Meat Eating : Some Perspective

This article shared by a friend on Facebook started out a discussion on killing of animals for food. I’ve summarised some thoughts below

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

This is a direct response to an earlier comment about how all killing of animals be it for sport or food – is wrong. Hence it might reflect such a language.

There are two issues that are being discussed here – The issue of hunting animals for sport & The issue of killing animals for food. What also needs to be understood is that a separate issue – the unethical treatment of animals has been conflated with killing. In doing this, one has gone from saying that since unethical and unkind treatment of animals is wrong – the prohibition of all killing will prevent unethical treatment

This is a disingenuous position to take.

But first things first –

1) Do human being’s treat animals unethically – Yes
2) Can certain animals be bred successfully and thus their population grown in shorter periods compared to other animals – Yes
3) Is modern industrial farming a source of great pain to animals – Yes
4) Is animal meat a source of nutrition? Are human beings physically and naturally capable of eating/digesting meat – Yes & Yes
(In fact for certain proteins there are no alternate plant sources)
5) Is one obligated to eat meat of animals – No

The above are premises on which a reasoned debate can take place.

The killing of animals for food is not a modern habit – it is an act that has been established in antiquity. Secondly most people are predisposed to eating meat even if they don’t do the killing themselves and thus are okay with allowing it to happen .
Thus if we look at the argument of killing animals for food then there are two main drivers to it – antiquity and public acceptance.

If you were to say that it is wrong that there is public acceptance  towards killing of animals for food it would be a highly disingenuous position take because modern liberal democratic society is based on public acceptance for legislating laws (for e.g Homosexuality) in its barest sense. Thus it would be unlikely that killing of animals for food will be banned as this is not considered unethical/immoral/unacceptable.

In fact the prohibition to ban beef slaughter in India is based on conservative understanding of Hindu/Indian society and has nothing to do with its well being.

Also Hunting animals for sport is banned around the world even though it was widely accepted in the past. In this case current public acceptance is geared towards protecting animal heritage and the environment as this is considered ethical/moral/acceptable. Hunting for animal products is also banned and animal product market generally regulated

Thus if one were to rely on public acceptance to gain rulings and sources of guidance it could lead to positions that change as time passes and people understanding changes.

The distinction Saad was trying to make however is that as Muslims – our source of Guidance is based on the Transcendent reality that is God. Allah (God) has created all of creation with purpose and we are answerable for our actions. In the case of animals He has sanctioned its use for food and guided us through the Prophet as to how exactly they should be treated in life and death. This transcendent morality extends to many issues in human life and is independent of the current public acceptance/understanding

Having said that it would be wrong and dishonest of me If I fail to point out that our Prophet (Peace be upon him)- who is our role model and guide – barely ate meat. in fact he would have very limited quantities of food and encouraged his followers from filling their bellies with food. The concept of eating food for pleasure was not a practice we are taught. There are many famous narrations from him about being especially moderate when it came to food. His eating habits were limited to survival and gluttony and over consumption are considered as a means of destroying spirituality

Secondly there are many narrations concerned with the ill treatment of animals and the resulting wrath of God. Thus there have been people whom the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has pointed out as gaining eternal reward for simple acts of kindness to animal whereas those who have gained eternal punishment for ill treatment of animals.
Additionally there are only certain animals whose meat are considered permissible (generally animals that can be domesticated) and the killing has to be performed in a way shown by our Prophet (Peace be upon him). As muslims we believe that this way causes least harm to animals as it has been revealed by God Himself. Since we understand God to be just, merciful and knowledgeable among His other attributes so we consider him to be the one best placed to instruct us when it comes to killing animals

As pointed out though – modern practices of industrial killing is inhumane(unfortunate that we don’t have a word such as “inanimale”)

The killing of animals for food in such large numbers however is a modern human habit based on the capitalist system. Modern animal factories – for the lack of a better word are ruthless and cruel. They result in much pain to animals and if one were to see the way their food is produced then he would reject it if there was any humanity (forget faith in God) left in him.

