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.

***

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.

Advertisements

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

images

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…

View original post 2,100 more words

Charming the Money Snake

Often times in our community we hear the following

“If I was richer I would definitely contribute to this project or that cause!!!

The money I have is just enough for me to get by!!

One day InshaAllah I well be self sufficient enough to spend more in the Cause of Allah SWT

and so on and so forth
Then we some how console ourselves by saying the day I have enough money I will surely give it here and there for the sake of Allah SWT.

How much is enough and who decides this?

SubhanAllah our Prophet SAW admonished us by saying “Save yourselves even if by the skin of the date”. Yet we fool ourselves in this materialistic/consumerist society that one day we will have enough money to spend in Allah’s SWT way after we have spent on ourselves.

Just yesterday one of the brothers I know reminded me that

He ﷺ said, “By Allah I don’t fear for you poverty, but I fear that the world would be abundant for you as it has been for those before you, so you compete for it as they have competed for it, so it destroys you as it has destroyed them.” (Agreed upon)

Reflect!

On the Path of Knowledge

— Written by a good friend

We frequently use Abdur Rahman ibn ‘Awf (RA) and Uthman ibn Affan (RA) as examples to state that “there is nothing wrong with being rich, it’s how you spend the wealth”. This is true but it’s a “premature” conclusion.

Imam Ghazali writes on the topic of “Love of wealth”:
.
Know that the likeness of wealth is that of a snake in which there is both poison and medicine, as we have said. Whoever does not know the incantation for the snake and seizes one in his hand will be destroyed. It is for this reason that is not proper for someone to say: “Amongst the companions, there were some who were rich, such as Abdur Rahman bin Awf and the likes of him. Therefore, there is no fault in being rich.” This is as though a child, seeing a magician who takes a…

View original post 44 more words

To give or not to give

BBC had a show sometime back called “Britian’s Biggest Hoarders”.  The show documented the lives of two individuals who had the habit of hoarding stuff and the effect of this habit on their spouses and children. Their houses were stuffed with things (sometimes from 30 years ago) like sardines in a tin can, leaving just enough room to sit and sleep. The condition is apparently called Compulsive Hoarding where the individual keeps acquiring items and perceives these items to have a higher value than their actual value. Such people can rarely bring themselves to discard these items even if they can’t make use of it anymore.

Why am I going on about this condition?

In preparing for my wedding next month, our apartment is being repainted. Ours is not a very large place and every day the painters do up one room. The painting process though has made me realize the amount of things we have. Before painting a room, my mum and I empty the stuff that can’t be covered up and move it to another room or the hall or wherever convenient. A few days of this juggling about has made me feel as if there is no end to things we have.

As I look around and see things that vary in size, shape, value, utility and age, I know why I need some things but what to do with others I can’t figure out. Some things I can remember when I got them, others I have no clue why they are here.  Some things hold sentimental value and others are just plain rubbish. Yet somehow I feel it is impossible to clean them out. In taking decisions about keeping, discarding or giving away an item, we always seem to side with keep it over chuck it. Somehow we always feel that this might be useful some other time.

Don’t get me wrong, we are the average household with the average number of things acquired over the years and we keep giving away stuff/ throwing them off as and when required. But when the issue of doing it all at once has come upon us, the task seems infinitely more difficult. We are handicapped in, India (depending on where you are) as compared to the west because of the lack of centralized and easily accessible services (both profit and not for profit) to get rid of stuff. This definitely adds to the bias but what bothers me is well known verse in the Quran and incident in the Prophet’s  life.

Allah says in the Quran  in the Chapter of the Cow

Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.[2:177]

Notice how He says that piety is not just doing the outward rituals but it is to truly believe in Him and His commands. The belief then should cause the believer to do things in spite of its obvious difficulty. In this verse the first of such acts is to give from wealth you love to those who need it.

I am reminded of the incident where in preparation for the Battle of Tabuq, the two closest companions of the Prophet  competed to see who would give away more for Allah’s sake. Umar ibn Al Khattab gave away half his wealth and thought that would be enough. But when he saw Abu Bakr give away all his wealth Umar realized he couldn’t surpass Abu Bakr.

