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.

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.

Fasting on Ashura

Fasting on the day of Ashura or the 10th Muharram along with the day preceding or succeeding it is a recommended Sunnah as recorded in a number of authentic Ahadith.

Please attempt to fast on these two days – 9th and 10th or the 10th and 11th of Muharram to gain immense reward.

The collection of ahadith regarding this day has been collected here

Karbala: A Historical Analysis by Dr. Yasir Qadhi

Below is a timeline of the events preceding and surrounding the death of Hussain RA, based on a recent talk by Sh.Yasir Qadhi from the Memphis Islamic Centre. I would encourage all of you to listen to it and benefit from it.  Following the timeline is some commentary and analysis from the talk abridged and edited for easier reading.

At the outset the Shaik warned that this is a grave and contentious issue that has plagued the Ummah for a long time. This is not an effort to demean anyone but to inform Muslims of the issue surrounding the death of Hussain RA. This presentation is based on the classical historians of Islam such as ibn Hajar and Ibn Kathir. This is a summarised version and not a detailed exposition of the same and should be understood in the same spirit.

I have attempted to put the talk into written form to aid those who listen to the lecture and to ensure those who do not, at least know it in summary. Where information, only in terms of specific dates, was not mentioned in the talk, I have added them based on my own research.

In preparing this I do realise and thus hope to remedy my own ignorance of the History of Islam. By putting this document together, I hope personally that I continue studying the History of Islam and the various issues that shaped our Muslim Ummah. I do hope that this document is not an end but the beginning of such a study. May Allah SWT grant us Tawfeeq for the same. Ameen

In presenting this information in this format, if there are any mistakes in recording the speech or in any additions, then they are from me and Shaithan. May Allah SWT forgive us and unite us on the Straight Path. Ameen

The article is divided into three parts – Timeline, Commentary on Karbala and Commentary on Ahlul Bayth

Time Line

3H Ramadan – Hassan ibn Ali RA born

4H Shaban – Hussain ibn Ali RA born

26H – Yazid son of Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan RA born

35H – Ali RA becomes Khalifa after martyrdom of Uthman ibn Affan RA

35H – Battle of Jamal (Ali RA fights Aisha RA over the issues surrounding martyrdom of Uthman RA)

36H – Battle of Siffin (Ali RA fought Muawiyah). It is said that in the Battles of Jamal and Siffin more Sahaba died than all of those who died in battles during the lifetime of Rasool SAW. These battles are together known as the first Fitna and are an extremely sad period of Islamic History.

37H – Ali RA moves capital to Kufa. Shia of Ali or the Party of Ali formed here. (Purely political supporters of Ali with no separate theology)

40H – Ali RA dies

40H – Struggle between Muawiya and Hassan RA. Hassan RA makes peace 6 months later by giving up seat to Muawiya. Muawiya begins rule from Damascus.

40H – Hassan RA leaves Kufa and returns to Medina along with Hussain and Family

~45-46H – Yazid leads Muawiyah’s army into Constantinople. Hasan RA fights along with Yazid in this battle.

50H – Hasan RA dies in Medina

60H – Muawiya RA dies in Damascus. Before dying he nominates his son Yazid as the Khalifah after him. Many of Sahaba pledge allegiance to him. But they leave active politics after the pledge. Hussain and Abdullah ibn Zubair do not pledge.

60H Ramadan – Governor of Medina calls Hussain RA home and asks him to pledge allegiance to Yazid. Hussain RA avoids this and goes to Mecca.

60H Ramadan – When people in Kufa hear about Hussain not giving allegiance to Yazid, they become overjoyed and start sending letters of support to Hussain and ask him to lead them in revolt

60H Dhul Qadah – Husain RA sends his nephew Muslim ibn Aqeel with couple of others to assess situation in Kufa and determine if he has support

60H Dhul Qadah – Neary 40,000 people of Kufa pledge support through their tribe leaders to Muslim ibn Aqeel promising Hussain support against Yazid. Muslim ibn Aqeel asks Hussain to come to Kufa.

60H Dhul Qadah – Rumours of revolt reach Yazid. He deputes 28 year old Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad without an army (only 17 people accompanied him) as governor of Kufa to take charge of situation.

