Where is Usama (rtam)?


At the age of seventeen years, young Usama bin Zaid (rtam) heads an army under the newly-formed caliphate of Abu Bakr Siddiq (rtam). He was appointed by none other than the beloved Prophet (sa) while he was alive. Usama (rtam) rises to the occasion, leading much more experienced (and perhaps more pious) stalwarts in his army and successfully combats the enemy. How long has it been since we have heard of feats of leadership like that? Given today’s wondrous technology, opportunities, exposure to the world, and efforts in education, why don’t we see any Usama bin Zaid (rtam) amongst us?

My humble experience tells me that our Usamas are being raised with a different vision, and I am deeply concerned. I see their roles being reduced to that of insecure followers. They are not Iqbal’s Shaheens anymore. They are just one of the flock, and they are not trained to soar the skies. And the tragedy of it all is that they consider this to be their freedom: traversing territory already charted out for them, at times by their parents, at times by their desires, and many times by the society at large. Chances are that the higher your education level is, the more cowardly you will turn out to be because that is what the present educational system demands. It does not want free-thinking souls, liberated by their subservience to Allah (swt) alone.

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Healthy Grocery Shopping – The Key to Healthy Living

grocery shoppingThe grocery store is an adult’s entertainment resort, similar to what Disneyland is for a child. You have before you a warehouse full of food, a big trolley, and plastic money to swipe. You see at the store young adults, bachelors, newlyweds, the not-so-newlyweds, new parents, grandparents, and children. Some are busy on the phone getting last minute instructions and confirmations. Others take their time to pause at each shelf and read the labels. With a look of fascination or bewilderment, they go aisle-by-aisle exploring the supermarket.

The trolley is loaded with raw ingredients, frozen food, ready-to-cook meals, instant foods, cereal boxes, syrups, sugary treats, bread spreads, cake mixes, and what not. The food looks (deceptively) healthy, they assure themselves as they push their trolley to the check-out counters.

We make a few mistakes while going for grocery shopping. Most people do go with a shopping list in hand but the question is do we stick to it, and how much?

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Book Reviews (Women Power)


Title: Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage

Author: Sadaf Farooqi

Publisher: International Islamic Publishing House (IIPH)

Pages: 195

Availability: Da’wah Books, Khadda Market, DHA Phase 5, Karachi / IIPH Online Store (www.iiph.com.sa)

Are you getting married or know anybody who is about to ‘tie the knot’? Do consider investing in this informative book by Hiba’s seasoned writer, Sadaf Farooqi, who has done extensive Quran and Sunnah based research into the topic of marriage and Muslim family life.

The book consists of nineteen chapters, leading the readers through the full range of family-related topics: lessons for single Muslims, guidelines on marital intimacy and tips for the expecting Muslims, advice for Muslim parents, insights into living in a joint family system and many more. The writer tackles such debated topics as the Hoor al-Een of Paradise and discusses the contemporary causative factors and issues of divorce. The book concludes on a refreshingly optimistic note – you live only once so start living your life.

In this book, you will find an up-to-date comprehensive guide for overcoming the trials of marital life and building a long-lasting, loving relationship between a husband and a wife.

Title: Great Women of Islam (who were given the good news of Paradise)

Author: Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar

Publisher: Darussalam

Availability: Darussalam showroom and online shop

Online: http://d1.islamhouse.com/data/en/ih_books/single/en_Great_Women_of_Islam.pdf

In this book, Mahmood Ahmad Ghandafar showcases a treasured collection to the readers – the stories of the Mothers of Believers and sixteen other women companions of the Prophet (sa) who, during their lifetime only, were given the glad tidings of being admitted to Paradise.

The book starts with a general chapter on the achievements of women companions, enumerating their successes in the fields of religion, politics, education, fine arts, trade and commerce. The subsequent chapters bring detailed life stories of the Prophet’s (sa) wives and other Sahabiyat.  The author underlines the very active and courageous nature of the women of the time, who nursed the wounded soldiers at the battlefield and worked extensively on the spreading Islam to disbelievers.

The book is an excellent resource for studying the characters of these great women and the qualities which have granted them the elevated status of being admitted to Paradise. Muslim women of any age will find in it role models they can follow and emulate, Insha’Allah.

Changing One’s Personality

enjoy your life

By Dr. Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman Al-Arifi – Prominent figure in the field of Dawah and author of more than twenty published works

The diversity in people’s personalities becomes noticeable when one analyzes the way they react to the various stories or incidents that are related to them. You can carry out this experiment yourself: Try relating a sad story to a group of people and see how differently they react.

I recall delivering a Friday sermon, wherein I mentioned the story of Umar’s (rta) assassination. When I came to the part where Abu Lulu, the Magian, stabbed Umar (rta), I said in a loud voice: “Suddenly, Abu Lulu jumped at Umar (rta) and stabbed him three times! The first stab hacked his chest. The second went into his stomach. Then, with all his strength, he thrust his sword into Umar (rta) below his navel and dragged the knife across his body until his intestines emerged.”

I noticed that people’s reaction to my words varied: Some individuals closed their eyes, as if they were witnessing the murder taking place in front of them. Others wept. Yet others showed no reaction at all.

Another lesson that I have learnt from my life is that you will almost inevitably come across another person, who is uncouth and ignorant. Such a person can neither articulate himself appropriately, nor is he courteous to his audience.

I recall one such person sitting in a public gathering. He decided to relate an incident involving a shopkeeper. As he related the story, he said: “This shopkeeper was huge, like a donkey.” He then said: “He looked like Khalid!” While saying this, he pointed at the person next to him. I have no idea how he managed to liken poor Khalid to a donkey!

