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.

 

 

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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.

Life-cycle of a Believer

If you have 10 minutes take a look at this as well

|-| Fajr |-|

As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah

Surah al-‘Asr is a fascinating chapter in the Qur’an because despite it being the second shortest chapter, it sort of sets the details/blueprint and encompasses the cycle of a believer’s life. Think about it:

“By Time.
Indeed, Mankind is in loss.
Except those who believe and do good deeds, and exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to patience.” [al-‘Asr]

A person’s lifeTime seems to follow a certain pattern: We are all in loss and in danger of losing our Hereafter – except for the believer. But when belief enters your heart, you naturally start doing deeds of righteousness. But then belief can’t stay suppressed in your heart and so you advise others and enjoin goodness – more importantly, you stand up for the Truth. And the moment you stand up for the Truth in this world, is the moment you will…

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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…

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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

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

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

Of Jasmines and the Internet

I wrote this article a long time ago, when  I was in India and the so called Arab Spring had just begun. Tunisia had already removed their leaders and Hosni Mubarak was to be soon deposed. I was thinking about Syria and putting down my thoughts about it when I remembered this. In the face of the current Syrian situation this article almost looks naive. Khair. Read through to remember how “easy” the revolutions before Syria were. More on Syria later

*****

When, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire a couple of weeks back, out of sheer desperation that poverty brings with it, little did he know he was going to stoke flames of dissent long buried in the hearts of the citizens of the Middle East. These flames now raging like wildfires all over the Middle East from Yemen to Egypt have their leaders running for cover. Fanned by Internet Media ( Facebook, Twitter etc.) and to some extent the reports of Al Jazeera News Channel, Bouazizi’s self immolaion has set in motion a possible domino effect of governmental change across the Middle East. Tunisia’s own president Mr. Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has long since resigned and is now under self imposed exile in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hosni Mubarak’s family has already fled to London fearing for the safety of their lives.

JasmineThough uprisings against self-styled dictators in the Middle East arent uncommon given the massive corruption, rot and decay that exist in government institutions, the protests this time around have had a sense of purpose to it. Dubbed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ to signify a revolution occurring across societies, Tunisians are not ready to step down until there is a popular government in place while Egyptians today hope to garner the support of a million people as they march to ouster Mr. Mubarak. While I scan the updates coming from Egypt constantly, I can’t help but laud the people of Egypt in their efforts. It would be insolent on my part to claim that affairs of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations had been on my radar prior to these uprising. Yet, the popular nature of these protests is definitely noteworthy. Regular people who live regular lives have stepped out on to the streets to voice their opinion against the oppression that has left them crushed. The Egyptian army sent in to quell the crowds has declared hints of support towards the ‘Million Strong March’. Reports by Robert Fisk at The Independent currently in Egypt talk of the camaraderie and brotherhood apparent among the protestors and the law enforcement agents.

Such images are encouraging to say the least and though already democratized as a nation it is important for us as Indians to sit up and take notice of the developments taking place in the Middle East. True we elect our representatives, but governance in India today is a joke. How different is Hosni Mubarak from those in power today? Aren’t we witness to some of the biggest scams in modern Indian history? While we recline comfortably in our couches hardly having too wait for a live stream of the IPL on our 3G enabled cell phones, how many thousands literally die of hunger in India? Activists of human rights are simply convicted for secession and terrorism, while real terrorists and criminals languish in jail cells or government chairs afforded the best in their class of luxury! I reiterate our governance is a joke and we need to take a stand.

As I already mentioned the people in the protests in Egypt and related countries are everyday people with everyday stories like yours and mine. Another thing I’d like to mention is that we do not need to get onto the streets to create change. It took our freedom fighters 90 years (from the Revolt of 1857) to garner independence for us Indians. It hardly took 3 weeks (from the self-immolation of Bouazizi) to bring the matter to a head in Egypt. The difference this time being the pervasive nature of social networking and print/TV media. Boon or bane, one can hardly deny the role that Facebook et al. had to play in precipitating the events in the Middle East. While we watch the social networking revolution blitz us daily with new offerings it is imperative for us to indulge in a thought revolution. Muslims are the original disciples of SatyaGraha, learning it from their Prophets and in particular Mohammed (PBUH) while Indians were taught the ways of struggle by Gandhi himself. Through a revolution stemming not from violence but from moral rectitude and adherence to ethical standards there is hope for positive change again. A revolution that can be taken to the doorstep of almost any person above the age of 15 and having access to the internet without having to set a foot on the ground. A revolution which any person who follows the affairs of the world around will “Like”.

It is up to us to take notice of the issues that plague us. It is up to us to make the right noises about these issues. It is also up to us that the noises we make are heard by so many people that it can truly make a difference. The good news is we have a tool we can easily use. The bad news is we don’t “Share”.

PS : – While it is very easy for us to be happy with developments in Egypt, let us not forget the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that pervade the streets. Shops and homes are being looted by anti social elements and food supply is becoming scarce. People who lose possessions in this period lose them for good. I pray for a speedy end to these occurences that is causing so much discord and I also pray for the lasting peace for the people of Egypt. Amen.