Capitalism is predicated on the logic that if you can make money out of, among other things, killing animals then there is no reason you shouldn’t. Rather you should just get more efficient at it. Couple that with highly lucrative business of selling food and you have a killer combo(unfortunate again but pun intended)

Thus as a muslim I would be the first in decrying the current state of affairs when it comes to treatment of animals and our lack of sufficient moral outrage and action. As a muslim I would also advocate consuming less meat, preferring organic and free range over broiler and if possible growing your own animals. Though this seems impractical what one learns one raises his own meat is that it is difficult to illtreat if one see oneself answerable to God. Secondly he would find it difficult to kill because he has spent time and effort in raising it. (That is the point of sacrifice on Eid ul Adha btw)

To conclude I understand where you are coming from and say that meat that is not sourced ethically to begin with should be prohibited. However I am not with you when it comes to saying that killing animals for meat is absolutely wrong based on reasons I gave above.

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Book Review – Focus : The Hidden Driver of Excellence

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Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman was a book I have always been meaning to read after having heard rave reviews. During a trip to the Blossoms bookstore in Bangalore however, I was only able to find Social Intelligence and Focus, two of Goleman’s other titles. Since Malcolm Gladwell made famous the 10,000 hour rule in The Outliers, I have been a fan of the particular genre of science writing dealing with human psychology.My particular interest in the subject also stems from my quest to understand the confluence between the Islamic tradition and study of the human psyche.

One of the first books I read on the subject was Contemplation by Dr. Malik Badri, an eminent psychologist who has authored many books and articles about Islam and Psychology. Modern psychology tends to apply a more reductive approach to understanding human behavior vis a vis stimuli and response based on chemical interactions.  But I personally prefer a balance between the material and spiritual in understanding why humans behave the way they do and more importantly in bringing about positive societal change.

I digress though, which is something I tend to do a lot. I have also come to the painful realization that I’m too distracted. A seemingly first world problem but the constant deluge of information is something the modern society has to deal with as one of the side effects of a hyper connected world. As mobile devices get more ubiquitous, multiple notifications are constantly trying to grab our attention and the overwhelming streams of information are overloading our brain circuits and affecting how we deal with people and responsibilities. Add to that the age, at which children are introduced to internet devices getting gradually lower, it is of little wonder that experts fear an impoverishment of attention.

While Goleman talks about these phenomena in his book on Focus, the book itself seems to lack focus. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the writing which is a good mix of anecdotes, hard research and statistics along with relevant case studies that prevent the book from becoming too dry. Goleman does tend to talk about the various parts of the brain responsible for various functions a lot and I would prefer a diagram of sorts to keep the names in memory. No harm done however, the casual reader would sparsely remember the names of brain parts because it is the inferences that are more important.

That’s where the book lacks in focus. It starts out well by trying to explain how two distinct portions of the brain (the top down and the bottom brain) are responsible for regulating attention. Goleman tries to explain the value of allowing the brain to wander as a prerequisite for creativity and serendipitous connections. At the same time he explains how the control of the attention muscle so to say, helps improve how we approach and handle tasks. The book then goes into understanding of self-awareness as an important aspect of self-control and how emotions can affect what we focus on.

But as the book progresses, the connection between the theme of Focus with the topics of discussion becomes less apparent. There is chapter on systems thinking which is peppered with evidence of Goleman’s left leaning with his talk on environmentalism and quotes by Jeffrey Sachs. I personally fancy myself as systems thinker yet did not find anything of particular value in the chapter and observations on brain function that could help me be better at it. Social and Emotional intelligence becomes the highlight when talking about leadership skills and becoming a better leader. The issue of focus seems to be an afterthought.  While taking up business cases I have to admit I was looking hard for how the theme of focus fit in.

I would recommend the book for the first few chapters which provide valuable information on understanding the ‘Anatomy of Attention’ as Goleman puts it, along with training yourself in improving self-awareness. Some of the inferences on improving mindfulness are especially important for parents training their children to be less impulsive and more measured. The chapters on mindfulness can also be looked at in the light of Khushu’u (mindfulness) a very important aspect of salah or ritual prayers of muslims.

Overall the book is a bit disappointing considering what I was looking for in terms of managing attention in the age of distraction

Onward: How I Stopped worrying and taught others to love Coffee (Again!!!)

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If you didn’t get enough of your coffee – there’s more pick me up here

Onward – The marching beat to which Horward Schultz, the founder, president, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee orchestrated a comeback of the beloved coffee brand in the US. It is also the name of book that tells the story. Having just completed it, I thought I might just put down a few reflections that I could share.