When the Prophet  asked Abu Bakr what he left for his household, he replied Allah and His Apostle, indicating his reliance in Allah’s providence. Today when I look at an old watch that nobody uses, I still loathe giving it away because I think I can fix it and use it again. This being items not in use, I wonder when will I be able to give away a watch that I am using to someone else who needs it. May Allah give you and me strength.

Hurricane Sandy’s wake

In the modern world where happiness is directly associated with the amount and value of our possessions, Allah still provides us opportunities to reflect. After Hurricane Sandy, millions of people lost their belongings and possessions, besides being in mortal danger. In Syria, people everyday wake up to the fear of destruction of their homes and families. These are just incidents in recent memory and there will always be many more to look towards and think about.

In spite of knowing the limited value of material things we hold on to it as if we are to live forever. The process of letting go is hard but working towards it is our real purpose. To end I would like to give you a quote by Imam Ahmed who was once asked –

” Can a man be extremely wealthy and still be modest?”

He replied, ” Yes, As long as he carries his money in his pocket and not in his heart “

I Pray that Allah makes it easy for us to give for His sake from that which we love. Ameen.

PS : Last year I was able to take part in Charity Week 2011 being in London through the Imperial College Islamic Society. This year seemed to be much bigger and better than last year (preview below). May Allah bless all the people who gave, the people who organised and the orphans who shall benefit. Ameen

A Quake in Bangalore, Tremors in the Heart

A couple of days back in Bangalore, many of my friends and family would have felt the mild tremors that occurred due to earthquake of the coast of Aceh province of Indonesia. The tremors were quite mild with the earth actually shaking for mere seconds causing little or no damage altogether. In most of southern India, these tremors weren’t the kind that set the heart racing and or caused panic among the masses, though people near the coast were still worried about the possible tsunami. But if you were to take a glance at the pictures and videos of people in Indonesia, you would see that the memories of the last great quake 2004 are still raw.

In my mind earthquakes are associated with the one that hit Indonesia in 2004 causing the massive tsunami and the one that struck the region of Bhuj in Gujarat in 2001. The massive destruction caused in these regions due to the population density is something I can never forget. All praise to Allah SWT that I have never had to experience something like an earthquake or tsunami nor can I truly imagine the feelings of horror and dread that fill the individuals caught in such situations. I can still remember watching on the news, huge waves of water that crashed through the lower lying regions of Indonesia, stopping at nothing and reducing everything in its path to rubbish. I can recall the newscast after the tsunami where nearly every half hour the number of dead reported rose in hundreds and thousands until it was finally declared that nearly 200,000 people had lost their lives in the region.

Since then no earthquake has been so destructive yet it would be hardly respectful to consider any other event less tragic. It is definitely an underlying human characteristic that even after such momentous events, we are able to pick ourselves up and start rebuilding our lives. With the passage of time we are always able to replace destruction with order and sadness with numbness. The advent of modern technologies such as the early warning system may make the recovery process easier by preventing loss and allowing swifter responses post the disaster. But the very nature of these systems, for me, serves to remind us of our frailty.

 For as human beings we cannot stop a disaster from occurring nor do we design technologies to do so. We try at best to minimize the damage caused in any situation. Our science enables to explain events like why there was no tsunami this time or why there is night and day. But sometimes we need to go deeper than the surface and see things with perspective. Human beings have existed for a long time now and each and every one of them has experienced night and day, rain and shine, food and drink – all of these phenomena ever present without a need for explanation. For think about it – we do not control the sun or the moon yet we take it for granted that there will be a day for our work and a night time for our rest. In an earlier piece I mentioned how we do not get a lot of choice but events such as earthquakes serves to remind us that even the semblance of control we have may not really exist.

