Miracle of Allah: Tolerance of our body’s defense system

photogallery-human-body-11-fullThe elements of the defense system fight against the enemies that will harm the body just like ordered and disciplined soldiers. First, the soldiers that render the enemies ineffective by swallowing them (known as phagocytes) come to the battlefield. Sometimes however, the battlefield conditions overwhelm the abilities of these soldiers; then other soldiers (known as macrophages) step in. This causes a “situation alert” to occur in the target area and an army of soldiers (called helper T cells) is called to the battlefield.

However, during this struggle, a miracle takes place. Even though the body is always on the alert to fight against the organisms that can cause it harm, it allows millions of other types of bacteria to live in some organs. For example, it is known that 80-eighty species of microorganisms live in the mouth, throat and the tonsils. According to research, there are 200-two hundred organism species which keep our bodies constantly healthy. The reason that our defense system does not attack these organisms is that these are vital for tolerance of the defense system.

T cells are the fighter white blood cells of our body. They fight against everything harmful to the body, and they eliminate hazardous bacteria and molecules out of our body. However, during the clean up they do not harm the body’s healthy tissues and bacteria beneficial to the body.

Every cell has an identification system to introduce itself, that we call receptors. Fighter T cells can make this distinction by recognizing the receptors in all other cells, and they ignore the cells the body needs. This quality of the defense system is called “tolerance.”

This situation is actually a great miracle because the defense system is able to distinguish thousands of different proteins from one another.

 This situation is actually a great miracle because the defense system is able to distinguish thousands of different proteins from one another.

The incredible cell drill

So, how did cells acquire a system that allows them to distinguish such different structures from one another?

It is, of course, impossible for coincidences to account for the ability to choose, which requires characteristics such as knowledge, consciousness and intelligence. There is no doubt that the defense system acts with the inspiration of Almighty Allah (swt) as revealed in the verse, “hearkening to its Lord as it is bound to do!” (Al-Inshiqaq, 2)

The defense system that we have been speaking of causes another very miraculous event. The pancreas is sheltered from the rest of the body. Therefore, the white blood cells do not directly work together with pancreatic cells. Instead, some intermediary cells interface with white blood cells and introduce the pancreas. In order to do this, these cells put on a mask that displays the antigens of their normal neighbours, thus suppress the immune system and keep it in a quiet and calm state. These are called “dendritic cells.”

T cells recognize these antigens, and learn not to become alarmed by the pancreatic cells and attack this organ.

As it is clear from this example  that qualities like developing new methods to recognize one another, agreeing with one another, making plans and moving with a perfect organization according to these plans cannot be expected from defense cells and a mere organ. There is no doubt that even a community of human beings couldn’t move in such a flawless synchronicity, and accomplish what needs to be done without failing, forgetting, making a mistake or causing confusion.

There is only one definite truth that must be accepted here and that is- all cells, just like everything else in nature, are created specially by Allah (swt), Who is the Owner of an infinite power, knowledge and intelligence.

“… He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything” (Al-An’am 6:101)

Another organ, which the defense system tolerates, is the intestines. Even though, our general body is covered with very detailed defensive weapons, millions of bacteria nonetheless continue to survive in our intestines because the food we eat and the fluids we drink are digested by the bacteria in our small intestines. In addition, these bacteria provide a natural method of protection as they prevent the reproduction of other bacteria that could harm the body; hence, defense cells cooperate with these bacteria that prove beneficial for the body. Even though, there is the possibility of activating an immune system response, and starting a war in the intestines- T cells, somehow, ignore the bacteria in the small intestine and prevent this.

So, how do defense cells tolerate these bacteria?

Cells’ training- that is amazing!

In a research paper published in Nature Immunology journal, investigators led by Shannon Turley of Harvard Medical School have found that the defense system has a tolerance mechanism that was previously unknown. According to this, the lymph nodes are like strategic encampments that surround the whole body. The white blood cells pull the antigens to the lymph nodes and fight them.

However, the lymph nodes found in the intestines are like a training center more than a strategic encampment. The basic cells found there train the T cells, which are the soldiers of our defense system, about behaving in an appropriate and tolerant manner toward these uninvited, yet friendly guests. It cannot be explained away that such a system in this part of the body could have come into existence by coincidences. Shannon Turley states her excitement as such: “It’s obvious that T cells must be able to ignore — or become ‘tolerized’ to — normal intestinal tissue. … But it has been unclear how dendritic cells, which are extremely sensitive to microbial agents such as bacteria, teach T cells to resist attacking healthy intestinal cells.” Unconscious cells do not have the intelligence, consciousness and ability to make it possible to “teach” a biological process to one another. There is no doubt that a system, which even the most intelligent researchers and scientists cannot comprehend, being placed inside a cell with no ability to think and consider things for itself has a very special meaning.

