Planning for Ramadan

Vol 5 - Issue 2 Planning for Ramadan

It’s coming once again! The Grand Sale! – “Buy one, get seventy free!” That is how a friend enthusiastically described it.

Yes, I am talking about the blessed month of Ramadan. Every moment of this month carries great treasures of excellence and blessings. Voluntary good deeds (Nawafil) reach the ranks of obligatory good deeds (Faraiz), and the reward for the obligatory acts becomes seventy times greater. And that is not all. There is yet another treasure more valuable than a thousand months of effort and all the wealth we could amass therein: the great night of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

The amount of benefit we gain from the blessings of this month depends on how ready we are and how much effort we make. Just like a farmer has to prepare the land for absorbing the rain, so that he can reap the best harvest, we must pray to Allah (swt) for the opportunity to reap the greatest benefit, and then do our best.

To make the best of this Ramadan, we must, therefore, make Dua, plan and then act.

Make Dua

Make Dua to Allah (swt) that you are in good health, when Ramadan comes. Pray for the energy and time to be able perform all the Ibadah and do all the things you aim to do. And above all, pray for the acceptance of the deeds you perform in Ramadan.

Outline your goals

Let’s play a little game: let’s take a trip into the future…

Imagine it is the Eid. You are walking or driving to the Eid prayers. As you happily recite the Takbeer, you mentally evaluate the Ramadan that has just passed. You are filled with immense joy and satisfaction. Apart from the few natural shortcomings, this was the best Ramadan of your life. The Eid truly feels like Eid, and you eagerly anticipate celebrating your success…

Now think: What was it that made this the best Ramadan for you? What happened? What did you do? Was it the building of a stronger relationship with Allah (swt)? Greater concentration in Salaah? More quality time spent with the Quran? The achievement of a purer heart and a greater Taqwa? What was it?

Come back into the present and write all those things down. These will be your goals for the coming Ramadan.

Set achievable targets

Once you know what you want to get out of this Ramadan, you must set some definite achievable targets that are in line with your goals. These targets will translate your goals into practical day-to-day activities, against which you can then check yourself. For example, if you want to build a better relationship with the Quran this Ramadan, your target could be “read the translation and Tafseer of one Juz a day”, or if you want to achieve a greater Taqwa and a purer heart, your target could be “avoid thinking ill of others and avoid backbiting.”

Similarly, you could decide on some sins you want to clean yourself of and make it a target to avoid them for a week. Or you could choose some good deeds or Sunnahs that are not a habit and try to perform those for a week.

Make a Dua list

One highly effective idea I came across in a lecture by Shaikh Muhmmad Al-Shareef was to make a Dua list for Ramadan. Often, we are so much in a hurry to get back to our activities after Salaah or recitation of the Quran that many things we wanted to pray for just slip out of our minds. Therefore, it is best to take a few minutes for writing down everything we want to ask Allah (swt) and read that list, while making Dua before Iftar, after Salaah, after Quran recitation and especially in the last ten nights in anticipation of Laylat-ul-Qadr.

Organize – unclutter your life

Ramadan is a very special time and you would not like to waste a moment of it in useless activities, such as clearing up that bookshelf, getting your books and tapes in order, sorting out what food items you will need in the coming month, shopping for Eid, etc. If possible, decide your Ramadan menu beforehand. Plan to make quick and healthy meals that provide you with the essential nutrients and avoid lavish Iftars. If possible, prepare and freeze some food items beforehand. Remember, Ramadan is not the month of feasting or self-indulgence. Practice self-control even at Iftar time.

Additionally, adjust your work, school, sleep and meal schedules in such a way as to make the most time for Ibadah and other good deeds. Plan out at what time you will go to sleep, wake up, study, work and do Ibadah. If you have any pending work, for which deadlines may be in Ramadan, try to get over with it as soon as possible before Ramadan, so that you can get the most out of this month.

Plan out Ibadah and other religious obligations

Do you want to go for Taraweeh and Quran study circles this Ramadan? Find out about places, where classes are offered and go with your family. Make travel arrangements, if the venue is far from your house, and check around, if there is anyone else, who might want to go but does not have transportation. Wouldn’t you want to join in the reward of their Ibadah as well by taking them along?

Also, arrange for other activities to learn and teach the Quran and Hadeeth. Furthermore, calculate the Zakah you will be paying in Ramadan. Find out about places, where you can contribute in social welfare activities with your wealth and time.

Prepare your soul

Attend and listen to Ramadan lectures and other talks on spiritually uplifting topics to soften your heart and renew your motivation.

Be ready to absorb the blessings that rain down in this great month. But remember at the same time that Ramadan is not just a one-time vacation, after which you pack up and return to your previous life. Ramadan has been called a ‘training school’ by some; so make sure you graduate from this school with flying colours – colours that should brighten up your entire life.

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.

LiveDeen: Taking it Live!

livedeen

By Abdullah Hamid Ali and Naureen Aqueel – Freelance writers

“Bridging the gap between internationally renowned Islamic speakers and Pakistani audiences.” This is the introduction on LiveDeen’s Facebook fanpage. Faced with Pakistan’s unstable security situation and the desire among its English-speaking class to learn their Deen from scholars to whom they feel closer on an intellectual and linguistic level, a group of seven motivated men came up with just the solution: LiveDeen!

LiveDeen events bring in international Islamic scholars and their expertise via video conferencing, allowing audiences to interact with the speakers. “The world is becoming fast-paced and people, especially the youth, want to see dynamism and diversity in events,” explains Brother Nouman Idrees Sheikh, head of the LiveDeen team and one of its founding members. “For this reason, we decided that one-way lectures should be supplemented by interactive group activities. Another advantage is that attendees also get to ‘know one another’, and can take something practical from what they have learnt.”

“The online lecture is complimented by a live workshop conducted by a trainer stationed at the venue. This not only enhances learning and retention, but also keeps the participants engaged throughout the session.”

The team operates with modest technological logistics, which include a video conferencing system with a high definition camera (e.g., Polycom), a projector of minimum 4000 lumens, a screen, a sound system and dedicated 1MB connectivity. For the international station, they require a laptop or a PC with small HD camera and normal connectivity of 1MB.

Since August, 2011, the team has so far had seven events in Karachi. Thanks to them, Pakistani audiences have benefitted from international speakers from Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as the United States of America, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Scholars, who have reached out to Pakistanis via LiveDeen events, include: Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, Sheikh Abdur Raheem Green, Sheikh Wisam Shareiff, Imam Kareem Abu Zaed, Sheikh Abu Abdissalam, Adnan Rashid, and Ustadh Noman Ali Khan.

“We select scholars and speakers, who are involved in the call to Islam internationally and follow the Quran and Sunnah without any innovation in Deen,” states Brother Nouman.

The LiveDeen team consists of seven core members: Abdul Aleem, Asim Ismail, Majid Mirza, Kashif Naseem, Nouman Idrees, Abul Lateef Motan and Shahnawaz Siddiqui, along with twelve volunteer brothers. They also have a sisters’ wing, which currently comprises eleven sisters.

Initially, the founding members helped set up the initiative financially and mutually decided that all profits would be ploughed back into the project, while any shortfalls would be shared among the team members. “Alhumdulillah, we – with the help of our participants – have been able to cover the expenses through ticket-selling and occasional help from the sponsors.”

In the future, LiveDeen has plans to have live lectures by international speakers. Although arranging in-person events can be an arduous task, especially with today’s travel restrictions, LiveDeen recognizes the value of having in-person events whenever possible to increase audience engagement. For this reason they held their first annual exclusive in which speakers flew to Karachi from outside the country. The event was the first of its kind with a whole day of knowledge, wisdom and close interaction with world renowned speakers. Noman Idrees says about the event: “By the help of Allah, and the efforts of the team members and volunteers, this event was a major accomplishment for LiveDeen.”

