SALAAH (Part one)

Assalaamualaikum warahmatulahi wbarakatuhu, Alhamdulilah, Rabbana zidna ilmaan.

The following article is part of a series of articles dedicated to one of the most important pillars of the Islamic faith- Salaah (Ritual physical, verbal, and meditative prayer). In this write-up, together with its attachments, we will be discussing and illustrating the purpose and importance of Salaah.

Whether you are male or female

Young or old

Rich or poor

In sickness and in health

Whether you live in a hut, tent, or mansion

Whatever you complexion

No matter your location:

Be it on the green-hued mountains.

Be it on the savannah plains.

Be it on the fertile valleys or the barren deserts.

Come rain, come shine.

From before the sun’s rise to its decline

Even in the still of the night

Whoever you are, wherever you are, however you feel.

Nothing should prevent you from performing the life-enriching Salaah…

Except that you are not a Muslim.

One of life’s great challenges is to make someone understand the importance of something or someone in a manner that will enable them to value, honour and respect it or the person. The greatest teachers and orators in the world were adept at doing this. They humanised and humbled themselves in a manner that created a strong rapport. When it came to their speech and writings, they decorated and illuminated them with truths, practicality, symbolism, simplicity, depth, metaphors and all manner of nuances. An example of this is how Cicero taught the importance of reading by saying in a few simple yet deep words:

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

In conveying the principle tenets of the Islamic faith, God Almighty selected the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to convey their importance in a manner that would make people value and practice them. Such was the Prophet’s (pbuh) fortitude and excellence in teaching these tenets that to this day, one of the most important fundamentals of the Islamic faith- Salaah, is still held in high regard and practiced identically to how the Prophet (pbuh) did more than 1400 years ago. Few religious rites across the religious spectrum can attest to not succumbing to manipulation, erosion, or extinction due to man’s pride, rebellion, arrogance, desire to compromise or compromise under duress. With good reason, Salaah stands tall and unblemished through the sand storms of time and man.

Such is the importance of Salaah to a Muslim that one can equate it to water.

“As water is vital to life, so is Salaah vital to a Muslim’s faith.”

After taking the Shahada (proclaiming the Oneness of God and acknowledging the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), the most important thing to learn and practice is Salaah, Salaah is the essential component of Islam. It is the essential component of Imaan (faith). Numerous times in the Noble Qur’an, God almighty commands us to perform Salaah. Here are a few examples:

“And establish Salaah and give charity and bow with those who bow.” (2:43)

“Oh you who believe, seek help through patience and Salaah. Indeed God is with the patient.” (2:153)

“Maintain with care the obligatory Salaah particularly the middle prayer (Asr) and stand with God devoutly obedient.” (2:238)

Salaah is the primary way a Muslim shows that he/she worships God, obeys God and humbles himself/herself before God Almighty. Salaah is the road that Muslims take to purify themselves not only physically but, more importantly, spiritually. Salaah is the cleansing of the human heart and soul. As we require food and drink to survive, we require Salaah to sustain our hearts and soul. It is the meeting place of the Creator and His servant. It is where we proclaim His greatness and give Him His due glory. Salaah is the means by which we sustain and develop our relationship with God Almighty. It is how we communicate with Him. Salaah is our personal doctor, our therapist, our counsellor, our medicine and our healing. It provides premium facilitation and healing for free. Salaah is regular training that makes us physically healthy, mentally healthy, God-conscious, time conscious, disciplined, aware, and well-balanced.

God, the Wise, already knew the benefits of Salaah. Through His love for us and desire for us to attain our full potential as His vicegerents on this planet, God Almighty gave us Sallah and commanded us to perform it. Obeying the commands of God the Most high only brings others and us good. Salaah establishes a condition where we remember God regularly. Speaking on the benefits of this, the Noble Qur’an says:

“Indeed, in the remembrance of God, do hearts find peace.”

Salaah’s main purpose is to make us remember God, humble us, know God’s attributes and bring us closer to our Creator by acknowledging Him and all His glory. Ultimately, through this process, we become better versions of ourselves. We overcome detrimental addictions, sin less and do more good deeds. In respect to this, the Noble Qur’an says:

Surely Salaah restrains one from indecency and evil.” (29:45)

Closeness to God is multifaceted. Generally, one becomes close to someone if they get to know each other, share experiences, and help each other in a manner that gives birth to mutual benefit and appreciation. The caveat with God Almighty is we need Him and He is not in need of us.

Additionally, God Almighty already knows us. Thus the onus is on us to know Him. We get closer to God if we get to know His ways and make our ways incongruent with His by submitting to His will. Salaah facilitates the process of knowing God Almighty. It allows us to develop our devotion, respect and obedience to God Almighty. It makes us conscious of His many incomparable attributes and inspires us to try to emulate them to a lesser degree but the best of our ability. Every unit of Salaah is blessed with the recital of the opening chapter of the Noble Qur’an- Surah Fatiha. The reading of this chapter reminds us of God’s infinite grace, mercy and Lordship over the entire universe.

Furthermore, we are reminded that it is Him we turn to when we are in need of help. Through the reading of Surah Fatiha in Salaah, we see that we have to be proactive as we ask God to guide us and keep us on the straight path. Changes in posture after its recital and the recital of accompanying verses from the Noble Qur’an allude to this.

One cannot ask for guidance and stay on track if they are not willing to move. The different postures encourage us to be flexible and not static or stagnant. Good deeds, defined by God Almighty, are part of guidance and when we do them, we are moving in the right direction spiritually. In Salaah, we proclaim and acknowledge that God Almighty is the Judge and only Master on the day of Judgement. Salaah reminds us that life on this planet is temporary and we should strive to accrue good deeds and behave righteously. This will be to our benefit and serve us on the day of Judgement when the scales of our deeds are weighed. Through Salaah, we build upon our relationship with the Noble Qur’an. The different postures of Salaah and the recital of verses and chapters from the Noble Qur’an during Salaah will strengthen our faith, result in us gaining knowledge, gaining inspiration, seeking forgiveness, pardoning others, seeking more knowledge, doing good deeds and shunning evil.

Like most other creation, human beings are driven by desires, fear, the anticipation of reward, and the need for recognition. God takes away fear, gives rewards and gives acknowledgment. This requital of our desires and needs cannot be fulfilled beneficially, efficiently, successfully, sustainably and at such a gargantuan scale by anyone other than by the Sustainer and Bounteous- God Almighty. The Noble Qur’an says:

“…He is the Best for reward and the best in the end.” (18:44)

“…The lasting good deeds are the best in the sight of your Lord in terms of reward and best in terms of expectation.” (18:46)

“Those who have believed and performed good deeds and established Salaah and continued giving charity, for them is their reward with their Sustainer (God). Neither do they have any fear, nor will they grieve.” (2:277)

Often, to make Mankind practice a command that is beneficial to not just one person but families and communities, God Almighty attaches several rewards to obeying the command. An example of this is the universal command to honour our parents. Obeying this command results in us gaining rewards such as closeness to our parents, happiness, good meaningful lives and barakah (blessings) in our finances. God is aware of our often impatient nature and desire for the tangible. As such, some of these rewards are often given to us in the dunya (our worldly life). It is important to note that there are rewards in the hereafter (Akhira) and it is part of faith to believe this. Taking into consideration both the Dunya and Akhira, the greatest of all rewards is to gain entry into paradise (Janaat) and reside in the presence of God Almighty, His Prophets and the righteous people.

Few commands have as many rewards attached to their observance as the command to perform Salaah five times a day at its stipulated times. Some of these rewards, for example, the medical benefits of Salaah, were hinted at previously. Elaborating more, one of the most symbolic benefits of Salaah is that it improves our physical balance. Balance is the ability to control the centre of gravity (COG) within the base of support in a given environment. Research has shown that preparing for Salaah (intention and Wuthu), performing Salaah and partaking in some of its meditative portions stimulate the visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems, which provide the sensory information that influences human balance. Medical studies published by The Journal of Physical Therapy Science have shown this to be true. Salaah does not only serve to improve our balance in the physical world, as it also catalyses our ability to live out well-balanced lives. Other medical rewards that come with performing Salaah include a sense of well-being, increase in will power, stress reduction, reduced hypertension, reduced anxiety, improved muscle strength, improved blood circulation, among others. Performing Salaah makes you mentally, physically and spiritually healthier. A Muslim does not need Yoga because they have something much better and more rewarding in Salaah.

