Nelson Mandela’s Borrowed Idea

Mandela remains a legend, a hero, for millions of freedom loving people around the world. I bet his popularity in the “white” world shadows all other colored worlds. It is always with reverence that this man is remembered by all people of all shades. Mandela’s God gifted abilities were many, but the one that stands out for me is the one on communication. Dictators somehow seem also to be eloquent Orators but its that special gift of touching peoples’ hearts that separates an ordinary leader from a Superhero. I think Mandela belonged not to the first category.
He could reach out to people with simple words. I meant that in the most literal sense. He chose the most simple English words, used simple sentences and did not make long nested sentences. Very different a style taught in my English class.

I wanted to use Mandela to reach out to you for another agenda. Our education system as you know is being transformed regularly. Its as if the entire education system is being redesigned to produce at the end of 12 years compliant workers to feed the ever growing balloon economy of the Corporate world. Do you ever get a sense of the feeling that somehow our lives revolve mostly around our jobs, or businesses, and we have just few precious hours for ourselves (or our families). I feel like that quite often. The long commutes, long working hours, more business targets, pressure on cost reduction, and things like that which you know quite well.

There’s nothing new about these feelings. They’ve been there since the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. We could look back and claim that at least we moved on from sweat shops to decent working conditions in most factories in the developed world. We do have another problem now. Factory owners, lets call them C, would always want to grow the top and bottom lines (revenues and profits). Since C had to increase the cost of maintaining environmentally compliant factories in the West, so he moved his manufacturing base to poor countries of the East where working for a dollar a day in some of the worst possible working conditions in the world was a dream job and it meant his very survival along with his family. This sad but true reality created the situation which turned the East into the world’s manufacturing continent and the Western Cs as the ultimate beneficiaries of the “system” built on the exploitation of the poor man’s labor.

People in the East, sorry guys no hard feelings, have another C to deal with, especially when it comes to managing the regulators and law enforcers. This other C retains the number one position in the top reasons for the East to remain a basket case. All the hard work of the poor factory workers get stolen by the few elite sitting at the top of the food chain. Ever higher taxes and VAT/GST continue to ensure that a heavy weight greater than carrying capacity forces workers to remain bowed to the unfair system.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. If taxes are not enough, no problem, the corrupt system switches on the “Inflation” button and this weapon is a sure shot when it comes to making common hard working tax paying citizens poorer.

You are right, this is quite sad, but then I want you to see the world without your designer shades, please. Its a cruel, nasty, merciless world for majority of the poor population. They are made to believe they live in a free, independent sovereign state and country and nothing could be farther from the reality. Workers in the East have been turned into modern day slaves of the Corporate world. Remember the Hebrews under the Pharaoh. Here we are, we are the Hebrews and the government of Pharaoh is upon us. We must work or die. Workers are at the mercy of the C. Citizens are at the mercy of the C system. No way out mate. Or is there really no way out of this dark scenario? BTW, don’t be fooled by that smiling factory pin up boy in an M&S suit boasting of his six figure USD salary. Below him work 7000 poor men and women on dollar a day basis. C’s show him only to ridicule the fact that life is hard over here.

Never despair. Hope is just around the corner. There is light in every dark situation, only if you know how to turn the switch on, thanks Gendalf and Dumbledore. The fact is, since the start of human civilization, I don’t know when, man has struggled against injustice. And guess what, man has always won the fight against the dark forces. Voldermort will loose in the end. We must believe that from the very beginning. What makes our epic battle look interesting are all those events and battles that connect our lives in more than one way. Enter Mandela. One of my favorite Mandela quotes is this: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

This is a borrowed idea, from Islam ofcourse. The Holy Quran’s first word was IQRA – READ, or educate yourself, enlighten yourself, know yourself, and only then can you go ahead and change the world. Well done indeed, for Mandela did change the world with this borrowed idea, and he did well. Rest in peace Nelson Mandela…

Advertisements

Learning About Islam – What is Bismillah

IN the name of God (Bismillah), the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment.
It is You we worship, it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path; the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone stray. (AL-Quran, chapter 1).

Seven Verses from the HOLY QURAN define the Islamic faith. Muslims memorize these seven verses (also called Ayats) in the original Arabic and recite it during prayers 5 times a day. For those of you who want to learn about Islam, and also for those Muslims who want to clarify thoughts on Islam, this is the starting place, the opening verses of the MAJESTIC AL QURAN AL KAREEM.

