Well-Fed or Welfare?

Image courtesy http://foodloverssociety.com/

Image courtesy http://foodloverssociety.com/

Why do we eat what we eat? For most of history this question has been quite simple; we eat to survive. But in the context of material abundance, when food is plentiful and easily accessible, this question becomes quite different. What do we feel like eating? Whether it’s our choice of breakfast cereal or the spread at a buffet lunch, there is always a multitude of choices to satisfy our present craving. Most of us make these choices based on our personal taste but when we’re at the supermarket, we’re looking for the best value for money. This fuels the current global market for food; choice, taste, and price. But what’s missing from this equation?

First we have to look at how industrialization has changed the way we produce, package, and distribute food. Small family farms have been replaced by massive agri-businesses. Farm production has shifted to mono crops with global market value. Industrial fertilizers and pesticides have increased crop yields but pollute water, destroy wildlife, and deplete the soil of natural minerals. Meat is industrially produced in increasingly large quantities, creating a huge demand for fodder. Convenience foods laden with chemicals are produced in factories and distributed all over the world. As food becomes plentiful, for some, it comes with a huge price tag for all.

We might consider these changes to be something we have little control over, and therefore, have no accountability for; but a closer look at the problem reveals that we are not only accountable but even responsible. Every time we put something into our shopping cart, we are participating in this unsustainable system. We need to rethink our decisions about food by inserting the question of welfare into the equation – regarding our health, our planet, and every living thing on it.

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Finding Fatimah

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The world has known many Fatimahs, the most famous and revered one in the Muslim Ummah being Fatimah, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (sa), whom we meet in the books of Seerah.

Recently, I came across one more exemplary Fatimah, who was born to a Tunisian businessman in the year 800 AD. Fatimah bint Mohammad al-Fihri is known as the founder of the oldest university in the world.

Along with her sister, Maryam, Fatimah al-Fihri left her city of birth in order to help their father expand his business. Rather like today, changing homes back in the ninth century was no easy task. But the bustling city of Fes soon became a friend to the family as the two sisters helped Mohammad al-Fihri settle in Morocco.

Their newfound happiness did not last for as long as they may have hoped. Mohammad al-Fihri passed away, leaving the girls without any close family member. However, he left for the girls a respectable amount of money in his will, a clear message that he trusted his daughters to build for themselves a place in this world. Fatimah and Maryam had previously lived comfortably and money matters were mostly left to the discretion of their father. After his death, however, the sisters took bold yet noble decisions about what to do with the money that was now theirs.

Living in the cultural and spiritual centre of ninth century Morocco, Fatimah was deeply inspired by the study of art, religion, history, and architectural design. She gravitated towards this vibrant community and the values it upheld, to which she was no longer a stranger. For the al-Fihri sisters, nothing could reduce the pain of losing their father better than giving back to their community. Hence, they decided to invest in the society around them. The money they had inherited was used to lay the foundations of what were initially two Masajid: Al-Andalus and Al-Qarawiyyin. The constructions of both were supervised by Maryam and Fatimah respectively.

In 869 AD, Fatimah decided it was time to expand the mosque into a Madrassah, which went on to be recognized as a state university in 1963. In his book “Madrasah and University in the Middle Ages”, George Makdisi writes: “…back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.”

During the course of Islamic history, Al-Qarawiyyin became more than a university that housed a Masjid; it soon began housing the greatest minds of the European Middle Ages. Many notable scholars of the time either studied or taught at Al-Qarawiyyin, including Ibn Khaldun, Leo Africanus, and Ibn al-Arabi. The university gained fame among the scholars from all over the world, such as Maimonides (Ibn Maimun) and Muhammad al-Idris, a cartographer, whose maps were widely used during the Renaissance, especially in European quests to explore uncharted lands.

The university expanded very rapidly. With additional construction done in the twelfth century, Al-Qarawiyyin came to be regarded as the largest mosque in North Africa. That was the time when the Masjid gained its current structure, which can now accommodate around twenty-two thousand worshippers.

In a brutal attempt to massacre Muslim civilization during the Spanish Inquisition, many Muslims and scholars were expelled from Spain. They found a refuge in Fes, where they shared their wisdom and their cultural insights about arts and sciences. While the Spanish Inquisition of the thirteenth century was a dark and difficult time for Muslim scholars, al-Fihri’s institution became a much-needed symbol of hope for the devastated Muslim academia.

In his book “Islamic Education in Europe” (2009), Ednan Aslan writes how the Muslim community “maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge.” This resulted in the centres becoming “places where teachers and students of that time would meet” and “where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates.” He writes that in the ninth century, it is not to be taken as a coincidence that the establishment of the Qarawiyyin University in Fes was followed by Az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. Aslan writes: “The university model, which in the West was widespread starting only from the twelfth century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period.”

Before her death in 880 AD, Fatimah al-Fihri was titled Umme Banin, the Mother of the Children. She was remembered to have stood true to her oath to keep fasting till the construction of the Masjid was completed. She prayed in the Masjid for the first time as an act of gratitude to Allah (swt). The city of Kairouan was no longer a stranger to the two sisters, Fatimah and Maryam, both of whom had made wise and important choices in their youth.

As a Muslimah, the world I live in asks me to stop looking into the past; however, it is there that I find hope for the future. Perhaps there is a Fatimah al-Fihri out there reading my words. If she is, we must help her in her quest to create a space, where learning takes place for all the seekers of knowledge.

 

When They Disagreed Before the Prophet (sa)

disagreement before Prophet (sa)

He (sa) Let Him Go

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri (rtam) narrated: “Ali bin Abu Talib (rtam) sent a piece of gold, not yet taken out of its ore, in a tanned leather container to Allah’s Messenger (sa). Allah’s Messenger (sa) distributed that amongst four persons: Uyainah bin Badr (rtam), Aqra bin Habis (rtam), Zaid Al-Khalil (rtam) and the fourth was either Alqamah (rtam) or Amr bin Tufail (rtam). On that, one of his companions said: ‘We are more deserving of this (gold) than these (persons).’ When the news reached the Prophet (sa), he said: ‘Don’t you trust me, though I am the trustworthy man of the One in the heavens, and I receive the news of the heavens (i.e., Divine Revelation) both in the morning and in the evening?’ There got up a man with sunken eyes, raised cheek bones, raised forehead, a thick beard, a shaven head and a waist sheet that was tucked up and he said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Be afraid of Allah.’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Woe to you! Am I not of all the people of the earth the most entitled to fear Allah?’ Then, that man went away. Khalid bin Al-Waleed (rtam) said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Shall I chop his neck off?’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘No, maybe he offers prayers.’ Khalid (rtam) said: ‘Numerous are those, who offer prayers and say by their tongues (i.e., mouths) what is not in their hearts.’ Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘I have not been ordered (by Allah) to search the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies.’” (Bukhari)

The above incident highlights that suspicion without evidence is not permitted, especially, when a believer is under consideration. Also, if there occurs a disagreement with a stranger whom we have no previous relationship with, it is best to disregard it. We often witness or experience such disputes and squabble on the road, in the market, in the Masjid or other public places and take them to our heart. For peace to prevail, we should initiate forgiveness.