Allah (swt) created the defense system with impeccable equipment

With the invention of the microscope some 250 years ago, scientists revealed that we live side by side with numerous tiny organisms invisible to the naked eye. Moreover, these organisms were everywhere, from the air we breathe to the water we drink; from everything we touch to the surface of our own bodies. In addition, these organisms frequently enter inside the body. The presence of this enemy was detected 250 years ago. However, many of the secrets of the “defense system” that fights that enemy so effectively are still not completely understood today.

The defense system recognizes and distinguishes viruses and bacteria that are harmful to it from friendly organisms. The way that defense cells- with no mind or brain- can accomplish this, is a reflection of the matchless Creation of Allah (swt), the Lord of infinite knowledge, seen in a small cell. It is revealed that Allah’s (swt) infinite knowledge encompasses all.

“…And they will never compass anything of His Knowledge except that which He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.” (Al-Baqarah 2:255)

A Shift in Focus – From ‘Them’ to ‘Me’

beforeWeek after week, sitting on the floor in reverent silence, enthralled by the eloquence of the woman gracefully perched on the couch, delivering a Dars (Islamic lecture), I was utterly mesmerized by the powerful message of the Book of Allah (swt). Satisfaction and pleasure would fill me up when Allah (swt) would address with pride ‘those who believed and did good deeds’. However, relief and something close to smugness would enter my conscience when hypocrites and non-believers were reprimanded. And this gave a head start to my journey towards a better understanding of my Deen.

Needless to say, I feel so embarrassed even when I think about that time in my life when I was truly heedless and thus, constantly needed to sooth my ego by reminding myself of how better I was than many others. I would think of others whenever a sin would be mentioned in the Quran or Hadeeth, and congratulate myself for even the minimum that I was doing. This thought of major self-deception makes me quiver. But Allah (swt) saved me with His Absolute Mercy.

I feel so embarrassed even when I think about that time in my life when I was truly heedless and thus, constantly needed to sooth my ego by reminding myself of how better I was than many others.

“… And you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it…” (Al-Imran 3:103)

Today, I marvel at myself as to how could I be so self-righteous when I was committing a number of sins myself. On one hand, I would justify a few sins as being minor and on the other hand delude myself that shunning the others was not in my capacity. I kept blaming external factors and features of the hour as culprits for my transgressions.

Alhumdullillah now, things have changed to a great extent. I do not know when this process actually began, for it happened gradually. It was definitely nothing great in my person that brought about this ‘shift in focus’. But it was purely Allah’s (swt) mercy and guidance that He has promised for those who take that first step towards His path.

“…Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a light (Prophet Muhammad) and a plain Book (this Quran). Wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way (Islamic Monotheism).” (Al-Maida 5:15-16)

By the Mercy of my Rabb, now when I read Quran or hear any Hadeeth, my first thought is ‘Am I being talked about?’ My heart gets a little flip and I like to believe it is the flip of ‘Taqwa’, even though I know I am too far from being a Muttaqi. I earnestly start pondering upon my conduct whether consciously or sub-consciously I indulge in that wrongdoing or not. If I am not doing it, then relief washes over me. And if I am guilty, then the urge to resolve that problem fills my heart and incites me to change my ways. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not, sometimes I fall back into the same sin again, and repent, and the circle continues.

Perhaps, staying on the straight path is a grueling process because we cannot achieve a certain level of Iman and Amal, unless we maintain it by putting in countless efforts throughout our lives.

As our Prophet (sa) said: “The Qalb (heart) had been named so because of its inconstancy. The heart is like a feather hanged on a tree where the wind flips it side to side” (Al-Jami). Hence, in order to keep the heart steady on faith and good deeds, the tools to be used are hard work and constant reminders.

Alhumdullillah, I feel blessed that Allah (swt), the Most Merciful, has now given me the sight to see my own faults rather than those of others. The focus has shifted from ‘them’ to ‘me’ and it has greatly transformed the way I think and act.

this ‘shift in focus’ has not only shown me my numerous faults and made me overcome many of them by conscious effort, but it has also made my relationships better with those around me.

The best thing is that I can feel the effects of this ‘shift in focus’ in every aspect of my life. It is almost as if the ‘ego’ has taken a back seat and broadened my vision about life in general and myself in particular. Earlier if something would happen against my wishes or if I faced criticism and censure, I would get defensive. In cases where I could not react or defend myself, I would plunge deep in the mire of self-pity and harbour resentments against others. Whereas now, I examine critically what had occurred, and try to see where I was at fault in the situation. I do this because I genuinely want to rectify my mistakes and improve my character for the sake of Allah (swt). My heart truly believes that I will be held responsible for my actions on the Day of Judgement, and it is not just a theory anymore.

Moreover, this ‘shift in focus’ has not only shown me my numerous faults and made me overcome many of them by conscious effort, but it has also made my relationships better with those around me. For besides rectification of my errors which many a times caused conflicts in the first place, Allah (swt) has bestowed upon me the gift of tolerance and acceptance of the shortcomings and faults of my loved ones.

