Of Celebrity Sheikhs and Fandoms

32 extra special

“All set for the lecture tomorrow?” I casually asked a friend over a WhatsApp chat.

“Should I be going?” she inquired in return.

Consequently, I reasoned: “Well, half of the city seems to be overwhelmed with the idea of attending the lecture tomorrow. I assumed you would be going, too.”

“I respect the speaker enough to not treat him as a celebrity.”

It took me some time to figure out what she meant by this statement. I had never imagined this could be a reason for not being a part of an event. It was not just any event. It was a mega event. Everyone in the city, some even from the neighbouring cities, had been waiting for months for the scholar’s visit. People had been cautious about acquiring their tickets well on time, so that they did not miss out on this great opportunity to see the scholar ‘live’, right before their eyes. His popularity had grown tremendously over the past few years. YouTube videos of the scholar’s lectures were shared over the internet numerous times by avid viewers. He had followers in hundreds of thousands on Facebook and Twitter. Why would someone deny oneself the opportunity of a lifetime, so to say? Moreover, in Islam, we are taught to put in our best of efforts to acquire knowledge. Isn’t this contrary to the teaching of Islam, if we miss out on the chance to be in the company of the learned?

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Making sense of the killings


Image Courtesy www.islam21c.com

Today the very fabric of society stands shaken. What and who can justify the killings of innocent kids?

If we travel back into time around 220 BC, China was divided into three kingdoms. Those were the times when amazing Chinese poetry was written; romantic heroes were depicted in movies to come; new dialects emerged and great laws were written down. But tragically, those were also the times when China was constantly at war within. Those battles caused unbelievable harm to the people of China who perished in millions. They couldn’t tolerate each other. They would wage war if one clan combed his hair differently than the other clan. That was a reason for them to hate each other. Many smaller nations hurt them in that vulnerable stage.

Today, we see a powerful superpower in the face of China standing united. Yes, united. That was the key. When they realized how division had weakened them, they joined hands to become one. And so, every household today has a high percentage of its merchandise either coming from China or being manufactured there- be it mobile phones, the clothes we wear, the furniture we use, etc.

A very famous parable circulates about three bulls and a lion. As the three stood together, the lion could not hunt them. Then the lion had an opportunity to trap one of the bulls. It cunningly convinced two bulls to break away from the third one. Hence, the two stood back, and let the lion devour the third bull. Next, the lion ate the second bull promising refuge to the one left alone. Lastly, as predicted, the lion pounced on the third and final bull. Just before the third bull was about to die it commented “In reality I was eaten the day I let the first bull be eaten for my own benefit. My death was sealed the day I was de-united. I am just being killed today.”

“Muhammad (sa) is the Messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe against disbelievers and merciful among themselves.” (Al-Fath 48:29)

Are we behaving mercifully towards our brothers and sisters? Or the ways of Khawarij have cracked into us? Khawarij were a group of people who had long beards and knew the Quran beautifully; yet, earned Allah’s (swt) anger. Their main worry was to fight other Muslims. For them it was said that they will leave the religion as an arrow leaves the bow. There was much less Iman in their hearts.

If we do not prevent ourselves from this behaviour, if we do not control the agenda, if we do not curb the hatred and rancor- we are heading towards disaster. If only we rewind the scene to the time when Allah’s (swt) had a conversation with His angels as described by the Quran. The angels showed concern to their Lord (swt) that is He going to put on earth His Khalifah who will spill blood? Allah (swt) informed them that He knew what they knew not. It was Allah’s (swt) great plan. And what was that? Allah (swt) was going to change the world through knowledge.

Whoever acted according to the revealed knowledge would be merciful.

Knowledge will ennoble them, bring logic and reason to them, and guide their hearts to mercy. What we see is a byproduct of ignorance about Allah (swt). They have forgotten Allah (swt), so Allah (swt) has made them forget their meeting with Him on Yaum-ul-Qiyamah. It is knowledge that enlightens you about the rights of others; the more you learn, the more you discover your own ignorance and strive to better yourself.

Even the fish in the oceans prays for the one who seeks knowledge. If Ulema of Islam are not the Auliya (helpers) of Allah (swt) – I don’t know who is?

We need to launch schools, colleges and universities of the international level that can impart education on Deen and Duniya both. We need to invest in projects that ensure spiritual, as well as, intellectual uplift. The products of such ventures will bring back the lost glory of knowledge, and academics as was the case from 9th until 14th century when Muslim scholars and their scholastics ruled the world.