He (sa) Reconciled Amongst Them

Al-Bara (rtam) has narrated: “When the Prophet (sa) intended to perform Umrah in the month of Dhul-Qadah, the people of Makkah did not let him enter Makkah, till he settled the matter with them by promising to stay in it for three days only. When the document of the treaty was written, the following was mentioned: ‘These are the terms, on which Muhammad (sa), Allah’s Apostle agreed (to make peace).’ They said: ‘We will not agree to this, for if we believed that you are Allah’s Apostle, we would not prevent you, but you are Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa).’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘I am Allah’s Apostle and also Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa).’ Then, he said to Ali (rtam): ‘Rub off (the words) ‘Allah’s Apostle’,’ but Ali (rtam) said: ‘No, by Allah, I will never rub off your name.’ Allah’s Apostle (sa) took the document and wrote: ‘This is what Muhammad bin Abdullah (sa) has agreed upon: No arms will be brought into Makkah, except in their cases, and nobody from the people of Makkah will be allowed to go with him (i.e., the Prophet (sa)), even if he wished to follow him, and he (the Prophet (sa)) will not prevent any of his companions from staying in Makkah, if the latter wants to stay.’ When the Prophet (sa) entered Makkah and the time limit passed, the people of Makkah went to Ali (rtam) and said: ‘Tell your friend (i.e., the Prophet (sa)) to go out, as the period (agreed to) has passed.’ The Prophet (sa) went out of Makkah. The daughter of Hamza (rtam) ran after them (i.e., the Prophet (sa) and his companions), calling: ‘O uncle! O uncle!’ Ali (rtam) received her and led her by the hand, and said to Fatimah (rtaf): ‘Take your uncle’s daughter.’ Zaid (rtam) and Jafar (rtam) quarreled about her. Ali (rtam) said: ‘I have more right to her, as she is my uncle’s daughter.’ Jafar (rtam) said: ‘She is my uncle’s daughter, and her aunt is my wife.’ Zaid (rtam) said: ‘She is my brother’s daughter.’ The Prophet (sa) judged that she should be given to her aunt, and said that the aunt was like the mother. He then said to all: ‘You are from me, and I am from you’, and said to Jafar (rtam): ‘You resemble me both in character and appearance’, and said to Zaid (rtam): ‘You are our brother (in faith) and our freed slave.’” (Bukhari)

These were men of high faith. They dedicated their lives, honour, assets, and every single blessing from Allah (swt) in his way and yet they disagreed. The point to comprehend is that Allah (swt) has not created carbon copies. We are all unique in our thoughts and actions. This is what makes the world diverse, and helps man deliver his best. The Prophet (sa) understood the Sahabah’s good intentions for the girl, and hence judged amongst them which they agreed to.

He (sa) Punished Him

Urwa bin Az-Zubair (rtam) has narrated: “Az-Zubair (rtam) told me that he quarrelled with an Ansari man, who had participated in (the battle of) Badr, in front of Allah’s Apostle (sa) about a water stream, which both of them used for irrigation. Allah’s Apostle (sa) said to Az-Zubair (rtam): ‘O Zubair! Irrigate (your garden) first and then let the water flow to your neighbour.’ The Ansari became angry and said: ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Is it because he is your cousin?’ On that, the complexion of Allah’s Apostle (sa) changed (because of anger), and he said (to Az-Zubair [rtam]): ‘Irrigate (your garden) and then withhold the water, till it reaches the walls (surrounding the palms).’ Allah’s Apostle (sa) gave Az-Zubair (rtam) his full right. Before that, Allah’s Apostle (sa) had given a generous judgement beneficial for Az-Zubair (rtam) and the Ansari, but the Ansari rejected it. Hence, Allah’s Apostle (sa) gave Az-Zubair (rtam) his full right according to the evident law. Az-Zubair (rtam) said: ‘By Allah! I think the following verse was revealed concerning that case: “But no by your Lord they can have no faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them.” (An-Nisa 4:65)’” (Bukhari)

 

It’s not Bad to be Sad

sadCo-authored by Umm Isam

We often aim to escape from a phase of sadness, assuming that it’s not a ‘good’ or ‘normal’ state to be in. We feel sorry for people, who are undergoing certain sorrow or distress. Have we wondered why we are feeling this way? We often fail to realize that sadness is an emotion just like any other emotion in our life. Why do we feel so bad about being sad? How did we come to this conclusion that sadness is bad and happiness is good? Let’s look into some reasons which we fail to acknowledge.

It is important to note that we live in a capitalist structure of society, which was initiated in the era of industrialization. Capitalism defines the society in a way that everyone seeks happiness in a certain object or material product. It has designed the media, products, schooling system, movies and dramas in a way that depicts a constant search for material happiness. Media is a powerful agent of the capitalists. They use it to condition humans in a way that their subconscious mind is engraved into attaining worldly or material products in order to gain happiness.

A prominent example is the common ad of skin whitening creams, which always show two main scenes: the first scene with a girl who looks dull, dark and ‘sad’; the second scene shows a girl who looks fresh, fair and ‘happy’. Our mind is way smarter than we perceive it to be; hence, it catches even the slightest details and stores it in our subconscious memory. Next time, when we face a similar situation, we tend to pick what’s available in our subconscious mind. In this case, the media has fed us to look for happiness in a simple skin whitening cream.

Another common example of imposed happiness can be seen on Facebook. Have you ever noticed on Facebook any pictures of your friends crying or looking dull? I am sure not or very rarely. Even if people are feeling gloomy and sad, they pose with hugs and smiles when someone brings out the camera. It is obvious that they are smiling merely for Facebook and do not feel the actual happiness of that smile. This happens because of the basic concept that we have to be happy all the time, which is neither necessary nor natural.

Media perpetuates products and ads, which depict humans fetching happiness all the time, or it tries to provide steps of gaining ultimate happiness. Movies and dramas are filled with ‘they lived happily ever after’, happy endings and successful protagonists, giving us a message that we have to avail happiness in the same way, and if we don’t, then we are not normal.

Furthermore, the system of capitalism has also initiated many diseases, for example, depression, bipolar disorders and even eating disorders. It depicts and defines ‘happy’ for us, and then we develop a feeling of Hasad (envy) trying to seek that happiness for ourselves; hence, we increase the risks of such diseases as depression and anxiety. The societal pressure to look happy weighs people down so heavily that they often need to seek professional help.  People experiencing depression visit psychiatrists, who prescribe anti-depressants. These drugs are highly priced and require to be taken for a long time. Pharmaceutical companies are making millions out of them, so they rope in doctors, who at times are not even qualified to prescribe these drugs. Furthermore, the chemicals in these drugs prevent the self-correctional process of human body that Allah (swt) has granted, thus throwing everything into disarray. Sometimes, all a sad person needs is counselling from another wise person or friend, instead of antidepressants.

The pressure to feel joyful is so immense that when a child falls or a teenager fails at something, parents don’t even want to acknowledge their sorrow. A child is told that all is okay and he must not cry. The adolescent is admonished to display bravado and not immaturity. In contrast, psychologists strongly advise to acknowledge these distressful feelings and emotionally empathize with these kids. This is to ensure that they will trust their feelings the next time. If we muffle them, they would eventually become desensitized and won’t respond to anybody’s pain, assuming it to be wrong. If we cut our finger and do not acknowledge it, we can actually bleed to death unknowingly. It is Allah’s (swt) mercy to feel hurt in order to recover and survive.

Allah (swt) designed everything with symmetry. If there is hot, then there is cold, too. Too much of anything makes survival difficult and can eventually destroy the system. Similarly, Allah (swt) designed happiness and sadness together, complimenting each other and giving symmetry to our life.

We, as Muslims, are well aware of the fact that nothing can stay forever. How can we expect happiness or even sadness to stay forever in our lives? A common example is going on a vacation. We enjoy ourselves and experience great happiness; however, if the vacation gets too long, we eventually start getting homesick. This is because nothing can keep us happy or sad forever. The system of Allah (swt) is flawless and everything is balanced with both positives and negatives.

Allah (swt) is the One, Who makes us happy or sad. In a state of sadness, we are not permitted to utter the words of Kufr, fall into disbelief, pose threat or harm to others, and doubt the existence of Allah (swt), or whether He has forsaken us. Some incidents in life cannot be explained through reasoning and seem very unjust, but Duniya is not Dar-ul-Jaza (a place where we will be rewarded). It is imperfect. It is a place of test for a believer, so he can score well with Sabr and Salah and attain the most exquisite bounties of Paradise, which will be perfect. Good people may be afflicted with severe hardships. Sadness should be a means to draw closer to our Rabb (swt) and ask for forgiveness.

If you remember Allah (swt) in times of joy, He will stay close to you in times of distress. A strong believer never forgets his Creator and always invokes Him alone for strength in sadness.

Instead of looking for happiness all the time, we should consider the perfect system designed by Allah (swt) and realize that no matter which emotion we experience, it should be treated well. Research has shown that crying can actually make people feel better and relieve the stress that was accumulating in their body. Therefore, it is better to let your sadness out and feel it completely; however, we should not let it overpower us and influence our lifestyle. We should learn from life events and move on. Don’t allow the media to condition a definition of happiness for you; rather, develop your own happiness. Be adventurous, take risks and always trust Allah (swt).