60H Dhul Qadah – ibn Ziyad confirms the possibility of revolt and sends spies to find the heads of Hussain’s support.

60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Hussain gets the message and prepares to leave for Kufa.

60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Host of Muslim ibn Aqeel, Hani bin Urwah caught by ibn Ziyad. When Muslim hears this, prepares an army of 4000 Kufan men and heads to the gates of ibn Ziyaad’s fortress.

60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – On the same day between Fajr and Isha, ibn Ziyaad, a master tactician, bribes or scares Muslim’s men away such that by nightfall, not a single man supports him

60H Dhul Qadah/Dhul Hijja – Muslim is caught by ibn Asha’as, a lieutenant of ibn Ziyaad. Muslim makes him promise to send a message to Hussain warning against coming to Kufa.

60H 9th of Dhul Hijja – Muslim martyred publicly. Over next few days chief supporters of revolt arrested and publicly killed. Kufans no more support Hussain RA

60H Dhul Hijja – The Sahaba in Mecca and Medina, ibn Abbas, ibn Umar, Abu Saeed al Khudree, Jaabir ibn Ubaidillah RA along with Hussain’s brother from another of Ali’s RA wives, Mohammed ibn Hanafiyya dissuade him from going to Kufa.

60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain RA leaves for Kufa with the letters of support from Kufa in spite of all the warnings from people of Hijaz, with 70-80 people of his family. Hussain still doesn’t know that Kufa has given up the revolt.

60H Dhul Hijja – ibn Ziyaad intercepts Yazid’s army of 4000 men, on the way to Turkey, led by Umar ibn Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas. He gets permission to keep them at standby.

60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain sends messengers to Kufa on the way but both killed by ibn Ziyaad.

60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain reaches close to Kufa. Ibn Asha’as’ message reaches him along with information of Muslim and the turn face of Kufa.

60H Dhul Hijja – Hussain confers with his party. They encouraged him to continue to Kufa to avenge Muslim and hoping Kufans will still support Hussain. He still thought he could get the support he required and win. He did not go to Kufa to “sacrifice” himself.

61H Muharram – Hussain reaches Karbala (4 – 6 kms out of Kufa). Umar ibn Sa’ad commanded by ibn Ziyaad to negotiate with Hussain. Hussain gives three options – go back to Mecca, meet Yazid or leave in exile. Ibn Ziyaad refuses and asks Hussain to come to him or face war.

61H Muharram – ibn Ziyaad puts Shimir in charge of force over Umar ibn Sa’ad.

61H 9th Muharram – Shimir gives ultimatum to Hussain to come to ibn Ziyaad and give allegiance. He refuses.

61H 10th Muharram – Hussain and other men martyred by the force, now led by Shimir. Women and children spared. Zain ul Abideen, son of Hussain escapes as he was a baby hidden amongst the women. 15 Ahl ul Bayth die.

~63H – Yazid dies.

~64/65H – ibn Ziyaad murdered in a power struggle in Syria.

65H – A party called Tawabbun (The Repenters) emerge from Kufa, feeling guilty of Kufa’s part in the betrayal of Hussain. They head to Damascus to exact revenge.

65H Muharram – Tawabbun stop at Karbala. They lament publicly and beat themselves over the martyrdom of Hussain. Theological Shi’ism is said to have its roots from this incident.

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Karbala: Who is to blame?

It could be argued that Hussain Ra did not take the right step by going to Karbala in spite of the warnings of the other Sahaba. Some others hold the view that he went there to sacrifice himself. But Hussain Ra went there believing that Kufa would support him. In fact the letters of support that reached him is said to have been so numerous that it filled 2 bags used on camels. On top of that Muslim’s message later on also supported this assumption. Thus the real blame falls upon some other individuals