AmribnulAas (rta) conquered North Africa thrice. Each time he conquered it, the country went back to fighting internally. Then he altered his strategy, and brought Sahabah from Madinah to come and live with the population. Rest assured everything calmed down. The knowledgeable companions brought light of their knowledge and actions, and illuminated the hearts of the people.

Hassan Al Basree once said that the Himmah (strength) of a Jahil (ignorant) is his narration.

But the concern of an Alim (scholar) is action on the knowledge he has gained. There is a strong co-relation between Amal (action) and Ilm (knowledge). As the Quran questions- is the one who know equal to the one who knows not?

Without true action- in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah- every knowledge seeker becomes a hypocrite or a pseudo-intellectual carrying a label and huge degrees. But, there is no Barakah left in his knowledge. He is as blind as the ones following him. He suffers from a disease of self-righteousness. He knows better, and cannot see the goodness of others; hence, he claims superiority. The essence of Taqwa (fear of Allah’s (swt) presence) is lost. All that one wants to tackle is his own differences, even if he has to resort to violence. This sickness has become rampant in the Ummah today.

We have two sides of the coin. On one hand, we have extremists who follow self-construed understanding of Islam, and take up arms to endorse it. On the other hand, we have modernists who dilute Islam, and call for an understanding that suits to their liking and lifestyle. But, Islam is moderate, and cannot be understood according to our own desires.

Bukhari narrates that before the last hour strikes; there will come a part of time that shall be full of Fitnah.

A man will sleep a believer and wake up a disbeliever. And He will sleep a disbeliever and wake up a believer. This will be due to a tremendous trial. The heart of a believer is weak and fragile. A stupid doubt can lead him to atheism, and his heart can waver as soon as a Fitnah strikes.

But, when I see Pakistan, I see tremendous hope. When there is good, there is opportunity; and when there is bad, I see greater opportunity. Every nation takes approximately twenty five years to rise. Look at Japan after Hiroshima bombing and Germany after its collapse. Pakistan has three great assets:

  1. Over 60% of its population comprises of youth. This is spectacular demographic. Nowhere in the world do you find this kind of a number. All we need to do is invest in their right education. Invest Dollar 1 today to save Dollars 10 tomorrow. This youth can be the fulcrum of change with the right leadership and mentorship.
  1. Islam is in the D.N.A. of every Pakistani. False ideologies will not take root here for long.
  1. Pakistanis are an extremely charitable nation. Even abroad in England 10 Downing Street reported that an average annual donation of a Muslim to another Muslim is Pound 668. And a large portion of it comes from Pakistanis.

I, being the chairman of Mercy Mission, want to personally see this growth. By the year 2030, I dream to see a pious, confident, selfless and self-sufficient Pakistan. It is our organization’s goal to help build a world where Muslim communities live faithfully, and benefit the society globally. And our change will come through education, Insha’Allah.

Transcribed from a talk at Motiwala residence for Hiba by RanaRais Khan



Processed Food: Fad or Fitnah?

processed foodGo to any supermarket and you will see shelves upon shelves of ready-to-cook meals, canned food, ready-to-use fried onions, frozen vegetables and the like – all tempting you to save your time and try them out. At the same time, you might have heard that processed food is totally unhealthy, and you should avoid it as much as possible. So what should you do?

It is important to remember that virtually everything we eat is processed in some way or the other. Peeling, cutting, mashing, cooking, baking or frying is all referred to as food processing. All cooked food is, therefore, processed food. It doesn’t mean that all processed food is bad food. There is a huge difference between mechanical processing, which may be essential for making food eatable (such as peeling the bananas), heat processing that changes the texture and may change the nutritional value, but at the same time makes food more tasty and easily digestible, and chemical processing that is largely used by the industrial food manufacturers and which can turn good, natural ingredients into nutritionally worthless or even harmful products. Such chemically processed products are most commonly referred to as processed foods and must be avoided.

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A Believer’s Attitude During Fitnah and Tribulations


We are living in times frequently interspersed with a myriad of trials, tribulations and natural disasters. These disturbing events, whether natural or human-incited, cause depression, despair, chaos and socioeconomic problems. Earthquakes, war, civil strife, tyrannical ruling regimes, rebellious social uprisings, crime, permissive youth culture, family breakups and terrorism have become daily headlines. Yet, the harshest tribulations that undermine peace and security in the Muslim Ummah today are internal discord, dissension and divisions.

