, I headed towards the lab and gave another blood sample. Maybe it was all a mistake, I thought. But a nagging feeling told me there was something terribly wrong.

The next three days were the longest in my life. I cared about nothing but the results of the test. Those I met said: “Your face has changed. Is this a face of a groom? It looks like you are over-anxious about your wedding. Are you scared? It’s going to be ok!”

They all seemed in a world utterly different from mine. I cancelled my visits and appointments. I even ceased buying what remained of the furniture for my new home. I didn’t want to see anyone. Whenever I saw my mother, I would think of the tears she would shed at my funeral. Whenever I saw my father, I would grieve.

On the third day, I had calmed down and made some crucial decisions. If I have blood cancer, I will disclose it to my fiancé and call off the wedding.

I reached the clinic well before time. Finally, the results arrived and I was summoned by the doctor. He opened the envelope and started to read. I had started to shiver, as if it was freezing winter. Yet, I sweated profusely and tried to catch my breath. The doctor finished reading, looked up and congratulated me. I was stunned and requested him to read the report again. It was all a mistake. I was alright! The wedding could go ahead as planned!

I came out exhilarated, greeting everyone I met. I went home quickly. Winter was still inside me and the sweat on my forehead was very obvious. Reaching my family’s home, I hugged and kissed my mother. She noticed my exhaustion and joy and curiously asked: “What’s the matter with you, son?”

I handed them the envelope that explained everything. “You didn’t tell us anything,” mocked my brother.

I smiled…

Man is weak but is a proud tyrant.

A small virus, a microscopic organism can knock him down.

He fears death but does nothing for it.

Gets very happy at his health and well-being

But never gets benefit out of it.

Time goes on and he is subjected to several trials, but…

He always in the end… dies.

But you, my dear,

You are sent back to life.

Every morning, when you are up from bed,

You are sent back to life.

But someday you are to die, too.

Here, look! There is still time.

Therefore, go and do something for it,

Before it’s too late.

Translated for “Hiba” by Tasneem Rajab

Musings on the Flood

Pakistan Floods

By Maryam Sakeenah

One stands the risk of being dubbed illiberal and unenlightened, if one sees in the deluge that has drowned one-fifths of the country the hand of Allah. The floods have, among other things, again brought to the fore the gaping ideological split that cuts across Pakistani society, making it deeply fractured and polarised. The flood and the way we choose to look at it raises some fundamental questions that strike at the heart of our very self-definition and our worldview – in fact, our very identity.

Pakistan’s clique of English writers flaunting liberal credentials are clearly irked by those, who insist on seeing the flood as Allah’s handiwork, and emphatically stress on the fact that inanimate nature and its ‘inhumane’ forces act mechanically and indiscriminately.

On the other end of the divide are the ‘punishment theorists’, whose understanding that the floods are Allah’s anger unleashed on a sinful people does not really sit well. It is both arrogant and ignorant to brand everyone with the same iron. There is a certain unease and discomfort for a thinking mind to buy the theory. The problem with the punishment theory arises, when it leads one to indiscriminate judgement rather than self-reflection; and when it deflects emphasis from the actual, material factors and ground realities directly responsible for wreaking a tragedy of these dizzying proportions: that no dams have been built in the country for years, that in a routinely flood-prone country there is no proper flood management system in place, and that we have not been sufficiently alerted to the very real effects of the global climate change.

Both perspectives are reductionist and lop-sided. The liberal view can be blamed for ignoring the normative dimension and failing to appreciate the worth of the realization of one’s powerlessness and the humbling it brings. It ignores the understanding central to the Muslim worldview that everything that happens must be seen as a piece in the divinely-laid scheme of things. Every occurrence fits into the mural of Allah’s plan; that there are no random accidents, no meaningless chaos or anarchy in nature. Nature is Allah’s (swt) manifestation, and its processes are by His design.

The punishment theorists, on the other hand, oversimplify a complex, multi-faceted reality in order to make sense of an inordinate phenomenon.

What is ignored in the process is the insight offered by some basic religious texts that deal with the subject. For one, the Quran talks at great length of natural calamity and cites historical instances of punishment through natural disasters to rebellious peoples. However, it has to be understood that within the framework of Allah’s (swt) absolute justice, punishment becomes justified only when the truth has been clearly established and vindicated, and falsehood exposed for all to see; and when the choice between truth and falsehood has been made in complete earnest by all. This criterion was fulfilled in the lifetimes of prophets. Hence, the utter rejection and hostility after full knowledge of a prophet’s message warranted divine punishment. With the ending of the line of prophethood, this is no longer the case. Hence, it is erroneous to see a natural calamity in this day and age as wholesale, all-out, indiscriminate punishment to its victims of the kind the scriptures talk about.