  1. People of Kufa at that time – The people of Kufa are squarely to be blamed for their treachery in the face of bribes and threats by ibn Ziyaad. Having first supported Hussain, they did not even turn up to Karbala to defend him. Even companions like Umm Salama Ra and ibn Umar Ra held them to blame for the same
  2. Ubaydullah ibn Ziyaad, Governor of Kufa – Known to be young, ruthless and impetuous, his arrogance is another reason that caused the martyrdom of Hussain. Hussain Ra gave him three options, choosing one of which might have set a different course. But having refused the options, he insisted that Hussain come to him and pledge allegiance. This was something Hussain Ra would not do and thus led him to fight ibn Ziyaad’s army.
  3. Umar ibn Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Original Commander of the Governor’s Troops  – He is not a Companion nor is he completely to blame for Hussain’s Martyrdom. But he did not take a more strong stance and prevent ibn Ziyaad from attacking Hussain Ra
  4. Shimir and his Henchmen, Stand in Commander of the Governor’s Troops – For delivering the final blow on Hussain Ra, the grandson of the Prophet SAW.
  5. Yazid, Khalifa – While many positions exist on Yazid’s role in the martyrdom, his decision to appoint ibn Ziyaad as governor and his unwillingness to punish him after, are considered to be his primary failing.

The issue of Hussain’s Ra martyrdom is obviously a black mark on the history of Muslims. He was the grandson of the Prophet SAW, yet he was killed in battle by other muslims. This is no doubt heartbreaking for those who love the Prophet SAW and his family. But that portion of Islamic History saw many deaths of Companions of the Prophet SAW and thus without condoning Hussain Ra death, we cannot single it out.

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The Position of Ahl Ul Bayth

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# Ali bin Husayn or Zayn ul Abideen was the sole male survivor in Karbala and the Prophet’s SAW lineage continues through him.

‘A’isha reported that Allah’s Apostle (SAW) went out one morning wearing a striped cloak of the black camel’s hair that there came Hasan b. ‘Ali. He wrapped him under it, then came Husain and he wrapped him under it along with the other one (Hasan). Then came Fatima and he took her under it, then came ‘Ali and he also took him under it and then said: Allah only desires to take away any uncleanliness from you, O people of the household, and purify you (thorough purifying) [Sahih Muslim 2424

 

The Ahl ul Sunnah wal Jama’a take the position between 2 extremes of loving the Family of the Prophet SAW to the point of deifying them or hating them and vilifying them. The Ahl ul Bayth are to be loved as commanded by the Prophet SAW himself and as shown by Sahaba such as Abu Bakr and Umar RA. Moreover, if the Ahl ul bayth are righteous, or from among the Companions or both, then their stature increases even higher in the eyes of the Muslim.

If on the other hand, they are found to be the opposite of righteous, then their deeds are basis of judgement as admonished by the Prophet SAW.

JazakAllahu Khairan

A glass of water

Reflect!

On the Path of Knowledge

Harun al-Rashid, one of the richest of the Abbasid Caliphs, once heard of a righteous scholar named Ibn As-Sammaak and requested his presence in his chamber to give him good counsel. When the scholar arrived, the Caliph had ordered a glass of water to drink.

Seeing this, Ibn Samaak asked; “what would you give if no water was available to you and you were forced to trade for this one cup of water?”

Harun al-Rashid replied, “I would give at the very least half of my kingdom”

The scholar then asked, “and what would you give if you were unable to release the waste of that water from your body?”

The Caliph said, “I would give the other half of my kingdom”

The Sheikh smiled and told the Caliph, “What value is your kingdom if it can be bought with a glass of water”.

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A Little Goes a Long Way

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan is upon us once again Alhamdullilah. Ramadan is a month in which Muslims are commanded by God to withhold from food, drink and marital relations, from the time of sunrise unto sunset. A month of Fasting, Quran and Charity.

While non muslims would be bewildered by how a person can abstain from food and drink (anywhere between 8 to 22 hours depending on geography/season), many Muslims find this month to be the training ground for the year ahead.

The month of fasting is not undue stress for the Muslim but a time to reflect. Reflect upon the fact that – if he can give up what Allah SWT has made permissible for him, how much harder can it to be to give up what is impermissible.

Apart from giving up necessities, Muslims also prefer to pay the Zakat (Annual Poor Due) and increase charity in this month. In the Islamic tradition wealth is a blessing from Alah SWT whom He bestows as He pleases. This doesn’t imply that one doesn’t have to work for his income. Rather a person should put in the effort to the best of his ability and leave the results to Allah SWT. Thus a person shows true reliance on Allah SWT by expecting the reward from Him SWT instead of his own efforts.