I might come across as a pessimist or a cynic given how I go on about a lack of choice or control and such matters, yet I feel optimistic about my state and I will let you know why in a moment. Before I do though, I would like to ask you what you think. How do you perceive such disasters? Does it make you ask deeper questions about yourselves or do you just choose to cover up such feelings? Reflection is a lost art in this modern world of distraction but do you not think you would like to take a few minutes and connect with yourself seeking answers to bigger questions or do you just take 42 as the ultimate answer?

As for my optimism, I’m reminded of the many instances in the Quran where our creator mentions

“And in the alternation of night and day, and the provision (rain) that Allah sends down from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the turning about of the winds (i.e. sometimes towards the east or north, and sometimes towards the south or west etc., sometimes bringing glad tidings of rain etc., and sometimes bringing the torment), are signs for a people who understand.” [The Crouching 45:5]

And in another place

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power over all things. Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire. [Family of Imran 4:189-191]

I leave you with a short recitation that should serve for us an early warning system for the ultimate end

Have you ever scratched beneath the surface?

In life, there are times when we think about ourselves and our situation and exclaim – “Hey I never imagined I’d be in this situation or I never dreamed that I’ll be doing this with my life”. We look around us and think of our choices and say, “Wow I never thought that such and such would be important to me or that I have these qualities as a part of my character.”

This feeling might not overtake us very frequently. More often than not we just let our life rush by us, as we run the rat race or just spend time chilling as they say. We do what we do and just accept that life is a series of random events and we are where we are today as a matter of coincidence or the like. There are probably very few occasions in our life when we actually sit down, take time out and look back at our lives and reflect. We hardly ponder about the effects of those little matters which seemed random or pure strokes of luck (the good type or the bad type) at that time yet have caused you to be where you are right now.

“Pray why should we bother with the past,” you ask me, “It is this moment that is really important and we might as well just live in this moment.” Well, you are right there, this moment is important but a few years down the line this very moment could decide what you are doing then. What is random today is the reason you are where you are tomorrow. As you look back, life seems to be a script that you lived, as Shakespeare implied when he said life is a stage. But I’d like to ask a different question.

It is obvious every person considers his life to be important to himself if not to anybody else. Every individual holds himself in high regard feeling that he should have a good life. We spend our entire lives pursuing that good life. But why do we have this sense of entitlement? Why do we think that, we can’t believe we are here or can’t understand why we aren’t somewhere else? After all, we didn’t choose when we are going to be born; we don’t choose when we are going to die. We don’t have a choice in, whom we are born to nor can we question why India or Middle East or Africa or anywhere else for that matter. It just happened and we just accept. We can always say that I wish I was such and such or so and so but like you and I know that is just a wish. Escapism at best.

Among us there are those who will leave a legacy behind, but I wonder about the countless billions that came to this planet. Who were these people before us? Nameless and faceless they played their part in making the earth go round. Surely among them were good people, good fathers and good mothers, intelligent children, creative individuals, who lived out their time maybe in poverty or may be in wealth, maybe in health or maybe in sickness and when their time came left the planet for good. Like them we too came on this planet and we too shall leave when our time is up. We don’t remember them as we remember Gandhi or Newton. Every generation can hardly remember more than a generation or two or maybe three that preceded it.

Then in reality we need to question ourselves to whom does this life matter? Why should we be alive even and what is our purpose? For we can for ourselves make up a purpose – to be wealthy, to be recognized or just to be plain happy. But we know that there were many who never got there and died trying in the purpose. Each and every one of us knows about the lowest common denominator for all of humanity – death but when is each person’s appointed time, we humans don’t’ have a clue! Logically speaking this abrupt end to life should in fact make our life purposeless for why bother with something that is limited in and of itself. No human being can deny the reality of death but very few wonder what is to happen after.

Thus I invite you to take a few moments out of your day and contemplate your life (the past and the future) and ask yourselves to where you are really headed.

As for me, three lines from the noble Quran keep running through my head as I write this –

“By Time. Verily entire mankind is in loss. Except those who believe [in a meeting with their creator] and thus do righteous deeds, and enjoin the truth and enjoin patience” [Asr (103):1-3]