Natural calamity after the time of prophets functions as a reminder to the mankind of their vulnerability, as opposed to the power of the universal Sovereign and of the transience of life; it serves to revive in the hearts of people that Allah-consciousness, awe and fear so necessary to cut them down to size when they tend to get out of their boots. It functions as a test of faith, of patience and of human capacity to heal, help and alleviate the suffering of the fellow humans.

Another dimension that needs to be brought into focus is that Allah, in His infinite mercy, recompenses every iota of suffering borne by His slaves, and that people of faith, who lose their lives in accidents, disasters and calamities, are blessed with the ranks of martyrdom. Clearly, being struck by a calamity does not make one less fortunate or more deserving of Allah’s wrath. This understanding infuses in the Muslim’s heart compassion towards the sufferers.

A tradition attributed to Aisha (rta) sheds light on the matter with amazing precision. When asked, how natural calamities were to be interpreted, she said: “(It is) A punishment for the disbelievers and a reminder to the believers.” (From the audio “Natural Disasters” by Shaikh Faisal Abdullah)

What this makes clear is that there can be no generalizations and no judgement, for the knowledge of the state of belief in people’s hearts lies with Allah (swt) alone, and whether a calamity becomes a punishment or a test for those affected by it and those witnessing it depends on every individual’s inner state, which is impossible to judge by any outsider. It is our attitude towards a calamity (whether we respond to it with patience and learn from it the right lessons, or whether our hearts remain hard and unyielding) that makes it either a punishment or a reminder for us. If we humble ourselves and acquire the courage and faith to say: “…To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return” (Al-Baqarah 2:156), we will emerge triumphant out of every calamity. Such an indomitable spirit cannot be crushed by any calamity of whatever magnitude.

Out of an instinctive aversion to a ‘not-so-liberal’ worldview, the ‘liberal Fatwa’ on the flood by our dogmatic liberals misses the essential point. It fails to appreciate the value of understanding ourselves as underlings to a Greater Power – an understanding that humbles and imbues us with a sense of responsibility, as we conduct ourselves in life, and a Allah-consciousness that makes us constantly strive to better ourselves; that gives us resilience and stoicism in the face of trial as well as compassion towards fellow human beings; that makes us conscious of our greater purpose and that at the end of the day we all are to stand in the court of the ultimate Sovereign with nothing but ourselves; that “…His Grasp is over all vision… and He is… Well Acquainted with all things.” (Al-Anam 6:103)

“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

Swept Away

  • The number of people affected by the floods exceeds 20 million.
  • 1500 people lost their lives, along with millions of animals and livestock.
  • Roughly 160,000 square kilometres of area has been affected by the floods.
  • Structural damages are estimated to exceed $4 billion.
  • Damages to the wheat crop are estimated to be over $500 million.

(Source: http://www.pakistanpaedia.com)

Together in Dunya; Together in Jannah

Jan 11 - Together in Duniya together in Jannah

Grandma could handle France’s snow but not 2003’s killer heat-wave. Her family went on vacation, leaving her alone. Her body, in a refrigerated truck, remained unclaimed like four hundred others, awaiting burial till vacation was over.

Welcome to family-life in the ‘developed’ world: parents in old-homes, children in day-cares and couples in divorce-battles!

Are we following them or Islam’s strong family-system?

Parents

Abu Muhammad’s father worked for the police in the Middle East. He was required to arrive in shiny shoes, but the path to work was sandy. To save dad from walking bare-footed, Abu Muhammad carried him to the workplace in his arms. With little wealth but much faith, Abu Muhammad died in 2010. His wife praised him; his brothers called him ‘shakkar’ (sugar). and his children loved him. He prayed in the Masjid despite poor health, fed the needy and strove to raise children uprightly – waking them for Fajr, reading Quran to them, reminding them to read it and telling them that Salah and Quran will avail them. If sometimes his child didn’t listen, he would respond: “I will do Sabr (exercise patience).” This would soften the child. When a close relative usurped his property, he forgave him.

Love and fear of Allah (swt) inspires such a family-life. A family is a society’s foundation. Can it earn us Jannah?

Our parents love us and toil for us the most. Are we grateful to them? Despite their shortcomings, their rights remain topmost, second only to Allah’s (swt). I know of a brother, who would say to his hot-tempered father: “You are a king. You may speak as you wish.” Our mothers cleaned us some five thousand times by the time we were four. We have to serve our parents, too. Do we consult them? Consultation pleases them and benefits us. Do we prefer friends over parents or wife over mother? Are the charms of a foreign country making us desert them? Phone and the Internet substitute poorly for physical presence.

Marriage

Marriage! Marry young. Marry the one strong in Deen. Your spouse is a garment – close, protective and beautifying. As a wife, accept the husband’s high status established by Allah (swt). Ensuring his happiness secures your happiness and Aakhirah. Obedience endears you to him and eases entry into Jannah through any gate. Be grateful to him for all he does, unlike the women of Hell.