So far, LiveDeen has received an encouraging response from its participants. A young man, who has attended all of LiveDeen’s lectureshops, had this to say: “I believe LiveDeen has come up at a very appropriate time, when misconceptions about our religion are breeding. Alhumdulillah, I think LiveDeen is very efficiently tackling those for me and is providing for all of us youth a platform where we can learn how beautiful and simple our religion is. Alhumdulillah, each lectureshop is a life changing experience and a charge-up to stay on track and work for our Deen.”

LiveDeen invites others to join them as volunteers in the following capacity: Marketing & PR, Creative Design, IT & Website, Event Logistics, Event Volunteers and Social Media. Email: info@livedeen.com.

Many lecture-shops of LiveDeen have been transcribed and published by Hiba. They can be accessed online at www.hibamagazine.com

No Age for Charity

No Age for Charity

By Naureen Aqueel – Freelance journalist

If you study the lives of great personalities, who have achieved something commendable, you will find a few characteristics that are shared by them all: determination, courage and hard work. Where these traits are present, Allah (swt) extends His help too. There could be no better example than in the case of Major Abbas Ali and his wife Sarwar Jehan Begum, founders of the Muslim Welfare Centre – a couple who defied old age and devoted themselves to provide selfless service to humanity during the ripe years of their lives.

Major Abbas chose to raise funds by charity walks and feats others would only imagine at an age like his. He walked over 10,000 kilometres to support charities in various countries around the world. On April 7, 1985, at the age of 64, on World Health Day, Major Abbas undertook to visit on foot children’s hospitals in the seven emirates of UAE, propagating Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT). He covered 600 km on foot. In 1986, he also participated in the Sports Aid Programme organized by Unicef throughout the world to raise funds for the famine-stricken people of Africa in which he covered 191 km from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on foot.

In 1987, at the age of 66, he walked 2500 km in 90 days through the sandy deserts and camel trails across the Arabian Peninsula to perform Hajj and to collect funds for a charitable hospital in Karachi. He became known as the first man in modern history to walk for the Hajj.

In September 1998, at the age of 77, he sky dived from a height of 10,500 ft to raise funds for the ‘Support a Child, Save the Nation’ welfare project. In 2004, at the age of 82, he walked 100 km from Whitby to Mississauga to raise funds for a Seniors’ Home. His walks earned him the title of the ‘Volunteer Charity Walker from Pakistan’. He would often say “The rich pay Zakat on their wealth, I pay Zakat on my health.”

A retired major from the Pakistan army, Abbas Ali and his wife founded the Muslim Welfare Centre in Toronto in 1993 with the motto “Service to humanity is Service to Allah”. The organization was based in Canada but has operations in Pakistan and other areas of the world.

The Muslim Welfare Centre established a home for needy women and children in 1995. Over 3500 single women and mothers with children, irrespective of their backgrounds, have benefitted from it. The centre also operates four Halal Food Banks and Halal Meals on Wheels food distribution system for the less fortunate from all faiths in Toronto. Over 6500 needy families are helped by this initiative on a monthly basis.

The centre is also operating two schools and two charity clinics in the poor localities of Karachi. Moreover, it provided emergency aid for flood victims in Pakistan and is operating a water exploration project for the impoverished villages in the Thar desert region.

Major Abbas passed away in 2009 while visiting Pakistan to oversee these projects. Since her husband’s demise, Sarwar Jehan Begum has remained in Karachi and is serving as the President of the organization.

Major Abbas received a number of awards during his lifetime and others posthumously. The McLevin Park in Scarborough Canada was renamed to ‘Major Muhammad Abbas Ali Park’. The couple has taught us that if one has determination and will power, there is no age for charity work.

Learning to Lead

Learning to Lead

In the Light of the Quran and the Sunnah

By Binte Aqueel, Hina Jamal, J. Samia Mair and Sadaf Farooqi

While Muslims often complain about having a crisis of leadership, paradoxically, there seems to be no dearth of self-proclaimed leaders – people, who think they have everything required to lead the community and are ready to fight for it.

Today, countries, groups, organisations and Masajid have become mired in an ugly struggle for power. Often, a person stands up to fill an essential leadership void in the community, considering himself/herself best fit for the role. Campaigning, electioneering and lobbying are often followed by dirty politics, mudslinging and rivalry. Soon, all those involved in the noble bid to provide a good leadership seem to have lost their goal somewhere in the fight for power. All that matters now is their or their party’s winning at any cost.

Sounds familiar? Sadly, this is the dilemma many countries and organisations face. The quest for good leadership often brings out greed and lust for power not only in country politics but also in the college and work life groups. Everyone wants a leadership position, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to acquire it.

Seeking Leadership

Interestingly, Islam discourages the practice of seeking leadership. In Islam, leadership is an Amanah (trust) and a huge responsibility. The early Muslims used to cry, when they were given a position of authority, out of fear of not being able to discharge it properly.

The Prophet (sa) is reported to have said that anyone, who seeks leadership, is not fit to assume it. Once, two men entered upon the Prophet (sa). One of them said: “O, Allah’s Apostle! Appoint me as governor,” and so did the second. The Prophet (sa) said: “We do not assign the authority of ruling to those who ask for it, nor to those who are keen to have it.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) has narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “You people will be keen to have the authority of ruling, which will be a thing of regret for you on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari)

The Prophet (sa) advised Abdur Rahman Ibn Samurah (rta): “Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand, you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking for it, then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then do what is better and make expiation for your oath.” (Bukhari)

This is not to say, however, that taking up a leadership role is wrong or discouraged. Indeed, the Prophet (sa) encouraged his followers to take up a responsibility, when it was entrusted to them. He said: “Whoever is given responsibility of some matter of the Muslims but withdraws himself, while they are in dire need and poverty, Allah will withdraw Himself from him, while he is in dire need and poverty on the Day of Requital.” (Abu Dawood)

It is discouraged to seek a leadership position out of greed and desire for power. Actions are based on intentions, and we must not doubt anyone’s intentions.

Empowerment and Delegation

Life is an ongoing cycle of events, one of which is that all leaders are eventually replaced. For such transitions to be as smooth as possible, a leader should prepare his subordinates to be able to efficiently take on leadership roles in the future, which bring added responsibilities, require the ability to make critical decisions, and need excellent interpersonal skills to win over hearts of people.

Some leaders tend to follow autocratic and dictatorial leadership styles, thinking that these cast greater awe over a workforce and thus attain better performance.

Clearly, this methodology is in clear contradiction to the style of leadership of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who was an exemplary leader. He was humble, mild-mannered, friendly, approachable and easy to talk to. Moreover, he empowered his close companions to be capable enough to carry on his mission after his demise.

I would like to elaborate on his style of ‘Empowerment and Delegation’ in the light of Ahadeeth regarding the appointment of Muadh Bin Jabal (rta) as the governor of Yemen.

Ibn Abbas has narrated: “The Prophet sent Muadh (rta) to Yemen and said: ‘Invite the people to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and I am Allah’s Apostle, and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night (in twenty-four hours), and if they obey you to do so, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the Zakat from their property and it is to be taken from the wealthy among them and given to their poor.’” (Bukhari)

According to another narration: “When Allah’s Messenger (sa) sent Muadh to Yemen, he went out with him whilst Muadh (rta) rode his riding beast and Allah’s Messenger walked beside him giving instructions. When he finished, he said: ‘Perhaps, Muadh, you may not meet me after this year, but perhaps, you may pass this Masjid of mine and my grave.’ Muadh wept from grief over the departure of Allah’s Messenger. The Prophet then turned facing Madinah and said: ‘Those nearest to me are the pious, whoever they are and whenever they are.’” (Mishkat)

These Ahadeeth make the following points clear:

  1. When a delegation is going off on a long journey, the leader should personally see them off.
  2. The leader should give simple, concise and role-related instructions to the delegate during their final meeting, as reminders of what work lies ahead for the delegate and its importance.
  3. The leader is humble, i.e., he does not mind walking or standing at a lower level than his delegate.
  4. The leader must be honest, when expressing his emotions to his subordinate.
  5. The leader should console his subordinate, when the latter is expressing grief.
  6. There should be love and compassion between a leader and his subordinates, especially in careers related to Dawah and religious instruction.