Other benefits include nurturing spousal, brotherly and sisterly bonds. Salaah cements the old adage, “A family that prays together stays together.” When it comes to Salaah, congregational prayer is heavily encouraged. This congregational prayer allows people to be abreast with each other’s well-being and nurture and solidify new and existing friendships within the community. Performing Salaah at the Masjid allows us to act out our deen, for example. We can greet the elderly people when we enter the Masjid. Salaah facilitates the practice of good deeds and good conduct. Speaking on the rewards of performing congregational Salaah, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Salaah, in congregation is twenty-seven times more rewarding than Salaah performed individually.” (Sahih Al Bukhari)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was prolific in detailing the importance and rewards of performing Salaah. In illustrating how five times Salaah cleanses the body, mind and soul, the Prophet (pbuh) said:

“The five Salaah are atonement for the intervening periods. If there was a labourer and there were five rivers between his house and his workplace. When he goes to his workplace, he does whatever work God willed that he should do. Filth and perspiration attach to his body because of his work. On his return, he baths in each of the rivers that he has to pass through. Will, any of the filth and perspiration remain? Similar is the case of Salaah. Each time a person commits sin and supplicates to God Almighty and seeks forgiveness, the sins that he committed before Salaah are forgiven.” (Tabarani)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also described the importance of Salaah with regards to the afterlife. Jabir ibn Abdillah (May God be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (pbuh) of God said:

“The key to Paradise is Salaah and the key to Salaah is purity.” (Ahmad)

According to Abu Qatadah ibn Rib’l (RA), the Prophet also said:

“God says: ‘I made the five Salaah obligatory to your followers and I took a covenant upon myself that whoever comes to me having upheld them at their appointed times, I shall admit them into paradise. Whoever did not uphold them shall enjoy no such covenant from Me” (Abu Da’ud)

Salaah is an integral part of a Muslim’s deen and covenant with God Almighty. It is vital to perform it as its performance contributes to our salvation. The heart and the backbone propels us to flesh out our lives with righteousness and good deeds. In showing the significance of Salaah, the Prophet (pbuh) further said:

“The first thing that a person will be taken to account for on the day of Resurrection is Salaah. If their Salaah is in order, all of their affairs will be in order. If their Salaah were in disorder, all their other deeds would be in disorder.” (Tabarani)

As Muslims, we are meant to give Salaah the honour and respect it deserves. Some of us give greater importance and are more astute at following other commands within the Islamic covenant, like, for instance, not eating swine flesh. We proudly proclaim, “I am a Muslim. I do not eat pork.” And yet, we sideline the great command that cannot be compromised whatsoever. It would be a tremendous achievement and victory if more of us associated our identity as Muslims to performing Salaah five times a day. May we encourage each other to perform Salaah. May our Sustainer make us of those who establish Salaah. May He do likewise to our progeny. May God help us to engage in His remembrance, in being grateful to Him and in worshiping Him in an excellent manner. Oh, our Sustainer, accept our supplication. Ameen

Assallamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu



the-influencers-u-turn


Assalaamualaikum  warahmatulahi  wabarakatuhu, Alhamdulilah, Rabana zidna ilmaan.

Date: 616 AD

Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Influencer: Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (RA)

Sometimes there is respect and admiration between parties despite a difference in beliefs. Even though he was at the forefront of Muslims’ persecution, the influential Umar Ibn Khattab (RadhiAllahu Anhu – May God be pleased with him) was admired and respected by prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet (pbuh) would pray to GOD Almighty that either Umar Ibn Khataab or Abu Jahl would become a Muslim and strengthen the cause of the Faith. Although he was an avid drinker, his wrestling prowess, intelligence, oratory ability, arbiter skills, tribal rank and honesty made Umar Ibn Khataab (RA) very influential in Mecca. In his view, Islam was divisive and would lead to a breakdown of the old Arab pagan systems or “our father’s ways” per se.

Furthermore, he felt Islam would break families and tribal bonds. To avert this, Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) and the rest of the Quraish leadership decided to persecute the Muslims while Islam was still in its infancy. Persecution, purges and embargos on trading with Muslims ultimately led to some Muslims migrating to Ethiopia.

Despite this, as history showed with the early Christian Faith, persecution often leads to an increase in believers and so was Islam’s case. The rapidly increasing Muslim numbers drove Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) to take matters into his own hands. He decided to kill Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

With conviction in his eyes, with sword in hand, Umar (RA) headed briskly towards the Prophet’s location (pbuh). Along the way, he bumped into his best friend Nu’aim bin Abdullah (RA). Unbeknown to Umar (RA), Nu’aim (RA) had secretly converted to Islam, after much contemplation. Looking at his friend’s demeanour, Nu’aim (RA) sensed that Umar (RA) was up to no good. Nu’aim (RA) was shocked when he heard where Umar (RA) was headed to and to curb the impending disaster, he remarked:

“By GOD, you have deceived yourself, O Umar! Do you think that Banu Abd Manaf (The Prophet’s (pbuh) tribe) would let you run around alive once you have killed their son, Muhammad (Pbuh)? Why don’t you return to your own house and at least set it straight?”

Umar (RA) enquired what Nu’aim (RA) had implied and was informed that his sister and brother-in-law had converted to Islam. Umar’s (RA) anger was now directed towards his sister and brother-in-law. Upon arriving at their house, he heard them reciting Qur’anic verses from surah (chapter) Ta Ha. Umar skirmished with his brother-in-law, Saeed bin Zaid (RA) and sister, Fatima (RAH). The skirmish resulted in his sister bleeding from her mouth. This made him empathetic towards her and his anger abated. His sister pleaded that she would remain a Muslim. Taken and impressed by their conviction, he asked to read the Qur’anic parchments whose contents had led to such a stance. Initially, his sister declined, indicating that he had to wash (perform ablution) first. After washing himself, Umar (RA) read the parchments:

“In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.

Ta-Ha

 We have not sent down to you the Qu’ran that you be distressed. 

But only as a reminder to those who fear [GOD].

 A revelation from He who created the earth and highest heavens. 

The Most Merciful above the throne established. 

To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth and what is between them and what is under the soil…”

Umar (RA) was in awe of what he was reading. It was as if the Noble Qu’ran was speaking directly to him as he previously believed that the Qur’an and the Faith it pioneered were causing distress. Through reading the Qur’an, Umar (RA) discarded the misconceptions he had harboured. He knew that the verses he was reading could only have come from a higher power, GOD almighty. Umar (RA) had made a complete U-turn. He asked to be taken to the Prophet (pbuh) to proclaim the Shahadah (declaration of Faith) and become a Muslim. The Prophet’s (pbuh) du’aa (supplication) was answered. Umar’s (RA) conversion to Islam strengthened the Muslims and adversely affected those who were against them. He would later become one of the most powerful, just and influential Muslim Caliphs.

Date: 8 June 632, AD. 

Location: Madina, Saudi Arabia.

Influencer: Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

The seal of the Prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him), had completed his mission. He had delivered the message of the Noble Qu’ran and left his followers with his exemplary way of life to emulate. Such was his Influence that he would garner admiration, respect and honour from Muslims and non-Muslim alike throughout the ages. Some would arguably consider him the most influential man that ever lived. Writing on The Prophet, famed British historian, writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle said:

“It is a great shame for anyone to listen to the accusation that Islam is a lie and that Muhammad (Pbuh) was a fabricator and deceiver. We saw that he remained steadfast upon his principles, with firm determination; kind and generous, compassionate, pious, virtuous, with real manhood, hardworking and sincere. Besides all these qualities, he was lenient with others, tolerant, kind, cheerful and praiseworthy and perhaps he would joke and tease his companions. He was just, truthful, smart, pure, magnanimous and present-minded; his face radiant as if he had lights within him to illuminate the darkest of nights; he was a great man by nature who was not educated in school nor nurtured by a teacher and did not need any of this.”

The above is further testament to The Prophet’s (pbuh) esteemed character. Other modern-day figures and institutions would also recognise Muhammad’s (Pbuh) Influence. In 1935, The Supreme Court of the United States of America honoured him as one of the greatest lawgivers. In his book THE 100: A RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS, Michael H.Hart ranked Muhammad (pbuh) as the most influential person in history. Michael H. Hart asserted that Muhammad (pbuh) was “supremely successful” in religious and secular realms.

Can such a man who showed good qualities and continuously exuded steadfastness perform a U-turn right off the bat?

Yes indeed. The influential Prophet (peace be upon him) performed a U-turn that we all will perform one day. He made a U-turn on this worldly journey and returned to His Creator. Death is the great U-turn. As word spread of his passing among the Madina community, pandemonium ensued. Some of his beloved companions broke out into uncontrollable tears and screams of agony; some didn’t want to believe that he had died and others even threatened to kill anyone who said he had died. The earlier mentioned Umar (RA), now a Muslim and companion of the Prophet (pbuh), was one of those who did not want to believe the reality of the situation to the point of threatening those who told him it was true. The fate of the Muslims was at a major crossroad. It had become evident that the love, respect and admiration that some of the companions had for the late Prophet (pbuh) had transformed into Hero worship-something that The Prophet (pbuh) strived to prevent his companions from committing during his lifetime. Someone had to stand up and keep the true goal in sight. Someone had to pacify the situation. That someone, was his best friend Abu Bakr (RA). Abu Bakr (RA) first took Umar (RA) to show him the body of The Prophet and calm him down. He then went to the Masjid (prayer place of Muslims) where the community had gathered and spoke out to them, saying:

“If anyone worships Muhammad (pbuh), Muhammad (pbuh) is dead. If anyone worships GOD, GOD is alive and immortal.”

He followed his truthful and unembellished words with the following Qur’anic verse:

“Muhammad is no more than a messenger. Other messengers have passed on before him…” The Noble Qur’an 3:144

Abu Bakr’s (RA) words and the accompanying Qur’anic verse realigned them with their true purpose in life. The Muslims were not there to idolise and worship Muhammad (pbuh). They were there to accept the message he brought, follow him and worship the One True God. His passing was not meant to be the end of the road for them, He would take his U-turn, but life had to go on; the journey had to continue. The Prophet (pbuh) through Abu Bakr (RA) had posthumously imparted one of the greatest lessons.

Date: Then, Now and Tomorrow

Location: Earth and Cyberspace

Influencer: Me, You and Everyone

In cyberspace, an influential fashionista who happens to be a female Muslim YouTuber popularizes the Hijab (headscarf). Her trendy designs resonate with her subscribers and other social network followers. Out of the blue, she makes a U-turn by showing a video stating that she will no longer be wearing the Hijab. There is shock, there is outcry and there is drama in the comments section. The feedback is predominantly negative, with many abusive comments. Some comments indicate a level of regret and hurt. One user, accompanied by a crying emoji dishearteningly, ponders, “I started wearing the Hijab because of you. What will I do now?”

On terra ferme, some years prior, I am faced with a huge dilemma. The farm compound has spewed another nyaya (Story) and it is one I am not keen to preside over. A woman has discovered that her husband has been cheating on her with a young girl. With blind rage, she plucks the crutches from her elderly disabled uncle and heads to the perpetrator’s house to dish out some mob justice. A granny steps out at the perpetrator’s home and defends her granddaughter despite the granddaughter’s guilt. From afar, I hear English profanities from the Shona speaking granny and I am taken aback.