As a husband, realize that Allah (swt) will question you about how you treated your wife. Society may sanction the mistreatment of women; Islam won’t. Emulate Rasoolullah’s (saw) loving, kind, appreciative, light-hearted and helpful behaviour towards his wives. Lower your gaze and enjoy each other exclusively. Shaitan’s top priority is wrecking marriages. Make marriage a top priority.

Our in-laws are our relatives. Our relations with them affect our marriage and children. Both Muslim men and women need to treat in-laws nicely. We need to sift faith from culture, though. Certain customs run contrary to Islamic ideals. A daughter-in-law may be expected to serve her in-laws at the cost of her husband or children. Certain family setups take away the couple’s marital privacy and hinder a Muslimah from beautifying herself for her husband.

Children

As a couple, you raise the future Mumins. A critical job indeed! Several forces are enticing women to join the workplace. Western women have blundered already. Let us not follow a similar path. Allah (swt) will question women about their homes and children. Only women can perform this vital service for the Ummah. And only fools will consider home-making inferior.

Are we raising children Rasoolullah’s (sa) way – with love, attention, patience and responsibility? Are we modeling Islam for them? Are we instilling a love of Jihad in them? Are we saving them from Hell-fire or worrying mostly for their Dunya? In the name of good education, are they growing up ignorant of Islam? Are weapons of Iman-destruction their favorite companions? Are we gifting them Halal alternatives, or making them assume Islam is a list of don’ts? Are we establishing Islam in our homes with Hikmah? Let’s imprint the following verse in our hearts and implement it Rasoolullah’s (saw) way:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Is our love of family within bounds? Is Allah (swt) our Love # 1? The Mumins, mentioned in the following verse, lived with fear among their family members:

“Saying: ‘Aforetime, we were afraid with our families (from the punishment of Allah). But Allah has been gracious to us, and has saved us from the torment of the Fire.” (At-Tur 52:26-27)

The losers described in the following verse lived with joy only:

“Verily, he was among his people in joy!” (Al-Inshiqaq 84:13)

Do we maintain a balance between family members, between work and family, between family and other Muslims, for we are part of the Ummah family, too? How about our grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins? Are we fulfilling their rights, sharing time and wealth? Nay, been ages since we called them! Are we stockpiling grudges? Breaking ties is a ticket to Hell.

Do we take our family for granted? Are we horrid at home and sweet outside? Our behaviour at home is the gauge of our goodness. Do we justify bad behaviour, saying that our family has wronged us? We shall not bear the burden of their sins. Like the sane student, I have to do MY best in MY exam-paper.

Let the change at home begin with us. Let’s forgive. Let’s thank and apologize. Let’s achieve with gentleness, what cannot be achieved with harshness. Let’s replace anger with patience and humour. Let’s rejoice at their good deeds, instead of focusing on faults. Together in Dunya, together in Jannah is a goal worth toiling for!

Islam’s Secret to Contentment

Jan 11 - Islam's Secret to contentment

By J. Samia Mair

“Consider well contentment, for it is a treasure without end.” (Al-Tabarani)

I am not sure anything satisfies me more than those rare occasions, when I experience a sudden intellectual breakthrough and spiritual advancement. This recently happened to me, when I was rereading a passage from one of my favourite books on Islam: “Those, who learn the lesson being taught by the Quran, understand that there is nothing they can do about their worldly lot, so they put their effort into improving their lot in the next world.”

I was immediately reminded of the following Hadeeth: “God has preordained five things for every man He has created: his period of life, his action, his lying down, his moving about and his provision.” (Ahmad) I thought about how different my aspirations are now that I am a Muslim.

Growing up, I was taught that God did not exist and religious people were fools. My parents wanted me to get a good job, make a lot of money, live in a big house and be happy. But what is happiness? Recently, I was visiting a Muslim sister, who said: “religion should be easy and make you happy in this life.” I disagreed. We obey Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) for the next world and eternal bliss. Submission is not always easy nor does it always make us happy – but it can make us content.

Our beloved Prophet (sa) taught us how to be content: “When one of you looks at someone who is superior to him in property and appearance, he should look at someone who is inferior to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Our provision, appearance and lot in life have already been decreed. We should be content and grateful with what Allah (swt) has provided us. He (swt) knows what is best and what will lead us to Paradise.

If anyone would have told me growing up that I would someday be a Muslim, wear a Hijab and cherish learning about Allah (swt) and how to obey Him (swt), I would have laughed out loud. I do not have most of what my parents had wished for me: I stay home raising my girls; I occasionally earn some money by writing; and I live in a two-bedroom apartment. But as it turns out, I am happier than they are, and more than I could have imagined.

Every day, I try to thank Allah (swt) for bringing me to Islam. Faith is a gift, and I did nothing special to deserve it. In fact, I could name many others, who appear far more deserving of this blessing than me. I am truly content with Allah (swt) as the Lord, Islam as the religion and with Muhammad (sa) as the Prophet and the Messenger.