To begin with, the book is an easy read, written in a near conversational style and telling a fantastic story of a has-been making his comeback. As the introduction states, the book is a story of the turnaround at Starbucks from the year before the 2008 recession to the year 2010.

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There and back again – a tale by Howard Schultz

With a brief introduction to the history of Starbucks, Horward Schultz jumps forward to a few months before he returned to Starbucks as CEO after having relinquished the post when he became the chairman.What follows is the story of the journey of a company whom most critics dubbed as having its best years behind it to its return as one of the top retailers of coffee in a difficult economy.

Personally, I am not a big coffee shop fan. I am generally slow to new concepts (it took me ages to embrace facebook) and it did take me a while to warm up to the idea. As a student in India the high cost of coffee deterred me and there was always a lower cost option to hangout. But as time passed and friends grew more distant due to work and marriage, coffee shops like Coffee Day in India became an ideal venue to meet.

After reading the book Onward, I realized that Starbucks was the original coffee retailer that introduced the world to the now ubiquitous coffee shop as a lifestyle choice. Starbucks became an everyday ritual with which Americans started their day, an oasis for the afternoons and a mecca for conversation in the evenings.

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The new third space?

The real differentiator that made this possible is the Starbucks Experience as its founder likes to call it. For many a coffee shop is not just about the coffee but the atmosphere that the store provides. While many retailers since have attempted to recreate such an experience with varying amounts of success, the coffee shop has become an indispensible element of modern life for the young and the old.

So how did it happen?

Well some of the clues are available in the book Onward. Howard Schultz might be a man of great business acumen however it is the human element that he brings to the table which permeates throughout the storytelling that seems to be his greatest strength. But before all that, there is passion. It is apparent from the book that the goal for him is the Starbucks experience. That the experience is monetized and generates profits in the millions is a separate story.

That Starbuck is at the end of the day a corporate entity that is answerable to its shareholders and will do what is necessary to keep generating profits is relegated to second place in the book. Howard Schultz tries to explain the human side of Starbucks, where the employees are called partners and are given stock options and health coverage from the early days of the company. A company where the raw materials are sourced ethically and in an environmentally friendly way. A company where profits and revenues are shared with those who need it like through their commitment to Bono’s RED campaign.

The book does talk about the difficult decisions made in closing stores and letting people go. Yet this kept to a minimum and the focus of the book is always Onward and the turnaround that is to come in the near future . While it makes a compelling story with an underdog and everything, for me the book is a description of a corporation that sells high priced and mostly unhealthy coffee and whose sales depend on consumers making a habit of consuming it.

But that’s just me personally. I think coffee shops are great places to hang out with friends if you aren’t looking for meeting up for dinner but I don’t agree that the coffee with high sugar content as a habit is great for health or the budget. Yet it isn’t just about the coffee but the whole experience which matters. In Howard Schultz‘s own words, Starbucks is not a luxury but an affordable necessity.

Don’t get me wrong though. If one is fair to Starbucks, they have initiated a host ofprograms that ensure that they are both planet and employee friendly. My grouse is not against the author or Starbucks per se. However I’m generally wary of corporations and the way they function within the economy – often with a tunnel minded vision to make more profits while disregarding the planet and its population.

Starbucks might honestly be an outlier in terms of its initiatives to source ethical coffee and provide employee benefits over and above the basics most company offer. But then the book is a description by the author and even though it offers some selected bouquets and brickbats from during its turnaround phase, I would take it with a pinch of salt. After all one may assume that the CEO would show a hint of bias in trying to show Starbucks in a favourable light.

To end some good corporate leadership advice distilled from the book.

  1. images

    This man loves Coffee

    As an entrepreneur be passionate about some part of the business, if not all of it. One may essentially not like one’s job wholly but would still find parts of it that they love and can really be good at.

  2. Communicate – If nothing else, the founder of Starbucks is a great communicator getting across ideas in a way people would listen and respond to – if he says so himself
  3. Have a great team – this I think is necessary as a leader, a because you aren’t going to know how to be good at every aspect of the job and b because even if you did you might not like doing it. (See point 1)

So those are my musings on the book.

Now I’m off to get my frappucino fix. J

Cheerios!