Can one change his own personality to suit the personality of the one with whom he is interacting? The answer is: Yes.

Umar (rta) was known for his strong personality. One day, a man quarrelled with his wife and came to Umar (rta) to ask for advice. When he stood at Umar’s (rta) door and was about to knock, he heard Umar’s (rta) wife shouting at him, while he remained silent. He neither shouted back, nor rebuked her!

The man was amazed, and turned to leave. Umar (rta) heard a noise at the door. He went out and called the man: “What do you need?”

He said: “O Ameer Al-Mumineen, I came to you to complain about my wife, but then I heard your wife shouting at you!”

Umar (rta) said, “She is my wife who sleeps with me, makes food for me, and washes my clothes. Shall I not be patient with her?”

One must be patient with others and try to ignore their bad traits in light of their virtues. The amazing person in this regard is he who is able to win all kinds of hearts by knowing the personality of the one with whom he is dealing. If he travels with a miser, he wins his heart by being economical. If he sits with the emotional, he too becomes emotional and his companions love him. If he accompanies the light-hearted, he jokes and laughs along with them. He deals with each situation accordingly and thus, earns people’s love.

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

Kamila: She Dared Where Many Men Hesitated – Part 1


By Suleman Ahmer – CEO and the Lead Facilitator of “Timelenders”, a management consulting and training firm

May, 1988

It was very cold on the night of October 27, 1992, as winters arrive early in Austria. A small group huddled in a tiny glass waiting room in the Vienna train station. I noticed them staring at us. Two bearded Asians didn’t quite fit in. The big clock on the wall ticked noisily; it was almost midnight. It was another few minutes before the train left for Zagreb in war-torn Croatia. I shivered and anyone watching could have easily attributed it to cold. I knew it better: it was fear.

I took a deep breath and sat back, my hands deep inside my pockets. The previous months whirled by. It had been very hectic: the decision to go to Bosnia, interrupting my graduate studies, taking permission from my family, discovering that Abbas wanted to come along, and then the million dollar question: “How in the world are we going to get to Bosnia?”

“There is a train,” a friend had told us, “that goes to Zagreb from Vienna in the night. That’s your best bet. Croatia is a new country and the immigration people on the train stations are not that vigilant. They might let you in. Going to Bosnia from Croatia should be relatively easy.”

And here we were, with a telephone number of someone in Croatia as our only tangible plan; a couple of brothers had gone to Croatia and we were supposed to link up with them. This number, as we later discovered, was as worthless as the worn-out piece of paper it was written on. A Bosnian brother had told us of Muslims being detained while trying to get into Croatia. I was beseeched by different thoughts that day: “Am I crazy? Is this a right decision: going from the luxury of a certain life to this madness of uncertainty? We still had time and maybe we should just turn back!”

The train’s whistle blew furiously, jolting me out of my thoughts. Everybody started hastening towards the door. We followed with our bags. The train was ready to go. The moment had arrived.

As two strangers boarded the train that fateful night, a young girl on the other side of Europe was calmly planning her moves. There was no hesitation on her part, no afterthoughts. She would have smiled had she seen the hurried boarding of these two men in Vienna and read their thoughts.

Fate brought us together for a few moments. I dedicate this story to explain why those moments are one of the most unforgettable ones in my life.

We drifted into sleep as the train rumbled on. Our car was empty. We entered Slovenia, a former province of Yugoslavia. The Slovenes would question people passing through their territory and harass Muslims. We had been advised by our friends to lock our compartment and ignore all knocks. We would have definitely slept through but what confronted us was a loud banging. Jolted out of sleep, we stared at each other. The Slovenian border patrol wanted to have a word with us two highnesses!

“Going to Jeeth-had?” said one, eyeing us suspiciously.

We politely indicated our failure to understand. If they had meant Jihad, well, the pronunciation was off, way off.

“Jeeth-had, Jeeth-had!” said another one, pointing towards his gun.

“Oh no,” we managed a smile, “Humantarna Pomoch (humanitarian help).” The Serbo-Croatian phrase book had finally proven its worth.

Out came a list of names. With our Pakistani passports in their hands – the ‘Islamic Republic’ boldly staring at all of us – the name tallying started. There were Mohammeds, Ibrahims, Yusufs, Abdullahs and Abdur-Rahmans. There must have been over 300 names.

We held our breaths. By the grace of Allah (swt), no one named Abbas or Suleman had done any wrong to earn a place on that list. “You have a few hours,” warned the chief, clearly disappointed with the absence of our names on the list. “Go back to Vienna or continue to Zagreb. Just clear off Slovenia.”

“Sure, sure, no problem,” relief dripped in invisible drops from our faces, “Hvala, Hvala (thanks, thanks).”

The plan was to get up an hour before Zagreb, and rehearse what we would say and how to protest if things went awry.

The stopping jerks of the train woke us up. The relief of not getting into trouble in Slovenia had worked as a tranquilizer. Suddenly there was calm. The 7 o’clock sun lit up the compartment.

Zagreb had come!

Pulling our things together, we broke into a rush.

“What were we supposed to say?” The phrase book hid itself somewhere. ‘Dobar Dan’ meant ‘good morning’ or was it ‘good night’? Maybe it was ‘I am hungry’. No, no that was ‘Jasem Gladan’…

The tap on the door was gentle this time. It reminded me of the famous saying, “Barking dogs seldom bite.” It was the thought of what could be the converse that made me a little uncomfortable.