An Open Letter to the Family’s Elders

Open Letter to Family Elders

In Pakistan, discussions in social gatherings often turn towards the ‘pathetic’ economic and political situation of the country, with elders at the fore in criticizing the leaders and masses for their misdeeds. It is now fashionable not only to disparage Pakistan’s leaders, but to also consider one’s self justified in doing it.

A reminder: criticizing and lampooning figures of authority behind their backs is Gheebah. Just because our leaders are corrupt doesn’t mean we are allowed to sling mud upon their honour.

That being said, Islam has not stopped the common masses from correcting their leader directly, preferably in private, when he makes a mistake. For this reason, even if the Imam makes a mistake in obligatory Salah, his followers in the congregation are obliged to point it out to him by saying, “Subhan’Allah.”

There are levels of leadership in an Islamic society, and they all involve authority and accountability. For example, families have leaders, too, who are accountable before Allah (swt) for their mistakes. Advancement in age doesn’t change the seriousness of this accountability before Allah (swt).

What happens as family leaders age, however, is that they eventually have no one older than them alive, who can scold and correct them, which might give them a false sense of absolute authority over their younger subordinates. This can make it easier for them to go on making mistakes, until the younger ones in the family muster up the courage to try and correct them.

Result? Often, denial.

Undercurrents of tension in joint families

The scores of emails and comments I receive on my blog from the ‘middle generation’ – married Muslims with young children – point towards a reality that no one today likes to talk about: family problems that exist in almost every outwardly smoothly running joint family household.

Rights in Islam that elderly parents do not possess

Most of us are well-aware of the extremely high rights to obedience and good treatment that Allah (swt) has afforded to parents in Islam. Even if they are oppressive, cruel, sinful, outright misguided or non-Muslims, their children, young or old, cannot rebuke, insult or mistreat them in any way. I will not detail these rights here, because most of us are aware of them.

What I would like to do, instead, is address our society elders and remind them of the rights that they, as parents, do not have, especially if they are financially self-sufficient and physically healthy:

(1) Elderly parents do not have the right to control their adult, married offspring in the realm of permissible things in Islam, such as what style, colour, or brand of clothes they wear, which car they buy, or whether they eat cereal or eggs for breakfast. They can give consultation and wisely-worded, appropriately-timed advice, but in the end, the adult son or daughter cannot be manipulated or coerced to do exactly as they please.

(2) Parents do not have the right to insult, deride, ridicule or humiliate their married son or daughter in front of others, especially before the latter’s spouse, children or in-laws. Maligning another’s honour is a sin in Islam, and parental authority is not a ticket to absolution from other sins. So, what can be said about scolding a daughter-in-law or son-in-law for falling short in tasks that are not even their obligatory Islamic duties, such as accidentally burning the rice or wearing their own choice of clothes to a dinner party?

(3) Parents do not have the right to walk into their married son’s or daughter’s private bedroom area without prior permission. Any area, in which a husband and wife enjoy exclusive privacy, is off-limits by default, until permission is given, even for their parents. On the same token, the parents of adult children should not go through the cupboards, wallets, handbags, bank account statements, attaché cases or dressers of their married son or daughter without permission.

(4) Just as elderly parents have exclusive rights upon their adult children, they too, have exclusive rights upon theirs. Grandparents do not have the final say about decisions related to grandchildren; the children’s own parents, especially their mothers, do. Yes, this means that a daughter-in-law has greater rights over her children than her parents-in-law do. If there is ever any worldly matter, in which she wants her child to do one thing, and a grandparent wants him or her to do another (such as what food to eat and what television programme to watch), then according to Allah’s (swt) laws, she deserves to be obeyed by her child three times more than not just the grandparent, but also their son (i.e., her husband).

(5) Elderly people should fear Allah (swt) regarding their children. An elder above the age of sixty or seventy is like a valuable gem for their family. They are indeed fortunate, if all of their children are well-settled, happily married and enjoying loving marital relationships. Elders should not let their authority, advanced age or personal insecurities initiate problems in their children’s homes.

(6) Age is nothing but a number. When a parent crosses the age of sixty, if they are financially self-sufficient and free from physical domestic duties (especially of raising children), they should try to keep themselves occupied in positive work and beneficial hobbies. They can attend new courses, teach/mentor others, volunteer at welfare organizations, and revitalize their worship of Allah (swt). For example, Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the head of the 1000-year-old Al-Azhar University, was eighty-one, when he died in Madinah, where he had travelled to attend an award ceremony. Japanese doctor, Shigeaki Hinohara, is still working as a physician and professor at age of one hundred. Wahiduddin Khan is still writing Islamic books at the age of eighty-seven.

(7) If elders have any surviving elderly relatives of their own besides their parents, such as an ailing aunt, uncle or distant cousin, they should visit them and help them. It will take their mind off from worries of when their son or daughter last visited and prevent them constantly missing their out-of-town grandchildren.

The more mental and physical independence, space and respect elders will give to their adult, married offspring (and their spouses), the more love and joy they will enjoy in their homes, Insha’Allah.

On the Faith of my Friend (Part 2)

faith of friend

The Third Story: Back to the Noor of Iman

How many of you know that Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan is an ex-atheist? Here is his story:

I went through an internal struggle, when I was in junior high school. Basically, it was a loss of religion. When I came to the USA in the ninth grade, it was a cultural shock. A lot of the values that I was raised with were all being questioned at the same time. There was nobody that I could talk to or verify my own beliefs with. Eventually, what happens is that you make friends based on proximity and common interest, so most of my friends were polytheists and a good number of smart people were actually atheists. Falling into that crowd and not being around any Muslims, I ended up with a good bunch of very messed up friends.

I hid my confusions from my family, because I knew how taboo they could be – you can’t really share these kinds of confusions at home, so I learnt to live with them. I began to have almost a hatred for the concept of God. Religion became something that I associated more with my friends, rather than my family. No matter how in touch you are with your religion, it’s just a matter of having messed up friends.

However, Subhanallah, with the Mercy of Allah, Allah (swt) opened many doors for me, one after another, that I couldn’t have opened myself – those doors led me back to Iman. Allah (swt) opened a door for me that led me to make friends with a person, who I would probably not have imagined associating with. I ran into him by chance. As I was sitting in the hallway, I saw this guy come up and post a flyer on the college billboard, which read “Muslim Student Association”. I thought: “Wow, these people will probably invite all the Muslims to jam together.” So I went over to him and started talking to him about it, and he said: “Yeah, it’s a lot of fun! You have to come!”

I skipped out on all the other clubs that I was part of and I went to this supposedly great party club. When I reached there, there was no one in the room, except the guy who had put up the flyers with a box of pizza, waiting for the others to show up. When I walked in, I felt sort of awkward, so I tried to leave. He, however, reeled me in – we started talking and became friends.  He’d give me a ride home every day. And we’d hang out every other day. No Islam, no religion – he was just a friend.

One time, when we got stuck in traffic, he said: “It’s getting late. Would you mind, if I stopped here and offered my Maghrib prayer?” I readily agreed. At that time, it must have been six years since I had last prayed. Inexplicably, I felt the urge to pray with him. So I went, performed my Wudhu and prayed with him. And I felt something that I had not felt in a very long time. A sort of peace. I tried to bury it inside me. Thanks to the Mercy of Allah (swt), he gave me that consistent company and through him I got to meet a lot of wonderful people – young Muslims, who were really active in their community, doing things that mattered, trying to make the world a better place.

It made me think, wow, these people have such a sense of purpose – where are they getting it from? Because till then I had no sense of purpose. One of the other things he did for me was that he connected me to this programme, which was going on in the Muslim centre in Flushing. It was in Ramadan, and the programme included a Taraweeh prayer coupled with the explanation of the Quran. Then, for the first time in my life I realized that the Quran was actually a dialogue – Allah (swt) was talking to me. The Lord of the Worlds was directly engaged in conversation with me. I was mystified. I listened for the entire month. In the end, I went up to the presenter and told him: “I want to do what you do.”

Masha’Allah, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan went on to establish the “Bayyinah Institute”, an institute of Islamic learning that has transformed many lives since. All due to the Mercy of Allah (swt), Who connected him to that one friend, who led Nouman Ali Khan to the Nur of Iman once again.