Disclaimer or at this point a disclosure – I have been to Starbucks only once so far. I can only remember a Carrot cake I had there and not the drink

RIP Yesterday’s News Story

Amazing how important news stories can easily be buried down under other seemingly important stories. The implications of the Senate committee report on EIT by the CIA was just picking up steam when the story on the hacking of SONY Entertainment’s Network broke. This was allegedly state sponsored hacking by North Korea over the release of the Movie The Interview.

All the hullabaloo about the hacking, decision to not release and then release meant that the USA is back in the books of being the defender of free speech and human rights. The torture report needed to take a back seat while the Koreans were taught a lesson in the name of national security!

What?

I understand if it doesn’t make sense. But it had to cover up the firestorm that the CIA report was kicking up. Through the years since 9/11 details of the US’s exceptionalism in its war on terror are available sprinkled throughout the internet. Zero accountability on those who carry out unbelievably ill conceived attacks and programs with impunity.
The actions of so called radicals taking place across the world especially Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the ME in general weren’t created in a vacuum. They are results of years of oppression from many quarters which were cloaked and sold to the masses in the guise of country, religion and democracy.

This article by Tom Engelhardt summarises the the three key take homes from the war on terror that has in no way reduced the terror in the world but served to increase it

http://www.salon.com/2014/12/26/if_the_senate_issued_a_report_on_americas_drone_program_partner/

1. Whatever grim actions are the focus of debate at the moment, take it for granted that they don’t “work” because nothing connected to the war on terror has worked

2. In national security and war terms, only one thing has “worked” in these years and that’s the national security state itself

3. Nothing Washington did could ever qualify as a “war crime” or even a straightforward crime because, in national security terms, our wartime capital has become a crime-free zone

A Handy Guide to Organisational Leadership

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I picked this book up on the recommendation of a friend and read through it in a 3 hour flight. It is the first time I’m reading an Indian business author and I found the style easily readable. The book is a glimpse into good practices in running an organisation by a true blue Indian entrepreneur.  Over the course of time Subroto  Bagchi has developed into an industry veteran and the book is peppered with his experiences while taking Mindtree into the giant it is today.

The main ‘lessons’ presented in the book are on scaling up, branding, people management, hiring the right talent, curating a board and sales force management among others. The book is in an authoritative tone and one needs to keep their own experiences in mind in applying the advice dished out. That being said the book presents examples of successes and failures in equal measure which might truly reflect the state of many start ups and growing organisations.

I would suggest this book as a must read for any body responsible for running an organisation and even people lower down the chain. despite the author being indian, the scope of the book is not limited to the Indian context but draws on a global experience of Mind tree. The book might not be an MBA guide to business yet is an honest reckoner for businesses model.

I’m personally involved in a budding not for profit with a corporate outlook and found the lessons from the book practical. The title elephant catchers is based on elephant catchers of Odisha and was my personal favorite in the book. The analogy points out the importance of planning in turning a great idea into a structured and viable enterprise. So often in da wah work, organisations start out with the right intent and hope that the enthusiasm of the founders would allow it to scale into a force on the social scene.

However the reality is different, a few dissapointments along the way and the enthusiasm of the members begins to wane and the organisation flutters. In da wah especially the results may not be tangible and efforts and tasks might be disproportionate to perceived status of the members. Hence the importance of planning and foresight is essential to running a dawah organisation. This is not to say that victory is from Allah SWT but in the organisational context it means ‘Tie your Camel and Trust in Allah SWT’

All in All a great read and I might try out other books by the author.

For those looking at building dawah organisations I would also suggest the video series by Nouman Ali Khan – When Muslims work Together

Of Elections in India

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I have been in India for a few years now and I have realized that of the few matters every Indian always has an (informed) opinion about, Politics and Cricket take the cake. The Election season has just come to an end with the BJP capturing a Majority and their allies taking the numbers well over the halfway mark. The internet and Media is abound with congratulatory messages, expectations from the new government, reasons the old one lost and forecasts of economic growth among other topics. While the general tone seems hopeful of the future to come, it is the Muslims who seem most dejected by the electoral victory of the BJP.

Mr. Modi, who was always seen as a ‘polarising figure’ – a term coined specifically to rid himself of the memories of Gujurat – coming to power means an uncomfortable and uncertain future for Muslims in India. There is a lot to be said about the right wing, pluralism, multiculturalism and the idea of a nation and much more erudite men and women have expressed these opinions in bigger outlets. As for me, there were few thoughts that struck me during and post the elections that I thought I would share and others could benefit vy.

