When the Earth Shook

CHILE-EARHTQUAKEIt was a lazy April afternoon when people had just finished their lunch. Some lied down to rest. Those at work returned to their desks. Around 3 pm, the ground began shaking. People got out of their rooms, looked at one another and had one question on their tongues: “Did you feel it?” Television set was switched on, quickly selecting the news channels and then flipping between several to get the clearest and most detailed report. It was confirmed. A major earthquake had struck Pakistan.

The family looked at each other. What should we do? I peeped out of the window. I saw people gathering up in open space. I recalled the earthquake of 2005, when disaster management teams advised to stay at one place, until tremors settled. I suggested we take cover under wooden structures and frames. We sat back at our places, tongues moving swiftly in Dhikr (words of remembrance). Horrified, people made intense Duas to the All-Powerful to make the tremors stop. Objects nearby were shaking and thus increasing our fear. We were certain Allah (swt) will not punish us. In our hearts, we knew we didn’t deserve His mercy after all that we have done. We hoped for another chance. Just one more chance. Like we always do.

The ground kept shaking. Text messages were pouring in, asking if we were alright. We wondered if it was time to say our final goodbyes. We were hanging between life and death. Seeing death so near, we hastily made Duas for our forgiveness.

Everything around us – the sun, the moon, the trees, the birds, the earth that we walk upon – haughtily will testify either for or against us. What will it say about me?

I had recently completed the Tafsir (exegesis) of Surah Az-Zalzalah (the Earthquake). Its words echoed in my head: “When the earth is shaken with its (final) earthquake. And when the earth throws out of its burdens. And man will say: What is the matter with it?” (Az-Zalzalah 99:1-3)

And here we were sitting. Staring at the ground below us, wondering what was the matter with it. Why does it not stop?

The Most Merciful then did His thing. His Rahmah (mercy) took over, and He commanded the earth to stop shaking. Life returned to our hearts.

I returned my attention to Surah Az-Zalzalah and the Day of Resurrection. The Day, when the earth is stretched forth (Quran 84:3) and is ground to powder (Quran 89:21). That Day the earth will declare its information (about all that happened over it of good or evil). (Quran 99:4)

I shuddered. I was not prepared to die. I did not want the earth to reveal my information.

Yet, it will. Everything around us – the sun, the moon, the trees, the birds, the earth that we walk upon – haughtily will testify either for or against us. What will it say about me?

I had a swift flashback. I had done nothing that I could say would save me from the terrors of that Day. On that overwhelming Day, some faces will be humiliated and some joyful (Quran 88:2, 8). How will my face be? The Day, when all secrets will be examined (Quran 86:9), and man will be handed his record. There will be those, who will be given their records in their right hands. They will receive their records and rush to their families sharing their joy with them (Quran 84:7). Others will be given their records behind their backs (Quran 84:10), because it contains nothing to be joyful about. In which hand will I receive my record?

As I looked back at the television screen, the reporter was giving details of the earthquake. It was a 7.8 magnitude quake. Analysts feared had it continued for a few more seconds, everything in Karachi would have perished. In another window, the channel showed clips of LIVE scenes: people leaving their offices to stand in the open space.

And I was struck again.

Where was it? Where was the feeling that we just felt?

People were happily chatting. They were exiting the elevators with cheerful faces. It seemed, as if we did not just feel Allah’s power followed by His Rahmah but an ‘adventure.’

It seemed, as if we did not just feel Allah’s power followed by His Rahmah but an ‘adventure.’

It was time for the Asr (late afternoon) prayer. Parents still had to raise their voice reminding to pray. The practicing ones were reminding their colleagues to rush for the congregational prayer. The mosques were still half empty.

I was ashamed. Who were we? When the calamity was off our heads, we returned to our usual state? Even an earthquake that was certain to perish us could not fix us?

