For a Better Neighbourhood

This Ramadan, let’s resolve to improve our relationship with our neighbours, writes Rym Aoudia.

“Neighbours? I don’t even know who my neighbours are!”

I mull over my friend’s reply, whilst I remember how often homemade food and moments of happiness and sadness are shared in my neighbourhood.

My friend probably represents those, who are too engrossed with their daily routines to remember their neighbours. Assuming their neighbours are in the same situation as they are, they say: “I do not want to disturb them.” Another group of people are in a better situation and have a ‘hi-bye’ relationship. But only a minority is able to establish strong and lasting bonds with their neighbours.

There was once a pious man named Ibn Mubarak, who was loved dearly by his Jewish neighbour. So much so that when a time came for the Jew to sell his house, he overpriced it by two thousand Dinars. When the buyer asked why, he replied: “The extra two thousand Dinars are for having Ibn Mubarak as your neighbour.” Ibn Mubarak was a true Muslim, who followed the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth: “The best of companions to Allah (swt) is the best to his companions, and the best of neighbours to Allah (swt) is the best of them to his neighbour.” (At-Tirmidhi) In another Hadeeth, he said: “Angel Gabriel continuously recommended kindness towards one’s neighbour, that I thought he would assign them a share of one’s inheritance.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Islam also teaches us that neighbours are not simply those living next door, but also those living up to seven doors away.

We all agree that there are diverse neighbourly relationships. But no matter how diverse one’s attitude towards one’s neighbour is, or who one’s neighbour is for that matter (Muslim or non-Muslim, friendly or unfriendly), the Islamic principle is to express kindness towards them with no exception. Islam teaches us to think ‘out of the box’ and treat others, as we would like to be treated. In return, this kindness nurtures a comfortable, supportive and safe community for all.

Some of us might have grumpy neighbours, and establishing good relationships may prove challenging. But know that a smile from you could one day kindle the beginning of a good relationship. If that is not the case, know that you are still setting a good example for others.

In his “Treatise on Rights”, Zayn Al-Abidin says: “It’s your neighbour’s right that you guard him when he is absent, honour him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged. Do not pursue his shame or reveal any evil you know of him. If you know he will accept your counsel, counsel him in that, which is between you and him. Do not forsake him during trying times; instead, offer support. Forgive his sin and be generous in your exchanges with him.”

Remember that apart from improving society and people’s relationship with one another, Allah (swt) will greatly reward you for showing kindness to your neighbours.

Take a quiz to find out, what kind of a neighbour you are:

  • Do you litter in your neighbourhood?
  • Do you eavesdrop or spy on your neighbour?
  • Do you share homemade food with your neighbour?
  • Do you stay in contact with them and exchange visits now and then?
  • Do you believe that you deserve whatever good they have?
  • Do you participate in gossip against them?

Abul Qasim Al-Zahrawi

Vol 3- Issue1  Abul Qasim Al-ZahrawiAround 940 AD, during the Andalusian Umayyad reign, one of the greatest pioneers of surgery was born – Abul Qasim Khalaf Ibn Al Abbas Al-Zahrawi. European sources referred to Al-Zahrawi as Alzahawi, Ezzahrawi, Zahravius, Aicaravi, Alsahrawi, and even Abulcases, Bulcasis, and Bulcasim, which are derived from his first name.

Little is known about the early life of Al-Zahrawi, probably because his native city El-Zahra was destroyed before his death, in 1011. Nevertheless, he is widely accredited for his role in the field of medicine.

The first known biography of Al-Zahrawi was written approximately 60 years after his death by Andalusian scholar Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm (993-1064), in his book “Jadhwat Al-Muqtabis.” Translated asOn Andalusian Servants,” it mentions Al-Zahrawi as the most prominent physician and surgeon during Umayyad Spain.

“At-Tasrif liman Ajiza ‘an At-Ta’lif” is the remarkable medical encyclopedia written by Al-Zahrawi. Translated as “The Method of Medicine,” and called “At-Tasrif” for short, it is considered a masterpiece in medical research. It consists of 30 large volumes; a result of approximately 50 years of commitment to the advancement of medicine, particularly the field of surgery. It is also good source for learning more about Al-Zahrawi’s methods, life and personality.

“At-Tasrif” includes various topics, such as surgery, ophthalmology, pharmacology, nutrition, obstetrics, maternal and child health, and the anatomy and physiology of the human body. His clinical methods encouraged the careful examination of each case individually and advised against following books word for word, in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

The largest section in “At-Tasrif” is solely about surgery. It is regarded as the first Arabic work to deal with the topic extensively. Al-Zahrawi provided illustrations and explanations of the use of about 200 surgical instruments, most of which were invented by him. Noteworthy examples include an apparatus for removing foreign objects from the throat, a device for the internal examination of the ear, and another for the internal inspection of the urethra.

