Oman: The Essence of Arabia

Vol 2 -Issue 4 OmanOman’s capital city Muscat is recognized as one of the cleanest cities in the world. Another city in Oman, called Salalah, is popular for its cold and rainy weather during the summer and for its luscious greenery. During that period, people might even forget that they are in a Middle Eastern country and confuse it for Europe. But our fascination does not end there.

Located in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman enjoys a variety of landscapes. Mountains, deserts, and beaches are a few examples of this great diversity. While Oman strives for modernity and development, traditions and culture remain an important part of its identity.  Because of this, Oman is frequently called “The Essence of Arabia.” The country is certainly full of surprises, and together we will discover some of its hidden treasures. So, welcome to Oman!

Restaurants

The restaurants in Oman are many, ranging from European cuisines to Arabian and Asian. Let us then whet our appetite with some examples.

Bin Ateeq 

What is unique about this restaurant is that you can dine in a room of your own with a TV in it.  Its specialty is Omani food, and favorites include Biryani, Kabsa, Thareed and Arsiya.

Mumtaz Mahal

This is an Indian restaurant with magnificent views that look out over the city of Muscat. A variety of Indian food is served and particularly that of the Moghul Empire.

Tuscany

In a friendly atmosphere, this restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine and provides both the traditional and popular Italian food, varying from heavy dishes to the lighter ones.

China Mood

Whoever is in the mood for Chinese food should visit this restaurant. Many of the ingredients also come directly from China to ensure high quality.

Tours and Activities

Oman offers its visitors a variety of tours and activities. Many people enjoy boat rides, dolphin watching, rock climbing, hiking, horse-back riding, diving and snorkeling, sand skiing, and even camping out.

Parks

All the parks in Oman are free to enter. You will notice a number of families enjoying a picnic, as their children play in the playground. The largest park is the Qurum Natural Park, which can be seen from distance with its dazzling ‘waterfall hill’.

Forts and Castles

There are over 500 forts, castles, and towers in Oman, which are regarded as the most remarkable cultural attractions. Historically, they have been used to guard and defend the people. Their architectural styles differ depending on their architects and the periods they were built in. Some of the forts are Al-Jalali fort, Al-Mirani fort, Rustaq fort, Nizwa fort, Jibreen fort, and Bahla fort.

Bahla fort is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Some of the castles are Al-Hazm castle, Mirbat castle, and Al-Khandaq castle. These historical places must surely have many stories to tell.

Museums

Bait al Zubair

Even though this is Oman’s newest museum, it has quickly gained repute. The museum has a vast collection of ancient Omani weaponry, jewellery, costumes, and household equipment. Visitors will also enjoy a traditional Omani village and Souq.

The National Museum

It exhibits collections of ancient Omani art, including Omani silverwork, jewellery, costume, and pottery. It also outlines the Al-Said dynasty with pictures of the five Al-Said Sultans.

The Natural History Museum

Here you will find an interesting display of Oman’s wildlife and marine life. For example, showcased are the country’s indigenous species. There is also a botanical garden, which is especially great to visit during the cooler days.

The Omani Museum

Founded in 1974, it exhibits the history of Oman through pictures, jewellery, costumes, and pottery. Included is also a wealth of archaeological information along with data about Oman’s minerals, agricultural methods, and unique architecture.

The Children’s Museum

Children also like to have their share of fun. In this blue and white domed museum, they are introduced to the world of science in an interactive and exciting way.

The Grand Mosque

The building of this mosque lasted for six years from 1995 to 2001. It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers and consists of the main prayer hall, the ladies prayer hall, a meeting hall, and a library. The mosque is also surrounded by many trees and has a picturesque garden. Besides the artistic interior designing, one of the major features of the mosque is the hand-made Persian carpet in the main prayer hall. It took four years to complete the carpet with 600 female weavers working on it. In addition, the mosque has an Islamic Studies institute and holds many Islamic events.

Salalah Khareef Festival

Khareef is the Arabic word for autumn. Each summer, the city of Salalah holds a Khareef festival (usually during July and August). This is a must-see attraction, and it has become greatly popular among the Gulf nationals, expatriates, and foreign tourists. Visitors are dazzled with its autumn-like climate during the summer along with its breathtaking natural scenes of soaring mountains, plentiful greenery, and spectacular flowers.