It is as Allah (swt) says:“Then after that you turned away. Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, indeed you would have been among the losers.” (Quran 2:64)

“O man! Verily, you are returning towards your Lord – with your deeds and actions (good or bad), — a sure returning, and you will meet (the results of your deeds which you did).” (Quran 84:6)

Pearls of Peace – An extract from Surah Anfal

Akoya_pearlQualities of a believer

Right in the beginning of this Surah, Allah (swt) describes the qualities of a true believer. He says, “The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses (this Quran) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone).” (Al-Anfal 8:2) May Allah (swt) strengthen our Iman. Ameen.

These are those who say, “I have tried my best. Rest is all in the Hands of Allah (swt).” And they are content with that. Their other qualities are: “Who perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and spend out of that We have provided them.” (Al-Anfal 8:3) We need to check ourselves. Do we have these qualities within us? If yes, then Allah (swt) says, “It is they who are the believers in truth. For them are grades of dignity with their Lord, and Forgiveness and a generous provision (Paradise).” (Al-Anfal 8:4) May He grant us Paradise and bless us with all the qualities of the true believers. Ameen.

Honouring claims and contracts

He then says, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and turn not away from him (i.e. Messenger Muhammad (sa)) while you are hearing. And be not like those who say: We have heard, but they hear not.” (Al-Anfal 8: 20-21) Several times during the day, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah, and beseech Allah (swt) to show us the right path. When the right path is shown to us, we turn away. Allah (swt) says when the message has reached you; when you have been informed what is right and what is wrong, then do not turn away. Do not become of those who claim we are the followers of Muhammad (sa). But when a command of Allah (swt) comes, they cannot be bothered to act upon it.

Once again we are reminded about the virtue of honouring contracts, Allah (swt) says, “O you who have believed, do not betray Allah and the Messenger or betray your trusts while you know (the consequence).” (Al-Anfal 8:27) Marriage is a contract similar to business contract. By being Muslim, you naturally become an ambassador of Islam. Do not bring a bad repute to Islam because of your behaviour. Many people do not want to engage with the Muslims because of their deceit and clandestine behaviour.

Stay honest with entrusted responsibilities

“O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you).” (Al-Anfal 8:28) Your wealth and children are a test from Allah (swt). He can take them away whenever He desires. They are not yours; you have only been entrusted with their responsibility. He may never bless you with wealth and children; He may bless you with wealth but not give children; He may bless you with children but deprive you of wealth or He may give them both to you and then take them away during your lifetime or after you are gone. This is a great reminder to not get attached to that which in reality belongs to Allah (swt). He can snatch it any moment.

All belongs to Allah (swt)

When an attachment is snatched away, a person loses his peace of mind and contentment. He complains and grieves for his loss. He utters ungrateful words. And when that happens his Iman begins to diminish. May Allah (swt) strengthen us and help us accept that we will suffer loss in this world.

Taqwa – The key to right decisions

In life, we are faced with miscellaneous decision-making. We wish we had a counsellor that we could consult with; Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allah, He will grant you Furqan (a criterion to judge between right and wrong, or Makhraj, i.e. making a way for you to get out from every difficulty), and will expiate for you your sins, and forgive you, and Allah is the Owner of the Great Bounty.” (Al-Anfal 8:29) What do we learn from this? The only thing required to make the right decision is Taqwa. If we are conscious of Allah (swt), He will grant us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Insha’Allah.

It’s either my way or the highway

This brings us to another important matter – in fact a great Fitnah of our times. Everyone is disagreeing with the other. The ideology is: if you do not follow my belief, then you have clearly gone astray. This continuous fighting has divided the Ummah immensely. Many people don’t come near the religion because they cannot understand who is right and who has deviated. Allah (swt) says, “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.)” (Al-Anfal 8:46)

The enemies are rejoicing as the Muslims fight among themselves. Let us reflect on our behaviour, be forgiving and reduce the distances between the Ummah.

We notice that in the Quran, the reminders for prayer and obligatory charity are frequently mentioned. It is because reminders benefit the believers. Each time we are reminded, we learn something new.