The Fourth Story: The Miracle of Kabah

The following story is one of the most riveting tales I have ever heard in my life:

During his school days, a boy by the name of Aslam had a close friend, who eventually grew up to be one of the greatest scholars of this generation. They graduated from school and went ahead in their lives. Aslam was blessed with a wonderful education and career, a highly paid job and very meritorious position, lavish lifestyle and belongings. Life for him was, in a nutshell, perfect. And this perfection is what planted the seed of arrogance in his heart. “I have everything I want in this world,” he thought. “I’m dependent on nobody. There is no Allah (swt). I am the master of my own life.”

One day, he mentioned this to his friends at a gathering, in which his old school friend, now a Sheikh, was also present. When his friends heard directly from Aslam’s mouth that he had adopted atheism, there was no end to the mockery and remonstrance he was subjected to. Only the Sheikh maintained absolute silence. None of what his friends said, however, had any effect on him. He was resolute – there is no God. Allah (swt) continued to shower His infinite blessings upon Aslam, who, as time went on, became more and more complacent. On reaching the pinnacle of his power and wealth, he boldly stood up in a gathering and proclaimed: “There is no Allah! I am an atheist!”

It was at this assertion that Allah’s (swt) anger descended upon the smug man. Aslam contracted a strange disease that confounded doctors. He intermittently suffered from severe fits and profuse sweating. No doctor had ever come across this disease, nor had they ever heard of it – naturally, they had no idea of how to treat it. As a result, Aslam’s health steadily deteriorated. He lost weight and became weaker by the day. The fits rendered him unable to work and he was fired from his job. His wife and friends, assuming the disease was contagious, deserted him. He was left all alone. And that’s when he remembered his childhood friend, who had not mocked him, when he had announced his atheism. “He must be my true friend,” Aslam thought and rang up the Sheikh.

The Sheikh was a wise man. On hearing the plight of his friend, he replied: “I may be able to help you. I know of two other people, who were afflicted with the same disease. A doctor in the USA was able to cure them.”

Oh, were any other words sweeter than these? “Please help me contact that doctor!” Aslam pleaded.

“Of course, I will, my friend,” replied the Sheikh, “but only on one condition.”

“Anything,” Aslam breathed.

“You must promise me that on your way back from USA to Pakistan, you must stop at Makkah to perform Umrah.”

Aslam was caught unawares. “But I’m an atheist! Why would I go to Makkah?”

“This is my condition. If you want to get yourself treated by the right person, you have to promise.”

Defeated, Aslam agreed. The Sheikh gave him the doctor’s contact number and wished him a safe journey. Aslam arrived in the USA and visited the recommended physician. The physician examined his situation and remarked: “The disease you are suffering from is one of the rarest diseases in the world. Only three people have contracted it so far, but I have been able to cure them.” Aslam’s treatment began. But Allah’s (swt) will was such that instead of alleviating Aslam’s situation, the treatment made it worse. No medicine worked.

Realising that there was nothing to be gained in the USA, a distraught Aslam boarded the aircraft bound for home, barely well enough to travel. He was mere skin and bones, and the seizures overtook him more frequently than ever. As promised, he had arranged for a transit in Makkah. The thin, emaciated form disembarked in Makkah and the sunken eyes beheld the Kabah for the first time. The black box is indeed a miracle in itself. Allah’s (swt) glory manifested itself in the self-proclaimed atheist’s eyes, who cried out in pain and agony, clutching at the last straw, “Ya Allah, agar tu hai, tou mujhe theek karday!” (O Allah, if you are present, cure me!) The moment he uttered these words, his body relaxed. He felt calmer. And when the seizures came, they weren’t as intense as before. As days passed, they became less frequent, came with greater gaps and the intensity steadily decreased till the fits vanished altogether. Overwhelmed, Aslam saw the divine light. He returned home and took Shahada at the hands of his true friend, the Sheikh. The darkness of atheism would never hit him again.

On the Faith of My Friend (Part 1)

faith of friend

By Maria Haqqani – Freelance writer and engineering student

Imagine yourself to be standing in the middle of a garbage dump. The stench is overpowering. Now, imagine somebody pouring a bottle of perfume all over you. Will you smell great? No, you will still stink; well, maybe in a weird sort of way. Such is the example of a person surrounded by foul friends, as expressed by our Prophet (sa):

“The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Imam Al-Ghazali (ra) has said: “A bad friend is worse than a snake. A bad friend is worse than Satan.” Why is that so? Let’s think rationally. Satan can only entice a human to do wrong. He will come and whisper in your ear to commit a particular sin and make it all the more appealing to you. But a bad friend will call you up, show you the wrong path, and take you along with himself to tread upon that path. Satan may make you think that drinking is the ‘in’ thing, but a bad friend will not only offer to pick and take you to the bar but also pester you to have a glass of wine.

“And (remember) the Day when the Zalim (wrong-doer, oppressor, polytheist, etc.) will bite at his hands, he will say: ‘Oh! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)). Ah! Woe to me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so as a friend! He indeed led me astray from the Reminder (this Quran) after it had come to me. And Shaitan (Satan) is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.’” (Al-Furqan 25:27-29)

“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).”  (At-Taubah 9:119)

The Deen of Islam is Yusr (easy). In the aforementioned verse, Allah (swt) does not say “be like the truest ones” or “follow the truest ones”. He merely says to associate with them – as a result, their qualities will definitely rub off on us. The same way the bad company will lead us to sin, good company will have the opposite effect and bring us closer to Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) said: “Solitude is better than being in bad company, and good company is better than solitude.” (Baihaqi) This Hadeeth stresses the importance of good company. Perhaps the biggest advantage of having the company of people close to Deen is illustrated by the following Hadeeth-e-Qudsi;

“Where are those who loved one another for My Glory? Today I will shade them under My shade, on the Day when there is no shade but Mine.” (Muslim)

The First Story: Only Between Allah (swt) and You

Maham, a third year Madrassah student and a pupil at a private university, related the following story:

The journey through classical Islamic learning is highly stimulating – not only does it bring you closer to Allah (swt) and transform your lifestyle, but it also makes your ideas and plans venture into a realm you’d never have possibly imagined. During my second year of studies, I began contemplating the Purdah, meaning the Niqab. Surah Al-Ahzab and Surah An-Nur are two Surahs that, if they hit home, make a woman strive for Allah’s (swt) love and do whatever He has commanded a woman to do. The fire to take this step was kindled, but, as usual, Satan got up to his tricks again and attacked me with inhibitions. “How will I explain to my parents that I want to don the Niqab? They’ll think I’ve gone crazy! How will my friends react? They’ll call me an extremist! I shall never fit into their group again! I’ll be an outcast! This is going to be so hard!

I decided to discuss this issue with one of my classmates, who had been blessed enough to have taken this step already. After lending a very patient ear to my effusions, she replied: “Honestly, Maham, you’ll hate it.”

I stared at her in disbelief.

“Yes, you will,” she ‘reassured’ me, eyeing my startled expression. “After donning the Niqab, you’re just not the same person anymore. You cannot fit into your crowd, your college mates will mock you and you cannot dress up. At times, I just feel like ripping it off and being the ‘old me’ again.”

I was speechless. Here I was, asking my friend for some encouragement, when I was in a state of mental turmoil, whilst all she could offer was excuses for me to drop the idea altogether? But, she leaned closer and continued, her eyes shining: “You know what keeps me going? The sole fact that when I step outdoors, I know that whether I’m happy or sad, whether I have a smile playing upon my lips or whether my face depicts anxiety, it is only my Allah (swt) Who can see. It’s mine and Allah’s (swt) little secret. That is what makes the Niqab so special. Oh, and you know another thing that’s so cool? I can see everyone, but nobody can see me. A Niqabi gets the spiritual edge, the edge in Dunya and in the Akhirah.” She smiled a smile that reflected pure satisfaction and contentment.

I suddenly realised I had tears in my eyes. The beauty of the idea and the sincerity with which Lubaina had uttered this statement touched my heart. Next time I stepped out of the house, a three inch cloth covered my face and barred most of my face from view, shielding me from recognition. My friends stared at me in wonder, as though a stranger had stepped into their midst. I smiled. I knew my secret was safe.”