Moreover, Al-Zahrawi is regarded as the earliest leading plastic surgeon, as numerous surgeries he had performed would be defined as forms of plastic surgery today. He also excelled in the field of dentistry; his encyclopedia included a description of many dental operations, a discussion about the problem of deformed teeth and how to fix these defects. He also developed the technique of preparing artificial teeth.

Al-Zahrawi emphasized the significance of a good relationship between the doctor and his patients, highlighting the importance of winning their trust and ensuring their wellbeing, regardless of their social status. He also enjoyed sharing his knowledge with his students, whom he called “my children.” Thus, being a respectable, humane, and honest individual, Al-Zahrawi was appointed the personal physician of King Al-Hakam II of Spain.

The Western world was introduced to Al-Zahrawi with the translation of his work, the first being in Latin by Gerard of Cremona. Along with Ibn Sina’s “the Canon,” Al-Zahrawi’s book was widely used as a medical text in the universities of Europe from the 12th to the 17th Centuries. He also influenced the field of surgery; for example, the French surgeon Guy de Chauliac quoted “At-Tasrif” more than 200 times in his book “Great Surgery” (1363).

Al-Zahrawi’s influence is still felt today as many modern medical methods find their roots in “At-Tasrif.” Al-Zahrawi’s efforts and dedication have surely paid off, as they have benefited the Islamic empire during his time and greatly contributed towards the advancement of medicine.

Ibn Khaldun

Rym Aoudia tells us about a Muslim thinker whose thoughts still echo today.

“The goal of civilization is a settled life and the achievement of luxury. But there is a limit that cannot be overstepped. When prosperity and luxury come to a people, they are followed by excessive consumption and extravagance. With that the human soul itself is undermined, both in its worldly wealth and its spiritual life.”

Ibn Khaldun’s quotation makes us appreciate Ibn Khaldun as a thinker who could take a complicated phenomenon, in this case the rise of civilization, and analyze it succinctly and clearly for his readers.

Ibn Khaldun’s full name is Abd Ar-Rahman Ibn Mohammed Ibn Khaldun. He was born in Tunisia on May 27, 1332 C.E. to parents of Yemeni origin. Prior to living in Tunisia, his parents lived in Spain. His family was generally one of politicians and scholars, which developed in Ibn Khaldun an ambitious desire to excel in both fields. In Tunisia, Ibn Khaldun received a fine education, where he became knowledgeable in different subjects and memorized the entire Quran. From a young age, he was active in public service aspiring towards a political career.

In his quest for knowledge, Ibn Khaldun decided to immigrate to Fez in Morocco because political rivalries affected the stability of his career. While on his way to Fez he sought refuge in a small village in Algeria, where he stayed three years. It was during this time that he wrote the first volume about world history, Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) in which he aimed at analyzing historical events. It was with this book that Ibn Khaldun established himself as an eminent scholar, earning the interest and respect of historians, sociologists, and philosophers alike.

The political situation was the reason behind Ibn Khaldun’s unstable career as well as his move to Egypt. He made Egypt his permanent home. These 24 years in Egypt were that of prominence and deference. He was appointed as the Chief Malakite Judge and lectured at Al-Azhar University.

Generally speaking, Ibn Khaldun’s main contribution lies in the philosophy of history and sociology. Unlike previous writers, his interpretation of history was not merely based on political aspects, but also on environmental, sociological, psychological, and economic factors. Ibn Khaldun innovatively analyzed group relationships and identified their role in the rise of a new civilization. He also identified the concept of ‘rise’ and ‘fall’ in human civilization and analyzed its contributing factors.

In addition to the volume of Muqaddimah, his other volume, Kitab Al-I’bar, dealt with the history of Arabs, contemporary Muslim rulers, European rulers, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Islamic history, North African history, and so forth. Al-Tasrif was his last volume, which was mainly about his life.

With his volumes, Ibn Khaldun is credited to have revolutionized the science of history and set the foundation of sociology. With Al-Tasrif, he initiated a new analytical form of autobiographical writing.

Ibn Khaldun is undoubtedly a prominent social scientist and thinker of profound insight. His writings stand as proof of his brilliance. They have stood the test of time for they are still available for us to read and contemplate today. Surely, Ibn Khaldun is a Muslim whose writings of the past have served the future.