Consistency is the key

Allah (swt) loves those acts of worship which are done consistently. Doing them strengthens our Iman. And abandoning them can have serious implications on our heart’s condition. If you are content with worshipping and obeying Allah (swt), then you are among those who have understood their purpose in life; and know where they are heading to.

Test or punishment?

As Allah (swt) says in verse 53 of Surah Al-Anfal that He will not change a favour which He has bestowed upon His people; unless they change what was given to them. When that happens, then people deserve the gifts to be taken away. Having said that, we should remember that sometimes taking away of the favours is a test, instead of a punishment. How can one distinguish between a test and a punishment? Your heart’s condition will tell you. If your heart remains content and you say “Alhamdulillah” even in adversity, then Allah (swt) intends to increase your status by this test. On the other hand, if a calamity distances you from Allah (swt), then it could be His punishment. May Allah (swt) forgive and protect us. Ameen.

How can we nurture contentment in our hearts?

Let go of disputes and disagreements and forgive people. Look at what Allah (swt) says about confrontation with enemies, “But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.” (Al-Anfal 8:61) Allah (swt) is asking us to make peace with the enemies if they give up fighting too.

Opt for a ceasefire; this initiative will bring you peace

If there’s someone who has had an estranged relationship with you, and he now wants to mend it, then hasten to make peace with him. It is a sign of a good believer that he is the first one to apologize and forgive. Keep forgiving others and keep your heart calm. You might want to deal with that person differently, but do forgive them. “And if they intend to deceive you, then verily, Allah is All-Sufficient for you. He it is Who has supported you with His Help and with the believers.” (Al-Anfal 8:62)

If they deceive you after making peace, then make Dua for them instead. Because Dua has the power to alter conditions. And in this we have the best example of Prophet (sa). When two greatest enemies of Islam were creating hurdles for him, he made Dua for the softness of their hearts so that either of the two would come and work for Islam. Reflect on this Dua.

Truly Muhammad (sa) was the mercy for mankind. Within moments we hear Umar ibn Al- Khattab (ra) has embraced Islam. Subhan’Allah! See the power of Dua? One of the mightiest opponents of Islam became one of the strongest proponents of Islam. A seemingly impossible situation was made possible. May Allah (swt) grant us all the strength that Umar (ra) was blessed with. Ameen. Continue making Dua and you will witness the fruit.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.) 

Dear Savvy Parent – Jekyll and Hyde

handprintDear Savvy Parent,

I have two questions:
1. At times, it seems my son has two personalities: a well-behaved one (in front of his father) and the typical toddler behaviour (in front of me and any female relatives). Is this normal?
2. He behaves fairly well at home, but at grandparents’ and in public (when his father is not there), he constantly pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It almost seems he wants to check how far he can go before I snap… Again, is it normal for boys his age?


Dear Parent,

It is very common for young children to behave differently at home from when away from parents or away from the home. Do not worry that your child has a case of the “Jekyll and Hyde” behaviour, it is normal and I’m sure many other parents can attest to this.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst behaviour that is saved for parents and generally it tends to be the mothers that get the brunt of it.

How does one deal with this?

First of all find a strategy to deal with your anger. Ask yourself, what is your breaking point and how can you prevent yourself from reaching it? Figure out what works for you. For example, take a few slow breaths while reciting some tasbih quietly to yourself when you start to feel yourself getting angry.

When a child insists on something or is unwilling to comply with your wishes, it can be tempting to give in, especially if it means avoiding a tantrum, but all children need boundaries, and the best thing you can do to encourage positive behaviour when your child acts up around you is to be vigilant about setting and enforcing boundaries. Do not get into a power struggle with your child. Generally, in the case of a power struggle, parents feel that their power is being tested and challenged by the child.

The more the parent tries to exert power, the easier it is for the child to win simply by saying “no” or making some excuse and then the focus becomes more about who’s in charge rather than the misbehaviour itself. I am sure many parents out there have found themselves in this exact situation. Remember whatever is going on, whatever your child is doing, losing your temper won’t help. It may feel good or like it’s working in the short term, because you have enforced your parental authority and power, but in the long run the child has learned an ineffective lesson about managing conflict. Ask yourself, “How can I best handle that situation and how can I make this work without fighting?” You’ll have a much better chance of resolving this situation effectively.