Later, I deal with the respective parties separately in the office. When talking with the granny, I curiously ask, “Where did you learn to swear in English like that?” The old lady answers with a wry grin: “From you, Boss. I heard you when you are angry.”

It is a poignant moment for me. I am influencing people the wrong way. The farm community has picked up on some of my bad habits and adopted them. At that point, I decide to make a U-turn and never use vulgar language again…

It is an undeniable fact that we are all influencers. Our degree and scope of Influence may vary, but ultimately we all can influence fellow human beings in one way or another. The way we influence can be good or bad, be it how we treat fellow creation, talk and behave among our friends and colleagues, to what we allow our children to hear, watch, or whom we allow them to interact with.

Sometimes we are influential through our inability to act. A society that does not act against corruption influences the spread of it. Whether we intend it or not, our behaviour is influential. As individuals, we can control the makeup of what we influence through our self-defined characters to a certain degree. At the same time, we can control how we react to the Influence of others. It is of paramount importance to be mindful of your Influence and the influence others have over you.

A comment like “I started wearing the Hijab because of you, what will I do now?” is a clear indication of someone unable to manage someone’s influence over them. They have not built their character substantially enough to stand alone, walk alone, be decisive and emotionally independent. Similarly are negative and abusive responses to someone who has made a U-turn on our beliefs and values. Through the Prophets (Peace be upon them), the best influencers ever, GOD showed us the best way to be influential at work, at home, at play and everywhere else. Through them, GOD almighty also showed us how to deal with others’ Influence, whether it is good or bad.

As Muslims, we should not discredit ourselves by dealing with those who discredit our Faith, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in dealing with negative influences viewed such as a test of his Faith and his followers’ Faith. He always gave someone the benefit of the doubt and left the door for reformation open, as was Umar’s case (RA). He showed patience and encouraged that patience should be the first quality one shows when confronted with a problem. Patience gives birth to rational thinking and tolerance. Patience opens the heart and mind and allows one to be more perceptive. Patience allows us to reduce our negative emotions over us, especially when we are wronged or tested, to be precise. Patience allows one to be less judgemental, see beyond ignorance and remedy it. It allows us to find solutions rather than exacerbate the problems.

One of the beauties of life is that amazing gift of choice which GOD has given us. We can choose our heroes. We can choose our mentors. We can choose who influences us. We can choose how we react to those who act badly toward us. We can choose our friends. We can choose how we want to influence others and the world. We can choose what we want to be. Given the power of choice, we must be mindful that there are consequences and repercussions in some cases with the choices we make. Choice is a great responsibility. As a fellow influencer, I would strongly advise bringing GOD into the equation when making decisions and choices. In that way, the Influence you give out will be beneficial and the Influence that you receive from others will make you grow, whether negative or positive.

May GOD Almighty shower upon us patience (sabr) and make us influence others in a similar way His Prophets (pbuh) did. May He guide us to live lives that are first pleasing to Him. May He help us to make U-turns on any roads that are leading us away from goodness and be mindful that we can reform and some can reform. May He help us keep our feet firm upon the paths of life and the paths that lead to goodness no matter who makes a U-turn and whichever form it takes. Ameen

Assallamualaikum warahmatulahi wabarakatuhiu



s-and-t

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu, Alhamdulillah, Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan.

The Ant…

From the words of the wise King Solomon (peace be upon him), to modern day high budget blockbuster films like  Marvel’s Antman, the diminutive insect has inspired and fascinated man throughout the ages. It is a marvel of GOD’s creative prowess that one of His tiniest creatures, with a brain roughly a million times smaller than the brain of a human by volume, is able to provide us with so many lessons. Many of these lessons come from the relationships that ants have with one another and with the environment in general. The Noble Qur’an encourages us to be receptive, aware of and acknowledge GOD’s Ayaat. Ayaat can translate as GOD’s signs or similarly, signs that point to the existence and unequalled might of GOD. Examples of these signs are:

1) The creation of the universe and all that is contained within it, both animate and inanimate creation including the celestial bodies.

2) The Prophets (peace be upon them) GOD sent to humankind as well as the miracles they performed with GOD’s power.

3) The Holy Books and revelations that some of the Prophets were given to guide humankind.

4) The Angels.

5)  The preserved remnants of those who opposed GOD’s commandments like the preserved drowned body of the pharaoh that pursued Moses (Pbuh) and the eradicated cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to name some.

In reference to some of GOD’s signs, the noble Qur’an says:

“From His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, as well as every creature that He has dispersed within the two. He has the power to gather them all whenever He pleases.” (Noble Qur’an 42:29)

In relation to humankind, these signs are multi-purpose.  Some provide benefit, for example, the rain and creatures like bees, cattle and camels, which provide us with healing, food, clothing and transport. Some signs, like the grandeur and enormity of the universe, are there to humble us. Some signs are there to guide and show us our true purpose in life like for example The Prophets and the revelations that came with them namely The Torah, The Injeel (The Gospel) and The Qur’an.

Some signs are there as a warning to not stray off the right path. Some signs are there to make us glorify the majesty of our Creator by bringing us joy and serenity like the beautiful African sunrise and sunset and the birth of a baby. Some signs make us realise if we have debased ourselves and not fulfilled our true potential like the aforementioned ant which maintains relations, is unselfish, plans ahead, is always a team player and in some species like the Matabele ant, is capable of actually nursing the injured to health ala Florence Nightingale. Collectively, these signs should make us better ourselves, acknowledge and glorify our Creator as well as make us understand that GOD Almighty has indeed favoured us.  It is imperative to acknowledge these signs with humility as the Noble Qur’an says:

“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those who have understanding. They who remember GOD while standing, sitting, lying down and they think about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying in awe) “Our Lord, You have not created all this without a purpose. We glorify your purity so save us from the punishment of the fire.” (Noble Quran 3:190-191)

Some chapters of the Holy Qur’an like Surah Rum (Rome) and Surah Rahman (The Merciful) are beautiful, elaborate and poetically eloquent in their descriptions of Ayaat. Of note is how Surah Rahman continually and rhetorically asks, “Which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?” after detailing some Ayaat. It shows the relationship between GOD’s signs and us should make us aware that indeed GOD has favoured us.

Some of the chapters of the Noble Qur’an are named after some of GOD’s Ayaat. We see some named after the Bee, the Ant, and the Prophets, among others. This serves to encourage us to learn from these signs and appreciate how amazing our Creator is. As a favour upon us, GOD has bestowed us with intelligence and understanding beyond any creature on the planet
earth. We respect this favour through not only acknowledgment but through proactively and continually utilising our intelligence and understanding.

Some signs are there to show us how to behave and how not to behave. A dog can have the most perverse sexual behaviour and at the same time it can exhibit very commendable loyalty to man. As man, our sexual behaviour should not degenerate to the level of the Dog and at the same time, we can postulate that we should show better levels of loyalty since we are the superior creation. Other animals like the penguin, illustrate that males do not abandon their offspring. The male penguin can provide warmth to the unhatched egg as well as the young hatchlings for months on end despite the torrid cold weather. By comparison, our communities are plagued by fathers who have abandoned their children. An example like the above can drive us to ask self-deprecatingly, “Has a penguin more intelligence and understanding than us since we abandon our children?”

As Muslims, we should take care of and maintain a plethora of relationships not just the parent-child relationship. By looking at our father Adam (pbuh), we can somewhat learn the order of priority. Adam’s (pbuh) first relationship was with his Creator GOD Almighty. He knew GOD first. By knowing GOD first, Adam was able to go on to establish other relationships. The Noble Qu’ran teaches us that through GOD teaching him, Adam was able to establish a relationship with the unknown through the process of learning. This enabled him to give names to the creatures. After knowing GOD and gaining knowledge from Him, GOD saw that Adam (pbuh) was ready for a partner and provided Eve (pbuh). It is a lesson for us and advantageous if we follow this route of knowing GOD first and gaining knowledge before gaining a spouse. Learning is a critical process involving a relationship between us and what was previously unknown to us.

From their experience in the garden of Adn (Eden), we see that discretion is required when it comes to choosing the source of the unknown knowledge. It is of paramount importance to learn from the right sources. Learning from the wrong source can be detrimental and lead to your downfall, as was the case with Adam and Eve when they received incorrect knowledge from Satan regarding the forbidden tree. In the same way we thrive when we nourish our bodies with the right food, so will we develop if we nourish our minds with the right knowledge. Even modern day authors like the author of the Rich Dad-Poor dad series, Robert Kiyosaki note the importance of the human mind by stating, “Your mind is your greatest asset.” Our sources of knowledge should bring us closer to GOD Almighty and closer to our full potential and should in no way be against GOD’s commandments that are contained in our covenant with Him.

The signs of GOD are an amazing resource pool for knowledge. Amongst them are the prophets (peace be upon them) who are great examples. The Prophets are the best examples for showing us how to maintain relationships. Would you like to know how to maintain your relationship with GOD? Study the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Ismael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Would you like to know how to maintain your relationships with family members? Do the same and study the above prophets. Would you like to know how to maintain your relationship with nature? Study their lives. The greatest Author of all, GOD Almighty wrote their true life stories in a manner that showed the light of possibility shining perseveringly despite the abundance of darkness.