The First Ambassador of the Prophet (sa)

Rym Aoudia tells us of a companion who sold the pleasures of the world, and bought what Allah had to offer.

Born into a prosperous family, Musab Ibn Umayr (rta) was pampered since childhood. His family, handsome features, and elegant attire further won him a distinguished position among the Makkan community. But that was not all; he was also intelligent.    Musab’s interest in Prophet Muhammad (sa) reached its peak because of Quraysh’s constant conversations about the Prophet (sa). On finding out that the Prophet (sa) was holding secret meetings with the believers at the home of Al-Arqam, he decided to quench his curiosity and personally meet the Prophet (sa). The Prophet’s (sa) recitation of verses from the Quran pierced his heart and he ended up embracing Islam.

Although now a Muslim who frequented Al-Arqam’s home for knowledge, Musab (rta) kept it secret especially from his mother Khunnas bint Malik-a powerful woman feared by many. But one day Uthman Ibn Talha saw Musab (rta) pray in the same way as he had seen the Prophet (sa). He rushed to tell Musab’s mother, who ordered Musab (rta) to proclaim his new faith publicly before the community of Quraysh. Once he did, she ordered his imprisonment. But he escaped to join a group of Makkan Muslims migrating to Abyssinia.

On Musab’s (rta) return from Abyssinia, his mother once again ordered his confinement. But this time he threatened to kill anyone who carried out her orders. He was serious and his mother knew it, so she gave up the idea. Then Musab (rta) tried to guide her to Islam but to no avail. She ended up disowning him and severing all ties between them. It was a painful decision for both of them.

During Musab’s (rta) mission as the Prophet’s (sa) Ambassador in Madinah, he proved himself a man of dignity. His people skills were the finest. One of the incidents worth mentioning was when a man named Usayd Ibn Khudayr approached him while he was introducing and inviting people of Madinah to Islam. Angry and frustrated Usayd scolded Musab for turning his people away from the idols they and their ancestors had worshipped for centuries. Musab (rta) patiently listened to Usayd’s complaint, and then calmly asked him to sit down and listen to the recitation of the Qur’an. Once Musab (rta) had Usayd’s complete attention he explained the Prophet’s (sa) mission. Usayd ended up embracing Islam, as did the rest of Madinah. Musab (rta) became well known as Musab Al-Khayr (the Good).

His death was an achievement in and of itself. During the battle of Uhud, Musab (rta) tried to distract the enemies from approaching the Prophet (sa). But while holding the banner and professing: “Allah is the Greatest” his right hand was cut off. So he carried the banner with his left hand, but that was also cut off. Still determined to carry the banner of Islam, he held on to it with what was left of his arms. However, he did not survive the third blow and was rewarded martyrdom. Allah bless Musab (rta) who endured life’s hardships for the sweet taste of a life in full devotion to Allah. He never hesitated to leave his life of luxury among his prosperous family, or his reputable position among those of Quraysh for the sake of Allah and His Prophet (sa).

Ibn Battuta

Rym Aoudia, brings to us the life of the brave Muslim traveler, who visited of what corresponds to 44 countries in our times

“(The believers whose lives Allah has purchased are) those who turn to Allah in repentance, who worship (Him), who praise (Him), who go out (or travel, in Allah’s cause)…” (At-Taubah 9:112)

Islam insists on the importance of learning and contemplating about Allah’s creation. For Ibn Battuta, traveling was an experience that allowed him to do so. It was an opportunity to gain knowledge, observe nature, and understand different societies. As he traveled vast lands and crossed seas, Ibn Battuta became the greatest traveler of the 14th century and is regarded as an equivalent to Marco Polo. With approximately 75,000 miles traveled, he far exceeded Marco Polo in the distance journeyed.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad-Din, was born into a rich family in Tangier Morocco on February 24th 1304 C.E. His aim was to become a judge. After his studies, he left Morocco to perform Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. This was a summer day on June 14th, which marked the beginning of his journeys. He was only 21 years old at that time. Even though his main reason to travel was to perform Hajj, he developed a passion to travel. This passion led to his adventurous travels that lasted for 30 years. During this period he frequently went back to Mecca to perform Hajj.

Back then, traveling was not safe by land and sea. Ibn Battuta first traveled alone on land by riding a donkey. He then joined a caravan with other pilgrims and traders for protection. Some walked, others rode horses, mules, donkeys, or camels. By the time they reached Cairo, Egypt, the caravan had several thousand members. He also traveled by horse, camel, and sailboat.