Shopping

Modern shops and traditional shops (or Souqs) are within easy reach. Most of the malls are located in the capital, Muscat. However, many of the visitors are interested in the Souqs, where they will find Omani traditional goods, ranging from clothing to frankincense. A well-known Souq is Souq Matrah, which attracts many tourists. Make sure you learn the skill of bargaining before heading to the Souq. It will certainly save you some money!

Discovering Oman

Many tourists keep coming back to visit Oman and to discover more of its treasures. What inspires them is the country’s safety and tranquility along with its balance between modernity and traditions. Yet, most importantly, many people keep coming back because of the great hospitality and the friendly Omanis.

Shariah Rulings on Smoking

smokingNaissance of Tobacco

Most likely, Mexicans were the first ones to know about tobacco – over 2500 years ago. A Spanish explorer brought the tobacco plant from Mexico to Spain during the reign of King Philip II. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, smoking became quite common all over Europe.

It was through Europe that Africans and Asians learnt about smoking. A Jewish man carried tobacco to Morocco and the neighbouring Arab countries towards the end of the 10th century after Hijra (16th century AD), while a Christian took it all the way from England to Turkey. It reached Egypt, the Hijaz, and the countries of central Africa.

Rulings on Smoking

According to Dr. Ahmed Al-Haji Al-Kardi: “Smoking has not been mentioned during the period of Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence), in which the Shariah was formalized and classified. However, following generations of Fiqh scholars took it upon themselves to study the practice of smoking, since it appeared to be an underlying cause of increasing occurrences of acts of disobedience.”

This was certainly not an impediment. However, scholars have not reached a consensus. Some consider it Haram (forbidden), while others – Makrooh (disliked). Each opinion mentions the sins, with which smoking is associated, and justifies it with Daleel (proof). Following is an analysis of the ruling that considers smoking Haram and substantiates this claim. Allah knows best.

Smoking Being Haram

Based on research, medical doctors report that smoking is harmful to health in general and is the cause of some 25 different illnesses. Hence, scholars categorize it as Haram, based on Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “There should be no damage made and no causing of damage” (Ibn Majah). Besides, Allah in Quran forbids believers to harm themselves: “And do not kill yourselves (or one another). Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful.” (An-Nisa 4:29)

Tobacco kills a smoker every eight seconds. Generally, smokers are known to die 10 to 12 years earlier than non-smokers. According to data released by World Health Organization (WHO), every year tobacco kills 4.9 million people worldwide. About 500 million people alive today will be eventually killed by tobacco.

The FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) requires all tobacco companies to cover at least 30% of every cigarette pack with health warnings and to ban euphemistic adjectives, such as ‘light’ or ‘mild,’ to describe cigarettes. Even those, who manufacture it, concede to this requirement, because they are aware that smoking is injurious to health.

Tobacco contains intoxicating drugs, and all intoxicants are Haram. Umm Salamh says: “The Prophet of Allah (sa) forbade every intoxicant and everything that produces languor” (Abu Dawood).

Smoking causes bad breath, which is not permissible. This is justified by the Hadeeth narrated by Jabir: “The angels dislike, whatever the children of Adam dislike.” (Muslim)

For passive smokers, the danger of smoke doesn’t lessen. For this very reason even in secular countries, such as USA, no-smoking zones have been created not to jeopardize public health.

Smoking is a waste, and waste is Haram. The following Quranic verses support this: “.. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shaitan…” (Al-Isra 17:26-27)

Economically the downside to smoking is copious. In countries, such as USA, medical care for smoking-related illnesses costs about USD50 billion annually. Pakistan government cannot even dream of spending this kind of money on healthcare, though similar illnesses cost exorbitantly households, which have patients suffering from smoking-related diseases.

In the developing nations, where food is scarce, fertile land is used to cultivate tobacco for the top five consumers of the world: China, Japan, USA, Russia, and Indonesia. The poor simply go hungry. Many middle class people spend a large proportion of their income on tobacco rather than food.

In developed nations, careless disposal of cigarettes has been a leading cause for starting forest fires.

Pakistan — A Haven for Tobacco Industry

Dr. Zubair Shaheen reported in Dawn, how the tobacco industry has discovered a haven in many developing countries, where the regulations are often lax. To capture emerging markets, they lower the prices, advertise generously, and promote their product, especially among the youth. Pakistan Paediatric Association states that 1,000 to 1,200 children between the ages of six and sixteen years take up smoking every day.

Pakistan has ratified the FCTC, which is the world’s first global agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control. Issues addressed in the FCTC include tobacco advertising, promotion, smuggling, taxes, cessation, treatment, passive smoking, and tobacco product regulations.