The Second Story: The Power of Ya-Sin  

Zareen, a third year Madrassah student studying at a private college, had a very interesting story to share:

When my best friend visited Pakistan from London during her university holidays, we would sleep over at each other’s place quite frequently. It was a Ramadan night, when she was over at my house. I had been reciting Surah Ya-Sin. I put aside my Quran, with the page open at Surah Ya-Sin, and started talking to her. Her inquisitive nature possessed her, and she asked me what I had been doing. I told her I’d been memorising Surah Ya-Sin.

“Why?” she asked.

“The Prophet (sa) said that Surah Ya-Sin is the heart of the Quran. Hence, I believe that if the ‘Heart of the Quran’ is inside a person’s heart, how can Allah (swt) burn that person and his heart in hell?”

The thought attracted Hooria. “So even if a person is a sinner, but he’s learnt the Surah, he won’t be put into the fire?” was her innocent question.

“Yes, that is what I personally believe,” I replied. “There is a Hadeeth, which implies that one only gets from Allah (swt) whatever he expects to get from Him. I expect this from my Allah (swt) and hence hope for the best.”

Hooria thought this over. “Okay,” she said finally. “I want to learn it, too. Let’s keep each other in check and set a target for every day.”

Excited, I agreed. This was indeed great news. Hooria was not very regular in her prayer; in fact, it was only in Ramadan that she would pray once or twice a day and very rarely the rest of the year, if at all. We kept a check on each other and progressed well into the Surah by the time she returned to the UK.

One day, we were talking to each other and she asked me: “If you give up something in your life, I’ll do something for you, whatever you ask.” I agreed.

After she’d told me what she wanted me to give up, I seized the opportunity and said to her, “Now, it’s my turn – you have to give up eating Haram food and switch entirely to Halal.” She agreed. Now, she began to be more conscious of what she was eating and consequently more conscious of Allah (swt). Soon she grew accustomed to eating Halal.

We kept up this process of doing things for each other. Next, I asked her to begin praying the Jumuah prayer. She agreed. This tiny step awakened her spiritual self. She began offering one prayer a day and that increased to praying five times a day!

When she visited Pakistan next, Hooria said to me: “You know, Zareen, when I came to Karachi this time, it was a different me. My heart was at peace. I was happy internally. Even in one Namaz, whatever I ask Allah (swt), He gives it to me. You always told me to ask Him for Him. I never knew Him. But now I’m getting to know Him a bit more. You know what? I didn’t miss a single prayer yesterday!”

I still marvel at how Allah (swt) helps people, who take a step towards Him. Hooria was most enthusiastic about her Ibadah. Her day was no longer complete without reciting Surah Ya-Sin. She’d feel something was terribly amiss, if she didn’t. She asked me questions and found out about the Chasht and Ishraq prayers and would offer them regularly. I told her that the Asr prayer is actually four Sunnahs and four Fard, although the Sunnahs are not compulsory. But her enthusiasm knew no bounds. Since then, it’s been eight Rakats for her in each Asr prayer. If I would leave my two Nafil in Maghrib, saying that I’m too exhausted, she’d blackmail me and say: “How would you feel, if Allah (swt) said to you that He’s too exhausted to put you in Jannah?”

“Instead of going from zero to ten, Hooria stepped from zero to a ninety-nine, Masha’Allah. She may not have started covering, but when I donned the Niqab, she was my best support,” finished Zareen.

The Fallen Stars

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By Rana Rais Khan – Editor, Hiba Magazine

We have heard about the tragic deaths of many celebrities. They rose, they conquered and they shattered. They were gifted people. They had both ambition and opportunities. But when they reached the zenith of their success, their fate catapulted…

Whether it was John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Parveen Babi, Heath Ledger, Divya Bharti, Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson – somewhere down the road, after achieving all that a person desires in this world, they all met a lonely, tragic death.

But why? These people were worshipped by millions of fans around the world. Why and how could they be lonely? Were they insecure, despite being the epitome of fashion and style? They had enough money to last a lifetime – what haunted them?

The truth is that the stars we admire and emulate are also people like us, and they have their own demons to slay. Leading a life under the public’s microscope, and pleasing millions across the world is not easy.

A news channel reporter once explained why Michael Jackson underwent countless painful cosmetic surgeries. The reason was that his father used to pick on him for being the darkest and the ugliest of all the siblings.

Reuters reported: “Whitney Houston, whose soaring voice lifted her to the top of the music world but whose personal decline was fuelled by years of drug use, was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room at 48 years of age.”

Parveen Babi, the Indian actress, was found dead in her house several days after she passed away. When it was time for her burial, no one knew what rites to follow because no one knew what religion she belonged to, if any. Once loved by all, she was utterly alone when she died.

British singer, Amy Winehouse, was found dead at her apartment in London. She was only 27 years old. She had won five Grammy Awards and sold millions of albums. But before she died, she had drug and drinking problems and had taken a divorce.

Scores of books can be penned about the misery of these “stars”. Happiness has very little to do with how famous you are and how much money you have. Junaid Jamshaid, former singer, put it aptly: “The human soul has been sent from the sky by Allah (swt); hence, it also needs to be satisfied from things that are divine – the Quran, which was sent by Allah (swt). The body was made with clay, so it needs to be satisfied with what the soil produces in terms of food and water.” However, we indulge the body but leave the soul to starve.

Allah (swt) wants humans to reach a level of piety and goodness. He keeps offering them chances throughout their lives to turn over a new leaf. Satan, on the other hand, tries to lead us to the abyss of doom. No matter what justifications or theories any one presents, the rule is simple: if we obey Allah (swt), our hearts remain happy and content; if we obey Satan, our life becomes living hell.

Turning a blind eye doesn’t change the reality. Popular culture and comfortable acceptance of immodesty doesn’t alter the Fitrah that is here to stay forever. Show business demands Allah’s (swt) disobedience. Regardless of the charity work done and the donations collected for noble causes, the pain will not go away unless the root cause is addressed.

We should keep in mind that supporting people on the road to disbelief includes our patronage of all that they do. We, too, are partners in crime by creating a demand and encouraging them to keep up with the supply. Allah (swt) will question us along with those who actually practice disobedience.

Let us pray that all our extremely talented and gifted brothers and sisters across the globe learn to willingly embrace guidance, serve the Creator, and lead contented lives. “…Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”(Ar-Ra’d, 13:28)

Life Without The Idiot Box

idiot box

By Naureen Aqueel – Freelance writer

Most parents are prudent when it comes to their children’s safety and upbringing. They go out of the way to ensure their well-being; they carefully select their school, and they teach them not to talk to strangers and to be careful about who they befriend. Yet, inside their homes, they often leave them at the mercy of a complete stranger – the television.

From serving the role of a babysitter to just being the ‘background noise’, while chores are completed around the house, the television today is like an additional family member. According to a study in the USA, an individual watches television for, on average, 1,680 minutes per week. That is equal to two months of nonstop television viewing per year.

It is heartening to see that some families are standing up today and refusing to let their homes be occupied by the TV. While some are limiting the amount of television viewing or moderating children’s viewing habits, others have taken the bolder step of throwing the television out of the house altogether. Life is possible without the idiot box, they say — and here is how:

“I read, blog, talk to friends and family on the phone, and read and play games with the children (to spend my free time),” says Umm Abdullah, a homeschooling mom of eight kids. “The children play games, (computer time on weekends) and they create their own play themes; they also go out on their bikes and play outdoors. There’s a lot to do to have fun; we can’t seem to find the time to do it all.”

Umm Musa’s family has not had television for the past few years, ever since they started gaining knowledge about Islam and observed that “almost all television programmes either contained immorality or stupidity and that apart from the content, television as a medium per se, was addictive and highly passive”.

Asked how she spends her free time, Umm Musa replies: “I believe that time/life has to be spent in attaining the purpose of our life. While doing that, one does have moments of tiredness and a natural need for recuperation. (Non-Muslims have a very different concept of recreation and entertainment, which we have widely imported.) The following helps me recuperate, as well as support my life-purpose: reading good literature, meeting nice sisters, and going to the park.”

The choice not to have a television at home was more coincidental for Mona Siddiqui and her husband, now parents of two children. “My husband and I were setting up our own place then, and we thought we’d buy everything else before we got a television. We were both working at the time, so it just got put off until we realized that we actually liked not having a television. And that’s it – we decided to just never get one.”