Equipped with this new ‘focus’ and a new zeal, I strive daily through the tests and trials that life throws in my way: Zeal to make myself a better person, a better Muslim, and zeal to accept, love and forgive others; for I hope Insha’Allah Allah (swt) would be pleased with my efforts and endeavours on the Day of Judgement. I wanted to share this with you as this new ‘focus’ has brought much ease in my life and I pray that Allah (swt) give all of us the right focus in our lives and correct our affairs Here and Hereafter. Ameen



Parenting in Violent Times – Teach Your Kids the Lesson of Peace

Islam-Peace-ReligionIf you ask any teacher involved in mentoring teenage kids in schools and colleges about the general character of their pupils, ‘Churlish’ is most probably going to be their unanimous rejoin. This churlishness is well replicated in our overall social conduct and no area in our societal landscape is empty from this churlishness. Whether it is religion, politics or culture, the violence has spread its wings all over the place. Sometimes, as a society we try to fool ourselves by branding it as “Foreign Propaganda “, but unfortunately, the approach of “putting a curtain” has badly intensified this malady and it has now gone fatal for our social and religious fabric. Where we can blame our state and politicians for their bad policies, on the other hand, we cannot also ignore the heedlessness of parents in protecting their kids from this social and ethical illness. Our strong family system is indeed a matter of pride for all of us and it provides us with a matchless tool to modify our social tendencies. The outcome will solely depend on how effectively and smartly we utilize this tool to get the desired results. Parents happen to be on the driving seat of a ‘’family car’’ and can easily steer the whole family either towards the ‘’danger zones’’ of violence or could drive them towards “lush gardens’’ of peace. Following are some proposed ways on how parents can train their kids to be peaceful and modest individuals:

  1.  Remote control your kids: Traditionally in a family, the TV remote control is kept with the Dad during prime time hours when all the family members gather before a television in their living room to enjoy some family entertainment. If you feed your young ones with violent Hollywood action flicks and Bombay Underworld based Bollywood movies on a daily basis, it will not be a surprise if your kids eventually distance themselves from Quran and Sunnah and learn the violent customs depicted in those movies. Do research and find appropriate channels and programs that can infest them with peace and love.
  2.  Give dialogue a chance: In my opinion, the violence in our society is mainly rooted in the fact that we do not want any difference of opinion and have forgotten to co-exist with different schools of thought. A society tends to have differences and will only sustain if it learns to bear it unreservedly. As a parent, you can teach your kid on how to deal with differences in a peaceful manner by engaging yourself in a dialogue with them on matters in which they differ with you. Like, for instance, if your son wants to study commerce and in your judgement engineering will suit him instead, rather than imposing your opinion on him try to explain the basis of your judgement and listen to him if he has stronger reasons. This dialogue will not only help your son to become peaceful but will also bring affability to your house.
  3. Do not shout, be kind: Mothers are extremely possessive and passionate about their kids and therefore lose calm as soon as anything goes slightly astray. Houses in the country rock with ‘Mama’s’ loud and powerful shouts that can be heard by every kid in the neighbourhood. Sometimes it also gets physical which has worse implications on the mental development of a kid. Mothers need to learn gentle ways to control their kids so that the kids grow up as more confident and serene. If this motherly aggression is not controlled, resultantly our clerics and politicians will continue to be aggressive in their speeches and conduct.
  4. Serve them peace, use a dining table: Keeping in view the contemporary hectic lifestyle in which parents do not have the luxury to spend a lot of time with their kids, dinner is the only time when you can pull a healthy conversation with your kids. Inspire them by reflecting on the life of our Prophet (sa); expand on his compassion and forgiveness. Teach them how dialogue averts devastation and wars open doors to chaos and mayhem. In return of their favourite deserts, ask them to contribute towards the conversation and share their ideals of peace and love.
  5. The kitchen strategy: Many studies have indicated the affects of food on personality building. The excess of meat makes a person more violent and aggressive while the use of vegetables bends a person towards docility and modesty. Follow a proper diet plan that should comprise different sources i.e. fish, mutton, beef, chicken, and vegetables distributed equally. Keeping in view the economic and health benefits, use vegetables more often than meat. It will not only improve the physical health of your kids but will also help in boosting calm in them.
  6. Nip the violence in the bud: The early years of a kid are the most important in his personal development and are the high time when parents need to play their role. They need to be attentive of any growing inclination in them towards a violent way of life. Analyse, where they go wrong and mentor them duly. Talk to the school teachers and get their feedback on kid’s personality. Your hard work will reward the whole society with peace and prosperity.

The existence of human civilization and its progress is hidden behind our ability to remain peaceful and modest. Deviance will bring with it lethal implications for our societies and cultures. It is extremely important to keep our cultures and religions unpolluted from violence and extremism. Keeping in view the milieu of Pakistani Society, family is the basic unit and is normally governed by parents. Therefore parents need to act as role models of peace and gentleness and teach their kids to be peaceful and tolerant. This will help the society to change its current character of aggression and can restore itself to its original fabric of harmony and co-existence.