Lets get started. How do we know these Ayats were not made up by a man? What is the proof that the verses were “revealed” from the Heavens?
Belief can be of two types, either one believes its truly from the heavens or one believes it was written by a man or a team of men and women. Lets say we have the belief that it was written by humans. Fair enough, who were these men and women? Were they Arabs or non Arabs? Were they followers of One God or multiple gods? Did they have a portfolio of written or oral literature as was the custom in Arabia in the 6th century? It is very natural for humans to want to pen their names (real or fake) on their works, and even more so when they gather together to write the verses for a new religion. Who were these “humans” who acquired PhD level linguistic, historical, scientific, psychological and above all civilization knowledge. Surely they must have left behind track record of discussions and debates with their locals before embarking on such an advanced form of philosophical cum literary adventure that would go on to become a watershed in human history of civilization. I understand, for 1400 years not a single convincing idea could prove human intervention behind the formulation of the Ayats. So, lets leave it at that.

Wait a minute, what about the Prophet of Islam, the Holy Messenger Nabi Muhammad (sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam, Peace be Upon Him, PBUH) wrote the verses. He (PBUH) recited the verses to his companions which makes the idea convincing that he must have drafted the verses himself. Lets look at that more closely. First of all, Prophet Muhammad (Sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam) was known as the un-lettered prophet, that is at the start of his mission he had not acquired the skills for reading and writing. For 40 years he (PBUH) lived in Makkah with very high honor and prestige, he was called Sadeq and Amin (the truthful and the trustworthy) by the Makkans due to his honest personality without ever being credited for reciting any kind of poetry or prose, let alone writing Ayats of the highest classical (Fushat) Arabic language which would become the standard for Arabic grammar.

Would you believe it if I told you that the greatest work of English language was written by someone who was not only un-lettered but had never written or expressed English literary or grammatical skills ever in his life? Obviously not. You might call it an “obnoxious idea”. Lets be fair and apply the same thought for the author of the Verses above. It could not have been written by any man or woman, therefore the only author must be other than what we know or understand as humans. Lets stop here, and move on with the verses.

The opening verses have combined two important ideas of our age. Science and Philosophy. Science because we know from Quantum Physics about time, space and matter. The first cause behind these three has to be the will of God. It is only after the First Cause has been established that the process of matter and antimatter, evolution and the development of human civilization can be discovered scientifically. Let say then today is the very first day for the first cause, the starting point of Time itself, how would the beginning look like, what would it begin by, under whose authority would the beginning take place? These questions are generally asked for any major event. Its like a person while inaugurating a ceremony says “on the authority given to me by and so and so….”.

Should Time, space and matter (humans, the milky way, the solar system, the galaxies, the nebula etc) start its journey by the will of God, by the authority given to the properties of matter and atoms and by the Power of God, then it makes absolute sense that this journey should start by the name of God. That is “BISMILLAH”. the starting point of all that we know on Earth, in the Oceans and in Space.

Muslims will thus say BISMILLAH at the start of anything. At the time of waking up, before a meal, before starting a journey, before starting work, before getting into a transport, before take off, before reading and so on.

Thanks for reading. Take care…

A King and the Moon – and the Beginning of a 1000 year Civilization from India

On my lunch break right now, so I can afford to share my thoughts. On my way to work I read the ARABIC Grammar book. Four English to Arabic phrases from this book knocked me off few hours ago. Here are the 4 lines:

  1. Al Hindu watanun Adheemun. India is a great country.
  2. Al Hindu watanee. India is my country.
  3. Uhibbu Watanee. I love my country.
  4. Al Hunudu kulluhum Ekhwatee wa Akhawatee. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.

The book was written by Mr Amanulla Vadakkangara, a respected educationist from Malappuram District in Kerala, India. The author taught Arabic in an international Indian school in Doha, Qatar. Are you surprised yet? If not, then let me explain this in bit more detail.

The outside world thinks that Muslims of India are basically north Indians speaking Urdu and having more in common with Central Asian cultures as in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan which produced raiders and conquerors whose very names still evoke some kind mixed feelings in the common people. Pakistani books usually credit a young general called Bin Qasem with the honor of bringing Islam by the sword to India going back to the 8th-9th century Umayyad dynasty. It is said that Bin Qasem in an effort to rescue a band of Muslims wrongly captured by Raja Dahir of Sind arrived with about a hundred soldiers defeating armies much more numerical superiority paving the way for the firm footing of Islamic governance in the western region of South Asia (basically Sind and Punjab to some extent in today’s Pakistan).