Your child is old enough and I’m sure has a pretty good handle on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour, hence the button pushing and testing of boundaries. Again, yes, it is all very normal.

Next, lay the ground rules. Remain firm and consistent; set clear and most importantly FAIR consequences for unacceptable behaviour. For example, if your child doesn’t clean up his toys, then you take those toys away (set a reasonable time limit, such as 2 days). Another example would be, if your child has a nasty attitude around family members, you will send him away to another room (for example). If he can’t be nice to others, he must be alone. Before going out or visiting grandparents, discuss what is expected from him before hand. When deciding on a consequence, avoid situations that put your child in control of others, such as: “We can all go get ice cream after you clean up your toys.” This allows your child to control all family members and does not put any real consequences in place for their behaviour. It will only exacerbate their passive aggressive behaviour.

Lastly, remember the intent of consequences. They should not be to punish your child for the sake of punishment. Consequences should be logical and a form of discipline that parents should use to teach their child a lesson. So when you remove and reinstate privileges, in a calm manner be sure to explain to your child why/how he misbehaved and what you expect of him next time.

Make sure both you and your husband (and any other family members you may be living with) are on the same page with regards to unacceptable behaviour and it consequences. Consistency is the key!

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!!

The Savvy Parent

Loss – Punishment or Reward?


Our life is shaped by two types of important events. The first one belongs to Q1 and is termed ‘urgent’, such as a heart attack that needs to be tended to immediately. The second is Q2, which is important but not urgent, such as a patient who shows high potential signs of coronary issues leading to a heart attack. If Q2 actions are delayed, ignored or not attended to, they turn into Q1 situations, distressing us and resulting in losses.

Q1s are further divided into two types: internal Q1s and external Q1s. Internal Q1 could be when my car has been troubling me for days and needs to go to the mechanic for repairs. I have an extremely busy schedule; hence, I defer this visit to the motor mechanic, believing it to be a secondary priority. Hence, one morning, as I am driving, the brakes of my car fail and I ram into another vehicle. This is followed by an ugly brawl with the other motorist. I end up paying him for the damages, cursing my fate, being late for an important official meeting and succumbing to my frustration.

In this scenario, do I deserve sympathy from people or help from Allah (swt)? It was my choice to pend the car’s maintenance job and jeopardize my own and others’ life. Hence, this loss will be a source of Zulumat (darkness) and not a reward from Allah (swt). I earned this destruction with my own hands knowingly. Good fortune doesn’t hold forever. We need to learn to prioritize our life and be prepared, as we can’t read the future. Other examples of internal Q1 behaviour could be:

  • Studying at the last moment for exams and failing later;
  • Ignoring signs of a weak body, resulting in serious ailments;
  • Deliberately misbehaving with or annoying family members, causing disputes;
  • Forgetting about an official project or customer’s task, leading to reprimand from the boss or, worse, demotion or termination.

Now, we flip the scenario and imagine that my car was standing at a traffic light and another vehicle crashed into me from behind. What could I have done to alter this fate? Nothing. It was destined to happen. If I bear that moment with patience and recite: “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon (I am from Allah (swt) and to Him is my return),” this loss is accompanied with Noor (light). It becomes an act of pleasure for Allah (swt), as I surrendered to His decree and remembered that my possessions are a trust with me that can be taken away at any time. I didn’t resist, realizing that what had happened was beyond my control. I saved myself and others around me from unwarranted stress, misgivings, self-beating and bitterness. This graceful response of a believer earns the highest ranks of honour not only in Paradise but also in the sight of those in this world, who perceive Allah’s (swt) magnificence. This is purely an external Q1. Other similar examples could be:

  • Saving yourself from disappointment, after learning that your best examination paper was not marked honestly;
  • Suddenly discovering that in spite of living a healthy lifestyle, you have been diagnosed with a terminal disease;
  • Despite behaving generously and in the family’s best interest, you are unappreciated;
  • You perform your best in the office, yet the promotion or salary increment goes to another peer.