A person might question that why poverty exists if Allah SWT is so full of bounty. This is not a new question and was asked by the non believers of Mecca and was recorded in the Quran.

And when it is said to them, “Spend from that which Allah has provided for you,” those who disbelieve say to those who believe, “Should we feed one whom, if Allah had willed, He would have fed? You are not but in clear error.” [Surah Yasin:47]

What one should understand is that poverty and richness are nothing but tests of faith and hence neither situation is particularly an advantage in the sight of God. While no person should want poverty for himself, the condition of wealth is not necessarily a sign of Allah SWT pleasure. He SWT has warned us of how wealthy people and nations commit the folly of transgressing Allah limits because of the perceived security wealth gives them. The ultimate aim of every Muslim is to gain Allah SWT pleasure and wealth is a means to that end.

To achieve this end Allah SWT has obligated on wealth over certain quantities, Zakat (Poor Due). Over and above that He SWT has also promised immense rewards for any voluntary acts of charity. The giving of charity is such a great act that the Prophet SAW has said – Save yourself from the fire even if by the half of a date. In another narration he PBUH mentioned – “Do (good) deeds which is within your capacity (without being overtaxed) as Allah does not get tired (of giving rewards) but (surely) you will get tired and the best deed (act of Worship) in the sight of Allah is that which is done regularly.”

If giving charity has a great reward then giving it regularly is surely greater.

But can giving repeatedly, truly help the society? Toby Ord the founder of Giving What We Can seems to think so. Toby Ord has pledged to give away 1 million pounds in charity. Before you think that he is a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, you should know he is a philosopher at Oxford University earning a Research Analyst’s salary. What he proposes is that, over a lifetime he will be able to give away 1 million pounds from his salary.

He estimates that over the period of his career he would earn an average of 42000 pounds per annum. He has pledged to cap his salary to nearly half of that at 20000 and donate the rest in charity. His impetus is that if every pound of charity is donated effectively, it could make a real difference to a person who needs it badly. His organisation, studies charities and ranks them according to the impact they have in improving quality of life.

The concept is quite simple – over and above necessities, the amount that is needed to acquire luxuries are significantly higher. By diverting these funds towards the needy, we might give up on creature comforts but will significantly affect the life of another person. Spending on another person allows you to buy for them necessity which can help improve their quality of life and/or increase their life span. In short your money is valuable but when given to someone else.

Besides being practical, charity also has other incentives. A study conducted by Micheal Norton and his group at Harvard Business School shows more – the money given away is not just valuable – it also is a source of happiness. Very simply put, when somebody spends on others there is definitely a feeling of contentment of having done something good.

What really struck me about his campaign to encourage people to pledge ten percent of their income, is how it ties in with saying of the Prophet SAW about regular deeds. Most of us Muslims prefer Ramadan as a time of giving and spend our Zakat and Sadaqah in this month. I only wonder how much further it would take us in the eyes of Allah SWT if we develop habits of giving regularly. Muslims generally tend to be a charitable lot. By developing effective institutions for monitoring and utilising these funds and living on a little less than we are used to, we definitely can do a lot more, to bring change to the society.

Wallahu A’lam

Mutual Admiration

I came across these quotes on Sh. Musa Furber’s facebook page. While we as muslims are easily given to name calling when we disagree with other muslims, it is sobering to see how scholars of the past admired each other. ThabarakAllah

“There are [only] four scholars: Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyib in Medina, al-Sha‘bī in Kūfa, al-Ḥasan in Baṣra, and Makḥūl in Greater Syria.”—al-Zuhrī“All scholars depend on Abū Ḥanīfa in fiqh.”—Al-Shāfiʿī

“[He was an] Imām par excellence”—Aḥmed bin Ḥanbal describing Sufyān al-Thawrī

“I learned from eleven-hundred shaykhs, but none better than Sufyān [al-Thawrī].”—ʿAbdulllah ibn al-Mubārak

“Mālik is God’s proof over His creation.”—al-Shāfiʿī

“I never saw a man whose fiqh resembled his hadith [in rigor] more than al-Awzā‘ī.”—al-Shāfiʿī

“The likeness of al-Shāfi‘ī to other people is as the likeness of the sun to the earth.”—Aḥmed bin Ḥanbal

“I have left no one in Baghdad with more understanding and knowledge, and more scrupulous and ascetic than Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal.”—al-Shāfiʿī

The above show the mutual admiration these scholars had for one another. Please make this one of the lessons you take from them.