One exclaimed on seeing our passports, “Pakistanats,” which roughly translated into ‘Pakistanis’. We nodded. To our utmost surprise, our nods were met with smiles and handshakes. “Pakistan is our friend,” said one turning to the other, “it was among the first countries to recognize Croatia.”

In no time, our passports were stamped and we were on our way, thanking Allah (swt) and bewildered at the simplicity of the matter. Few physical steps were as significant as the ones we took that morning to step outside the station. It seemed as if by magic, we had entered a new world. The old world that we knew was somewhere in history: remote and unreachable. Our new adopted one lay ahead.

For the first time in days, I suddenly became aware of the freshness of the air and the chirping of the birds; somehow the surroundings looked a lot more colourful, the grass greener and the sky a bit bluer! I can now understand how Alice must have felt in wonderland – enchanted! The dream of going to Bosnia had materialized into a not-too-distant reality.

As we clumsily entered the realm of our newly-found uncharted territory, the same girl, in sharp contrast, confidently made her way to her job with her letter of resignation.

We soon hooked up with other foreign Muslim relief workers and time flew by. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims were languishing in Croatian refugee camps. Armed with a few thousand dollars that we had collected and tons of goodwill, we kept ourselves busy while planning our ultimate move into Bosnia: we distributed flour, oil, baby-milk, detergent and medicines.

It was the first time that I was confronted with a tragedy that defied limits, with shattered families and heart-wrecking tales of death and pain. At times, I felt the tragedy had invisible hands, reaching out and choking my heart.

On the outskirts of the City of Split in Croatia was a house, where Muslim relief workers got together in the evenings. With constant additions and subtractions, it was an interesting group. We had brothers from Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria… The list was long. We would sip coffee and chat, exchanging stories and sharing notes. We found our smiles and laughter. It was an oasis of joy in an endless expanse of grief.

On one such evening, we learnt that a group of 2,000 refugees had been placed in a remote part of Croatia. Public transportation was non-existent and few relief supplies found their way out there. Deciding to help, we arranged for five tonnes of flour, powder milk, sugar, cooking oil and washing detergent and in a couple of days, set off towards Orebic’ (O-re-bich). (To be continued)

Adapted (with permission) from “The Embattled Innocence.” Compiled for Hiba by Laila Brence.

Basheer: A Friend’s Farewell


March, 1999

The assassin didn’t have to wait for long in the cold, winter morning: Basheer was seldom late.

I was in Florida, raising funds, when the news came. It was a shock: I was with him just a couple of months ago. The sequence of events, as they had probably occurred, flashed into my mind.

Basheer has to be in office in Dushanbe – the capital of Tajikistan – by 8:00 a.m. to let the other officers in. Dawlat Baig picked him up at 7:40 a.m. I had accompanied Dawlat Baig a number of times. As we would pull up the car, Basheer would appear out of the sea of people, walking briskly with long, purposeful strides with an air of confidence and mission. To be at the intersection on time, he would have left at least five minutes earlier, putting him in the line of fire precisely at 7:35 a.m. on Monday, January 11, 1999.

The first time I met him was at the Tajik refugee camps in Afghanistan in 1997. He was tall, slim and strongly built. He had become fluent in Persian and wore traditional Afghan dresses. What gave him away were his strong Arab-Berber features. A smile was never far from his stern face, which spoke of years of struggle and hardship.

The eldest son of a government officer, he came from a village 200 miles from the capital of Algeria. He gave up his studies in Engineering to help out in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. He later joined BIF (Benevolence International Foundation) to provide relief assistance to the Tajik refugees in Afghanistan.

Life was hard in the camps in Kunduz and Takhar – the northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan – with no electricity, running water or communication. Food and medicines were always limited. Malaria, Typhoid and TB were close to assuming epidemic proportions. Basheer was going down with Typhoid every year, spending weeks in bed.

I once asked him how he managed to stay there for five years. “I can’t see myself deserting these people,” he had said. “I see myself as holding a post. If we leave, the vultures will come in.” He was referring to some of the secular organizations. Alarmed by the return of the Tajik refugees to Islam, they were trying to compel the Muslim relief organizations to leave. These organizations had one camp in their control where they distributed music and movies, while the children in the Muslim-run camps learned the Quran.

He had kept in touch with his family through letters, which would take up to six months to reach Algeria. We decided to arrange for a phone call. Using a wireless set, we connected via radio to Peshawar and then through telephone to Algeria. It was a joyous occasion, as the family hadn’t heard his voice in five years. They initially failed to recognize him, as out of emotion, he could only speak in his adopted Persian. He had broken down during the call and wept.

Basheer managed a staff of twenty-four Tajik Muslims in the refugee camps, and I could see the love and respect that flowed towards him. I didn’t have a shred of doubt that these Tajiks could have easily stood in the line of fire for him.

He was like a father to the orphans, who loved him dearly. Some didn’t know their fathers but they knew Basheer. I asked some of the young orphans – I didn’t ask the older kids, as they understood – where the money for their sponsorship came from. They pointed to Basheer. I explained that Basheer was just an officer, and the money came from the Muslims in the US. They weren’t convinced: it was Basheer who cared for them. To those little, simple minds, that was what really mattered. I gave up. I wish could tell them now that Basheer gave much more than care: he ultimately gave his life.

This dedication and compassion endeared Basheer to the Tajik Muslims. He loved them, and, yes, they loved him. He gradually became an inalienable part of the Tajik cause, a hero who had come from a faraway land. As the Tajik Muslims struggled in their war against the Communists, Basheer stood by them, supporting their orphans, running clinics, sharing their joy, and wiping their tears. His presence whispered to the Tajiks: “I believe in you and your struggle. Don’t give up.”