Very few human beings have been physically abused, verbally abused, betrayed, scorned, by their own as much as The Prophets and yet they maintained their good characters, maintained their relations and had the heart to forgive and move on progressively. With them, GOD set the limits of what was possible in terms of endurance without damaging ones integrity and character. Even though we face challenges, rarely do they equate to what the prophets endured. Today many of us struggle to maintain our family ties despite there being no bad blood or challenges. Their lives serve to inspire us and prove that it is possible to maintain relationships despite the harshest challenges. Can any of us be willing to forgive our brothers if they sold us into slavery? That is exactly what Joseph (peace be upon him) did. He even went further by facilitating their provision of the most fertile lands (Goshen) in Egypt with the aim of making them prosper. No wonder Joseph (pbuh) was named ‘the righteous one’. If someone killed your beloved Uncle, would you forgive him or her for the sake of the deen (faith)? That is exactly what Muhammad (pbuh) did after his uncle, Hamza (RA) was killed by the spear of Wahshi Ibn Harab. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) forgave him as well as the woman who hired him (Hind bint Utbah RA) to kill Hamzah Ibn Abdul Muttalib (RA). Would you advise your best friend to maintain ties with his relatives and continue to sponsor them financially despite them spreading untruthful rumours about the infidelity of his daughter?  That is exactly what Muhammad (pbuh) told Abu Bakr (Ra) despite being married to the very person whose name was being defiled. From the above examples, we learn that forgiveness and the ability to overlook are important characteristics to develop as they go a long way in helping maintain relations. Concerning the last example, before receiving advice, out of anger Abu Bakr (RA) swore to never assist those Muslims who were involved in promoting the slander against his daughter Aisha (Rah). This situation led to GOD revealing a sign in the form of a verse of the noble Quran.

“The high ranking and the wealthy ones among you should not take an oath not to spend on their relatives, the poor and those who migrate in GOD’s path. They should forgive and pardon. Do you not yearn that GOD may forgive you? GOD is most forgiving most merciful.” (Quran 24:22)

From the above verse, we see the importance of forgiveness. GOD further shows us that we should be willing to give what we want to receive. If we want forgiveness from GOD for our shortcomings, we should be willing to forgive the shortcomings of others. If we want riches, we should be willing to share what we already have.

Muslims are fortunate to have a well-recorded and documented life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the seerah and hadith. Through him (pbuh), we learn and see how Islam has emphasized the maintaining of family ties. The Prophet said:

“Learn your lineage so that you maintain your family ties. By doing so your family love will increase, your wealth will expand and lifespan will be blessed.” (Hadith, Tirmidhi)

Today, when some of us gain material success or if we are wronged by a family member, we tend to cut our family ties while on the other hand, the Prophets (pbut) used what wealth they had and character to strengthen family ties. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) fervently discouraged the breaking of family ties. In another Hadith he said:

 “There is no virtue more readily rewarded than the act of reuniting family ties and there is no sin for which the doer is more readily punished in this world, besides having punishment reserved for him in the hereafter, than the one committing oppression and the one breaking up ties of kinship.”

When discussing family ties it would be a great disservice to not mention parents. In Islam, parents are to be held in the highest honour and shown the utmost respect. Here are some examples of verses concerning parents in the noble Qur’an:

“We enjoined man to treat his parents kindly. His mother bore him with hardship, and delivered him with hardship and his bearing and weaning are completed in thirty months…” (Noble Qur’an 46:15)

The above verse is very powerful as it indicates that not just Muslims, but all of humankind is bound by this command to treat our parents kindly. The verse is a powerful sign that GOD sent revelation to all people and proof of it can be seen in different cultures and religions across the globe that inculcate respecting and valuing ones parents. The Noble Qu’ran further says:

“If one of them or both of them attain old age, do not even tell them “Fie!” and do not rebuke them. Speak gently to them. Lower for them the wings of humility out of compassion and say “Oh my Lord, show mercy to them as they had raised me when I was young. Your Lord knows what is in your hearts. If you are righteous then surely He is most forgiving to those who turn to Him.” (Noble Qur’an 7:23)

From the above verse, we see the importance of our parents and the first example of praying for family. According to one hadith, the most important family tie is the one you have with your mother.   Islamically, we nourish our family ties through good conduct (kindness, patience, humility, good words, and forgiveness), prayer, visitation and gifting. To add, in Islam even after our parents pass on, we are encouraged to maintain ties with their friends and associates. Yet today, one of modern day’s great tragedies are family members who do not take the initiative to make that phone call or visit fellow family members. Many of us through pride believe that if a relative does not call or visit us, we should not be the ones to take the initiative. This is totally antithesis to the teachings of Islam. Islam gives great reward to those who greet first and visit. In some cases, family members will want to cut ties with you, or ill-treat you but nonetheless, we are still encouraged to maintain the ties and not act in a similar adverse manner. In reference to this, The Prophet (pbuh) said:

 “He who gives equal treatment in response does not really strengthen family bonds; but he is the one who through kind behaviour strengthens his ties of kingship with those who sever relations with him.”

We should have no excuse not to maintain family ties. The Prophet Muhammad and Muhajirron (Muslims who migrated to Madina from Makkah because of persecution) managed to maintain their family ties despite the challenges of distance, persecution and differences in religious beliefs.

The mother-daughter relationship is vital and Islam encourages the maintaining of this relationship even if there is a difference in religion. We see this at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) when a woman named Asmaa (RA) came to ask advice from The Prophet (pbuh). Her Mother was an idol worshipper but had come from Makkah to ask her for help. Asmaa asked the Prophet, “Oh Prophet, my mother has come to me expecting me to help her; shall I help her? The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Yes, do help her.”

The well-documented life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) helps us deal with today’s problems and prevent tomorrows. If the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged the maintaining of family ties between Muslims and their idolatress relatives, who are we to deny the family rights of Muslims who have Christian relatives as is the norm nowadays? Does it make sense to deny family ties with people who have a religion, which recognises GOD while permit family ties with people who worship idols and deny GOD? Through the Prophets, GOD provided continuums that showed us what is permitted and it is without a doubt, a sin to label what GOD has labelled lawful, unlawful.

The maintaining of family ties in the core family unit is vital. The spousal bond should be well taken care of. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) continually ordered the Muslim men to be good to their wives. In one scenario, he even corrected a Sahabah (companion of the prophet) who was praying so much so that he was neglecting his wife. The Prophet indicated to the Sahabah that his wife has rights over him as well as his own body (rest and sleep). This is one example that teaches us to avoid extremism in our religion and it is an encouragement to live a balanced life.

Often, a good marital relationships leads to stronger bonds between you and the in-laws. Treat your husband right and his family will be happy, likewise treat your wife right and her family will be happy.

Maintaining family ties also extends to the treatment of our children. We are encouraged to be kind to them and shower them with love. As a show of affection, the Prophet (pbuh) used to kiss the heads of his grandchildren and he would not speak harsh words if they disturbed his prayers. They would even climb on his back if he was performing salaat. We should be mindful that children are an amanah (trust) from GOD almighty. Abortion and infanticide are strictly forbidden and inexcusable in Islam even if there is the threat of poverty. The Noble Qur’an says,

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide sustenance for you and them. Come not near shameful deeds, whether open or secret. Take not life which GOD has made sacred.” (Qur’an 6:151)

Indeed life is sacred and sadly, it is very short. We are informed of the loss of family and friends on a regular basis. Often, it comes as a surprise and yet the individual may have been ill for a while without our knowledge. This is a telltale symptom of our inability to maintain family ties. We should not only communicate with relatives and friends at weddings and funerals. It should be a part of daily routine. Maintaining family ties can only bring benefit. It is necessary to maintain them through rain or shine. GOD’s signs show us that we have to and need to. When we look beyond our close family circle, we will see that all humankind are but one family, descendants of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them). Looking further, we see that all creation is but one family, created by The One GOD.

May we strengthen our close family ties, may we go on to strengthen the ties with all our relatives, and may we strive to have good relations with GOD’s creation. Ameen

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi



consideration-for-othersogRWYqtAssallamualaikum warahmatulahi   wabarakatuhu, Alhamdulilah, Rabana zidna ilman.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy, human beings have needs that are based on a hierarchy. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be fulfilled before individuals can attend to needs higher up. In general physiological and basic needs (food, water, warmth and shelter) have to be met before an individual can deal with psychological needs (spirituality, esteem needs, love, belongingness) and then, finally self-fulfilment needs (Achieving ones full potential, including creative activities).  Consideration for others is the ability of a person to think of and assist in fulfilling a fellow human beings need. Ironically, consideration may or may not take into account the order of fulfilling the fellow human beings need or at what stage he/she is at fulfilling their needs.  Sometimes consideration provides a need that has already being fulfilled. In such scenarios, consideration may be a gesture of friendship, gratitude, camaraderie or an expression of a person’s naturally inclined kindness.

In Islam, we are obliged to show consideration to others. This consideration goes beyond our fellow human beings and includes animals and the environment as well. Throughout his life, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) showed consideration for others and to this day, he remains a shining example of what it truly means to be considerate. Alluding to his exemplary qualities, the Noble Quran says:

“Verily in the messenger of GOD you have a good example…” (Quran 33:21)

Muslims aspire to emulate some of, if not all of the qualities Muhammad (pbuh) exuded.  I remember a time when I tried to act upon  one of his teachings. This teaching prescribes that if one is preparing a meal and the aroma of that meal reaches your neighbours home, you have to be considerate and offer them some of the meal you are cooking.

My taste buds were in the process of getting serenaded to the sounds of mastication. They were enjoying my wife’s amazing curry. Half way through the meal I commented, “Honey, this meal is amazing, let’s go offer the neighbours some.”

“Honey, this is not Zimbabwe. People like to keep to themselves here and if you offer your neighbour a meal, they will probably think you are trying to poison them,” my wife justified her negative response.  New to the territory and having suffered a robbery attempt at knifepoint meant that I was pacified and not my normal argumentative self. I felt that South Africa had prevented me from acting out my beliefs and values.

A few months past, then a poignant moment, that came out of the blue. I bumped into our neighbour. He was a well built and light in complexion. After exchanging pleasantries he remarked in his Afrikaans guttural voice, “ Yah, you guys are great cooks, the smell that comes from your kitchen is always good.”