Ibn Al-Arabi summed up the meanings of Fitnah, when he said: “Fitnah means testing, Fitnah means trial, Fitnah means wealth, Fitnah means children, Fitnah means Kufr, Fitnah means differences of opinion among people, Fitnah means burning with fire.” (Lisan al-Arab by Ibn Manzoor)

During Fitnah, the Haqq (truth) and Baatil (falsehood) become blurry. Fitnah leaves most lay-Muslims going about their daily lives often very confused about what to do. How to keep anxiety at bay and hopes high? Whom from the two propagators of opposing views to consider on the right path? Whom to applaud and whom to condemn?

Our Prophet Muhammad (sa) forewarned us about an onslaught of tribulations and discord near the time, when the mankind will be in its last era. He said: “Time will pass quickly, good deeds will decrease, miserliness will be thrown (in people’s hearts), Fitan will appear, and there will be much Al-Haraj.” The Sahabah enquired: “O Messenger of Allah! What is Al-Haraj?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “Killing! Killing!” (Bukhari)

Even though we cannot claim that mankind has entered this time, the fact is that even since the last century, there has been a great surge in the diverse kinds and regularity of Fitnah.

The question is: what should a believer’s attitude be like during Fitnah?


Part of Sabr, or forbearance, is for a believer not to show an immediate outburst or be hasty in judgment. This includes the incidents of killings or religious conflicts and natural disasters, which end thousands of livelihoods and sweep away entire towns. Silently, the believer deliberates and slowly takes it all in at first.

When Fitnah or dissension is at its peak, opponents on either side of a debate or conflict pressurize religious authorities, influential political figures, governments or even the laypeople to take sides immediately, especially in this age of powerful digital online media and instant communication. In such a situation, a believer’s silence is perceived as betrayal – if he or she remains quiet, their loyalty to Islam itself is questioned.

Refraining from Jumping on the Bandwagon and Taking Sides

When confusion, chaos and opinions are streaming in from all sides, a cautious Muslim endeavors to obey the Prophet’s (sa) advice and keeps his mouth shut, absorbing the influx of content with an unprejudiced mind.

Any wise person knows that nowadays media reports are mostly sensationalized, exaggerated and intentionally repeated numerous times, in order to sustain consistent viewership and acquire sponsors. Even in written publications, scathing write-ups penned by emotionally-charged journalists invite readers to form a strong opinion without being objective.

Abstention from Expressing Opinions Publicly

In today’s age, the multifaceted, round-the-clock media avenues entice a layman to express an opinion about specific individuals, organizations, governments and figures of authority.

Blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook status updates overflow with a deluge of accusations, rants, abuse, hate speech and public disparagement of others, especially famous celebrities, supposedly “wayward” religious groups and, primarily, leaders and politicians.

Whether the stimulus is a crime committed in broad daylight or the nature of the crime itself in the light of Islamic jurisprudence, television, online media and smartphones churn out incessant opinion editorials, blog posts, articles, live phone calls made on air, Fatwa’s and heated discussions.

The wise Muslim knows that adding another voice to this cacophony will just add fuel to the fire. Hence, difficult though it is, he or she tries to avoid forming or voicing a hard-line opinion, when news of a fresh event reaches them, as they know that doing this will cause no benefit.

Turning to Allah (swt) and Making Dua

It is a teaching of Islam that we should never draw final conclusions about anything, unless a clear proof exists.

A believer knows this and thus turns to Allah (swt). Following the occurrence of a Fitnah, he or she makes the earnest Dua and Dhikr as well as establishes devout prayers late at night, in order to ask Allah (swt) to make the truth about matters and people become clear to him.

Not Passing Verdicts Against Others

Today, the Muslim Ummah is blessed with numerous Islamic scholars. One issue that often arises is how the `Urf Makan (the set of customs of a country or continent, where Muslims reside) differs from that in place elsewhere on the globe.

Hence, every scholar is not equipped to pass verdicts regarding situations faced by Muslims in another part of the world. This means that Fatawa, which apply to Muslims in one place, might not apply to those in another. Average Muslims, however, overlook this factor, when they quote Fatawa from one scholar that are apparently contradictory to those issued by another. Result? Blurring of truth from falsehood.

The optimum approach is to adopt a dignified silence, not get into arguments and avoid quoting Fatawa at the merest enticement. When we have qualified scholars and certified Mufti’s among us, we should leave their work to them.

The Prophet said, “Whoever among you lives (for a long time), will see many differences. I urge you to follow my Sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided Khalifahs, which come after me. Hold on to it firmly…” (Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi)

Advice given by Prophet Muhammad (sa) and the words of his noble companions are like preserved gold. Obeying their words will enable us to save our hearts from disease and will provide us relief from the destructive effects of oft-occurring trials and tribulations.