Ibn Battuta visited the lands of every Muslim ruler of his time like Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. He also traveled to Sri Lanka, China, and South Russia. He stayed in India for several years and was appointed as the ambassador to the Emperor of China. These countries were then mostly under the governments of Muslim leaders. During these travels, he had the opportunity to gain religious and legislative knowledge and to meet Muslim scholars.

After thirty years of traveling, he returned to Fez, Morocco. At the court of Sultan Abu Inan, he dictated accounts of his journey to Ibn Jazay al-Kalbi. These accounts are known as the famous travels, or Rihla, of Ibn Battuta. The travel accounts were completed in three months. Nowadays, one can read a translation of his travels in English.

One can greatly learn about society in Ibn Battuta’s time through his travels. For instance, from his accounts of the sea voyages and references to shipping, one notices how Muslims completely dominated the naval movement of the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Chinese waters. One also observes how a mutual respect existed between the Muslims and Christians. Even though the Christian traders underwent certain restrictions, most of the financial negotiations were carried out on the basis of equality.

He was a careful observer of the societies he visited. He paid close attention to people’s dress and architecture. He also observed their social customs, rituals, governmental organization, and local attitudes. Literary scholars are fascinated with his role as an early example for travel literature.

In Fez in 1364 C.E, Ibn Battuta passed away. His historic travel accounts that transcend time still contribute to society and continue to be a source of learning.

Ibn Sina

Rym Aoudia sheds light on the life and accomplishments of a pioneer in early research and medicine 

The great Muslim physician and philosopher Abu Ali al-Hussain ibn Abdullah ibn Sina (980-1037 C.E) is known as Avicenna in the West, which is the Europeanized Hebrew translation of his name (Aven Sina). He was born in a village near Bukhara, now Uzbekistan. His native language was Persian, and his father had him very carefully educated. He was an intelligent child, and by the age of ten, he had memorized the Noble Quran and was highly knowledgeable in the Arabic language. For six years, he had dedicated his time to the study of Muslim jurisprudence, philosophy, natural science, logic, geometry, and advanced mathematics. He also focused greatly on the study of medicine, and by the age of seventeen, he became a well-known physician and came to be known as the, “doctor of doctors”.

Being a famous physician, Ibn Sina had the opportunity to cure many important people. As a seventeen year old, he cured Nooh ibn Mansoor, the King of Bukhara, of an illness that puzzled many renowned physicians. In return, he was allowed to make use of the king’s distinctive library. He also treated Shams al-Dawlah, the king of Hamadan, from a severe colic.

With his father’s death, Ibn Sina had to support himself and therefore traveled to Jurjaniyah and offered his services to the Khawarzmian dynasty. Meanwhile, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna demanded Ibn Sina’s attendance in his own court. Ibn Sina decided to escape instead, and went to Gurgan (Turkmenistan) and then to Jurjan (Iran). Afterwards, he journeyed to Ray (Iran) and began his service with Prince Shams al-Dawlah.

In Ray, Ibn Sina achieved a position as a vizier. This position displeased the military and made Ibn Sina go into exile once again.  When Shams al-Dawlah became sick, he called on Ibn Sina to cure him.  After curing the Prince, he held his position again as a vizier. Later on he served Prince Ala al-Dawla in Iran. Fifteen years after serving him, Ibn Sina decided to journey back to Hamadan (Iran).  Ibn Sina died in this journey, and is now buried in Hamadan

Despite the positions held in royal courts, Ibn Sina continued seeking knowledge and writing books. His major contribution to medical science was his famous book “al-Qanun fil al-Tib”, known as the Canon of Medicine in the West. The book is an immense encyclopedia of medicine extending over a million words. “al-Qanun fil al-Tib” consists of five books.  For seven centuries, the Canon served as a vital source in medical teaching and practice.

Another great work is “Kitab al-Shifa”, the Book of Healing, which is a philosophical encyclopedia. The book consists of 20 volumes, and it is the longest treatise on philosophy ever written by a single man.  He also had other philosophical works, such as, “al-Najat” and “Isharat”.

Not only was Ibn Sina an eminent physician and philosopher, he was also a great poet and was politically active. He wrote books on mathematics, astronomy, psychology, geology, and logic. With all these accomplishments, Ibn Sina had to work hard and was known to greatly exhaust himself.  He was therefore advised to lead a moderate life. Yet, he simply replied, “I prefer a short life with width to a narrow one with length.”

Even though he died at the early age of fifty seven, he left behind many momentous books.  Some sources attribute more than a hundred books to Ibn Sina, while others attribute more than two hundred. Nevertheless, Ibn Sina provided the world with knowledge that served many generations, and which is appreciated even today.