In the summer of 1997, the refugees started moving back into Tajikistan, bringing an end to the five years of exile. Deciding to start work in Tajikistan, we established an office for BIF in Dushanbe in November 1997, and later arranged for Basheer and the staff to move from Afghanistan.

A few months after moving to Dushanbe, Basheer married a Tajik sister by the name of Sadbarg. The mother requested Basheer to move in their apartment. She was widowed in this apartment, when Sadbarg was very young. Basheer agreed.

The Muslims signed a peace agreement with the Russian-backed government and the overall situation started to improve.

We took Dr. Nazr-ul-Islam – a surgeon from England – to Dushanbe and established a TB hospital for children. Furthermore, we continued the sponsorship for the orphans; we also started supporting families of men disabled in the war, and commenced the rebuilding of homes of orphan families destroyed during the war.

A group of young sisters, who had set up an Islamic study group in Dushanbe, approached us for help. Concluding that the sisters were high on enthusiasm but low on knowledge, we decided to teach them the fundamentals of Islam and prepare them to reach out to more women in Dushanbe. We gave Nurudin – a graduate of the Islamic University in Madinah – the charge of the programme.

Nurudin had come to Afghanistan in 1993, and had set up an Islamic school for Tajik students in the refugee camps. This is when Basheer and Nurudin had become friends. After the ceasefire, Nurudin had moved independently to Tajikistan, where he had also married a Tajik sister. He had started some Dawah programmes in the mosques in and around Dushanbe.

When we decided to sponsor the sisters’ Dawah programme, Nurudin was like a gift from Allah (swt): he was there; he was married to a local sister, spoke fluent Persian and above all, was a gifted scholar.

The classes started in March, 1998 with a group of 32 sisters and 20 brothers.

Unfortunately, the political situation started deteriorating. Soon, it became apparent that a cold war was taking shape, fuelled by the secular and communist elements to undermine the Islamic movement in Tajikistan.

On June 15, 1998, only three months since the start of classes, Nurudin was shot and martyred outside his apartment. Only 36, he left behind a pregnant wife and a four-month-old daughter, Asma.

No one claimed responsibility, and the Tajik government denied any involvement. “Could it have been the Russian intelligence?” we were left wondering. “Or could it be the breakaway communist fraction which had split from the government and violently opposed the peace agreement?”

We immediately froze all Dawah activities. Our staff of nine people in Dushanbe included two foreigners, so we had reasons to be worried.

Our CEO travelled to the area and told both Basheer and Dr. Islam that they could leave, if they wanted to. Both refused, saying that we need not worry since we were no longer involved with Dawah, and the relief services being offered to Dushanbe were badly needed. Soon a contract was signed between the BIF and the Ministry of Health, finalizing the administration of the TB hospital. With all Dawah activities frozen and only relief projects remaining, we reasoned that the anti-Islamic elements – if indeed they were behind Nurudin’s death – would surely back off.

Our office in Dushanbe faces the parliament building in the Independence Square. A statue of Firdousi, a famous Persian poet, stares down at the beautiful gardens lining the main street. In these gardens are small cafes, where one can dine on a lunch of rice and Kabab on tables scattered under the tall trees. Basheer and I would walk down, have lunch and talk – we would spend hours talking, with the snow-capped Pamir Mountains in the background. These meeting are now memories to be cherished for the rest of my life. We talked about a lot of things: our time spent together in Afghanistan, our families, the BIF, the political situation and our plans for the future.

In one such meeting, I asked him why he didn’t leave Tajikistan after the death of Nurudin. “My mother-in-law would be left alone,” he said. I smiled. We both knew that there was more to it. I was also his manager, and he was aware that I could have asked him to leave. He was careful in wording his answer. “Look, Suleman,” he was very serious and thoughtful, “you know that I have given myself to this cause. I know that I am in Tajikistan for no other reason but for Allah (swt).” Then he paused: “And if I were to die, I have the confidence of knowing that I shall be a Shaheed.”

At the age of 34, Basheer was shot at point blank range. I can conjure an image of his assassin, most likely a local Tajik clad in a black suit – so common in Dushanbe – walking up to him, as he stepped out of his home. Alone and unarmed, Basheer stood no chance and was hit a total of seven times in the chest and the head. The $600 in his pocket – a lot of money in poverty stricken Tajikistan – were not touched.

For us, he was and will remain an inspiration, a statement that this world is worthless in front of the hereafter, and if it takes our lives to establish Islam, then so be it. While we talk, write and lecture about sacrificing for Allah (swt) and Islam, Basheer lived it and etched it in history with his blood. He was a true embodiment of the statement that “a faith not worth dying for is not worth living for.”

He leaves behind in his legacy one more reason for us to struggle for the dream both he and Nurudin gave their lives for – to return Muslims to the arms of Islam from the torturous clutches of colonialism and communism.

Basheer, may Allah (swt) accept your Shahadah. (Ameen)

Adapted (with permission) from “The Embattled Innocence.” Compiled for Hiba by Laila Brence.

The First Task, Before Reading the Quran

The First Task, Before Reading the Quran

By Syed Abul Ala Mawdoodi – Journalist, theologian, Muslim revivalist leader, political philosopher, and Islamic thinker

All kinds of praise are for Allah (swt), Who is the Sustainer of the whole Universe. He is the Only One Who has the right to be worshipped and is the All-Seer and All-Knower of everything we do. We praise and glorify Him, as He should be praised and glorified. We send blessings of Allah (swt) to all His noble messengers, especially the last of them, Muhammad (sa). May Allah’s blessings be upon all of them.