  1. Leadership – The Indian elections are usually fought on the basis of party ideologies and what parties have to offer the people. This election was however turned into the ‘Battle of the Premiers’ by both Mr. Modi and the media. While the champion of the ruling party was portrayed as ineffectual and indecisive, the challenger was the complete opposite. Portrayed as person who can ‘do’ things that would make your life ‘better’, the campaign was won on the back of a leader’s ability. It goes to show that if the leader has sufficient skill and charisma, he can truly rally the masses behind him. As Yawar Baig pointed out in a recent article on Muslim Matters, the Muslim community in India has failed to invest in developing true leaders that could guide the community to greater participation in national affairs.

 

  1. Victory Comes with Preparation – The elections in India are a numbers game. Be it pre poll alliances, election rallies, voting patterns or votes garnered, one needs to have a good idea of how different segments of society will act in order to campaign successfully. The RSS-BJP combine were better prepared in all aspects of this numbers games. From mobilizing cadres of volunteers early in the campaign to using social media to reach out to a large number of people, no stone was left unturned in attempting to win the elections. Another striking feature of the election was that the party that came to power, did so on the back of the least percentage of votes in their favour (31%).

         One is reminded of the many times in the Prophet SAW’s life when he would prepare of for battle – in terms of material strength            and seeking help from Allah SWT, the measures would never be half hearted

  1. A Reminder to Us – That Muslims cannot rid themselves of the memory of riots in the past and fears emanating from Mr. Modi’s leadership are a challenge that we as a community have to face.  But one can find comfort in the Hadith of the Prophet SAW when he said

         “If the whole of mankind gathered to do some thing to help us, they could not help in anything which Allah had not already                     written for us. And if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm us, then they would not be able to harm with anything                  which Allah had not already written for us.”

           One needs to realize that the decree of Allah SWT is over and above any of the creation in this world and all good or evil that               comes one’s way comes with His permission.

  1. Best of Nations – Realizing this would help a Muslim continue working towards good without a fear of creation but with the consciousness of His Lord SWT. The Muslim nation has been selected by Allah SWT to guide the rest of the mankind to its complete spiritual realization and we as Muslims are tasked with this heavy mission irrespective of the circumstances surrounding us. Muslims form about 13% of the Indian population, spread across the length and breadth of India. The fortunes of this community may not have improved very much through successful governments but in the light of the global awareness and inquiry into Islam, it our job to contextualize our faith to the wider population and espouse clearly the message of Prophet hood (through belief, speech and action) for the benefit of our brethren.

 

  1. Current System – Though there are many more thoughts about the victory of Mr.Modi, I would like to end with a critical look at our times. Democracy and Capitalism, two bedfellows of each other, can override all notions of morality through its inherent nature. Defining man as a materialistic creature and then giving him to power to decide his economic progress, has led people to be blind to morality and ethics as we know it. This election is another case in point that a sufficient incentive of economic progress can preclude moral considerations in making a decision.

         PS: A cautioning is in order – One might be pro-development without necessarily being anti-minority/Muslim. Please keep this              distinction in mind while interacting with your friends and family.

 

 

The Story of the Two Books

Alhamdullilah I was recently published in Young Muslim Digest, a Bangalore based magazine in print for the last 3 decades. I have included the article in full here and you can access the same and other great sections like the editorial and letters to the editor at http://www.youngmuslimdigest.com

If you are reading this, chances are you live in a city; you are currently inside a building with both adjustable heating and lighting and oblivious to much of the natural world around you. You aren’t alone, millions around the world, increasingly live in urban areas due to the greater economic opportunities they provide. Yet financial security through urban living has its pitfalls; as our world gets increasingly urbanized, humanity is getting increasingly isolated from the marvels of nature and the simple life of the past.

A recent trip to a sea-side city in India afforded me an opportunity to wonder and marvel upon the Creation of Allah (swt). For what else can one do, when one is humbled by the pristine beauty in front of him? The shores each different from the other in appearance – some with clear water, others with angry waves, bordered by beaches covered in white or red sand, lined by sheer cliffs in some and surrounded by rocks in other, the sheer diversity of hues and colours takes one’s breath away. Having grown up in a sea-side town, the very nature of the beach from the soothing sound of waves to the cool breeze at the shore to the spectacular view of the sunset has always encouraged me to marvel at the creation of Allah (swt).