We can see how perfectly our Prophet (sa) combined the delegation of a leadership role to a subordinate with human compassion, empowering a future leader while simultaneously expressing his love and humility as a leader. He was, perhaps, the only man in history, who brought about the greatest of change in mankind in the shortest time period.

Best Religious Leaders – Close to People

Have you ever tried to contact a qualified, respected Islamic scholar or religious authority figure for some personal issue? These scholars have busy schedules of delivering talks and lectures in institutions and homes, travelling abroad often for conferences and, hence, are often hard to reach. When the common man endeavours to get in touch with them, more often than not, it is an uphill task involving numerous phone calls and/or unanswered emails. Private counsel with them is elusive – no more than a fleeting Salam or handshake following their Dars, before they hurriedly whiz off to their next engagement.

We must remember that a religious leader is a human being just like us. He or she needs time to rest, relax, leisurely hang out with family, sleep, attend to personal errands, read, study, respond to correspondence, plan itineraries and meet relatives. If they were to give private counsel to anyone, who wants to talk to them at any time during the day, they would be constantly pre-empted. Moreover, idleness and over-socialization is common in our culture. People tend to linger to chat about useless topics long after having discussed the required issue. If a religious leader were to give in to every lay-person’s demands on their time, it would not be long before they would not be able to continue their Dawah work.

It is, therefore, all about maintaining a critical balance between work and human compassion. Could it be that religious organizations’ leaders today have allowed themselves to become so overburdened with commitments, that they do not have time for even genuine requests for a sympathetic ear? Is this not against the Sunnah of our Prophet (sa)?

I find this food for thought. Why do our leaders move around with entourages and employ assistants for trivial personal tasks such as ironing clothes, whereas the best leaders of our Ummah, who had to juggle many more balls in the air, such as planning battle strategies, meeting foreign dignitaries and catering to multiple spouses/children, never hired personal assistants?

The proof of the Sahabas’ humility is the way they’d roam the streets at night alone, in their positions as Ameer-ul-Mumineen, to see what was going on at ground level. Prophet Muhammad (sa) never sat at a level higher than his company, except to ascend the pulpit for a sermon. His clothes made him indistinguishable from his companions to a newcomer, who set eyes on him for the first time.

Is this not something worth pondering over?

Here are a few tips that might restore the Sunnah of compassion for laymen for our leaders:

  1. Gain knowledge of the Prophet’s (sa) life and how he handled situations.
  2. Cut down on commitments, so that you have a few days a week with nothing on the agenda.
  3. Spend time with your family – every day.
  4. Play and converse with children randomly.

 

Our Prophet (sa) and those of his companions, who later became leaders, were always accessible to the common man, even poor old women or slaves, who stopped them in their tracks with personal complains. Let us endeavour to emulate their example, when and if we ever occupy a leadership role in our lives, because they were the best of our Ummah.

Leaders in the Business World

The unfortunate situation arising in the United States – and I suspect in other non-Muslim populated countries as well – is that when given the choice between conducting a transaction with a business run by a Muslim and a business run by a non-Muslim, many Muslims (and others) choose the non-Muslim business. And even when there may not be a choice – such as a Halal food store – it is only out of necessity that Muslims frequent it. Why are Muslim-run businesses not always the first choice? In one word-leadership.

A good leader runs a business that has courteous, hard working employees, quality products and services and satisfied customers. The leader sets the tone for those underneath him or her. If the leader is hardworking, ethical and fair and expects the same from the employees, the business will have a good reputation. If the leader does not demonstrate these qualities, or if the leader does have them, but does not require the same of employees, the business will not.

There is no excuse for a Muslim not to be a good leader in business. The Quran and Sunnah give ample guidance on what constitutes a good leader. And unlike many other systems of belief, Islam sets forth what is ethical, responsible and Islamically acceptable in the business context. For example, a multitude of Ahadeeth provides guidance on this issue, including these few:

“The merchants will be raised up on the day of resurrection as evildoers, except those who fear God, are honest and speak the truth.” (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Darimi and Baihaqi)

“God show mercy to a man, who is kindly when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.” (Bukhari)

“If anyone sells a defective article without drawing attention to it, he will remain under God’s anger.” (Ibn Majah)

“If anyone keeps goods till the price rises, he is a sinner.” (Muslim)

More generally, as Muslims we are expected to exhibit excellence in everything we do -“Allah has made excellence obligatory for everything.” (Muslim) Our businesses should set forth the paradigm of business practices. Business schools should teach case studies on Muslim-run businesses to their students. Our business leaders should be highly sought after for advice. Indeed, Allah (swt) tells us that we set the example for others: “Thus, We have made you a just nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:143)

The sad reality is that many of us, in the business context and elsewhere, do not rise near to the level of conduct that Allah (swt) expects from us. Even worse, many of us do not even try. And by not doing so, we miss a great opportunity for Dawah – something that is incumbent upon all of us.

Despite some popular misconceptions, Islam was spread by Muslims, who followed the Sunnah and the guidance of Allah (swt) – those, who showed what it truly means to be human. Their exemplary and just conduct as merchants in the market-place set forth a brilliant example for the non-Muslims of the time. In a world so preoccupied with international commerce and making money, business affords us an incredible opportunity not only to better ourselves but to pass the Message onto others.

May Allah (swt) guide the Muslim community and its leaders towards what is right, Ameen.

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.

Talk to Allah (swt)

Apr 11 - Talk to Allah swt

By Binte Aqueel

There are times in life when we feel confused – when our mind seems to be an endless cycle of thoughts and emotions, which just seem to be driving us crazy. There are times when we feel sad about how people treat us; when we feel hopeless about how things are; when we feel that the world is just not on our side, and when we feel completely alone.

At times like these, we often forget that there is one Being, Who is always with us and never leaves us – Allah (swt)! Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“And when My slaves ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor).” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

There is a beautiful Hadeeth-e-Qudsi narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta): “The Prophet (sa) said: Allah (swt) says: ‘I am in accordance with the thoughts of My slave about Me; and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I also remember him in Myself. If he remembers Me in a group, I remember him in a better group (i.e., angels); if he draws near Me by the span of a palm, I draw near him by a cubit. If he draws near Me by a cubit, I draw near him by the space covered by two hands. If he walks towards Me, I go to him running.’” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This is the love Allah (swt) has for us!

Psychologists have found that talking about one’s problems is one of the most effective coping strategies. People who have strong socially supportive relations (either friends, family or others) to listen to them when they talk about their problems, frustrations and pains are higher on the psychological and subjective well-being scale. Studies have found that the most effective method for releasing feelings of grief or frustration is to talk to someone you trust and someone who listens to you.

Talking to friends and family members may help release pent-up feelings, but sometimes friends and family are just not there – they may be busy or may not understand. Or there can be any of the thousands of obstacles in our way to contact them, like a technical problem in the phone line.

However, no such problem exists if we talk to Allah (swt). We can make a direct call to Allah (swt) anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to wait for the right time to call or spend thousands on the phone bill. All you need to do is to call on Allah (swt) with sincerity. You can whisper to Him (swt) or talk out loud; you can cry before Him (swt) or even laugh; you can remember Him (swt) standing, sitting or lying on your side, in solitude or in a crowd. And He (swt) will most definitely be there for you – guaranteed!

Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “Therefore, remember Me (by praying, and glorifying, etc.). I will remember you…” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

We have a beautiful example of this in Surah Yusuf, when Prophet Yaqub (as), after being repeatedly betrayed by his sons concerning Yusuf (as) and his brother Binyamin, says: “I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah…” (Yusuf 12:86)

Talking and complaining to friends, family or any other human being about the injustices done to us or about the difficulties we face carries the risk that we may backbite, slander or mock. But we can most definitely complain to Allah (swt) without any fear of this. And when we talk to Allah (swt) and supplicate to Him (swt), He (swt) is the only One, Who can provide a solution and give us what we want.

We can talk to Allah (swt) in many ways by telling Him (swt) our problems: by sharing our grief, pain and joy with Him (swt); by supplicating to Him; by remembering Him (swt) and doing Dhikr; by performing Salah. There is a beautiful narration, which tells us, of how Allah (swt) communicates with us in Salah:

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Allah, the Exalted, said: ‘I have divided the prayer (Al-Fatihah) into two halves, between Myself and My servant, and My servant shall have what he asks for.’ If he says: ‘All praise and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the Aalamin.’

Allah says: ‘My servant has praised Me.’ When the servant says: ‘The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’ Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me.’ When he says: ‘The Owner of the Day of Recompense.’ Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me,’ or ‘My servant has related all matters to Me.’ When he says: ‘Guide us to the straight path. The way of those on whom you have granted Your grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your anger, nor of those who went astray.’ Allah says: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall acquire what he asked for.’” (An-Nasai and Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

We must remember, however, that Allah (swt) already knows our deepest thoughts, for He (swt) states in the Quran: “And indeed We have created man, and We know what his own self whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (by Our Knowledge).” (Qaf 50:16)

Our talking to Him (swt) strengthens our bond with Him (swt), benefits us by making us feel lighter and by turning in prayer to the only One Who can answer our prayers.

So, the next time you feel sad and glum (or even happy) and you want to share your feelings, just make a direct call to Allah (swt)!

It Echoes in the Hearts…

Painting of big red heart over white backgroundBy Naureen Aqueel

I remember a time when I was caught up in the fast-paced life of a university student; things that were habits to me eventually started slipping away. I could no longer find time in my day to read the Quran. Although I did not let go of my daily recitation, it did get shortened a bit. The Quran recitation cassettes of Qari Saleh Bukhtiar that I used to listen to regularly were to be found in the upper shelf of the closet now.

I just didn’t have the time anymore. Or maybe I had just lost the will. Whatever it was, I felt there was a void inside me, although my attention never went to the factor causing it. Then, one day, I just happened to open the closet, take out the cassette and put it into my cassette player. And when the beautiful sound of the Quran recitation reached my ears, my heart and my soul, I realized what I had been missing. I couldn’t help but remember this verse of the Quran:

“O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (i.e. the Quran, enjoining all that is good and forbidding all that is evil), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences) which is in your breasts, ­­- a guidance and a mercy (explaining lawful and unlawful things) for the believers. Say: ‘In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy (i.e. Islam and the Quran); – therein let them rejoice.’ That is better than what (the wealth) they amass.” (Yunus 10:57-58)

It is worth noting that the Prophet (sa) received the revelation of the Quran by listening to how it was recited by Jibrael (as). Moreover, the Prophet (sa) was commanded to ‘recite’ the Quran to the people. Many people converted to Islam after simply listening to the powerful recitation of the Quran by the Prophet (sa) himself or one of his respected companions. Such great companions as Umar (rta), Tufail Ibn Amar Adousi (rta), Usaid Ibn Huzair (rta) and Jabeer Ibn Muthim (rta) were moved by hearing the recitation of the Quran and reverted to Islam straight away. Contemporary Muslims also mention the powerful effect of listening to the Quran as the reason for their reversion to Islam.

The Prophet (sa) laid great emphasis on listening to the Quran. He used to ask his companions to recite an Ayah to him. Once, the Prophet (sa) said to Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta): “Recite for me the Quran.” He said: “O Messenger of Allah! Should I recite to you as it was revealed to you?” He said: “Yes, for I like to hear it from others.” “I recited Surah An-Nisa, until I reached the Ayah: ‘How (will it be) then, when we bring from each nation a witness and we bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?’ (An-Nisa 4:41) He then said: “Stop now.” I found that his eyes were tearful. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Allah (swt) mentions in the Quran that “the skins of those who fear their Lord shiver from it (when they recite it or hear it [Quran]).” (Az-Zumar 39:23)

The Quran has proven to have amazing inward and outward effects on its listeners and reciters, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Dr. Ahmed Elkadi of Panama City, Florida, conducted a study to monitor the effects of the Quranic recitation on its listeners. In order to do this, he arranged specialized computers to measure heartbeat, blood pressure, blood viscosity, skin temperature and muscle conductivity. The soothing effect of the Quran was confirmed in 97% of the experiments. The recitation led to such physiological changes as spontaneous lowering of muscle tension and lowered blood pressure in both Muslims and non-Muslims. However, above all scientific evidences, any believer would vouch for the serenity and boost in Iman experienced when listening to the Quran, whether they know Arabic or not.

The power of the words of Allah (swt) is beyond doubt. And for those who understand it, the benefit increases manifold.

Cyber ACTIVE!

Vol 7 - Issue 1 CyberACTIVEBy Naureen Aqueel

On the eve of August 14, 2009, a community of digital activists was out on a mission, typing away on their keyboards to get Pakistan prominently mentioned on the homepages of the world’s most popular micro-blogging website – Twitter.

This effort was driven by a patriotic zeal to show love and unity towards homeland and to make a global impact, by drawing attention to Pakistan on its sixty-second anniversary. It proved to be successful, as Pakistan was able to make it to Twitter’s trending topics, a term used to describe the ten most talked about topics on the network. The combined effort came as a product of an e-rally launched by a group of digital activists across cyberspace to motivate people to include the term ‘#Pakistan’ in their tweets and turn their display pictures green to show solidarity to the nation.

Another such incident reflecting the power of cyber-activism was when Pakistan made headlines in Google’s Map experiment by being the fastest country to populate itself on Google’s Map Maker service, which allows users to post localized information about their country. Pakistani Internet users proved to be the fastest among the 160 countries in the experiment to map out locations. The drive for this commenced from a single blog post, which later spread through cyberspace through the ‘viral buzz’.

We have all experienced news and videos spreading like wild fire throughout such social media forums like Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon, MySpace and Twitter. The sheer global outreach that is possible via the Internet is mind boggling. A few clicks and a few hits on the keyboard and you can reach out from your cozy, little room into the big, wide world. Today, activism is no longer limited to the streets. Now, you can launch e-rallies across cyberspace and mobilize a good number of people to work for a collective cause. Such social networks as Facebook and Twitter have proved particularly helpful in spreading awareness about issue or in promoting a cause.

The Internet has permeated our lives. What we know, what we learn, what we do and what we think all seems to be intricately shaped by the web. Today, the Internet plays a significant role in what communication scholars term the ‘agenda-setting function’ – the idea that the media is stunningly successful in telling people what to think about (if not what to think).

The need for Muslims to make use of these technologies is profoundly clear. Such social media as Digg and Reditt can help us get our content as close to the mainstream media as possible. Content that is popular and ‘dugg’ many times can find its way to leading topics on these websites that have global audiences. Furthermore, via social networks on the web, we can coordinate volunteer activities and mobilize support for charity work. Once again, we have the example of Pakistani bloggers earning international recognition for mobilizing support for the IDPs in the recent Swat crisis.