This article is based on an abstract from Tafheem-ul-Quran, a Quranic Tafseer (commentary) written by Syed Abul Ala Mawdoodi. He informs us about the first task which needs to be done before we start learning the word of the Supreme Authority (Allah), the Quran.

He writes:

“There are many people in this world who seek guidance from the Holy Quran for various reasons. Keeping this in view, it is quite impossible to give any opinion about it. I am only interested in those who want to learn the Quran and want to know how this book guides the humankind in their overall life. I want to advise such people about learning the teachings of the Quran and trying to solve certain problems which are faced during the whole experience of interacting with it.

Any one, whether or not he believes in the Quran and who really wants to learn its teachings, the very first thing which is required to be done is to free his mind from any sort of resistance which he might face due to already established beliefs, facts or thoughts and then start reading it with an open mind and heart. People who read this book, keeping in their hearts some specific kind of thoughts and beliefs, keep on reading their own thoughts and beliefs in the lines of the Quran. Due to this, the Quran never exposes itself to them. This way of reading is no doubt the wrong way to read any book. Specifically, the Quran does not open its doors to people who have such an attitude towards it.”

We pray to Allah (swt) that He let us open our hearts and minds before we start reading the Quran.

“And We have indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)?” (Al-Qamar, 54:22)

Compiled for “Hiba” by Zaki Imtiaz.



By Suleman Ahmer – CEO and the Lead Facilitator of “Timelenders”, a management consulting and training firm

Two weeks ago, I was in a TB sanatorium for orphans at Kofar Nihon, a small town ten miles from Dushanbe, the capital of war-ravaged Tajikistan. As I entered one of the wards, Sham-e-Gul dragged herself to the corner of the bed and sat up. Like many others around her, TB had wasted her legs. I found her in pain and with no relatives at her side to console her. Her brother used to visit her twice a month. Sham-e-Gul was only six years old.

The staff and the children of the sanatorium were Sham-e-Gul’s family. She missed Daulat Shah, another six-year-old, who was sent home when some relatives visited a few weeks ago. “There is nothing more we could have done for Daulat Shah,” said Dr. Nazir Rahimov. “We figured at least he would have a home and hopefully adequate food in his last days.” Sham-e-Gul was not told why Daulat Shah had left suddenly. She was too young to understand.

During the Soviet era, orphans who had TB were admitted to the sanatorium. When the war broke out, Kofar Nihon came under heavy fighting. People fled the area, leaving a skeleton staff that battled to keep the damaged facility running. With no electricity and an acute shortage of medicine, food and money, the orphans had nowhere to go. The sanatorium became a death trap, as the symptoms of TB grew worse. Soon, the children started dying. I found thirty-two children there, between the ages of six and fifteen. Most had been there for the last five years and many with advanced TB.

The four long years that BIF (Benevolence International Foundation) had worked with the Tajik refugees in northern Afghanistan came to an end in the summer of 1997. By the Grace of Allah (swt), the Communist regime in Tajikistan gave in and signed a peace agreement with the Muslim opposition, ending more than four years of bitter conflict. This was a great victory for the Muslims as they now controlled around fifty percent of the territory and were partners in the newly-formed coalition government.

The Tajik refugees from the neighbouring countries had returned to their homes with dignity. Now we could concentrate on projects in Tajikistan that badly needed our assistance like the sanatorium in Kofar Nihon. With the blessings of Allah (swt) and Muslims, we were determined to turn things around in Kofar Nihon. We could, Insha’Allah, initiate surgeries, which were long overdue, provide proper medicine, food and hygiene, fix the building and heating and provide decent salaries for the staff. For Daulat Shah we were too late, but for the remaining thirty-two children, we still had time.

As I was leaving, I gave my pen to Sham-e-Gul to cheer her up. This was the least I could have done. She had smiled and the thought of it still warms my heart. With the pen, I also gave her a silent promise that I would leave no stone unturned to see that she and the other children got a decent chance at life.

Eleven months later…

As I approached her bed, Sham-e-Gul woke up and squinted – it was a bright day and sunlight was streaming into the ward form the large windows. The startled look in her eyes slowly changed to recognition.

I had first met her in Kofar Nihon, a village fifteen miles from Dushanbe, almost a year ago. She was the youngest of thirty-two children with advanced TB in a war-damaged hospital. With no electricity for seven years, no heating, shortage of staff, food and medicine, the children – many of them orphans with no place to go – had started to die. I had given her my pen with a promise that I would leave no stone unturned to see that she and the other children got a decent chance at life.

Now, eleven long months later, I looked around the brightly-lit ward of neatly lined beds with clean linen. I could smell the freshly painted walls. Fifteen children slept peacefully. Now there is no shortage of food or medicine. The repair on the wrecked heating system has started, which means heating for the hospital for the first time in five years. I could hear the clamour of the workers repairing the remaining part of the hospital.

It had been a struggle. Within a month of my return from the last trip, we had moved our staff from Afghanistan to Tajikistan and recruited new officers, including Dr. Nazr-ul-Islam, a surgeon from England. With Kofar Nihon continually under heavy fighting, we shifted our focus to a similarly neglected hospital in relatively safe Dushanbe – only to find what relative safety meant when one of our officers was shot and killed. We decided not to give up.

Taking the hospital from the Ministry of Health, we started the repairs. BIF started to provide food, medicine, lab facilities, salaries and the operating costs. We served fifty-two children with TB between the ages of three to fourteen years.