The government of Pakistan has promulgated the ordinance entitled “Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002” aimed to restrict the promotional campaigns of tobacco industry. These restrictions, though partial in nature, are the first statutory move towards restricting smoking. There is urgent need now for effective implementation of laws and regulations.

Ironically, according to Pakistna Tobacco Corporation, since 1947 Pakistan has earned approximately Rs.54 billion worth of revenue. It also offers jobs to nearly 2 million individuals. This can be a temptation for the government to look the other way.

The Irreversible Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

The American Council on Science and Health has disclosed the following ailments that can affect smokers:

Respiratory System

Smoking is a cause of lung cancer. It directly irritates and damages the respiratory tract, leading to bad breath, cough, sputum production, and wheezing.

Heart and Circulation

It is also responsible for Atherosclerosis (the progression of fatty deposits in the carotid artery) and Cerebrovascular accident or stroke that causes brain damage.

Eyes and Vision

Macular degeneration (irreversible form of blindness) and cataracts (clouding of the lenses) are some of the results of smoking.

Mouth and Throat

Smoking can lead to mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer, gum disease, tooth loss, and   permanent damage to the larynx tissues.

Digestive Organs

Smoking decreases esophageal sphincter pressure leading to esophagitis and to permanent esophageal stricture. It is also a risk factor for pancreatic and colon cancer.

Musculoskeletal System

Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones due to loss of bone minerals) in women and spinal disk disease in both sexes can be developed by smokers.

Reproduction

Infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth are more common among smokers. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is another risk factor.

The Skin

Smoking causes premature facial wrinkling through vasoconstriction of the capillaries of the face.

As rational humans, none of us would dare to consume poison, since we realize it will lead us to instant death. However, we ignore all the warnings that do not have an instant impact, such as puffing cigarettes. Whether smoking is a need, social practice, or a stress reliever, kick the habit for lifetime, before you become a statistic, too. No further evidence or debate is required to prove that if you smoke, you are on your way to taking your own life.

Discipline – Noise Control

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Discipline-Noise controlDiscipline is a common challenge for teachers both new and old. Structure and fairness combined with clear goals and lesson planning in a caring, non-threatening environment are the keys to effective and successful teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, even if you are the most experienced teacher. Through each situation there is a lesson to be learned. Here are some suggestions and ideas for disciplining students and controlling the noise level in classrooms.

Quiet Lights

When the class gets too noisy, switch off all the classroom lights and fans. When the children realize that the room has suddenly turned dark, you have their attention. They will see you at the switch with your finger on your lips gesturing them to be quiet and understand that they need to stop making noise and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do it too often or it won’t be as effective.

Cooperative Coloured Circles

When working with cooperative groups, you can keep the noise level under control by using colored circles. If a group is on a task and use quiet voices, give them a green circle. If they need to be reminded about the noise level, give them a yellow circle. If a group is way off from the task, give them a red circle and step in to give them assistance. This is a great way to model appropriate behavior, when you are just beginning to establish group rules. It also saves time, because it does not interrupt the entire class, when one group is off track.

Appropriate ‘Talking Times’

Students love to have time to talk. In order to keep them from doing it during instruction, you can apply the ‘My Time’ strategy. During ‘My Time,’ students must pay attention. They neither can talk nor disturb others, who are paying attention. At the end of class, ‘Their Time’ is the last five minutes, when they can talk amongst themselves.

Awesome Noise Control

Write the word ‘awesome’ on the board. When there is noise in the class, erase a letter starting backwards. If the class makes it to break time with the word intact, they sit where they like. If not, they are assigned seats. If they lose the entire word by the end of the day, they are deprived of their lunch break. If the entire word was intact at the end of the day, they are rewarded with 15 extra rewards for the next day. With each next day you will notice an improvement.

Waiting Cards

You can use numbered cards to organize students, who need her individual attention. Laminate the cards made for your classroom and place them in order in a basket. When you are busy talking to someone, a student can come up, take a card, and go back to the seats instead of waiting in line. When you are finished with one student, you can call on the next number and conference with that student.

Safekeeping Box

Sometimes children bring things from home to play with, which, of course, distracts them. You can resolve this problem by creating a safekeeping box. Take a medium-sized box with a lid, decorate it, and put a label on the box that says ‘Items in safekeeping, to be returned later.’ When you see children playing with something that is distracting them, ask them to put it in the safekeeping box and let them know that they can retrieve their item at the end of the day. This validates their personal treasures and assures their return. Additionally, it cuts down on distractions in the classroom, as the students quickly learn to avoid having things put into the box.