Many Muslims view social media and media in general with suspicion. However, such views are often based on ignorance. Prophet Muhammad (sa) used to utilize the media of the time to communicate with the people. For instance, at a time when Allah (swt) ordered the Prophet (sa) to proclaim the message of Islam openly to people in the early days of Islam, the Prophet (sa) went up the Mount of Safa, knowing that it was the technique of the time to communicate from there, when one had an important message and sought attention.

Today, we have the Internet and the social media as techniques of the time to communicate to wide audiences effectively. It is needless to say that Muslims must utilize these tools to communicate their message to the masses, draw attention to important issues and mobilize support for beneficial causes.

Quick Fact: What is micro blogging?

It is a form of blogging that allows users to publish brief text updates, with or without the addition of photos, audio clips or other multimedia, over the Internet. There are specific websites for micro blogging. One of the more popular website is Twitter at http://www.twitter.com.

Ebb and Flow

Vol 6 - Issue 4 Ebb and FlowNaureen Aqueel discusses the highs and lows of Iman (faith).

I am often left in great awe about the experiences my heart goes through. At times, I’m overjoyed, while at others – perplexed. The feeling is inexplicable, but every Muslim experiences it. It’s the highs and lows of Iman (faith), as we tread through this journey of life. Sometimes the waves rise and wash away the dirt, driving us to greater and greater heights of good deeds. At other times of spiritual deprivation, the same waves lower, leaving us wondering how they had ever been so high.

This bumpy journey of faith is fascinating but at the same time puzzling. During the periods of low, it is spiritually distressing. And that becomes the best time for Shaitan to attack. Therefore, it becomes extremely important for us to understand these variations in the level of our Iman and the reasons causing them, so that we can be well-prepared to intercept Iman in its downward journey and bounce it back up, Insha’Allah.

It is natural for our Iman to go through these ups and downs. The Prophet (sa) informed us of this condition, when he said: “Faith wears out in the heart of anyone of you, just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.” (Hakim) Allah (swt) also mentions this condition: “…And when His Verses (this Quran) are recited to them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith…” (Al-Anfal 8:2)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) is reported to have said: “There is no heart that does not have clouds like the clouds that cover the moon. When the cloud covers it, it’s dark, and when the cloud moves away, it shines.” (Tabarani)

It is comfortably reassuring that the Companions of the Prophet (sa) went through the same fluctuations in their level of Iman. The Companions used to feel their Iman increase when they would sit in gatherings of righteousness, and when they were away from such gatherings, they felt their Iman was not so high. Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta) used to say: “Sit with us, so that we may increase in Iman.” (Ahmad)

We find similar reports about other Companions. An increase in their Iman was what they always sought. The fact that the Companions went through the same fluctuations in the level of faith is reassuring, only because it prevents us from falling into despair and gives us hope of reaching high ranks despite this natural human shortcoming. However, this should not make us passive and prevent us from striving to increase our Iman, for Iman often lowers due to sins and laziness.

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “When the believer commits a sin, a black dot will be engraved on his heart. If he repents, refrains and regrets, his heart will be polished again. If he commits more errors, the dots will increase, until they cover his heart. This is the Ran (stain) that Allah described: ‘Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn’ (Al-Mutaffifin 83:14).” (At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai and Ibn Majah)

We often feel this rust on our hearts, when we fail to get the same concentration and spiritual replenishment through our Salah that we got previously. The same Quran that moved our hearts no longer brings those tears. We no longer feel the same excitement at learning a new Hadeeth, nor do we run to adopt a new Sunnah. We slack in carrying out voluntary acts of worship, and while we do perform the obligatory acts of worship, we find that vigour and spirituality painfully missing in us. Sounds familiar? Well, most of us experience one or more of these symptoms during different phases of our life.

The reasons for the falling of Iman are all basically centered around disobedience, laziness, heedlessness and being too involved in the Dunya (world). We often find ourselves so caught up in our worldly activities that we are unable to take out quality time for our Salah, gatherings of Zikr, the Quran and voluntary acts of worship. Our Salah becomes shorter, our daily Quran recitation and study become lesser, we do not have the time to attend Quran study circles, and slowly and gradually we get cut off from all that brings us near to Allah (swt). The result is a decrease in the level of our Iman, a weakening in our connection with Allah (swt) and eventually a heart covered by a dark and gloomy cloud of depression and frustration, resulting in a strange void inside us.

Ok, so we aware of the tell-tale signs signaling that our Iman is beginning to take a downward turn. We know the reasons for its lowering. Now what? Well, firstly, we have to take charge of our lives and not let our busy schedules, laziness or desires weaken our relationship with Allah (swt). It’s not like you won’t commit mistakes or that you’ll become a super time manager and find time for everything; however, you must not let these tactics of Shaitan keep you down for long. Repent and reform as soon as you realize your mistake. Squeeze out time from your busy life just to spend more time with the Quran and good companions. And above all – make Dua.

The Prophet (sa) taught us to ask Allah (swt) to renew our faith. He also taught us beautiful Duas for seeking Allah’s (swt) help concerning the matters of our Iman: “O Turner of hearts! Make my heart firm and steadfast on Your Deen (religion)!” (At-Tirmidhi) “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth), after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower!” (Al-Imran 3:8)

During periods of low Iman, you may find your daily Salah and your daily Quran recitation difficult and burdensome, but never let those feelings pull you down. Shaitan will tell you it’s no use praying or reading the Quran, when you no longer feel the way you did before. Don’t fall into that trap. Letting go of Salah and the Quran will only worsen your state. Also, increase the time of your listening to the Quran. This has an amazing effect on the heart. Attend Quran study circles and sit in the company of the righteous. You will feel a fascinating ray of Iman reaching into your heart, when you sit with the believers. Such congregations have a great effect in fortifying Iman, and even if your schedule feels tight, taking out time for such gatherings and for the Quran will leave you finding more time in your day, as you gain more energy and motivation from the Quran and the believers. Give it a try!

Wish you the best of Iman!

Paradise on Earth

By Naureen Aqueel

Allow me to introduce you to a new destination: Paradise on Earth. Hmm… Is this an exotic island or a beautiful landscape that I recommend you to visit? How big a budget will you need to travel to this place? How much will you need in terms of worldly resources to take this trip? Now, if I tell you that you can take this tour without paying anything in terms of worldly currency, how overjoyed would you be?

Well, nothing is for free. There is surely a currency involved. But this currency has nothing to do with your worldly bank accounts, but everything to do with your heart. Often, in our pursuit of happiness, most of us fall into the vulnerable error of linking happiness to the ephemeral things of this world. However, what most of us do not realize is that true happiness is not dependent on the transitory things of this life; in fact, it is linked most intricately to the state of our hearts. And it is in this way that the happiness of this life is connected to the happiness of the eternal life.

So now you see it. The Paradise on Earth, that I speak of, is the Paradise that the heart experiences in the nearness and love of Allah (swt), while striving to achieve His pleasure. One of the great scholars of Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah, summed this up quite beautifully when he said: “There is a Paradise in this life. Those, who do not enter it here, shall not enter it in the Hereafter.”

Scholars of Islam describe this ‘early paradise of the heart’ as the sweetness of knowing Allah (swt), loving Him, finding peace in His remembrance and desiring to meet Him. Those known for their love of Allah (swt) have been recorded in our history to have said: “The truly unfortunate people of this world are those, who leave the world without tasting the sweetest thing it contains.” When they were asked what it was, they replied: “The love of Allah (swt), to feel comfortable in His company, desire to meet Him, turn towards Him and turn away from everything besides Him.”

This precondition of Jannah does not by any means require us to cut ourselves off from the world and become ascetics. Indeed, the great prophets and their righteous companions attained this state, while being active members in the world carrying out their duties as generals, scholars, students, governors, traders and businessmen.