Hearing this, I felt a huge sense of regret for not following through on my intention and taking the food over. As it so happened, my wife had been listening.  As I entered the house she commented with a huge grin, “I heard what the neighbour said. InshaAllah, if I bake a cake I will send them some.” It seemed my wife was pleased with the compliment on how her food had a good aroma.

Unfortunately, a few days later the neighbours had moved out…

The new neighbours arrived and wasted no time adjusting to their surroundings and getting to know us. Fittingly, they also had a baby and as a good will gesture they offered some Cerelac (Baby cereal) they had stored up because their son had not taken a liking to it. Processing what had happened, I remarked to my wife, “Honey, look at what is happening, the neighbours are better Muslims than us and yet they are not Muslim by name.”

Some days later, I enrolled for a course to up skill myself. Our class was very diverse. There were people of different ages, there were white people, black people, mixed race people, Indian people and a Jewish lady. On the first day I entered the classroom there was a lot of enthusiasm and I was glad to see that I was not the only mixed race person and Muslim as is usually the case. There was a Muslim lady dressed in Hijab. I greeted everyone and made sure I greeted the lady Islamically by saying , “Assallamualaikum.” She replied “Waallaikum sallam, it is so nice to hear that greeting.”

Towards the end of the course, the Muslim lady came with samoosas and a strawberry cream cake for the entire classroom.  We all enjoyed it and were grateful. She may have not known it but the Muslim lady was following the deen and being the best advert of the Islamic faith in a public sphere through her modest dress code and her consideration for others. I was inspired and related the story to my wife. Through our collective experiences we were reminded that our faith is proactive and continually lives in the moment. We had learnt to not procrastinate when we thought of carrying out a good deed. We realised that assumptions should not be the basis of our decision making.  Above all, we realised that we should not fear rejection or embarrassment especially if that fear leads to a sacrifice of our consideration heavy Islamic beliefs and values.

There is one more story about consideration for others that I would like to pass on. When I heard it, it actually gave me goose bumps. This is another true story and it happened roughly 1400 years ago in a city called Madina. madina-date-garden

An anxious man sweated profusely as he entered a place of worship. His aim was not to come and pray but to come and inquire about the whereabouts of his missing son. He asked the congregation hoping that someone among them would know the whereabouts of the boy who had been missing for some days. Fortunately a man had seen him. He told the desperate father that his son was playing in the Waqf  date gardens with the orphan children.  A sense of relief and anticipation engulfed the father as he excitedly rushed out the place of worship. “Wait, come back, I need to tell you something,” a voice arrested his getaway.

The father turned back and respectfully went to converse with the owner of the voice.

“I know you are excited to see your son. When you see him do not embrace him and call out “My son!, My son!”, call him out by his name,” the voice explained. The father nodded and acknowledged the reasoning behind the advice.  The man who had given the advice had taken into consideration the feelings of the orphans. If the father had said “My son, my son!” the orphans would think of their deceased parents and become sad. Powerful

The man who gave that advice was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

May we try to emulate his example.  Assallamualaikum warahamatulahi wabarakatuhu.



dua

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may the mercy and blessings of GOD be upon you all).

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our Lord, grant us beneficial knowledge).

“Marking your test, you have scored 84%, but at the intersection at Angwa Street you crossed a continuous white line and that is an automatic fail. Toita sei?” the Vehicle Investigation Department (VID) inspector gave me the final lowdown on my driving test while trying to illicit a bribe. The Shona phrase ‘Toita sei?’ which translates to ‘What can we do?’ is synonymous with offering or asking for a bribe in Zimbabwe. It was the second time I had failed my class two driving test after having seemingly passed.

“I did not cross any continuous white lines. If you say I crossed them, they must have been invisible,” I replied angrily while trying to comprehend.

“You crossed it,” he said pseudo-adamantly.

“It is what it is,” I conceded as I stood up and left the room that shrouded the instructor and me.

The disappointment, anger and disbelief were all tangible as I tried to grasp what had just happened. My thoughts travelled back in time. The driving school instructor had fast tracked my lessons due to my previous driving experience, but his words before the first driving test were ominous.

“You cannot get your licence without giving a bribe. It is around $150.00,” he coerced.

“That is against my religion. We are not allowed to fuel corruption,” I interjected.

“Then you will not get your licence,” he surmised. Was he right? I pondered, as I headed to the workshop.

News of failure is difficult to break, especially to family and friends. Crest fallen, when I related the story to some friends, they were of the general opinion that I should have just paid the bribe. One opinion irked me more so than the rest.

The person in question said, “Riaz hauvakunde (Riaz, you cannot beat them).”

With my ego bruised, I reprovingly replied, “Maybe, but GOD can beat them.”

Eureka! At that point, I realised that I did not have GOD in the equation. I had neither prayed before any of the driving tests nor asked GOD for a favourable outcome. My pride and confidence in my own ability had actually led to an erroneous subconscious belief that I could do it alone.

A quick attitude adjustment was required. I decided to up the ante with my prayers and seek the assistance of The Most High. I asked GOD to forgive me with greater impetus. I praised Him sincerely. I read the supplications from the Noble Qur’an for GOD’s assistance, and because I was still hurt, I still asked GOD Almighty to deal with the corrupt officials using the supplications of King David (Peace be upon him) from the Zaboor (Psalms).

Sometimes when you feel that GOD has your back, you tend to find the courage to speak the truth and call out wrongs even though you may be heavily outnumbered.

When I next arrived at the VID and proceeded to the booking office, I first greeted the official then remarked, “I hope today I am given a fair official who will mark me correctly. I do not like bribes.”

Before my test began, I said, “Bismillah (In the name of God).” I was glad to see that my instructor was an elderly man. The test went well and praise be to GOD, I managed to get my licence. To some, it may only be a licence, but to this day, it stands as one of my greatest achievements because I did not compromise my beliefs and principles and I realised the everlasting importance of communicating to GOD Almighty through du’aa (supplication).

One victory followed another. After two weeks, the news broke out in the daily Herald newspaper that the corruption ring at the VID deport in Eastlea was smashed. Several officials were arrested. I felt vindicated. I thanked The Creator for answering my du’aas.

As it so happened, I managed to bump into the friend who believed it was impossible. With a huge grin on my face, I smiled at him and proclaimed, “I told you, GOD can overcome anything.” He acknowledged and said, “Zveshuwa, munonamata (It is true, you pray faithfully).”

It may have been more than just my supplication that led to the arrests of the corrupt officials. Maybe some were also afflicted and called out to GOD Almighty for His help as well. Indeed we learn from the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that the supplication of an oppressed person to GOD is heard by GOD irrespective of whether the person is a Muslim or not. GOD Almighty is against oppression and swiftly comes to the aid of the oppressed. As Muslims, we should avoid oppressing any one. It is a disaster upon you if someone you have oppressed raises their hands to GOD and asks for His help against you.

According to authentic hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said,

“Be afraid from the curse of the oppressed, as there is no screen between his invocation and GOD.” (Sahih Bukhari)

From the above hadith, we can deduce and be heedful that an oppressed person has a direct line to the Creator with full reception. We can also take solace in knowing that GOD is there for us if we suffer oppression or if we are in need of Him.

Du’aa holds a special place in my heart. From personal experience and from the experiences of others, I one hundred percent believe in the power and success of du’aa. My aunt related how she overcame cancer with the power of du’aa and it is one of my greatest inspirations.

Islamically, du’aa is the means by which a believer communicates and supplicates to GOD Almighty. Du’aa, unlike the physical prayer Salaah, is not bound by time or language. A person can call out to GOD Almighty at any time and in any language. It is a means by which a person solidifies their relationship with The Creator. The Noble Qur’an insight-fully speaks of the relationship of someone who makes du’aa with GOD and gives warning to those who are too proud to worship our Creator by stating,

“Your Lord has said, “Make du’aa and I will respond to you. Verily those who are too proud to worship me shall enter hell in humiliation.” (Quran 40:60)

GOD Almighty’s response is conditional to one actually supplicating to Him and He has promised that He will respond. In coherence with the above verse The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,

“There is no servant of GOD who makes du’aa except that GOD will give him what he wants or will give him the equivalent or will avert a calamity away.” (Bukhari)

GOD Almighty is The Wise and the Knower of the unseen. He knows what is best for us. Sometimes He will give us exactly what we asked Him for, other times he will give the equivalent or better and sometimes He will hold it back. The holding back may be a means of Him showing His grace and mercy towards us. An example may be that a woman falls head over heels in love with a man. She may make du’aa that GOD speeds their union in marriage. However, this may not be the outcome. Unbeknown to the woman may be that the man is a serial killer. Try as she may to marry him, she will not succeed, as GOD will be protecting her. She may feel that GOD does not answer her du’aa, but that is not the case. GOD has answered and favoured her by averting a calamity. Sometimes we may ask for something that may be detrimental to us and GOD may hold it back from us because of His love for us.

It is also important to point out the term ‘servant of GOD’. The hadith pertains to servants of GOD. Servants of GOD are those who follow the commands of GOD Almighty and aspire to, as well as live a life of righteousness. One verse in the Noble Qur’an defines righteousness as follows:

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces towards the east or west, but righteousness is that person who believes in GOD, the Last Day, the Angels, the Books, and the Prophets and despite his love for wealth, he spends it on his relatives, orphans, poor people, travellers, beggars and to set the slaves free. The person establishes prayer (salaah), gives charity, fulfils promises when making them exercises patience during hardships, adversity and during times of war. These are the ones who are true and they are the ones who have GOD-consciousness (Taqwa).” (Qur’an 2:177)

When it comes to the standard-bearers of righteousness, there is no better place to begin than The Prophets (peace be upon them) sent by GOD. They exuded righteousness. They are the best template from which we can learn how to make beautiful, insightful, unselfish and fulfilling du’aas. As such, Muslims tend to follow their (The Prophets, peace be upon them) etiquettes when it comes to making du’aa. The blue print of these etiquettes is derived from the Noble Qur’an and the authentic hadith.