Of success and farmers

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my grandparents back home. Oddly enough the reason I had to go back hometown was to attend the prayers of a relative’s funeral on one day and the wedding of a friend the next. Those reasons aside going back home is always a time of family and this time was no different.

On inquiring upon the health of my grandfather, my grandmother replied that his knees are weak but his exercise still keeps him going. What she said made me think about my own laziness to start exercising. It has been six months since I moved to Bangalore but I keep finding excuses for myself to avoid starting at all. Yet my grandfather who has had a heart attack, moved 3 houses and still manages his shop at 75 has not seen it necessary to stop.

On thing I know about my grandfather is his steadfastness in his actions. Be they worship or every day activities, I have known him to be very strict about his routines and daily activities. His dedication to his exercise and the time he spends in worship of God Almighty made me reflect on the concept of success as mentioned in the Quran. In the chapter of the Believers (23), the first few verses speak about the characteristics of the successful believers. Nouman Ali Khan, a student of the Quran and the Arabic Language, has a beautiful explanation of these verses here. He talks about the same concept in this sermon about adopting value systems, as well.

From the video though, I wanted to concentrate on a particular word Muflihoon, which means success. While a mere translation of the word indicates successful people, the root of the word comes from Falah, which means a farmer in the Arabic language. One of the things that amazes me about the Arabic language is that, when you become aware of the roots of word used in the Quran, the understanding of the verses becomes that much richer.

In this case the use of the word Muflihoon whose root is farmer, indicates a success of the farmer. Back then and even today, in many parts of the world where farming doesn’t take place on an industrial scale, the life of a farmer is tough. For someone with an annual crop, he needs to expend a year’s worth of effort, to get his reward at the end. So he begins preparing the land in the dry season, plants his seed before the rain, tends to the crop during and after the rain and finally harvests the crop for sale and consumption. After all the effort though, he is still not guaranteed the crop because of so many natural factors yet that never stops him making the effort in the hope of the payoff at the end.

The parallel to the believer in this world is similar. Many people in my experience, both Muslims and non Muslims, tend to see Islam as a rigid set of do’s and don’ts. While I don’t make any bones about the existence of obligations and prohibitions, the way of looking at them has to be according to the legislator. By fulfilling obligations and avoiding prohibitions, we are putting in the effort in this world to reap its reward in the next. (I will hopefully elaborate on of the beliefs of Muslims in subsequent articles but as of now it is suffice to say that this life is only a test and the life after death is everlasting and eternal. The destination of each and every individual depends on his actions in this life)

Yet unlike the farmer who spends himself without being assured of a return, the believer is assured by God Almighty that his deeds will never be lost. In fact the believers are encouraged by the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) to strive as far as they are able to do so[1] and expect a reward from their Lord in the hereafter[2]. As the commands of the religion envelop many aspects of life, the underlying wisdom is that the believer is constantly directing his heart towards God Almighty, formally or informally.

Ibn Al Qayyim, a noted Islamic scholar, jurist and commentator on the Quran had to say about this – 

There can be no doubt that assuming the best about Allah only comes as a result of righteous conduct. It is the righteous person who assumes the best about his Lord, since he knows that Allah will reward him for his good deeds and will never break His promise. 

On the other hand, the sinner who persists in wrongdoing, injustice, and disobedience is prevented by his evil deeds from assuming the best about his Lord. We can see a similar situation in how people relate to each other. A runaway slave, for instance, is not going to assume the best of his master. Good assumptions never go hand in hand with the disturbed state of disobedience. A sinner is estranged from his Lord to the extent of his sinfulness. The person who has the best outlook on his Lord is invariably the one who is the most obedient to his Lord.

Which brings me back to my grandfather and generally the people of his generation who have spent a lifetime of worship to God Almighty – I pray that God Almighty forgives them their sins, accepts their deeds and enters them into His Paradise. Ameen.

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[1] Bukhari #7288 
[2] Muslim #6875