Yet, beaches are only a glimpse of the wide earth that Allah (swt) has created, and as one travels through the land one is, indeed, bound to be awestruck by the nature of His creation. Living as we are in cities, limited to glancing upon some trees in parks and roadside, we are isolated away from the beauty and wonder of the earth which serves an important purpose – to make the observer aware of Allah (swt) and His Perfection. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding.” (Chapter Aal `Imran:191)

He then explains that the people of understanding are those who remember Him often.

Contemplating on the fact that both the revealed verses and the creation of Allah (swt) is referred to as Ayah, the scholars of the past termed the creation as a Kitab al-Manzur (The Visual Book) and the revealed Ayah as Kitab al-Mastur (The Written Book). It is often said that the greatness of scientific inquiry during the Muslim Golden Era was due to the scientists’ curiosity of wanting to know how Allah (swt) made the physical realm work. The deeper they looked into this aspect, they more their faith grew, in the same way as the Prophet Ibraheem (asws) and his reflection over the heavenly bodies that he witnessed day and night. As time passed though, for various social and political reasons, the prominence of the Muslims fell away.

Comparing the breakneck speed of today’sscientific development to the days of the past, Muslims often wish that we could go back to the dominance of the old. After all, if our scientists were teaching the world then, why not today? The answer to this lies in the fact that the science of our forefathers in Islam and the science of today are built on completely opposite world-views. Whereas, in the past, science was based on increasing one’s faith in Allah (swt), today’s science, bereft of its connection with God, is increasingly used to challenge faith in Allah (swt).

People could argue that science and morality are two separate philosophies, and are necessarily distinct. Indeed, that was the argument between the church and the scientists which led to the end of the domination of one over the other. Post this fission, starting in the early 1800s, the technological advances that have taken place are simply astounding. Sample this: it took humanity a mere 150 years to go from inventing mechanized transport vis-à-vis the steam engine, to putting a man on the moon using rocket engines.

Divorced from the Divine Reality though, humanity, beginning from Europe, took economic progress through scientific achievement as the new purpose of life. MuhammedAsad’s words, in Road to Mecca, are evidently timeless when he said:

“The average European – whether democrat or communist, manual worker or intellectual – seemed to know only one positive faith: the worship of material progress, the belief that there could be no other goal in life than to make that very life continually easier or, as the current expression went, ‘independent of nature.’ The temples of that faith were the gigantic factories, cinemas, chemical laboratories, dance-halls, hydroelectric works; and its priests were the bankers, engineers, politicians, film stars, statisticians, captains of industry, record airmen, and commissars.”

Indeed, the world of today offers unparalleled luxury and, perhaps, the only difference between the world Asad described to us then and the one we inhabit today would be the definition of the European extending to a wider segment of the world.

But every fairy tale has a dragon as the villain, and so does this extraordinary tale of human genius and inventiveness. The earth today has become an exceedingly uncertain place to live in. Issues like global warming, climate change, polluted environment and depleting resources make headlines today. The attempted subjugation of the planet to expedite the path of economy and progress is rapidly coming back to haunt us. Extreme weather conditions, worsening food and water security and cities rendered unliveable due to pollution are the global problems that humanity has to contend with now.

Einstein seems prescient when he said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We, as humanity, are attempting to right the wrongs of the past; yet, we continue to do so within the narrow and limited vision of economic development. Efficiency, encouraged through penalties and taxes, is touted as the solution to all ills that would still allow unabated economic growth. The natural environment continues to be viewed as a resource to be exploited without any metaphysical significance.

Yet, as Muslims who understand the deeper implications of the natural world, it is imperative upon us to contribute urgently to the discourse of environmental responsibility. Living within a culture and atmosphere that denies God itself, it is the natural environment which can help us in contemplating over His existence and our duties towards Him. This relationship, however, extends in both ways. Only through contemplating God, the temporal nature of this life and the eternal abode of Hereafter, can we truly protect the environment from our greed for prosperity.