This story is refuted strongly by another Muslim community called the Shiites. They say that Bin Qasem was actually ordered by the great butcher Hajjaj ibn Yousuf to hunt down supporters of the Ahl-al-Bayt (peace be upon them) who had takn refuge in the court of Raja Dahir who himself being overtaken by the nobility of the Shiite Muslims refused to give them up to anyone and in the process lost his Kingdom to the young Muslim Arab general.

Now, let me tell you that there is yet another story which clouds both the narrations stated above. Islam is said to have arrived in India much earlier than Bin Qasem, if we follow the history of a certain king based in Kerala in the 7th century. Kerala boasts of an interesting geography located in the southwestern tip of India placed right next to Tamil Nadu in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west, basically the Malabar coast is the site of Kerala where natives speak Malayalam housing 56% Hindus and 26% Muslims in its state. The Kerala Muslims (or Malyallam Muslims) also called Mappas locally have a rich story to tell and it goes back to the 7th century at the time of the Holy Nabi Sallillahu alihi wa aalihi wa sallam.

According to legend a noble king called Cheraman Peruman was out at night when he witnessed the splitting of the moon. His amazement could not be explained by any scholar in his court except when he approached visiting Arab traders about it who only promised to search for answers in their journey on the sea. Years later, the Arab traders came back to him with answers, and the answer was in their desert country of Arabia itself for a man had arrived in their midst who declared his appointment as the leader of mankind being the last and final Prophet and Messenger of ALLAH Swt. It was the blessed Nabi sallillahu alihi wa Aalihi wa Sallam who had split the moon into pieces one day as his miracle for the doubters’ minds. The Prophet (swm) had split the moon by asking ALLAH SWT for a miracle and it was that miracle which the noble king had witnessed and it was this even t that was responsible for setting off waves of questions and thoughts in the heart of the noble king.

He had decided. He would go to Arabia, meet the blessed Messenger (swm) of ALLAH SWT so that he could become a Muslim at the hands of none other than the man who was the Ambassador of God. The noble King set out for Arabia with his Arab friends. He is said to have reached the kafela of Muslims during the time of the Farewell Pilgrimage. There, the King was given audience with the Noble Messenger of God (PBUH) where the king said his shahadah to enter the fold of Islam as a believer. How could this meeting take place without some exchange of gifts as India was famous in the world for its exquisite and extra-ordinary beauty and flavors. The noble king brought with him Garlic Pickle as a gift which the Noble Messenger (PBUH) accepted very happily choosing to share them with his companions.

On the return journey through Yemen, the noble king fell seriously ill, not being able to make it to his kingdom he summoned his Arab friends to take his money back to Kerala and inform his family of what had happened and instruct them to light up Islam in Kerala starting with a Masjid for which his money should be used completely. King Cheraman Peruman Radi Allahu Anhu rests in Yemen while the Cheraman Jama Masjid in Kodungallor stands today as a testament to the noble king’s legacy.

Lets come back to my Arabic lessons. The fact that Kerala currently is called home by 8.8 million Muslims makes them a Muslim community equal to the Hashemite Kingdom Jordan. The Malayallam language should also be considered as an Islamic language if only to honor the brilliance of the Malayallam culture for upholding the dignity of Islam when the courageous followers of the noble king constructed the Islamic mosque letting the drops of Islamic knowledge accumulate over centuries into an ocean of art, culture, knowledge and scholarship for the benefit of all mankind.

Mr Amanulla chose to write the four sentences in Arabic and English it seems with another greater agenda more noble than learning another language for the sake of it. The agenda, it would seem to me is this, the word Hindu is an Arabic Islamic word, this should be known to all the Muslims in South Asia. Al-Hindu is the Arabic translation for India. In Sanskrit, India is called Bharat not Hindustan. It was the Islamic world that called Bharat as Al-Hind and the Central Asian Muslims called it Hindustan (as in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan etc). Every Indian should therefore be a Hindu I terms of ethnicity, according to Arabic Islamic understanding. The plural form of Hindu is Al-Hunudu, that is all Indians which naturally includes Muslims and non Muslims also signifies the above statement which says that Hindu is a nationality not a religion as such. It were the colonialists British who had to severe the brotherhood between the natives by splitting the religious harmony through categorizing where the great Hindu brotherhood of Muslims and non-Muslims fell apart once the Hindu was given the religious shape and color. On the other hand Muslims were pulled away by another form of religion advocated by the British loyalist “Sir” Syed Ahmed Khan under the banner of the Two Nation Theory. It was a divisive theory that floated just after the First War of Independence conducted by the Sepoys in 1857 when Hindus and Muslims for the “second last” time united against a common foe. The “Last Time” for Hindu Muslim unity was under the banner of “KHILAFAT MOVEMENT” organized by Mawlana Mohammad Ali and his brother Mawlana Shawkat Ali, together called the Ali Brothers.