What this does require, however, is a pure and sound heart that has tasted the sweetness of faith. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah (swt) with a clean heart [clean from Shirk (polytheism) and Nifaq (hypocrisy)].” (Ash-Shuara 26:88-89)

Prophet Muhammad (sa) is reported to have said: “Three qualities are such that if found in one, he shall have tasted the sweetness of faith: that Allah (swt) and His Messenger become more beloved to one than all else; that one loves a person only for Allah’s (swt) sake; that one hates to revert to disbelief, as he hates to be thrown into the Fire.” (Bukhari)

Scholars have also talked at length about the state of Ridha (contentment or pleasure) with Allah (swt). The state of Allah (swt) being pleased with His slave and the slave being pleased with Allah (swt) are among the few blessings of Jannah that Allah (swt) gives us a glimpse of in the world. After describing Jannah in one verse of the Quran, Allah (swt) says: “But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is the supreme success.” (At-Taubah 9:72)

The peace and satisfaction that one finds in trusting Allah (swt), remembering Him and remaining pleased with His decision is something we should all be searching for. And once we find it, no worldly worries will be able to disturb the Paradise that our hearts are in, Insha’Allah.

Misguide ‘em Young

By Naureen Aqueel and Aisha Nasir

Youth may be crazy and wild, but they are also passionate, energetic and strong-willed. This is exactly what Satan realizes. Hence, he very cleverly schemes to add this ‘valuable human resource’ to his party. Because of strong emotions, desires and uncertainties that beset this stage of life, youth become vulnerable targets of Satan’s attacks. Therefore, it becomes ever more important for them to recognize some of the following avenues, by which Satan approaches them.

Deception: Sugar-coated Evil

Allah (swt) repeatedly mentions in the Quran that Satan deceives the mankind by making false promises and arousing false desires. He will promise you that no one will find out, if you sneak out; he will guarantee enjoyment, if you attend that college concert; he will promise you that there is nothing wrong with attending that dance party or hanging out with friends of the opposite gender. He will give you a thousand reasons, why it is just innocent fun, the ‘in-thing’, fashion and a means of getting a good message to different people. “Why not?” he’ll say, “you can do a lot of Dawah, while gossiping with non-Mahram friends or attending that concert!”

Allah (swt) describes these justification labels with the following words:

“… but Shaitan (Satan) made their deeds fair-seeming to them.” (An-Nahl 16:63)

Fear of People

Satan threatens you with loss of friends and your standing in society, if you obey Allah (swt). What will people say, if you don the Hijab? What will your friends and relatives say, if you decline that invitation to your cousin’s Dholki? Won’t your peers make fun of you, if you don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend? Satan injects the fear of rejection and isolation, of being made fun of into the heart, feeding on it gradually, until it grows big enough to make you take several wrong steps, just because you are afraid of what people would say, if you didn’t.

Just Once

“What’s the harm of one puff of a cigarette? Or one puff of shisha? Once won’t harm you!”

How many times do you hear voices like these in your head? Put up your defenses – it’s Satan clean and clear! One song, one movie… one, one! And you won’t even notice, when that one becomes a few dozens more, turning into a habit. Allah (swt) calls this gradual process ‘following the footsteps of Satan’.

Carpe Diem

“Seize the day! Enjoy life! Make the best of this moment! You live only once!”

The theory behind this idea is that you should enjoy life to its fullest. Why? Because this is the only life you have! Wikipedia describes Carpe diem as ‘seize the day.’ Satan makes the youth feel that this is a time of enjoyment with no limits, and that this time will not come again, so one should enjoy it to the fullest. There’s plenty of time to be good in old age! Right? Wrong!

Allah (swt) likes the worship in the young age the best. Among the seven under the shade of Allah’s (swt) throne on the Day of Judgement will be the person, who worshipped Allah (swt) in his youth. Besides, who can be sure, when this life may end? So why should we delay being good for the old age?

Some of the other ways Satan approaches the youth includes causing one to forget Allah (swt) and other important things (Al-Mujadilah 58:19); causing one to backslide from their responsibilities, as he did to Muslims in the battle of Uhud (An-Nahl 3:155); inducing laziness; and causing one to dispute about Allah (swt) without knowledge (Al-Hajj 22:3).

However, Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy has taught us many ways to avoid the snares of Satan. It’s important to know the ways he comes to you, and then to seek refuge against him in Allah (swt). Satan had said: when he was expelled from the heaven, that he would not be able to misguide Allah’s faithful servants. So take up your most powerful defenses from today – Taqwa and Dua!

Sunnah – Why should we follow it?

Vol 5 - Issue 4 SunnahBy Naureen Aqueel

Allah (swt) has a unique way of teaching His servants some vital points. No action of His is without wisdom. Thus, we find inherent lessons in the way He decrees things to happen. In the current context, we refer to the way He chose to send guidance to His slaves. We know that whenever Allah (swt) sent guidance to a people, He did not send a divine book alone. He always sent a messenger, who would bring the divine book to his people. There are many Prophets who came without a Holy Book, but there is no book that was sent down without a prophet.

Any reasoning observer can understand why this is so. The need for a practical example, a teacher and guide is ingrained in human nature. We cannot simply do with theoretical knowledge, unless we have with us someone to explain, interpret and apply that knowledge. And it is thus that Allah (swt) sends towards His slaves a treasure trove of guidance in the form of His messengers who demonstrate the true obedience to Allah (swt) and the ways of pleasing Him.

What is the Sunnah?

Literally meaning ‘way’ or ‘road,’ Sunnah in Islamic Shariah means the way of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Scholars have defined it as including the words of the Prophet (sa), his acts and his confirmations or approvals of the actions or sayings of others.

Status of Prophet Muhammad (sa)

To understand the status of the Sunnah in Islam, we must first understand the status of Prophet Muhammad (sa). Prophet Muhammad (sa) was not sent simply to deliver the Book of Allah, the Holy Quran, as a mere postman. Nor was his job only to recite the Word of Allah to the people of Makkah.

Had it been so, would it have been difficult for Allah (swt) to send down the Holy Book alone in a complete form? In fact, none of the prophets were sent for merely delivering the Holy Scriptures. Their role was to not only deliver and recite the Holy Book to the people, but also to explain, interpret and expound it, providing them with a practical example of its contents. Their lives, character and manners were to be practical demonstrations of the message they brought. It was the same with Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah (swt) describes this most beautifully in the Holy Quran:

“Indeed, Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) from amongst themselves, reciting to them His Verses (the Quran), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them in the Book (the Quran) and Al-Hikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa) (i.e. his legal ways, statements and acts of worship)], while before that they had been in manifest error.” (Al-Imran 3:164)

It is clear that Prophet Muhammad (sa) was to deliver the Holy Quran, teach it to the people, purify them as well as teach something additional – ‘the wisdom’, which scholars have taken to mean the Sunnah. His life and his activities in all roles, be it husband, father, statesman, leader, judge, teacher, military commander, etc., were to be a paragon of wisdom and guidance for all of humanity.

We can say, however, that the mission of the Prophet (sa) is different from other prophets, as Allah (swt) sent him for all of the creation, irrespective of time and place, whereas the other prophets were sent to a particular nation at a particular time in history.

Two types of revelation – two sources of guidance and law

The revelation (Wahi) received by the Prophet (sa) was of two types. The first is the revelation of the Holy Quran, known as Al-Wahi Al-Matluw (the recited revelation), which is recited in prayers. The second is the revelation through which the Prophet (sa) received guidance regarding daily life matters, details of the Quran, Ibadah (acts of worship), etc. This is known as Al-Wahi Ghair Al-Matluw (revelation, which is not recited).