Quote the Student

When trying to convince a student to change his or her behavior, you will benefit from framing a persuasive message that quotes the student. You can say: “Danish, you said something the other day that I can’t get out of my mind,” or “Something you said made me start thinking.” You’ll find that many students, who appear to be non-listeners, will be intrigued, when you use this personalized technique. As a result, they will not be able to resist listening and responding to what you have to say.

General Discipline Tips

(1)   Over-correction

There are two types of over-correction procedures that you may be familiar with. During restitution training, a student is required to improve. For example, if Erum writes on the wall, she is required to clean the whole wall, instead of just the space she wrote on. The other type of positive practice involves the student practicing the correct response repeatedly. If Sana turns in an assignment that is too sloppy to read, she must not only redo that task but do better.

(2)   Questioning Behavior

When a student has a discipline problem, just ask him / her to answer the four questions on the discipline questionnaire:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. Why wasn’t my action acceptable?
  3. What should I have been doing instead?
  4. What will I do in the future?

Then, mail the form home to the child’s parents. This system forces students to own up to their actions.

(3)   Behavior Notebook

Keep track of irresponsible student conduct by assembling a 3-ring notebook and dedicating a page per student at the beginning of the school year. On the first day of school, show the students their blank pages and challenge them to keep them blank the whole year. Here’s how it works. When a student breaks one of the rules set for the class – (of course, make these known at the onset of the school year), – that student must go to the behavior notebook and write a brief explanation. If you agree with the assessment, sign and date it. Send it home with the report card at the end of the marking period. If a student has a blank page all year, send home the original blank page with a heartwarming note of praise for good behavior all year long.

Sukuk

Vol 2 -Issue 4 SukukWhat is Islamic Sukuk?

Bonds are fixed income securities that promise the holder a specified set of payments. A bond investor has lent money to the bond issuer. In return, the issuer of the bond promises to pay interest and repay the principal on maturity.

Islamic Sukuk is a form of debt financing structured under the rules of Shariah. Sukuk are term finance certificates (TFC) of equal value representing undivided shares in ownership of assets of a particular project or special investment activity.

Difference between Sukuk and Conventional Bonds

The basic difference between conventional bonds and Sukuk lies in the way they are structured and floated. In the conventional system of bond issue and trading, the element of ‘interest’ is at the centre of all transactions. Sukuk, on the other hand, are structured in such a way that the issue is asset backed and is based on “an exchange of approved asset for some financial consideration” that allows the investors to earn lawful profits from transactions. The underlying asset, contract, and payment mechanism of the Sukuk while being commercially viable, has to be aligned with the requirements of the Shariah.

Types of Sukuk

Thus, the issuance of Sukuk requires an exchange of a Shariah compliant underlying asset for a financial consideration through the application of various Islamic commercial contracts, such as the Mudarabah, Musharakah, Ijarah, Istisna’, Salam, and Murabahah. The equity-based nature of Mudarabah and Musharakah Sukuk exposes investors to the risks connected with the performance of the project for which the financing is raised. In contrast, issuance of Sukuk on principles of Ijarah and Murabahah yields deterministic receivable and hence result in predictable and somewhat fixed returns for the prospective investors.

Mechanism of Ijarah Sukuk

The Ijarah Sukuk  is one of the most popular concepts among issuers of global Islamic Sukuk. The structure of Ijarah Sukuk can be understood from this example. If a corporation requires, for example, USD50 million for the purchase of land, real asset, equipment, aircraft, etc., it can issue Ijarah Sukuk equalling that amount in small denominations, say USD10,000 each. The firm then either purchases the asset on behalf of the Sukuk holders (investors or certificate holders) or transfers the ownership of the already acquired asset to Sukuk holders by establishing a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which owns the underlying assets. The investors or Sukuk holders, own the shares of this SPV. The asset is then leased back to the firm and the lease proceeds from the asset are distributed to the Sukuk holders as dividend. The returns on the Sukuk certificates, or shares of the SPV, could be either fixed or floating. The expected returns (pre-determined rental payments) are fixed and can be treated as predictable like the coupon payments of a conventional bond.

Ijarah Sukuk can be issued through a financial intermediary, a bank, a brokerage house or directly by the users of the lease asset. A third party can also guarantee rental payments, and since the yield is predetermined and the underlying assets are not liquid but tangible and secured, the Ijarah certificate can be freely traded in the secondary markets at par, premium or discount.

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