Mona feels not having a television allowed her and her husband more time to connect as newly-weds. “We spent our time more productively: cooking together, reading together and so on. Once we had kids, it was pretty much the same – more family time.”

Umm Musa says not having the television in the house has “helped preserve our Haya and Islamic values and has helped the children become creative and capable of entertaining themselves.”

As more and more families begin to realize the perils of having a television in the home, many are stepping up to limit, if not completely remove, its presence from their lives. Families like the ones above prove that life without the television is indeed possible.

Conversion of Yvonne Ridley to Islam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

Tracing the Forgotten Women Scholars of Islam

By Umm Isam – Writer and human resource trainer

Muslim societies debate on a plethora of issues, but when the conversations drift to the role of women in Islam, there are fireworks you would never see before. Opinions are sharply divided. As Eileen Collins became the first woman to command the space shuttle, some Muslims were still debating the right of women to drive a car on the road.

Sheikh Nadwi, a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, after a decade-long research wrote a book titled: “Al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam.” The motivation behind this project was to seek out the real historical record on women’s place in the Islamic tradition. Comprehending the just nature of Islam, what he discovered hardly comes as a surprise.

The Era of Female Scholarship

Sheikh Nadwi unearths: “Since women today participate so little in the teaching of Ahadeeth and the issuing of Fatwas, there is a wide misconception that historically they have never played this role.”

Some 8,000 biographical accounts of female scholars have been unravelled in his study. Furthermore, Imam Dhahabi’s findings confirm that there have been no fabricators among the female narrators of Ahadeeth. Muslim women carried out the responsibility of preservation and development of Islamic learning since the time of Muhammad (sa).

These women were of high calibre in their intellectual achievements. Some even excelled far beyond their male contemporaries. They were exceptional women, who not only actively participated in the society but essentially reformed it. They were narrators of Hadeeth, teachers of theology, logic, philosophy, calligraphy and many other Islamic crafts.

One might assume that this allowed free-mixing and opened doors to Fitnah. These scholars not only had towering intellectual reputations but also immaculate social statuses. By observing the veil and Islamic mannerisms, they were able to seek and impart knowledge to men with dignity.

Just a Few Noteworthy Names

A prominent name is Aisha Siddiqa (rta), who was directly groomed and guided by our beloved Prophet (sa). Her role and contributions as a scholar of Islam continued long after her husband’s death.

It was Hafsah (rta) to whom the original record of the Quran, as it was revealed, was entrusted on parchments and animal bones. It was due to this preserved record that Caliph Usman (rta) was able to disseminate six standardised versions of the Quran to the major political and cultural centres of his times.

In the eigth century, Fatima Al-Batayahi taught Sahih Al-Bukhari to students in Damascus. During the Hajj, male scholars from far flocked to hear her speak in person.

In the twelfth century, Zainab Binte Kamal is known to have taught more than four hundred books of Hadeeth. She was a natural teacher, exhibiting exceptional patience with her students.

Fatimah Bint Muhammad As-Samarqandi was a jurist, who advised her husband (who happened to be more popular than her) on how to issue Fatwas.

Umm Ad-Darda was a scholar who used to attend discourses in the same Masjid as her male counterparts. She assumed the role of a teacher of Fiqh and Hadeeth and taught men. One of her students was a caliph of Damascus.

How Did They Disappear?

The contributing factors towards gross violations of women today and the disappearance of their intellectual contributions are many. Today, some of us are in complete awe of the Western world and eager to follow their footsteps. But how many of us comprehend that women have always had a problematic position in the Judeo-Christian tradition? The most obvious example is the fall of Adam (as) and Hawa (as) from the Garden of Paradise, for which they bitterly accuse Hawa (as). They squarely place the blame on her and consider the pains of childbirth that every woman bears as atonement for the original sin committed by her.

Until the sixteenth century, Western Europe was debating whether or not women have souls. Should they be given rights equal to men? Finally, women’s equality was established (at least on documents) by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When Western authorities began to colonize Muslim societies, the first step taken was to exclude women from teaching in Masajid and assuming political roles. Thus, the trend began to be implanted by the Western colonizers among Muslim men, who by now were a frail picture of cultural baggage, unaware of their own rich Islamic history.

The gradual retraction of women from the public and scholarship circles eventually happened.

The Reactive Measures

When we began to lose balance between genders in the Muslim world, two extreme corrective measures emerged on the horizon. Muslim feminists threw women forward as a model of gender-less Islam, free from the shackles of male scholarship. They propelled women to become Imams and state leaders, in desperation to find a voice for them.

On the other extreme, countless religious clerics began to perceive women’s rights as an import from the Western culture. Hence, they put up their best defence and locked their women inside, keeping them away from education, work and self-awareness. Thus, there is little that separates some misogynistic Mullahs from progressive feminists. Both are reactions to a crisis of confidence in their own faith.

Throughout Muslim history, women who assumed the roles of leadership in scholarship are the same women who followed male Imams in a Masjid and observed the veil. They were nurturing mothers, comforting companions, inspiring teachers and contributing citizens.

Need of the Hour

We need to understand that the Quran lays down the fundamental equality of men and women. Our Prophet (sa) propagated that there is no difference of worth between the believers on account of their gender.

Relegating women only to the role of a mother and a housewife is a phenomenon that has emerged in the recent years. Consequently, women who have little education and plentiful time indulge in fanning home rifts and viewing substandard TV shows. Others, who have a decent education and privileges, prefer to engage in frivolous pastimes. Learning and dispensing Islamic education is not a prerogative.

Aisha (rta) was the beloved companion of our Prophet (sa) yet, didn’t she lead an army? Umm Salamah (rta) was known for her piety and as an exemplary wife. Didn’t she counsel our Prophet (sa) at the crisis of Hudaibiyah?

I can’t but sadly agree with Sheikh Nadwi’s conclusion that “the irony of our forgotten women scholars is that they spent their lives in the pursuit of historical facts, whereas Muslims have long forgotten the fact of their contribution”.

Halal Options for Investment

Halal Options for Investment

By Ayesha Ashraf Jangda – Section Head, Corporate Strategy and Business Planning at Bank Islami Pakistan Limited

Disclaimer: The writer is an Islamic banker by profession and, in this article, will be informing readers about the Shariah-compliant investment options available in Pakistan. It is advisable that readers review these options according to their own set of beliefs and unique financial situation.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, investment is “the process of exchanging income during one period of time for an asset that is expected to produce earning in future periods. Thus, consumption in current period is foregone, in order to obtain a greater return in future.”

An individual might have many goals, for which he/she makes investments that are short term (less than one year), medium term (more than one year but less than five years) or long term (more than five years). One of these goals can be to have regular income, especially if you are a retiree or a widow, for which the monthly profit schemes of banks and mutual funds would be more suitable. If you are young and can take risky investments, then you can invest inshares,which willprovide you with immediate capital gain and dividends. If you are middle aged and have a large sum of money at hand to buy property or real estate on installments, you can earn a hefty capital gain by selling it. If you are a businessman and hardly have money to spare, you can open a foreign currency savings’ account and earn from exchange gain. If you are a woman and are fond of wearing jewellery, then investment in gold jewellery or coins can be your option.

I will now talk about these investment avenues in detail. These are deemed by many to be the interim solutions until the world enforces an Islamic economic system, Insha’Allah.

Islamic Bank Accounts

There are many types of deposit accounts available in Islamic banks for investment purposes:

  • Current Account: It is a non-remunerative account, meaning it will not give you any profit but will only keep your money safe. You have the flexibility of withdrawing your money at any time you want through a cheque or an ATM card/transaction.
  • Saving Account: This account has the flexibility of withdrawals just like a current account but is a remunerative account. A nominal and varied profit is given by the Islamic bank at the end of each month.
  • Fixed or Term Account:The amount deposited in this account is invested for a particular period and cannot be withdrawn until the period ends. Pre-mature encashment or early redemption is allowed, but it reduces the profit rate of the period of investment. There are two types of such accounts:
    • Monthly Income Accounts – profit is given on monthly basis.
    • Maturity Profit Accounts – profit is given at the end of the period.