Islam’s forerunners were the noble companions among whom is the blessed king of Kerala Syedene Cheraman Peruman Radi Allahu Anhu. His travel to the Arabian peninsula in order to meet the Leader of all Mankind was the reason and the heavenly door for the entry of Islam in India, also known as Al-Hindu in the Islamic Arabic language. For 1000 years Islam contributed to the economic, social and educational advancement of Al-Hind. The cultural character of present day India can never be separated from its Islamic identity no matter how hard certain right wingers may try. The tear drop on the cheek of time, the greatest throne of the material world, the fort of jewels, the tomb of the emperor, and so on and so forth are the fruits of a work created in the mausoleum of love nurtured by the brotherhood of respect and dignity and long dreamed by a lonely king taking a night walk staring at the beautiful face of the moon.

 

 

 

 

Zakat, for Whom, for What, How Much

I wish to give Zakat to some poor relatives, beggars, homeless, orphans, madrassahs and masjids. But wait a minute, have I really considered the priorities of collecting and distribution of Zakat?, am I doing the right thing by following my Zakat wishes? I think many Muslims simply hope to feel satisfied that they did their duty to Islam whilst giving zakat to their chosen charities or individuals. Somehow, this method of collecting and giving Zakat clashes with the Zakat system painted in Islamic History Books.

First of all, zakat is not a matter of choice. Its a mandatory obligation upon every Muslim who earns above the bare minimum, or basically, every non-exempt adult Muslim is bound to pay Zakat. The giver is not being personally kind or generous by giving, it is among his compulsory duties to do so and its non-compliance also comes with consequences. What kind of consequences? The first caliph of Islam Khalifah Abu Bakr RA declared war on a tribe which refused to pay Zakat. Its importance to the Caliph was like Salah (prayer) and the fact that Salah and Zakah are mentioned together in the Majestic Quran at several places..

Next, I want to highlight that Sadaqah and Fitra don’t carry the same obligation as that of Zakat. Individuals are free to give Sadaqah and Fitra as much as they would like to for the benefit of the society. Donations are absolutely at the discretion of the giver. Whereas Zakat is fixed, mandatory and obligatory upon every non-exempt Muslim.

It seems that in many Muslim societies Zakat and Sadaqah have become somewhat confusing to distinguish. Zakah, like income tax, has to be assessed by a Zakat collector. How much Zakat should I pay is not something that I should calculate. Imagine if I were free to assess my own income taxes for the year! I would love to do that BTW but it doesn’t work that way. Its called Conflict of Interest. A zakat official assesses income and charges the assesse for a certain amount to be paid to state treasury.

Individuals don’t decide what to do with the Zakat money, the Chief of that locality will do that. Why? Because he knows more, he sees more and has more knowledge about the economic condition of his city and its surrounding areas. It may be the case, that his city is quite wealthy already and needs no Zakat but another city struggles for food and water. In other words, as an individual I will never have the complete picture of the greater community and therefore it makes a lot of sense for me to give zakat to an authority with broader and wider view of things. Obviously, this authority should be a public entity so as to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

One of the 8 recipients of zakat is “way of God” (Fi Sabilillah). Some people suggest it means to build a masjid. I disagree. I understand that it means that Zakat can be used for the struggle, to fight for the victory of Deen over the evil forces of Shaitan. Lets say there is an evil king who has engaged in genocide and civil war against his people. I believe Zakat fund can be utilized more efficiently by giving to those people who strive to replace the evil king. This would be better than setting yet another orphanage or another madrassah while the evil king continues to spill blood in the land. The ideological struggle is what I understand by “Fi Sabilillah”, and this is a great and epic battle between the forces of good against the forces of evil.

As you may appreciate, we have a problem now. See, in most countries the Zakat system is just a personal thing. Governments take income tax (which is far higher than Zakat), leaving Zakat in the same rank as any other acts of worship but at the discretion of individuals as if it was sadaqah. Although some Muslims came up with really innovative ideas to collect and channel zakat through charitable institutions, it still remains very much a personal decision to decide on how much and to whom to give zakat. The result of this is that every year funds get poured into masjids, madrassahs and orphanages, which is not a bad thing at all, but the far greater issues of Muslim societies either get worse or at best remain as bad as they are already.