From them, we see that rather than be consumed with negative feelings of anger, hate, resentment, frustration to name some; they chose to use the positive force of du’aa.  Du’aa does not necessarily have to be systematic, however by following the mannerisms of The Prophets (peace be upon them); we increase our chance of success in terms of our supplications being answered favourably as we also fulfill an ordainment by following them. Additionally, we can also use or be inspired by very powerful du’as that are recorded in the Qur’an whose sources are not from the Prophets like for example the du’as made by the Hajar (mother of Ismael may GOD be pleased with her) , Susan: mother of Mary (mother of Jesus Pbut), Mary (May God be pleased with her), Asiah (wife of pharaoh, who accepted Moses(pbuh) message and was part of the Exodus) , the mother of Moses (May God be pleased with her), the youth of the cave that escaped persecution (peace be upon them), Luqman (peace be upon him) , the Martyr in Surah Yaseen (may GOD be pleased with him)  to name some. This is a valuable lesson to us. Even though we are not Prophets we can still make custom du’as that are specific to our needs and we can also learn from others who are not necessarily Prophets or males on how to make sincere Du’aa.

This may seem a bit cliché, but it is a fact; the Prophets had an attitude of gratitude even before making du’aa to GOD Almighty. They would often begin their supplications by effusively praising and giving thanks to The Creator. Their gratitude is justified as GOD Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:

“So remember Me and I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not be ungrateful. Oh you who have faith, seek help by means of patience and prayer (Salaah). Verily GOD is with those who have patience.” (Qur’an 2: 152-153)

An example of a du’aa that has praise and gratitude towards The Creator is that made by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). In the Noble Qur’an, Abraham (pbuh) says:

“Praise be to GOD, who has granted me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed my LORD is the hearer of supplication (du’aa).”(Qur’an 14:39).

There are numerous lessons to learn from Abraham (pbuh) especially when it comes to du’aa. The verses that follow indicate that usually his requests would come after praising and showing gratitude to GOD almighty. Following giving praise and thanks, Abraham requests,

“My Lord, make me an establisher of prayer, and from my descendants. Our Lord and accept my supplication. Our Lord forgive me and my parents and the believers the day the account is established.” (Qur’an 14:40-41)

From the above du’aa we can see that Abraham (peace be upon him) did not trivialise GOD when it came to his supplication. At an old age, he asked for practically impossible things in the form of progeny, and here he is asking for what some of us may deem as insignificant- he actually asks GOD to help him pray consistently.

In general, The Prophets (peace be upon them) asked GOD for many things. We should be mindful that GOD does not conform to human nature. With us, persistent requests from others may end up deemed as nagging or transgression, whereas with Our Lord, persistent requests by us towards Him please Him.

Our Creator is not limited and His bounties towards us can never run out. Thus, we should ask Him for anything as long as it is halaal (permissible by Islamic law). We can even ask for a shoe lace if we lose one as was mentioned by the mother of the believers, Aisha (May GOD be pleased with her).

Dwelling on Abraham’s du’aa, we can further see that his du’aa showed consideration for others. He did not only pray for himself, but he prayed for his parents, his children, his future descendants and believers in GOD. This showing consideration for others is an important facet of Islam. The Prophets (pbut) showed great consideration for others and it is evident in their du’aas across not just the Noble Qur’an, but previous Books. In their du’aas, the use of the collective phrases “Our lord…” “Grant us…” “Pour on us.” “Forgive us…” “Help us…” “Hear our prayer…” “Save us…” to name some, are examples of how they showed consideration towards others. Abraham’s (pbuh) du’aa teaches us to have foresight and consideration for others when we supplicate. There is a hadith that states that when you pray for others, the angels pray for you too.

Each day, our mind is soaked with numerous thoughts. Scientifically, it is estimated that the average person has between twelve thousand and sixty thousand thoughts per day! It is not out of the question to claim that amongst those thoughts, roughly at least three would be thoughts of another person be it a loved one, a relative, a friend or even someone who despises you. A good way to alleviate our consideration for others would be to make a du’aa for them whenever a thought of them comes across our mind.  If you think of someone, pray for him or her. Even a simple “GOD help them” can suffice.

We also learn from Abraham’s (peace be upon him) du’aa that he was mindful of the day of Judgement and seeking salvation for himself and others. Our du’aas should not just be about gaining prosperity in our worldly life (the Dunya). Du’aa should be balanced and should also seek salvation in the hereafter (the Akhira).

The Noble Qur’an speaks against those who seek only prosperity in the worldly life and at the same juncture shows the right way to do it by stating:

“…From amongst mankind there are those who say, “Our Lord, grant us in this world.” They shall have no share in the hereafter. From amongst mankind, there are those who say, “Oh our Lord, grant us good in this world, good in the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the fire. Such people shall receive a great share because of their actions. GOD is swift at reckoning.” (Qur’an 2:200-202)

Abraham (pbuh) also used to make du’aa using the attributable qualities of The Creator. He often used the name/title “Most Gracious” and here we see in his du’aa, the use “Hearer of supplication”. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon) encouraged us to call out to GOD using His beautiful names/titles/attributes. It is also encouraged in the Noble Qur’an, which says:

“And to GOD belong the best titles/names. Invoke Him by them. And leave the company of those who blaspheme His names. They will be recompensed for what they have been doing.” (Quran 7: 180)

The above are just some of the lessons we can learn from a single du’aa. The Noble Qur’an is full of such du’aas, from which we can derive more lessons. To get ourselves ‘in the zone’ before making du’aa, it is also encouraged that we precede the du’aa with a good deed. This can be to your own discretion. The good deed can be giving charity, phoning a relative, visiting the sick, the list is endless. Any good deed is a sort of dressing of the heart in a smart way before our meeting with the Creator. We should be well aware that in du’aa, we are talking to our Creator.

The Prophets had the humility, conviction, confidence, the belief, the sincerity, the patience, the expectation and the hope that GOD would respond to them no matter how dire the situation was or how good it was. We should have these qualities. The above qualities are beautifully embodied in Moses (pbuh) from when he left Egypt, to when he spoke to GOD in Midian, to when Moses (pbuh) and the Children of Israel proverbially had their back against the wall, as the chariots of the greatest military force at that time homed in on them. Moses (pbuh) had the humility to kneel before GOD and he had the humility to acknowledge his own weaknesses and needs before GOD. One of his beautiful du’aas, is still used by Muslims to this day before speaking to an audience. Moses (pbuh) says in the Holy Quran:

“Oh my Lord, expand my chest and make my task easy. And untie the knot on my tongue so that they may understand my speech. Appoint for me an assistant from my family, my brother Haaroon. Strengthen me with him and make him a partner to my task so that we may glorify You abundantly and remember You in abundance. Undoubtedly You are ever watchful over us.” (Qur’an 20 : 25-35)

In their supplications, Muslims end at “…understand my speech.” Of note is the use of one of GOD’s attributes of All-Seeing in this du’aa of Moses (pbuh).

Moses (pbuh) du’aas are very powerful. I personally used his du’aa to assist in finding a good wife. The du’aa comes just after he walks as a fugitive, hundreds of kilometres in the desert from Egypt to Midian. On the verge of the death, he manages to reach a well. Moses (pbuh) sees sheep herded by Jethro’s daughters and he makes this du’aa:

“My Lord, Indeed I am, for whatever good you would send down to me, in need.” Quran 28:24

Beautiful. He would end up marrying one of Jethro’s daughters.

Moses (pbuh) had the patience to deal with the naysayers and he had the conviction and belief that GOD would help them. As Pharoah and his army approached the Children of Israel at the banks of the red sea.  Moses expectantly and with conviction made the following du’aa:

“Indeed, with me is my Lord, He will guide me.” (Quran 26: 62)

GOD never forsakes the supplication of a believer. He saved the Children of Israel and guided Moses (pbuh) by splitting the red sea thus enabling the Children of Israel to cross and escape the army of pharaoh. Moses’ (pbuh) du’aa also teaches us about timing. When you feel the need to make a du’aa, make it. It is also important to note that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that du’aas are most likely to be favourably accepted by GOD when made at the following times: when it is raining, between the Athaan (call to prayer) and the Iqama, when you are in sujood (prostration to God), after salaah, at the time of Arafat, during the last third of the night, before and after Fajr salaat, during Laylatul Qadr (auspicious night in Ramadhaan).

When making du’aa, we are also encouraged to raise our hands. This is symbolic as it illustrates that we are hopeful, and expectant to receive what we have prayed for. When we make du’aa we have to truly want what we pray for and be willing to play our part to achieve a favourable outcome. An example is if someone asks GOD for loads of fish to feed his family. His du’aa is more likely to be answered if he goes to the river with his fishing rod and bait rather than sleep in bed the whole day waiting for the du’aa to be answered. Good firm intention, backed with sincere du’aa and good action is a mighty force. GOD says in the Qur’an:

“Undoubtedly GOD does not change the condition of a nation until they change the condition within themselves.” Qur’an 13:11

jonah-pbuh

Sin is a great impediment to our Du’aa getting favourable outcomes. Does it make sense for a King to give money to a man who asks him for money after the same man has mistreated, sworn and berated the King’s men and yet he has not asked for pardon? Our parents, our family, our friends, our neighbours, strangers are like the King’s men. We all sin, as such we should try and seek forgiveness (Istighfaar) always especially before requesting something from our Creator. The Prophets (pbut) are there for us as examples to show how we are meant to behave under various conditions. They were perfect examples but not perfect like GOD almighty. They to made mistakes as is recorded in the Qur’an. GOD never makes mistakes. A few times prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gets corrected by GOD almighty for his mistakes in the Qur’an like the time he frowned on a blind man that interrupted him while he was conversing with noble men. Kind David (pbuh) had beautiful Du’aas for forgiveness and he often performed them in sujood. The prophet Jonah (Yunus) likewise has a beautiful dua in which he proclaims the Oneness and glorifies GOD while trapped in the belly of a whale. Many Muslims recite his Du’aa when admitting their wrongs and seeking forgiveness. Jonah (pbuh) making du’aa to GOD says

“There is no deity except You; Glory be to You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers.”(Qur’an 21:87)

The lessons on du’aa are more than are contained in this article so I encourage the reader to go and discover, learn and implement. May we all take advantage of this great gift of du’aa. May we appreciate the fact that GOD has permitted us to communicate with Him through the avenue of du’aa. May we strengthen our relationship with our Creator so He gives us the best in this world and in the hereafter and saves us from the fire of hell. Ameen.