I asked Sham-e-Gul about the pen that I had given her. She broke into an embarrassed laughter: she had lost it.

By the grace of Allah (swt) – and to the astonishment of the doctors – she recovered from her paralyses. I believe it had more to do with the prayers of the Muslims, who had come to know her, than medicine. I asked her if she could walk for me. When she nodded, I helped her out of bed. She hesitantly took the first step and slowly walked the length of the room.

I handed her the picture that I had taken with her the previous year. She held it in both her hands for a few moments, then looked up and studied my face carefully, as if confirming whether I was indeed the same person. She said she wanted to keep the picture and asked me not to leave. I was saddened as I didn’t know where her parents were or whether they were alive. I promised her that I would come again.

I walked out with tears of gratitude to Allah (swt) and the Muslims who, by their generosity, helped me fulfill a promise made in a far-away, war-ravaged land to a seven-year-old ill girl – Sham-e-Gul.

Adapted (with permission) from “The Embattled Innocence.” Compiled for “Hiba” by Laila Brence.

Choose the Right Topic

Choose the Right Topic

By Dr. Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman Al-Arifi – A prominent figure in the field of Islamic Dawah and author of more than twenty published works

People unanimously agree that one of the ways of attracting others is to choose the topic their listeners would like to discuss. The Prophet (sa) took this into consideration, and his speech with young men would be different from that with the elderly, the women or the children.

Once, a young man Jabir (rta), travelled with the Prophet (sa) on the Dhat ar-Riqa expedition, and, due to his poverty, he rode a very weak camel that could hardly walk.

The Prophet (sa) struck the camel gently with a whip, and it got up energetically. Jabir (rta) jumped on its back and went alongside the Prophet (sa). The Prophet (sa) turned to Jabir (rta) to converse. Jabir (rta), like other young men, was possibly concerned about marriage and livelihood:

The Prophet (sa) asked: “O Jabir, are you married?”

He replied: “Yes.”

The Prophet (sa) questioned: “To a virgin or to a previously married woman?”

He responded: “Previously married.”

The Prophet (sa) was surprised at his choice: “Why didn’t you marry a virgin so that you could fondle one other?”

Jabir (rta) explained: “O Messenger of Allah, my father was martyred on the day of Uhud and left nine (orphan) daughters, who are my nine sisters. I thus disliked to marry a young girl of their age, and instead, married someone older than them, so she could be like their mother.”

The Prophet (sa) realized that he had sacrificed his own pleasures for his sisters. Thus, the Prophet (sa) decided to tell an appropriate joke for a youth of his age. He (sa) said: “Perhaps, when we head for Madinah and stop over at Sarar (five km from Madinah), your wife will hear of our arrival and lay out the pillows [meaning, she will prepare for his grand arrival].”

Jabir (rta) said: “Pillows?! By Allah, O Messenger of Allah, we do not have pillows!”

The Prophet (sa) said: “Insha’Allah, you will soon have pillows.”

The Prophet (sa) wished to help him, so he returned to Jabir (rta) and asked: “Will you sell me your camel?” Jabir (rta) thought that the camel was his capital, and even though previously weak, it had now become strong! However, he thought it rude to reject the Prophet’s (sa) offer. Thus, he stated: “Make an offer, O Messenger of Allah! How much will you pay?”

The Prophet (sa) said: “A Dirham.”

“A Dirham! You are cheating me, O Messenger of Allah,” replied Jabir (rta).

They continued raising the price, until it amounted to forty Dirhams, or an ounce of gold.

Jabir (rta) said: “Fine, but it is on the condition that I continue to ride it until we reach Madinah.” The Prophet (sa) agreed.

When they reached Madinah, Jabir (rta) went to pray with the Prophet (sa) and tied his camel next to the mosque. When the Prophet (sa) came out of the mosque, Jabir (rta) said to him: “This is your camel, O Messenger of Allah!” The Prophet (sa) said: “O Bilal, give forty Dirhams to Jabir (rta) and more.” Bilal (rta) gave Jabir (rta) forty plus Dirhams. Jabir (rta) took the money and went away, thinking about what he could do with it.

The Prophet (sa) suddenly turned to Bilal (rta) and instructed: “O Bilal, take the camel and give it to Jabir.” Bilal (rta) took it and went to Jabir (rta), who was surprised and wondered, if the Prophet (saw) had cancelled the sale.

Bilal (rta) said: “Take the camel, O Jabir.”

Jabir (rta) asked: “Why? What’s the news?”

Bilal (rta) replied: “Allah’s Messenger has ordered me to give you the camel and the money.”

What wonderful manners! The Prophet (sa) chose an appropriate topic for conversation with the young man, and helped him with kindness and compassion.

(This story has been narrated in a Hadeeth recorded by Bukhari and Muslim.)

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

Islamic Etiquettes of Intimacy

Islamic Etiquettes of Intimacy

By Muhammad Mustafa Al-Jibaly – Islamic scholar and author

Sexual intimacy between spouses is allowed and encouraged in Islam. It is indeed a great favour from Allah (swt) that He does not blame those who lawfully fulfill their desires. Rather, He permits it and even rewards it. Allah (swt) has said in the Quran:

“Successful indeed are the believers…those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts) except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame; but whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors.” (Al-Mu’minun, 23:1-7)

There are a number of guidelines, however, that one should observe, when intimately approaching one’s spouse.


The two spouses should retreat to a private room. They should draw the curtains and close the doors to ensure that no one, not even a small child, will be able to watch them. Covering the Awrah in front of individuals other than the spouse is an important obligation.