So much talk of Zakat on TV makes me wonder, isn’t there one scholar who could stand up and ask for zakat to help the Yemenis, the Syrians, the Kashmiris, the Arakenese or the Palestinians? Obviously a celebrity scholar will not say such un-polite things on TV! I already knew that. But I just had to throw that in there…

At the moment, Zakat fund would be best utilized for rescuing Muslim countries from the grips of evil forces. Majority Muslim states are either colonized by their own elites or indirectly controlled by a superpower. If you agree with me, then would you agree that Muslims are only living in an imaginary “Free” world, whereas  in reality are chained to the commands of the dark forces as if they were modern day slaves (of policies and strategies of superpowers). The most urgent demand on zakat in this decade would be to free the necks from the chains that bind them together in humiliation and indignation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connection Between Muslim Prayers and Olympic Gold

Let me restate my thoughts. Imagine you are Michael Phelps, the Olympian. You know your schedule, up at 6am everyday, hit the gym, do some hellish workout, and then in the pool, you must stretch the human limits of speed and endurance while in water. Now, you keep doing this day in day out. That’s all you’re doing , yeah, getting up early, exercising, pumping weights, swimming and eating well. After a while you might begin to think that this what it is, exercising and swimming, that is the purpose of your life, the reason for your existence and maybe at some point in time after doing this routine for months or even years, you begin to think that this is what Olympians do. They wake up early, exercise and swim or sprint or whatever, every single day. The objective you may begin to think for an Olympian Swimmer is to “Workout and practice” swimming.

You should be smiling at yourself if you really think that swimming practice is the objective. No. The Objective is to prepare for a day of competition against the world’s best swimmers. You need to think about this. Whenever you want to understand why Muslims pray, think about Michael Phelps and his training routines. He needs to be ready, mentally and physically, for that Big Day, and all his workouts, practices and trainings were designed to make him WIN.

What, prayers are exercises? No. They are part of the big training package which pushes the Believers to gear up for their Big Day. Every Muslim in this sense is an Olympian. He must get himself ready to compete and Win. It all boils down to preparation and training without which probability of winning diminishes pretty fast. 90% training and 10% performance.

You must be asking, what is the Big Day and what sort of competition is this? Let me tell you in a simple way. Every Believer should know that he is capable of doing great things and that is what his life is all about, doing great things. There is no in-significant life at all. Every life is as important as any other. Our work, money, car and other worldly materials are the insignificant things, but our LIVES are SUPREMELY IMPORTANT. Its like the life of a gold medalist Olympian. Imagine that, you are just as important and significant as Michael Phelps or the late Muhammad Ali!

Phelps trains to win gold at the pool. what are you training for? Your goal is to win the gold in the arena where the great battle between good and evil is taking place. To defeat the evil forces must be a darn hard job. That’s because Satan has at its disposal numerous men and women capable of destroying  countries if needed with the help of weapons manufactured for mass destruction of human civilization. Satan has worked hard to raise his army of monsters. It wont be easy to defeat them, no not at all. At least not without the proper strategy for winning.

Sounds difficult doesn’t it. But I have news for Muslim readers. This “job” of defeating Satan happens to rest upon the shoulders of all the Believers. Sorry, there is no way to avoid draft in this case. You Muslims have only one job, on target, and that is to defeat the army of Satan. Any Muslim who thinks otherwise, unfortunately, ends in the boiling pot.

So, you want to be ready for the Big Day. When will that be? I’m afraid that Day can be any day, it can even be today. Satan and his soldiers are waiting to ambush you any moment you let your guard down. They have their eyes on you like a CCTV. One opening and wham! they will get to you. If they can throw their curse at you when you have nothing to defend yourself with, the results will not be hard to guess.

That means you need to make yourself strong and able and alert at all times. You need practice. Training and hard work. You can only choose to avoid between the pain of training or the pain of loosing. Cant have both. To avoid the pain of loosing, you also need to be before sunrise, preferably by 5am and start your rigorous training routine. Tahajjud, Fajr, break, work, eat, Dhuhr, break, rest, work, Asr, Break, Magrib, break, dinner, Isha, sleep. This routine of Salah is the Training, the Exercise the Workout  designed to make you successful in defeating the Satan and his followers.

Muslim prayers basically intend to churn out soldiers of Faith whose sole duty rests on liberating mankind from the grip of the Dark Lord. Prayer is the secret weapon with which Goodness shall prevail over Evil.