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu




Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may the mercy and blessings of GOD be upon you all).

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our Lord, grant us beneficial knowledge).

LOCKDOWN, LEVEL FIVE.

Saying those words reminds me of scenes from several prison-based movies in which the prison warden shuts the slammer and then turns the lights out. In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19, to be specific), several governments around the world interned their citizens by introducing stringent regulations. In South Africa, the regulations relegated or even scrapped many of its citizen’s human rights. Case in point, when one reads the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), you will find examples of articles within it that were violated by the state of natural disaster and the state of emergency that made curfews and staying at home mandatory.

Article 13

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his faith or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.

Article 20

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Without a doubt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of man’s greatest achievements. I would personally rank it above, landing on the moon. The UDHR would go on to be the backbone of many countries’ constitutions. It is one of those few examples where humankind came together from different countries, religions, tribes, races, and genuinely did something to better humanity then, now, and for the generations to come. Its creation embodied one of our purposes in life, so eloquently put in the Noble Qur’an. The Noble Qur’an says:

 “Oh, mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Indeed, the most noblest you, in the sight of GOD, are those who are the most righteous. GOD is All-knowing and All-aware” (Qur’an 49:13)

One can see similarities between UDHR and the Holy Scriptures and teachings of The Prophets (peace be upon them) sent down by GOD almighty throughout the ages. In Islam, the Noble Qur’an and the authentic Hadith (Sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) are full of human rights. In the previously mentioned verse (49:13), the rights of equality and association are implied. Additionally, here are other examples:

“There is no compulsion in religion…” (Qur’an 2:256)

“Proclaim: This is the truth from your Lord,’ then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve” (Qur’an 18:29)

“And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of GOD (Masjid), GOD’s name should be celebrated…” (Qur’an 2:114)

“You shalt not kill any person, for GOD has made life sacred, except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to seek justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, in hell be helped.” (Qur’an 17:33)

“Oh, you who believe, do not consume each other’s properties illicitly, only mutually acceptable transactions are permitted. You shall not kill yourselves. GOD is merciful towards you.” (Qur’an 4:24)

“Do you know who rejects the faith? That is the one who mistreats the orphans. And does not advocate the feeding of the poor. And woe to those who observe the contact prayers (Salaah) and yet are heedless of their prayers. They only show off. And they forbid charity.” (Qur’an 107:1-7)

“O people, it is true that you have certain rights with our women, but they have rights over you. Remember you have taken them as your wives only under GOD’s trust and with His permission…” (Hadith: Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi)

“Verily, GOD enjoins you to be good to women. Verily, GOD enjoins you to be good to women, for they are your mothers, sisters, and aunts.” (Hadith: al-Mujam al-Kabir 648)

“…All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action…” (Hadith: Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi)

With the above similarities between the UDHR and the Islamic teachings, it was no surprise that the enforced level five-lockdown regulations brought an outcry from many South African Muslims. No longer could they perform any of the five compulsory contact prayers (Salaah) in the Masjids (Muslim places of worship). No longer could they give rights to the sick by visiting them as is incumbent on Muslims. No longer could they carry out the visitation rights due to their relatives. No longer could they seek out and help those in need, as is written in the Noble Qur’an. No longer could they perform the weekly Jumu’ah congregational prayer…and worse still, the Holy Month of Ramadhaan was approaching. Observing the recorded number of cases at the time (below two hundred), too many, it seemed as though the regulations were too heavy-handed.

Islam teaches us to abide by a country’s law and rulers decrees as long as they do not come into conflict with our teachings or as long as they do not prevent us from practicing our deen (faith). Some Muslims felt the South African government had prevented them from practicing their faith and took the government to court! Yes, you read that right. There was an actual hearing…

The decision to take the government to court was not universal. Other Muslims were actually in support of the lockdown. There was a difference of opinion. Unfortunately, this led to some bad blood between some brothers.

Teachings on tolerance and acceptance of difference of opinion necessitate further lessons in Muslim communities and communities in general. Islam gives provision to differences of opinion as long as they are not contradictory to the faith fundamentals. This is why there are different Mathhabs (different schools of thought on Islamic jurisprudence). Even during the time of The Prophet (Peace be upon him), the difference of opinion was accepted.

As the days went by, it became apparent that the South African government had made the right decision to contain the Virus. Other countries, especially in Europe, which had lax regulations, were experiencing high numbers of cases, infection rates, and sadly, increased numbers of fatalities.

On the verge of the Holy Month, many Muslims anticipated that the President would lighten the regulations and allow them to perform the Taraweeh. In his address to the nation, The President wished the Muslims well for the upcoming holy month. He acknowledged their charitable efforts and implored them to continue with their charitable works, especially under the prevailing circumstances. However, there was no relief for those anticipating good news concerning the Taraweeh prayers in Ramadhaan. This would be a very different Ramadhaan. Showing empathy to the Muslims, The President explained his decision to prolong some of the regulations despite the difficulties. With a masterstroke of pacification, he quoted a verse in the noble Quran that alluded to the big picture. The verse in question was quoted as follows:

“…Whoever kills a human being unless it is for murder or for spreading mischief in the land would be as if he has killed all mankind. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole of mankind…” (Qur’an 5:32)

That verse made a whole lot of sense. The President was showing that the purpose of the regulations was to save human life. He was reminding them of the value of innocent life. He showed the Muslims that valuing human life has a great priority in their religion, and sometimes it requires them to become more flexible.

Indeed, performing prayers in congregation is heavily encouraged. Still, it can be abrogated temporarily if the congregational prayers lead to a risk of people losing their lives and increasing the spread of a deadly disease. Islamically, the President was right to order Muslims to stay at home and perform the mandatory prayers at home as a preventative measure. GOD Almighty shows in the Qur’an that the value of human life is so great that if the situation requires, sometimes there has to be an override of a command if it leads to the saving of a life. For example, it is forbidden for Muslims to eat pork. However, if their life is on the line, they are permitted to eat it. The Noble Quran says:

“He (GOD) has forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than GOD. But whoever is forced by necessity, neither desiring nor transgressing, there is no sin upon him. GOD is Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an 2:173)

Those human rights violations were a step back to attain greater leaps forward. The President’s address went viral in the Muslim community, even crossing borders to neighbouring countries. Muslims in South Africa appreciated the President. The big picture was about preserving life. Citizens were still allowed to go out and get sustenance or go to the hospital if there was a medical emergency. I made one such trip. Visiting a Doctor in the waiting room, I came across this beautiful oath written on Papyrus. At the end of it is the Quranic verse that expounds on the value of human life. The President quoted the very same verse.

As South Africa went to level three, and then level two, schools opened. Due to the high risk of infections, many Muslims, especially in Cape Town, spoke against sending their children back to school. Some willingly decided to keep Masjids closed to the general Muslim population. Why? Seeing what happened globally, experiencing the loss of life of people they knew and loved made them more diligent about the Virus. They now knew the value of life and the importance of preserving it. If it meant preserving their life and the life of their kids, staying at home and temporary abrogating the right for a child to have an education would be a sacrifice worth making.

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu



al-nejashi

Assalaamualaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may God’s mercy and blessings be upon you all).

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our LORD, grant us beneficial knowledge).

 

Oh, Ethiopia, have they forgotten what is true?

Do they not know, as the new Pharaoh did not know Joseph (pbuh) when he enslaved the Hebrews?

Oh, Ethiopia, why do those who rule the Holy lands defile the name ‘holy’ in their treatment of your sons and the diaspora sons of your fellow African sisters?

 From Israel to Arabia, it is as if amnesia plagues their minds like septic blisters.

 Maybe pride, power, racism, or fear have tainted their hospitality and diminished the warmth due to those who come from afar.

 Oh, Ethiopia, mighty defender of your sovereignty and beacon of light against the darkness of the scramble for Africa.

Oh Ethiopia, let the encyclopaedia of truth be opened so that they hear the reminders one by one.

When your lands were vast, you gave them a Queen that would become a mother of kings after she wed the wise one.

Babylon thought it cut the bloodline of Israel’s kings, but one cub remained alive in your lands and roared to become the Lion of Judah.

Ah, do they not know?

Rome destroyed Jerusalem and thought it had taken all the artifacts, but the greatest one, the Ark of the Covenant found security in your lands.

Have they forgotten?

Oh Israel, do not bring shame to your land by disrespecting those from a land that gave you so much, even when you were downtrodden.

Oh Ethiopia, your African sister Egypt gave them her daughter, who would become wife to the friend of GOD. 

Oh Ishmaelites, don’t bring shame to your mother and father!

You did so before, as you tried to put out the light of Islam.

Oppressing and killing your own, you rejoiced in bringing them harm.

They took refuge in Ethiopia with hope and trust after some had fled. 

Asylum given, you tried to get them extradited, but the great King Of Ethiopia was fair and just, as The Prophet (pbuh) had said. 

 Casting aside previous friendship for Justice’s sake, the King proclaimed, “Not for a mountain of gold would I surrender them to you.”