The two spouses should beautify themselves for each other. Each of them should wear clothes and perfume that pleases the other partner. They should brush their teeth and ensure that no foul odour comes out of their mouths or bodies. They should also avoid clothes and other adornments that are either prohibited in Islam or are known to be specific to the disbelievers and/or the decadent. Ibn Abbas said: “I like to beautify myself for my wife as much as I like her to beautify herself for me.” (Quoted by Ibn Jareer at-Tabari in his Tafseer)


The two spouses should indulge in various acts of foreplay that may include light talk and intimate gestures such as kissing. The husband should not rush into intercourse until he feels that his wife is ready for it. He should be especially kind and gentle with her on the first few nights of their marriage.

It is permissible for both the spouses to undress completely – Hadeeths refraining the same are weak in grade. However, it is advisable to hide one’s intimacy under a shared cover for protection from anyone (a child, for instance), who might unexpectedly come within close range.

Remember Allah (swt)

The two spouses must mention Allah’s (swt) name and the following supplication:

“Bismillah; Allahumma jannib nash-Shaytaan; wa jannib ish-Shaytaana ma razaqtana.”

(“With the name of Allah; O Allah, keep Satan away from us and keep him away from what you grant us.”)

According to the Prophet (sa), once this Dua is recited, Satan will not be able to harm the child who is born as a result of that intercourse. (Bukhari and Muslim)

It is important for the spouses to recall the important goals of their intimacy and the reward that they expect for it from Allah (swt). They should, at the same time, beware of Satan’s plotting, who will whisper to them and entice them to introduce acts of disobedience into their intimacy.


During intimacy, both spouses may take any position that is enjoyable and comfortable for them. Allah (swt) says: “Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allah to bestow upon you pious offspring) for your ownselves beforehand. And fear Allah, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (O Muhammad (saw)).” (Al-Baqarah 2:223)


A Ghusl must be performed to attain purity after intimacy. Between successive intercourses, it is sufficient to wash one’s private parts and perform ablution only.

Prohibited Acts of Intimacy

Anal Intercourse

This is a major sin that must be avoided, as per the following Hadeeth: the Prophet (sa) said: “Verily, Allah forbids you from having intercourse with women in their rectums.” (Tabarani)

Intercourse During Menses

Spouses are forbidden from performing intercourse, if the wife is menstruating. Such intercourse is harmful for both the husband and the wife; moreover, it is a major sin. Spouses may, however, enjoy other forms of intimacy. Allah (swt) has instructed: “They ask you concerning menstruation. Say: that is an Adha (a harmful thing for a husband to have a sexual intercourse with his wife while she is having her menses), therefore keep away from women during menses and go not unto them till they have purified (from menses and have taken a bath). And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you (go in unto them in any manner as long as it is in their vagina)…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222)

Exposing Intimate Secrets

It is prohibited for a man to expose his wife’s secrets, especially in matters of intimacy that, except for him, no person would normally know. This might include birthmarks, reaction to certain intimate acts and so on. Exposing such secrets might induce mistrust and fear in her heart.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Indeed, among the people who will have the most grievous position before Allah on the Day of Resurrection is a man who, after he intimately approaches his wife and she intimately approaches him, exposes her secret.” (Muslim and Abu Dawud)


At all times, spouses must maintain a realization of Allah’s (swt) closeness and watchfulness. This realization should guide and control one’s actions – even during moments of intimacy and pleasure. Furthermore, one should nurture a feeling of gratitude that Allah (swt) has facilitated the fulfilment of one’s desire in a lawful and pleasurable way. This actually turns the fulfilment of desire to a rewarded act of worship.

Adapted (with permission) from “Closer than a Garment: Marital Intimacy according to the Pure Sunnah” published by Al-Kitaab & as-Sunnah Publishing. Compiled for Hiba by Umm Ibrahim

Quick Facts 1

Needed: Sabr (Patience)

Women are generally advised that it is not permissible for them to refuse marital relations. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “When a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning comes.” (Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) also said: “When a man calls his wife, let her respond, even if she is at the oven (baking bread).” (At-Tirmidhi)

However, husbands should consider the physical as well as emotional conditions of their wives prior to initiating marital relations. It is generally advisable to exercise patience, if one’s wife is exhausted or unwell. Also, according to islam-qa.com, some of the excuses given by the Shariah to women include menstruation, advanced stages of pregnancy and post-natal bleeding. Moreover, even if intercourse is physically impossible during such conditions, spouses can still be intimate.

Quick Facts 2

Overcoming the Jitters

Maulana Mufti Nizam-uddin Shamazai has given some useful advice to the grooms to-be in his comprehensive book “Tuhfa-e-Dulha”. Following are some tips he has given with reference to the wedding night:

1) Make a list of your questions and concerns about marital relations. Consult a scholar and clear all confusions.

2) You may also consult one or two close friends, who have been married for some time; however, it is not advisable to ask many friends. These friends might come to you later and ask you questions like: “So? How did it go?” This will only get awkward for you.

3) Let go of the fear that your wife will judge you based on your marital relations during the wedding night; also do not assume that she will discuss anything with her friends, sisters or cousins. This is a life-long commitment, and its quality cannot be judged on the basis of one night only.

4) Last but not the least, pray, pray and pray to Allah (swt) to make matters easier for you and form an ever-lasting bond between you and your wife.

Translated and adapted from “Tuhfa-e-Dulha” by Maulana Mufti Nizam-uddin Shamazai published by Bait ul-Ilm Trust.