In all such cases, when our plan is scattered like the leaves in the teeth of a cruel gale, know Allah (swt) has planned otherwise. Pray for patience and deliverance. And know that Allah’s (swt) plots are unmistakably based on His infinite wisdom and love for the believer. This should draw us closer to Him. We should refrain from hunting for logical answers we cannot comprehend, due to our limited mental capacity.

Internal Q1s, however, should be and can be consciously worked upon, as they are within our circle of influence and can reduce the stressors and Zulm we commit upon ourselves. List your most frequently occurring internal Q1s. Analyze where you are going wrong. Double your resolve to plan and prioritize your life. If a loss still intercepts you after that as an external Q1 situation, you can pray for Allah’s (swt) Noor to come and relieve you. It’s not a loss but a better deal!

Concept of Punishment in Islam

Apr 11 - Concept of punishment

By Asim Ismail

Punishment is a word with negative connotations. However, when seen from an Islamic perspective, it brings about a paradigm shift in the word itself. Amazing, isn’t it? This is why we say Islam is the solution to every problem! Now, let us see what guidance Muslim educationists and scholars offer us regarding punishment.

It is strongly believed and recommended that the reason for punishment remains one of the following four:


If a child misbehaves at home, the entire family will be disturbed. In order to avoid this, parents can punish the child by excluding him/her from some activity.


This is to stop the child from doing something wrong. Example: give the child an esteemed position and then take it from him/her as a punishment. This will make him/her realize that a mistake has been committed.

Recompense (Badla)

A judge can use this form of punishment. However, for small children, parents should find out the reasons which led the child to a wrong action.

Correction (Islah)

Islah should be done gently. Example: If a child’s writing is not good, don’t tell him so bluntly. Instead, say: “I hope your writing will become better from today.”

If you look at the aforementioned four reasons, each one of them has a long-term positive effect on the child’s life.

As we know, the best example for all mankind is Prophet Muhammad (saw). Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Let us see how the Prophet (saw) dealt with someone who had committed a mistake. If a person had lied, he would not say: “Kazabta” (“You lied”). Instead, he used to say: “Akhtata” (“You made a mistake”). Subhan’Allah! How beautifully were we taught to deal with others! How are we dealing with each other in this day and age? Just think about how far we have drifted from the Sunnah.

Going back to the topic, there should not be a uniform punishment for all, as it may not work effectively for all the children. Punish according to the nature of the child. Let us see what Muslim educationists and scholars have to say on this subject.

  • Al-Qabisi, in the fourth century AH, was of the opinion that only Allah (swt) is flawless. Humans can make mistakes; therefore, punishment can be given. For children, however, Qabisi explains that excuse is Wajib because of four reasons: age, child’s play, small mind and lack of sense of differentiation
  • Ibn Khuldoom, in the eighth century AH, advocated that severity with children is not allowed. By being strict, we do not get to the root of the problem. Instead, it pushes the child in his cocoon. He shuts himself up and withholds his feelings. This forces him to become two-faced: he will be different inside and outside. Just to come up to your standards, he will pretend to be what he is not. This will generate hypocrisy in him.
  • According to Ibn Taymiyyah there are two kinds of punishments:

1)      Duration of punishment till the work is completed;

2)      In case it is a mistake, punish once only.

It is very rightly said: “Children need trained parents, as much as they need loving parents.”

Lastly, we all make mistakes, and if Allah (swt) starts punishing us for every single mistake we commit, there will be no one left on this earth. If we want ourselves to be forgiven, we should start forgiving others. The Prophet (sa) said: “Have mercy on those who are on the earth, and the One Who is in heaven will show mercy to you.” (Abu Dawood)

This article has been compiled from a workshop titled “Concept of Punishment in Islam” conducted by Mr. Asim Ismail (asim_ismail@yahoo.com) at “Reflections” school.