Scholars do use another set of terms for these two types of revelations. These are

Al-Wahi Al-Jali (the open or clear revelation) for the Quran and Al-Wahi Al-Khafi (the hidden or indirect revelation) for the Sunnah. In other words, Quran is the direct revelation from Allah (swt) since both its words and their meaning are from Allah (swt), while the Sunnah or Ahadeeth is indirect revelation in the sense that although the meaning is from Allah (swt), the words are of the Prophet (sa). Khaleel-ur-Rahman Chishti, a renowned writer on Islam, describes this relationship beautifully when he says: “The Quran and the Sunnah are not separate from each other. They are two streams flowing from the same fountain.”

The Holy Quran along with the Sunnah constitutes the Islamic law or Shariah, and as such one cannot follow Islam by rejecting or giving lesser importance to either one of them.

Al-Miqdam Ibn Madikarib relates that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Beware! I have been given the Quran and something like it (the Sunnah). Beware! A time will come when a bellyful (proud person) will be sitting resting on the cushion saying: ‘Keep to the Quran; what you find in it to be permissible treat as permissible, and what you find in it to be prohibited treat as prohibited.’ Beware! The domestic donkey (although not mentioned in the Quran as prohibited), beasts of prey with fangs, a find belonging to the confederate – unless its owner does not want it – are not permissible to you.” (Abu Dawud)

The Sunnah not only outlines the rules of Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful), but also gives us guidance in matters of day-to-day life, such as sleeping, eating, answering the call of nature, business transactions, travelling as well as the methods and details of acts of worship (Salah, Zakah, Hajj, etc.).

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)” (Al-Hashr 59:7)

This verse clarifies for us the law-making authority that the Prophet (sa) was vested with.

Obedience (Ita’ah) and Following (It’ibah)

The Quran and the Sunnah both use two different terms to describe a believer’s manner. The first is obedience (Ita’ah). Obedience to the Prophet (sa) is mentioned various times in the Quran side by side with obedience to Allah (swt). For example:

“Say (O Muhammad [sa]): ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)).’ But if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers.” (Al-Imran 3:32)

In his book “The Authority of the Sunnah”, a respected scholar of Islam, Mufti Taqi Usmani, notes: “It is noteworthy that whenever the ‘obedience of Allah (swt)’ is mentioned in the Holy Quran, it is always followed by the ‘obedience to the Prophet (sa),’ which has never been missed even in a single verse. There is no verse in the entire Book where the ‘obedience of Allah (swt)’ has been mentioned alone with no reference to the ‘obedience of the Messenger (saw).’ On the contrary, there are some verses where only the ‘obedience to the Messenger (saw)’ has been mentioned, and there is no reference to the ‘obedience of Allah (swt).’ The reason for so much stress upon the obedience of the Prophet (sa) is that the obedience of Allah (swt) cannot be carried out except through obedience of the Prophet (sa).”

The second term is It’iba (following). Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Say (O Muhammad (sa) to mankind): ‘If you really love Allah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’” (Al-Imran 3:31)

It’iba (following) has been described by some scholars as meaning ‘to follow step by step,’ in other words, tracing the footsteps. This is why we find that the companions used to follow the Prophet (sa) in every little deed to the extent that even if he had his upper button open, they would follow him.

The Key to the Quran

Describing those who stress on following only the Quran and not the Sunnah, Muhammad Asad writes: “Those who speak so, resemble a man, who wishes to enter a palace but does not wish to employ the genuine key, which alone is fit to open the door.”

Indeed, the Sunnah is the key to the Quran. The Quran and the Sunnah are so intertwined that you cannot possibly separate them. The Sunnah explains the Quran by making clear the meaning of words used in the Quran; by mentioning exceptions to general rules in the Quran; and by explaining the cause and context of certain commands in the Quran etc. For example, the Quran commands observing the Salah as many as 73 times, but it does not describe its method. The method is contained in the Sunnah. This too has some wisdom behind it – to enforce the importance of the Sunnah.

Furthermore, the life of the Prophet (sa) is a practical demonstration of the Quran. Aisha (rta) used to say: “His character was the Quran.”

Sunnah in our lives

Our Deeds (even the worldly acts for satisfying our needs) done in accordance with the Sunnah become Ibadah (worship). In this way, the Sunnah acts as a machine transforming meagre things or waste into gold and adding them to our account for earning Jannah (Paradise).

Following the Sunnah in our everyday lives is also a systematic training in obedience. Muhammad Asad in his book “Islam at the Crossroads” gives a thought provoking example of a man who is not very accustomed to walking. If asked to walk a long distance, he would not be able to do so. However, for a person trained in walking his whole life, this would not be difficult at all. Thus, if we constantly follow the Sunnah in our daily lives, our moral laziness gets diminished, and we do not find obedience in greater matters to be difficult.

Reply to Ahadeeth Rejecters

Compiled by Naureen Aqueel

(Excerpts from Dr. Idrees Zubair’s lectures)

Many criticisms have been made on the veracity and position of Ahadeeth in Islam. The truth is that such criticisms are based on ignorance. Those, who consider Ahadeeth objectionable, have not comprehended the reality of Ahadeeth and the efforts of the Muhaddithin (scholars of Ahadeeth) to devise a set of strict conditions for accepting Ahadeeth.

Let’s explore and refute some criticisms in detail.

Criticism 1

From the death of Prophet Muhammad (sa) to 300 AH, for around 250 years, Ahadeeth were transmitted only verbally. When something is verbally transmitted, there is a possibility that the words would have changed and, subsequently, so would the meaning. There is great possibility of text distortion; thus, Ahadeeth become unreliable.

Reply

Firstly, there is proof that written material of Ahadeeth existed at the time of the Prophet (sa). While pursuing a Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1960s, Dr. Mustafa Al-Azami wrote a thesis proving that there were more than 50 companions, who had written and preserved Ahadeeth at the time of the Prophet (sa).

Secondly, there are proofs that no errors were made in verbal narrations. For example, the Prophet (sa) wrote a letter to Kaiser to invite him to Islam. It is on record that no copy of that letter was kept with the Prophet (sa). The Prophet (sa) dictated the letter, and the messenger took it away. But the scribe and the companions of the Prophet (sa), who were there at that moment, knew what was written in that letter. The letter was sent, and the companions, who had heard and memorized the letter verbally, transmitted the whole text of it to the later generations.

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, a scholar of the beginning of the third century, included in his book “Musnad Ahmad” that same letter, which he had received through verbal transmissions. Of course, this was recorded after the traditional scrutiny for accepting Ahadeeth. During the Usmani Caliphate, around 200 years ago from the current time, the same letter of the Prophet (sa) written to Kaiser was found during excavations in Egypt. When that original letter was collated with the letter mentioned in the book of the third century Hijri, there was not even an iota of difference between them. This is a great proof that not the slightest carelessness was employed in verbal narrations.

Similarly, Abu Hurairah (rta), a companion of the Prophet (sa), taught many Ahadeeth to his student Hammam Ibn Munabbih, who wrote them all down. However, Hammam’s manuscript got lost. The Ahadeeth narrations of Abu Hurairah (rta) were narrated later by his other students and written down in books of Ahadeeth. Relatively recently (in the 1954), Dr. Hamidullah, a great scholar of Ahadeeth, discovered the manuscript of Hammam Ibn Munabbih in the national library of Damascus and Berlin among old manuscripts. When one compares the Ahadeeth of Abu Hurairah (rta) recorded in these Ahadeeth books and those in the ancient manuscript, there is no difference.

The companions and other Ahadeeth narrators employed the utmost precision in narrating Ahadeeth. Moreover, they had very sharp memories. They used to memorize the family trees of horses, camels and tribes! It wasn’t difficult for them to memorize long Ahadeeth word for word.

Criticism 2

Ahadeeth at the time of the Prophet (sa) were few, but they grew in number during the time of the Tabaeen and later generations, indicating fabrication.