Saving and Fixed accounts taken by an Islamic bank are under the Mudarabatul Musharika basis, which means that the depositor becomes a partner of the bank by investing his/her money in the deposit pool of the Islamic bank. The deposit pool can either earn profit or face loss, which is shared among the participants of the deposit pool, according to their weightages.

Foreign Currency

Purchasing foreign currency in the form of US dollars, Euros or British pounds, is also an investment avenue. Islamic banks facilitate a foreign currency deposit account. To learn more about it, visit: http://www.forex.pk/open_market_rates.asp.

Islamic Mutual Funds

Another option for investing money is Islamic mutual funds. It is a joint pool where investors or certificate holders contribute their money for the purpose of investing in a profitable avenue. The profitable avenue can be Shariah-compliant shares, Sukuks (Islamic bonds), bank deposits or even real estate.

There are many types of mutual funds. The equity fund invests in Shariah-compliant shares listed in the stock market, while the growth fund invests in shares to earn capital gain. Income funds invest in shares of mature companies, in order to earn dividend or Sukuks, while the balanced fund invests in shares as well as Sukuks. For more details, you may visit: http://www.mufap.com.pk.

Gold Coins or Ornaments

Gold coins and jewellery have been considered to be sound avenues of investment since time immemorial. The best part is that you can wear them and still have an appreciated value over a period of one year.

Gold coins can be bought from brokerage houses that are registered by the National Mercantile Exchange (http://www.pmex.com.pk/products/gold.php) or any jeweller. The most important thing is to keep the purchasing slip, so that when you are selling it, you can calculate the capital appreciation that has occurred. Word of advice: keep all the gold ornaments in a locker in an Islamic bank or specialized safety lockers’ companies.

Shariah-compliant Shares

We do not live in a perfect, Riba-free, Islamic economy; therefore, scholars have devised certain conditions based on which investments in shares are considered Shariah-compliant. Some of these conditions are as follows:

  • The main business of the company does not violate the Shariah.
  • If the company deposits its surplus amount in an interest-bearing account, the income from that amount should be less than 5%.
  • If the company has interest-bearing investments, they should be less than 33%.
  • If the company has borrowed money on interest, the debt on total assets should be less than 40%.

For further details, visit: http://www.albalagh.net/Islamic_economics/finance.shtml and http://www.kse.com.pk/ => Market information => Market indices => KMI30.

Real Estate

Real estate remains one of the securest investment avenues that almost always provide a good return. Land, whether urban, agricultured, a house, an apartment or a shop, constitutes different types of property that can be invested in. Those who do not have a lump sum amount can buy it in installments from a reliable real estate developer, avail the house financing facility from an Islamic bank or buy with the help of a real estate agent. The investor can use the property for personal purposes, rent it or earn capital gain upon selling it.

To turn the wheels of an Islamic economy, one must neither hoard nor waste one’s wealth. It is most advisable to invest one’s surplus funds, not just for one’s own future prosperity but to uplift Shariah-compliant economies.

Reminder

We would like to inform the readers that many scholars have contradictory opinions on saving and term accounts of Islamic Banks. The Ulemas of Jamia Binoria, Jamia Farooqia, Jamia Ashrafia, Lahore etc do not approve of the products of Islamic banking. Their opinion has been published in book titled “Murwajah Islami Bankari” which can

be downloaded from

http://banuri.edu.pk/files/publications/MURRWAJAH%20ISLAMI%20BANKAARI.pdf

On the other hand, many scholars agree with the concept of Islamic banking in Pakistan and worldwide; they include Jamiatul Rasheed, Darul Uloom, Korangi and OIC Fiqh Academy, etc. A leading scholar in Pakistan on Islamic banking is Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani. He has written a comprehensive book that answers arguments against

interest-free banking and supports the practice of Islamic banking in Pakistan. This book is titled “Ghair Soodi Bankari” and can be downloaded from

http://www.4shared.com/get/ygsETJb4/Ghair_Soodi_Bankari_By_SHEIKH_.html

or purchased from Darul Ishat in Urdu Bazar.

What a Teenager Hears Everyday…

July 11 - What a teenager hears everyday

6:00 a.m. Wake up or you will miss Fajr again.

6:15 a.m. The one who misses Fajr is a Munafiq (hypocrite) who will be in Hell. So get up!

7:00 a.m. You’ve got to finish your breakfast!

7:20 a.m. You look like a punk with that hairstyle. And what’s with your crumbled uniform?

7:30 a.m. Put on your sweater. Don’t you know its cold outside?

7:35 a.m. I expect you to get the highest score in your class test today, so don’t goof up like last time!

2:00 p.m. What happened on the test? How much did Ahmed score? He is so smart. You should be more like him.

2:10 p.m. Now, don’t throw your books and bag everywhere; you left enough mess for me to clear in the morning.

2:30 p.m. Eat the vegetables, too. They have all the vitamins.

2:45 p.m. By the way, did you pray Zuhr?

3:30 p.m. God knows what will become of you. With that attitude, you will land nowhere. Get serious about your studies!

5:00 p.m. Can you turn down this rotten noise you call music! One day, you will surely turn deaf.

5:15 p.m. Since I am sure you never heard the Asr Adhan, I have come to order you to pray right away.

5:30 p.m. Turn off that darn TV. Have you finished your homework yet?

6:00 p.m. Oh great! Now you are wasting time with video games. Clean up your room instantly. When I was your age, I did four times more work than you will ever even imagine.

6:45 p.m. Pray Maghrib. Why do I always have to tell you?

7:00 p.m. Why are you eating chips right now? We will be having dinner soon. And throw the wrapper in the dustbin. Really, sometimes I feel I am dealing with a toddler.

7:30 p.m. Don’t your friends have anything better to do than to chat on the cell?

8:00 p.m. Come to dinner. Why do I always have to look for you when it’s time to eat?

8:10 p.m. Try to eat your food when it is served warm. It is the same story everyday.

8:30 p.m. What are you watching now? It doesn’t look very good to me. Besides, did you pack for your school tomorrow?

9:00 p.m. Don’t forget to pray Isha.

9:15 p.m. Sleep early or you will be late for Fajr again.

The above chart was inspired by Dr. Glen C. Griffin’s observation of a typical day in a teenager’s life. If this is what they hear day in and day out, what kind of an emotional state or bonding will these youngsters have? Instructions and accusations will render them either highly sensitive or totally de-sensitized. Well-meaning adults can use some humour, logic or other warm gestures to motivate the youth to act more responsibly.

It’s Just a Mirage

July 11-its just a mirage

By Hafsa Ahsan

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Hadeeth: The Prophet (sa) said: “The feet of the son of Adam will not be removed (meaning, he will remain standing for reckoning), until he has been questioned about five things: his life and how he has spent it, his youth and how he managed it, his wealth, from where and how it has been spent, and his actions and how close or far they are from his knowledge.” (At-Tirmidhi)

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Verse: “That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.” (Al-Zalzalah, 99:6-8)

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Hadeeth: The Prophet (sa) said: “If I forbid something, avoid it and if I order you to do something, do it as much as you can. (Sahih Bukhari)

Advertisement slogan: “Sab Keh Do.” (Say everything.)

Verse: “O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.). O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting) . And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hujurat, 49:11-12)

Advertisement slogan: Maza Kar Lay; Dil Bhar Kay (Have as much fun as you please)

Verse: “Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” (Al-Mulk, 67:1-2)

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Verse: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur, 24:31)

Symbolism in the Mass Media

Apr 11 - Mass Media

By Hooruneen Sheikh and Binte Aqueel

The first ten verses of Surah Al-Muminoon outline the defining characteristics of a true believer, who will make it to Jannah. Of these, one of the important characteristics is that “they stay away from Al-Laghw” – all those things, which waste time and give no benefit.

We have been cautioned against this weapon of Shaitan at another place in the Quran, where Allah (swt) tells him:

“‘And befool them gradually, those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e., songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience), make assaults on them with your cavalry and your infantry, mutually share with them wealth and children (by tempting them to earn money by illegal ways, usury, etc., or by committing illegal sexual intercourse, etc.), and make promises to them.’ But Shaitan promises them nothing but deceit.” (Al-Isra 17:64)

It is interesting to note that we do not directly hear Shaitan’s ‘voice’ or see attacks from his ‘cavalry and infantry’. Indeed, he employs more subtle ways to misguide humankind and fulfill his promise to Allah (swt). He does to through the mass media and popular culture.