Ripples over the Mandela Reflection

Alhamdulliulah I was recently published in the Young Muslim Digest, an Islamic monthly magazine, published out of Bangalore for the last three decades. The article was written after Nelson Mandela’s death and might seem a bit dated. Anyway, the article can be found on YMD’s Website and has also been reproduced in full here.

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It has been very interesting to see the reactions over the last few days, over the death of Nelson Mandela, the South African icon of the struggle against Apartheid and Colonialism. There has been a clamour across the social media universe, honouring and eulogising the dead man. There are two aspects of this that are interesting to me personally.

One is the general trend of Social Media Herd-Mentality and the other being the Muslim response about the same. Herd Mentality can be described as how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviours, follow trends, and/ or purchase items. The social media seems to be the biggest grazing ground for the lot. When deaths such as Mandela’s happen, it is hard to discern whether the sympathy is heartfelt or just an attempt to be among the ‘in-crowd.’ Or maybe it isn’t so hard, but then, who’s counting the statuses.

Marc Maron, the comedian had a quote about the social media effect in his memoir, Attempting Normal, which is quite telling about the emotional state of social media users. He says that the social media culture feeds into our inner-child’s need to be emotionally sated. The user attempts to fulfil his need to be loved and cared through the trickles of likes and comments that follow the status updates. As cynical as it may sound, moments like these make me a believer.

Very few people would truly understand what it meant to be Mandela. A man who built his own prison which he was to live in for 27 years on Robben Island, who, upon his release, saw it better to forgive his oppressors, is not someone you appreciate through a single status update or two.

The internet and the real world is creaking with the weight of sanitised messages from politicians and leaders alike, who purposely gloss over the fact that many of Mandela’s views would not hold much currency today. After all, he was taken off the US Global Terrorist list only in 1998.

Many of the world leaders, who offer their condolences today, reflect on Mandela’s exceptional courage to not only survive jail, but also lead a nation after his release. Yet, they seem to be quite happy to forget that, under their own watch, there are tens of illegally held detainees often with no charges and usually with no trials. Actually, the detainees – made out as terrorists today to suit the needs of the establishment, and probably made heroes tomorrow if the people and media see it fit – have more in common with Mandela than their leaders.

A real tribute to the likes of Mandela cannot be encapsulated in a statement or two. He spent a lifetime fighting for justice and our closing our eyes to the very injustice he spoke and fought against is an insult to his memory.

The issues of apartheid and social inequality were neither caused by aliens nor have they ended. They were, in fact, human problems, caused by humans and have taken very different, yet distinct, forms for those who see through it. No amount of social messages can hide this fact; yet, a decent-sized friend/ follower list on Facebook or Twitter can surely distract a person from this truth.

Patience and perseverance in attaining the objective of truth and establishing a society of justice was taught to us by our Prophet (saws). If he was the true paragon of the struggle, then the likes of Mandela are also examples. Truth and justice are not the monopoly of a religion or region but are values of universal hope for the human race.

Thus, for those who seem to be in awe of Mandela, yet know nothing about him save a few titbits gleaned from the cyberworld, it would be best if they, at least, read a book about him, learn about his struggle and maybe implement an aspect or two into their own lives, struggling for justice in their own way.

While an attention-seeking post on the social media might bring you momentary benefits, the struggle for the betterment of society itself could bring benefits above and beyond imagination, if Allah (swt) sees it fit.

This brings me to the second point of the article which is the Muslim response – or, rather, the responses – on the net. For everywhere you go, there seems to be a view about it among the internet Jama’ath. Without doubt, Mandela was a great man who achieved a lot in this dunya. That Allah (swt) made his name ubiquitous seems a fitting reward for his efforts.

The question that seems to trouble many though, is his state in the Hereafter (Akhira). On the one hand, there is a trend of wishing RIP (see Herd-Mentality above) and, on the other, a strong statement of his ineligibility for attaining the mercy of Allah (swt) and the castigation of the former or even of anybody appreciating him.

Islam is the religion of the middle path and we judge by what is apparent. The most fitting of examples is of Abu Talib who, in spite of his devotion to the Prophet (saw), was not released from the punishment of the Fire, even as revealed by the Prophet (saw) himself. As for the fate of one already dead, since we have no means of revelation after our Prophet (saw), it is impossible to say which way he, or she, is going. The matter of faith, though, is clear enough: Muslims are not allowed to pray for the forgiveness of those who died in denial of Allah’s Oneness and, therefore, to be on the safer side, it would be better to avoid statements of similar import.