The City, the Girl and the Little Rag Doll

The City, the Girl and the Little Rag Doll

By Suleman Ahmer – CEO and the Lead Facilitator of Timelenders, a management consulting and training firm (http://www.timelenders.com)

The first time I came across her was in the winter of 1992 in the Bosnian town of Mostar. She had long black hair, hazel eyes and a smile that lit her face. Her eyes refused to laugh. They held a look of bewilderment and fear of an uncertain future. Girls as young as Aida had started understanding the misery that wars so easily delivered. They call war ‘raat’ in the Bosnian language, which sounds similar to ‘night’ in my native Urdu. For Mostar and its daughters such as Aida, the Balkan war meant exactly that – a never-ending darkness.

Aida’s father had been a young and aspiring architect before the war. Edin Batlak, or Edoo, had never called any other city his home. It was its sons such as Edoo that Mostar had called upon when confronted by the Serb siege. Educated and experienced, Edoo became the chief of logistics for the Muslims and was the one to receive the supplies that we brought to Mostar from Krilo. As Mostar warmed up to its guests, Edoo happily filled the role of a perfect host, providing home-cooked food and putting us up for the nights. One evening, he introduced us to his daughter.

Aida could not understand the strange language that we spoke. Her nine years of life had not awarded her the luxury of learning a foreign language. We tried to get by in broken Bosnian. Children are expressive and so was Aida. Soon we started understanding each other.

The war had forced the Muslims to take a fresh look at their identity and religion. There was an eagerness, especially among the children, to learn about Islam. Wanting to learn the Salah, she had started learning Fatiha. We would teach Aida a part of the Salah in each trip with a promise of a ‘Poklon’ (gift) which would be candy, a rag doll or tidbits of that sort. The thought that a small girl eagerly awaited us in Mostar would warm our hearts many times over.

River Neretva divides Mostar into the east, which was predominantly Muslim, and the west, where both Muslims and the Croats lived. The Serb front lines were a few miles east of the city, cutting off the Muslims from their strongholds in central Bosnia. West Mostar was linked through Croat-held Bosnia to Croatia. Sandwiched between the Serbs and the Croats, East Mostar was vulnerable, a fact the Croats knew very well.

I remember some children insisted that I accompany them. They took me to a school, which had been converted into a refugee camp. The lower floor hosted the office of the Merhamet (a Bosnioan relief agency), the office of the Mufti of Mostar and some rooms for medical emergencies. I was led to the basement, where some young girls were practicing Islamic songs for an upcoming festival. Upon seeing a stranger, they fell silent. I urged them to continue and left after a few minutes, leaving behind my cassette-recorder.

With every spin of the recorder, the songs and the memories were electronically preserved. It was to become a prized possession and a great companion for many months to come. During our long drives in Croatia and Bosnia, Abbas and I would play the tape and sing along in Bosnian:

O Allah (swt), Bosnia bleeds today.

And we suffer.

But we have hope that you will deliver us.

And we don’t complain.

We know You will be with us forever.

A girl had burst into tears and before the tape could be shut off, her sobs had been recorded. Upon reaching this section, we would gently cry ourselves, our tears cementing our determination and pushing away thoughts of giving up. “How can we give up when children in Mostar are calling Allah (swt) and trusting Him?”

Many months thus passed. Once Mustafa, Edoo’s interpreter, smiled when we said good-bye.

“You may not find us upon your return. The Croats will not wait for long!”

“Never mind,” we said, “we belong to this city now. If we go down, we go down together.”

“It is easier said than done, you know,” he said.

“We have been with you all these months; we would not desert you in the end,” we promised.

The Bosnian Croats struck in the early hours of May 18, 1993. The Muslims were outnumbered, outgunned and taken by surprise. Hundreds of Muslim men, women and children were forced to walk in front of the Croat columns to prevent the Muslim army from firing back. The Muslims were pushed to the eastern side, where they stood their ground and prevented the Croats from crossing the river. Thus began a nine-month siege that would later claim thousands more lives, inflicting pain and devastation of unimaginable proportion.

Never in our lives had four words held so much devastation: “West Mostar has fallen.”

We frantically tried to find a way to get to Mostar, but to no avail. The memories of the town came flooding back: the faces, the long hours spent talking, the laughter, the mosques and the walks in the old town. The voices of the girls singing the Islamic songs and the words of Mustafa echoed: “You may not find us…” and then there was the sinking feeling of defeat and the heart-wrenching realization that we had failed Mostar in its final moments. Our promise of being with them had been broken.

We started asking about the people we knew. Some had survived. Some were in concentration camps. Of some, there was no news. What happened to Edoo? Did he make it? How is Aida?

Edoo lived above the offices of the Muslim army, which were the first to be targeted. A huge fire had erupted, catching all by surprise. Edoo and his wife had managed to escape, but Aida had gotten trapped. I shudder with the thought of the painful last moments of the young Aida, trapped in the fire of a war she never fully understood; punished for a crime that her enemies are still not ready to forgive – Islam! Had she lived, Aida would now be in her teens. She would surely have completed learning her Salah.

Aida may not be with us today, but the struggle for which she died so young continues. Bosnia is alive as are many Aidas and many lands like Bosnia. Our failure to keep our promise to Aida must not prevent us from making our promises to others. For Aida, the help was too little, too late. It doesn’t have to be the same for others. The understanding that we are Muslims is a promise to all the Aidas and all the embattled Muslim lands: a promise that we are with you and you shall never be deserted.

When I am down with despair, and hopelessness seems to prevail, I thank Allah (swt) for giving me such treasured memories. As I look back and see a little town with a little girl with a little rag doll, I know that I have reasons to continue.