Reply

The number of Ahadeeth increased in later generations because of the growth in the number of Isnad (narrations) of the same Ahadeeth. In other words, for the Muhaddithin ‘Hadeeth’ means not just the words of the Prophet (sa) but each narration of those words. For example, the Hadeeth “Indeed, deeds depend upon intentions” is found in 70 different narrations. Each is counted as a separate Hadeeth.

Criticism 3

The Isnad system (the method of narrating Ahadeeth with a chain of narrators) was introduced at the end of the first century AH. They made up the chains themselves by guess work. So, if they concocted the chains, they might have done the same with the text of Ahadeeth.

Reply

A famous Tabaee Imam Ibn Sirin (33-110 AH) is recorded to have explained that the system of asking for references arose at the time after the martyrdom of Usman (rta), since it was a time of great trial and mistrust. Furthermore, the Isnad system is a natural process and cannot be fabricated so easily. Arabs used to have long names, with many other titles mentioned with the name. There is no record of an error in any chain. The names found in the chains were actual people found in those times. If you read their biographies, you find that they were really of that time, had the same name, titles, etc., and were of the same time, as those, whom they narrate from, and met the people they narrate from. The Muhaddithin used to scrutinize each narrator to the extent that people began to fear them.

The Isnad system has far greater intricacies than any contemporary research methodology. This system is very important. It has a position of reference for us and is a means to judge the authenticity of a Hadeeth. The Muhaddithin made numerous sacrifices (travelling long distances in heat, cold, hunger and thirst) for obtaining the authentic source of a Hadeeth – at times, only for a single Hadeeth.

Criticism 4

There are contradictions in Ahadeeth. The Prophet (sa) could not have made contradictions. People produced them themselves.

Reply

They often quote a Hadeeth, in which the Prophet (sa) told the people to erase whatever they had written from him besides the Quran. It is an authentic Hadeeth narrated by Sahih Muslim, but they quote it out of context, wherein lies the answer to contradictions. In the second half of the same Hadeeth, the Prophet (sa) advises, however, to quote Hadeeth from him. The context, in which this was said, was when people used to write the Quran on the already scarce writing material and then write the Ahadeeth on the same material along with the Quran. The Prophet (sa) feared that it would be mixed up.

When Muslims understood the difference between Ahadeeth and the Quran, the Prophet (sa) commanded them to write, as is directed in the Hadeeth, in which he commanded Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn As (rta) to write what he (saw) spoke. (Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi)

Lastly, the mouth that uttered the verses of the Quran uttered also the Ahadeeth. Similarly, the same companions transmitted to us the Quran and the Ahadeeth. How can we accept one thing and reject another?

An Interview with Ms. Bilquees Edhi

By Naureen Aqueel

In this age of materialism and heightened individualism, selfless efforts are rare gems. One family that has become a paragon of such values is the Edhis. Altruism, commitment, compassion, determination and hard work are behind the successful mission to bring relief to millions across Pakistan and abroad. Be it war, aftermaths of a natural calamity, or abandoned babies, the Edhi family is a ray of hope for many groping in the darkness of disaster, injustice and disease. “Hiba” magazine spoke to Bilquis Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, to get an insight into the great heights they have reached.

“A humanitarian perspective,” is how Bilquis Edhi defines the prime motive behind the Edhi Foundation. “It is aimed at the collective good of all,” she says.

In his autobiography “A Mirror to the Blind” as narrated to Tehmina Durrani, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “The five basic tenets of Islam continue into the sixth for me: Huquq-ul-Ibaad or humanitarianism. That it is not proclaimed as obligatory has deeper meaning; as right and wrong are left to human initiatives, its importance would be lost if forced.”

At another place in the same book he says: “Huqquq Allah is meaningless without Huqquq-ul-Ibaad. The latter is not possible without compassion and self-help. Islam is not implementable without submission to these two qualities, without them, there can be no practice. Islam without practice is a negation of God. The Holy Book is truly valued only when its prescription is followed.”

As one of the most active philanthropists in the world, Abdul Sattar Edhi is devoted and committed, and is known to work through holidays. How do he and his family manage this? “This is not our work, it is Allah’s (swt) work. And Allah (swt) gets His work done by whomever He Wills,” explains Bilquis Edhi. “Edhi Sahib has undergone only two grades of academic schooling and I have undergone only eight. There are no qualifications for (humanitarian) work. We only need to have a humanitarian perspective and do beneficial work.”

The Edhi couple and their family do not do all the work alone. They have a trained team of employees and volunteers. “We hire the staff and train them. There are also volunteers who get less salary-wise but do quality work. And, Masha’Allah, Allah (swt) has helped us greatly. No matter how much we accept His favour and thank Him, it is insufficient. We, humans, have no power to do work on our own without His help.”

“So, does the staff always work with as much sincerity, enthusiasm and selflessness as you two?” I inquired. “No. The employees sometimes cause trouble. No one is perfect. I keep telling Edhi Sahib: ‘You wish everyone was Sattar Edhi Sahib, but that is difficult – everyone has their own priorities be it home, family or children.’”

Another secret of their success is that they start their work early morning after the morning prayers and breakfast thereafter. Although most of their time is spent serving humanity, you will never hear them complaining or see them in low spirits. So how do they keep themselves motivated? “We are content and satisfied with ourselves,” shares Bilquis Edhi, “we keep doing our work and do not brood on criticisms.”

Despite their international fame, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Bilquis Edhi and their family continue to live a simple life. Indeed, Abdul Sattar Edhi is known to own two traditional Shalwar Kameez. “We have never really thought of who we are or what status we have. We just consider ourselves ordinary human beings and we work like common folk. Allah (swt) has saved us from arrogance and ostentation (Riya Kari),” says Bilquis Edhi.

The journey to establish such an unparalleled network of welfare work was not completely smooth. “We have never encountered any obstacles that have stopped us. Allah (swt) has always taken us ahead. He has never let us fall back. People have opposed us a lot and have resorted to narrow-mindedness and accusations. But Edhi Sahib says that their purpose is to distract us from our work. If we fight back, we will waste time. So he says: ‘Our work should be our response. Such people will be defeated and humiliated, when they see our work.’ Obstacles are a part of life,” says Bilquis Edhi.

In his autobiography, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “When the anxiety at the vastness of the areas I must cover overwhelmed me, I took courage from Prophet’s Muhammad’s (saw) example. He was confronted with enormous opposition and more hypocrites than friends.”

Commenting on the numerous awards they have received, Bilquis Edhi says: “It is the work that speaks.”

In the end, Bilquis Edhi prayed for the success of “Hiba” magazine and wished to give a message to women: “Women should live life on the principles of simplicity, honesty, hard work and punctuality and should adhere to their limits (Apni Chaddar Mein Rehna Chahye). A good woman and mother is the minister of the home. Islam has not stopped women from work, but they should not cross Islam’s boundaries in any work they do.”

May Allah (swt) reward the Edhi family for their work and bestow His Mercy upon them, and may He grant us the same spirit of charity. Ameen.

Edhi Welfare Foundation, the largest welfare organization of Pakistan and one of the largest and most successful health and welfare networks in Asia, started as a tiny dispensary in 1951. Today, Edhi Foundation has over 300 centers across the country in cities, towns and rural areas. Services provided by Edhi Foundation include: baby cradles, destitute homes, welfare centers, highways projects, warehouses, field ambulance services, air ambulance services, marine and coastal service, blood and drug banks, cancer research hostel, missing persons service, home for sheltering animals, graveyard services, Edhi emergency posts, prisoners aid, refugee assistance and international community centers.

Bilquis Edhi has personally given 18900 children up for adoption.

Edhi Foundation is in the Guinness World Records for having the largest private ambulance service network in the world.

The couple have received around 250-275 awards and Abdul Sattar Edhi has also received an honorary doctorate from IBA.