At the same time, an individual’s final resting place is a matter for Allah (swt) to decide, and taking up His role in this act of determination would be blameworthy. Thus, it would be fitting for a believer to concern himself with his own Akhira and not be bothered about that of a person already dead and gone. If that person happens to be someone like Mandela though, then, maybe, he can take a few lessons in how to conduct his Dunya.

Dawah and Our Attitude

Paul Walker, the famed actor from the Fast and the Furious Series of movies died in a car crash. Its an irony that a man who made his name in movies depicting death defying car stunts died in this way. But irony aside, it is quite tragic to see many Muslims pronouncing judgement upon him and act quite self righteously, sometimes in an attempt to deter other Muslim fans from being attracted to the glamour world. On the other hand, the growing irreverence to sanctity in the social media has even resulted in people making fun of his death through memes and hoaxes.

May Allah SWT protect us!

I remember from a lecture by Sh.Yawar Baig, that the reason Muslims invite non Muslims to Islam is because of the fact that we love for them what we love for ourselves. We Muslims are definitely becoming more active in inviting people to Islam, with tables, talks and debates being set up all over the world. But we need to question are ourselves is the reason why we call people to Islam love or is just a way of feeling good about ourselves because “I established the supremacy of Islam by winning arguments with the next guy on the street.”

Dawah is simple because it is mostly action and less speech. What you do regularly is what you are actually calling other people to. Elvis Presley sang about a little less conversation and a little more action. Dawah is just like that, a little more action goes a long way. The Prophet and Sahaba spread Islam through action. Many know the story of Abu Bakr’s conversion and the conversion of his close friends because they trusted the men whose characters were so pleasing.

Paul Walker’s death is interesting because he was famous among he youth and like I mentioned earlier and thus his death is indeed a sign that all the glitz and glamour in the world is short lived. Yes, the ultimate end of one who denied Allah’s Lordship in this world is the fire, Allah SWT forgives every action except associating partners with him, but that is for Allah SWT to decide and not us.

Thus if you really find it necessary to speak to warn your brothers and sisters, then at least avoid actions such as throwing shame grenades at those who don’t know better (70 excuses for the believer, remember). There has to be a better and more pleasing way of talking and directing fellow muslims away from actions that don’t benefit them without alienating them completely. If dawah to non muslims much love then how much more should advice to a fellow believer be?

After all you wouldn’t want your good deeds reduced on the Day in trying to do good in this world. Take a look at the article which I have reblogged below and this one from YMD to get a perspective on Dawah – Calling to Islam and how the Early Generations achieved it.

Note: This post was edited from its initial form after some introspection and research about the content

Where’s the Mercy?

Paul Walker’s passing today has shocked and troubled many people including his Muslim fans, and it brought up a lot of questions about Islamic belief regarding salvation. These questions are more pressing when one learns that Walker was in the area to attend a charity event for his organization to raise funds for the Typhoon Haiyan victims. It’s extremely troubling to see Muslims act so dismissively about the eternal fate of non-Muslims, acting as if their gods declaring where individuals are going.

One of the dangers of belief is that it can lead one to gain an unjustified sense of certainty about the other. This is further worsened when the conception of God is unbecoming, especially if it’s a God who describes Himself first as Merciful before being Just. That’s not to mentioned not realizing that people have had different exposures, grew up in different circumstances, and will be judged according to their knowledge.

Thomas Paine said, “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.”

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=686809561349338&id=347684525261845

Mohamed Ghilan

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images-1The first Hadith any student of the Islamic Tradition will learn is the Hadith of Mercy. In it the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him gives us the recipe for receiving the Mercy of God by saying, “those who are merciful, the Merciful will have mercy upon them. Have mercy upon those inhabiting the Earth, and the Merciful will have mercy upon you.”

The message delivered by our Beloved peace be upon him has always been described as a message of mercy. Every Muslim knows the verse from Surah Al-Anbiya (21:107) that tells what was the essence and sole purpose of the message entrusted to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him to deliver, “And We sent you [Prophet] only as a mercy to all people.” We’ve all heard about the numerous examples of the mercy displayed by the Beloved peace upon him to his family, his next of kin, his…

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