Much has been written and discussed about the satanic messages and symbols in the mass media. A surge of articles, reports, documentaries and videos seeking to expose the satanic roots of the entertainment and media industry have taken the cyber world by storm. While one may not agree with all the theories purported by these documentaries and reports or the fact that it is part of a greater plan to implement a pre-Dajjal system before his actual appearance, some revelations of imagery used in popular culture, however, do give one the creeps.

To have a clearer understanding of this symbolism in the mass media, let us take a look at some examples of imagery in popular songs, movies and cartoons.

Pervasive, Overt and Subtle Sexual Imagery

The way the media seems to be evolving today, the presence of sexual imagery in its overt form is no longer surprising. It has become the norm. However, when such imagery is slipped into cartoons, movies and songs in a more covert manner, especially in places where one least expects them, there is a reason for alarm. Here are a few examples:

–          The word ‘sex’ appears to be written in the shape of the clouds in the popular cartoon “The Lion King”.

–          Another cartoon shows a portrait of a naked woman in the background of a regular scene.

–          One of Disney’s most praised pieces of work, “Fantasia”, shows a nude woman openly displaying her bosoms during one of the songs in the cartoon. In another scene, during the same song, flames shape-shift into naked dancing women. The imagery is vivid, yet it is so fleeting that one barely notices it, but it has its effect on the child’s mind.

Use of Occult and Masonic Symbols

Such images as the one-eyed Masonic symbol and the symbol of the checkered floor,, which is of pagan and Masonic origin, can be found in popular songs, movies and cartoons. Logos of products and media companies also carry similar symbols.

–          One advertisement of Nickelodeon carried a clear image of one eye.

–          In the popular children’s cartoon “Dumbo”, the elephant carried the one-eye symbol in one of its songs. The current popular cartoon “Ben 10” shows a character which transforms himself into a one-eyed creature.

–          Disney’s famed production “Fantasia” has one of its most popular characters adorned with the horns of Satan.

–          In the popular movie “Matrix”, the lead character Neo can only leave this world and visit Morpheus by walking on the checkered floor. Only then do ‘the doors’ open. They are the mode of transportation. The checkered pattern represents the merging of both worlds – of the Jinns and humans. All Masonic rituals have to take place on the checkered floor. Note that Cartoon Network’s emblem shows a checkered floor in the background.

  • The popular children’s cartoon “Aladdin” uses the concept of a blue genie, which grants all of Aladdin’s wishes. Among the gifts this ‘Jinn’ presents to Aladdin are the ‘ladies in red’, which represent the devilish allure of the world. (Notice how most of the female models of today wear red on the “red” carpet and in commercials). Then, the genie presents Aladdin with ‘the contract’ and lures him through worldly pleasure, implying that his worldly wishes can come true through such practice.
  • Popular singer Madonna’s song “Frozen” shows Madonna shape-shifting like Jinns into black crows.
  • Popular singer Britney Spears performs her song “I am a Slave for You” with a snake wrapped around her.

These are just some of the examples of imagery used in the mass media. The examples are endless, but what it all comes down to in the end is: how do we keep ourselves, our children and families safe from such explicit and implicit imagery in the popular media?

“No TV” Policy

There is no option better than eliminating TV from your family life. The void can be filled with interactive family sessions such as playing games, doing projects, visiting places, socializing with relatives, etc. This definitely entails more sacrifice and investment of time on the part of the parents as it will be difficult to separate kids from TV, especially if they are already addicted to it. However, once achieved, this feat will improve the quality of your family life immensely.

Exercise control

If the above doesn’t work, make it clear to yourself, your family and your kids that it is not okay to watch all sorts of media content. There should be a conscious control over what is being watched. While there are objectionable forms of content, there is other media content that can be enriching and educational, while being entertaining at the same time. We must learn where to draw the line.

Chaperoned Viewing

Most moms prefer using the television as a baby-sitter to get some relief, while their children get lost in the magical world of the idiot box. It is imperative to understand that handing over your kids to the TV is not safe. While you would never leave your kids alone on the street, leaving them alone with a media that is filled with imagery and concepts that pose a threat to their values and religion should not be an option either.

Sit down with your kids as they watch their favourite cartoons, control what these favourite cartoons are, discuss what aspects of the show they just watched are acceptable and what was wrong, how some parts conform to or go against their religious beliefs, etc. Eventually, you will realize that pure entertainment sessions become more educational for your child and the awareness they build will go a long way in keeping them wary of what influences they do or do not accept from the media in the future.

Why People Cut Ties

Jan 11 - Why people cut tiesBy Umm Abdullah

Saeed, a self-made businessman, says: “What my brothers did deserves that I never speak to them again. After all, I’m not the Prophet (sa) – I don’t have unlimited patience.” For various reasons, he has completely boycotted his brothers and sisters for more than ten years, to the extent of refusing to talk to them, visiting them or letting his family meet them. He believes that what he has done is Islamically correct. His sons follow the same line of thought and action.

His son Rehan, a young husband and father, believes: “Staying away from my father’s side of the family is the only way to stay at peace.”

Such scenarios are becoming fairly common in every other family these days, although Islam places great importance on maintaining close ties with relatives and warns of severe punishment for those who sever them. Recall the story of Abu Sufyan and Heraclius, when he sent for him and said: “What does he (the Prophet) enjoin upon you?” Abu Sufyan said: “He enjoins us to pray, give charity, be chaste and uphold family ties.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So why do people break off relationships? There could be a number of reasons for this:

Lack of awareness

Many people don’t know that Allah (swt) has not given us a choice, as far as maintaining of blood ties is concerned. There is a lack of awareness about just how important relatives are in Islam, what rights they have upon us and the punishment for those who sever these ties.

Expecting too much

We take it for granted that our relatives owe us a lot and are more aware of our rights upon them than our responsibility towards them.

Failing to forgive and forget

Perhaps the greatest factor for failing relationships is the failure to forgive and forget. We give ourselves all the benefits of doubt and give no allowance to others.

Current trends in society

Over the past years, the nuclear family has emerged and close-knit extended families are slowly becoming a thing of the past. People would rather unwind on weekends with friends than extended families. Family commitments have become chores that are fulfilled as a burden or abandoned altogether. The practice of elders resolving family disputes is also becoming extinct.

The blame game

It is always more convenient to place the entire blame for an incident at someone else’s door. We fail to realize that each one of us is responsible for our actions and that we always have a choice in a situation – to react positively or negatively.

Doing good for the wrong reasons

When we act kindly, our instant mistake is that we start expecting good in return from the same person. What that actually means is that we did not correct our intention – of doing good only for Allah’s (swt) sake, expecting return only from Him (swt), not our relatives. Repelling bad treatment with good is what is actually required.

The Messenger (sa) said: “The one, who maintains a relationship with his relatives only because they maintain a relationship with him, is not truly upholding the ties of kinship. The one, who truly upholds those ties, is the one who does so even if they break off the relationship.” (Bukhari, 5645)

“I’m not a hypocrite. I can’t be nice to someone I don’t like”

There is a difference between hypocrisy and courtesy. When we are meeting someone nicely but with an ill intention of causing harm to that person, it is called hypocrisy. But if we are being courteous to someone for the sake of Allah (swt), in spite of disliking certain traits in them, then we are actually earning Allah’s (swt) pleasure for our added effort and patience.

Taking the easy way out

When a problem occurs, the instant reaction is to break off and run. Escaping from uncomfortable situations and relationships is always easier than facing problems and resolving issues. However, Islam does not endorse living as a hermit in isolation, but rather living a life of struggle, in the midst of humans with contrasting temperaments and bearing their trials with patience and self control.

Scholars state that even under extreme circumstances, such as when the relatives are disbelievers or sinners, a Muslim is not allowed to cut off relations with them completely. After trying his best to advise and guide them towards the right path and making Duas for their guidance, if they persist in sin and are affecting his own Iman, then he is allowed to minimize interaction with them. So he can talk on the phone, instead of visiting, or shorten his visits or send an occasional gift, but maintain some form of contact nevertheless.