Look now. Look now.

Islam lives, but sadly so have your past ways from the time of Jahiliyya.

Ethiopia’s Christian king valued your Prophet, the message he came with, and his followers and yet…

Do you value Ethiopia’s children?

Know that if you do not value them, you do not value your Prophet and the message of Islam. 

You do not value who you should be.”

 

 

The above poem was inspired by a recent Telegraph report revealing the abuse of Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia and the continual deportation of desperate Ethiopians from Israel. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said, “If you see a wrong, first try to correct it with your tongue…” I have learned that this can be quite challenging, especially if the wrong is perpetrated in foreign lands.

Islam teaches us that every Muslim is your brother or sister. When I was young, I used to go on Jamaat, whereby we would visit Muslims in different places, propagating Islam while staying in the local Masjids. It would sometimes feel like a Hulk Hogan promo on WWF. The Muslims would be saying enthusiastically ‘Brother, brother, brother…’ It was great and created a sense of brotherhood despite the fact that we were of different races and came from different countries.

Brotherhood and sisterhood are heavily encouraged in Islam, and it goes beyond blood, race, and borders. Growing up with this belief imprinted in my heart, led to me being outspoken when Muslims faced abuse in other parts of the world.

A few years ago, I came across a post that showed a Palestinian child killed by an Israeli soldier. It made me very emotional. The beauty of our time is that technology has made it very easy to contact anyone across the globe. Using the Facebook platform, still emotional, I shared the report by tagging prominent Rabbis in New York and a well-known Bookseller in Jerusalem. I had previously carried out discussions with them, and they were on my friend lists.

Because I was emotionally driven, I made a mistake and did not verify the report’s date. The incident had happened a few years prior. The Rabbis and the Bookseller were as ever respectful, but the backlash from people I did not even know was off the charts. I was verbally abused, left, right, and centre. One woman’s comment was very brutal. She wrote, “Why are you getting involved in my countries issues? Look at your own country and sort out your problems. Zimbabwe has gone from breadbasket to nothing…”

 

Others swore me. Despite this, I still stuck to the core issue, Israel was abusing Palestinians. Now verifying recent reports at the time and backed by reports from the United Nations on human rights abuses by Israel on Palestinians, I began my rebuttals to all the people who were against the initial post. I went further. I began to quote the law giving Torah to prove that what they were doing was indeed wrong… They went silent. I took their silence as realisation.

 

When it comes to speaking against human rights abuses, it is not just a matter of a Muslim speaking against a situation where non-Muslims abuse Muslims.

Being a Muslim also means correcting a fellow Muslim when he or she has erred. It is important to note that there are etiquettes to this. Speaking directly and privately to the Muslim who has erred is encouraged without defiling his/her name publicly. This helps facilitate reformation.

However, when it comes to a grievance against leadership, there are caveats. An example of this is when the people confronted the Caliph (leader) Umar Ibn Khattab (RA) for not sharing the gifts of fabrics fairly. He had taken more, and the people spoke against it openly in the Masjid in a respectful manner. The Caliph heard them and apologised. He returned the extra fabric he had taken. The Caliph would advocate justice for all, no matter their rank, as the Prophet (pbuh) had before.

Leadership should always be in touch with the people, primarily through meetings known as Mashoora (consultation). People should not be silenced by airing their grievances. A wrong committed against a Muslim is the same as a wrong committed against a non-Muslim, and it is not supposed to be swept under the carpet. A wrong remains a wrong irrespective of who commits it and irrespective of whom it is committed against. This is evident in The Noble Quran and Hadith.

Justice is not prejudiced in Islam. At the time of the Prophet, a Jewish man came to the Prophet (pbuh), claiming a Muslim wronged him. The Muslim who was under the impression that the Prophet (pbuh) would take his part due to sharing the same race and religion. He was shocked to see the Prophet taking the part of justice and, therefore, the aggrieved party.

One of the most beautiful expressions of justice can be found in the Holy Qur’an. This expression is so profound and powerful that a few years ago, Harvard University displayed the verse at the entrance of its faculty of law. The Noble Qur’an says:

 

“O you, who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for GOD, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, GOD is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed GOD is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Quran 4: 135)

 

The above is beautiful, powerful, clear, and a warning to be just no matter what. It is also important to point out that the Noble Qur’an acknowledges that Shari’ah law is for Muslims. The covenant between GOD and Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers is different from the covenant between GOD and Moses (pbuh) and his followers. Likewise, it is different from the covenant between GOD and Jesus (pbuh) and his followers. When Islam grew in might and spread, GOD ordered Muhammad (pbuh) to preside over the people of the book (Jews and Christians) according to their covenants. Forcing Shari’ah law upon non-Muslims is unIslamic. The Qur’an, speaking regarding the Christians and the Children of Israel, says:

 

“And let the People of the Gospel judge by what GOD has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what GOD has revealed – then it is those who are defiantly disobedient. And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what GOD has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you, We prescribed a law and a method. Had GOD willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To GOD is your return all together and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.” Quran 5:47-48

 

Clear once again. I call the above the verses of tolerance and understanding of the Abrahamic faiths. Adherents to the Islamic faith should follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad(Pbuh). This goes beyond justice. We should follow his example of showing mercy to creation. The Quran says:

 

“And We have sent you (O Muhammad pbuh) not but as a mercy to creation.” Quran 21:107

 

The Prophet (pbuh) lived up to the billing. Throughout his life (seerah), he showed mercy and forgave those who wronged him. He also spoke against those who did not show respect, affection, love, mercy to their wives and other people irrespective of religious affiliation and even animals.

One well-documented incident is when he spoke directly against a man from Madina. The man was abusing a camel by overworking it and not feeding it well. When the camel saw The Prophet (pbuh), it related the pain it endured to him through its expressions and tears. The Prophet asked the man reprovingly, “Do you not fear GOD regarding this animal which He has given you? It has complained to me about you and claimed that you hurt it and exhaust it at work.” Shame befell the man, and he ended up reforming and giving the animal its rights.

 

As Muslims, we should behave in the manner the Prophet (pbuh) behaved. The way we treat fellow human beings should be good, exemplary, and not dastardly. When we see fellow Muslims mistreating creation, we should respectfully correct them as best we can no matter who they are. There comes to mind a beautiful Islamic metaphor that encourages Muslims to give each other good advice and correct irregularities. The metaphor says:

“A believer is the mirror of his brother.”

 

May GOD guide us to be hospitable, just, kind, and caring to our fellow human beings even if they are foreigners. Ameen.

The picture illustrated below is of Al Nejashi masjid, one of the first-ever Masjids (Muslim places of worship) in the world, located in Ethiopia and named after the King. He granted asylum to the Muslims at the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). There are other noteworthy sites in Africa. The first known university in the world, Al-Qarawinyyin, was founded in Fez Morrocco by a Muslim woman in 859AD. Islamically, community building efforts are supported irrespective of the race and gender of the person who initiated them.

Assallamualaikum warahmatulahi wabarakatu.



Assalaamualaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may the mercy and blessings of GOD be upon you all).

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our LORD, grant us beneficial knowledge).

Deflated.

That is the best way to summarise how I felt. We had struggled for two days, working on the engine overhaul. In my eyes our work was meticulous, neat and as they say in some circles, “on point”. The moment of truth came. With great hope and anticipation, we started cranking the engine hoping it would expel its first exhaust fumes and come to life.

With each crank, our hopes began to fade as the anticipated crescendo of a fired up engine increasing in revs, mellowed to the fading sound of a distant siren. After cranking for nearly five minutes, the battery became flat.

“Let’s go ask Mudhara for help,” Gutu broke the disappointed silence that fell and stagnated the air. “Aiwa, no, we can do this,” I disagreed defiantly.

“But Mambo, Mudhara is more experienced and he will know what to do,” Gutu argued. “He is busy…” and before I could continue, the unmistakable voice of my father brought folly to my words as he walked into the workshop smiling, “Gentlemen, what’s going on? I haven’t yet heard the engine.”

“Zvaramba (It failed),” Gutu explained bluntly to my annoyance. My father began his check- list asking us if we had used the right torque settings on the big ends, the flywheel, the head, and so on. He asked if we had put oil in the cylinders before cranking. He asked if the fuel was coming from the fuel pump and if each of the injectors were firing. We gave the affirmative to each of the questions.

“It should start then,” he said optimistically. “When you do a complete engine overhaul, it takes time for the innards to settle in, it is more difficult to crank because the compression is more,” he lectured as he sought to find the solution. “We need big batteries to crank this baby. Gutu, go bring the heavy jumper batteries,” he continued. “Riaz, we need to assist with the combustion process, drain some petrol from the generator,” he ordered, as petrol was elusive and there was no time to look for it or wait in the snaking, wraparound the block fuel queues.

We attached the heavy-duty jumper leads to the flat battery.

“Right, pour a little bit of petrol into the air filter housing and start it,” my father continued. The engine turned with more vigour and began to choke into life. With each crank, the smoke grew more and more.

Finally, the engine kicked into life. The joy all around was tangible. Even though my father showed me up, I was nonetheless ecstatic.

“Thanks,” I said grudgingly. My dad smiled back and gave a thumbs up. He had the same smile as when he had walked in. He was always positive no matter the situation. My dad was named Benjamin at birth and he was given the Arabic name Bashir which means ‘bringer of glad tidings’.

In a weird way, he always seemed to live up to his name. To this day one of his signature statements is “Be positive,” amongst “Make a plan” and “InshaAllah” which he would use with everyone even with people who did not know its meaning.

Scientifically, it is proven that having positive thoughts allows our brains to develop and operate optimally. We can think better, solve problems better, be more decisive, more creative and generally more productive and beneficial to ourselves and to those around us. The additional production of serotonin improves our physical health and allows us to forge new relationships and better the ones we already have.

On the other hand, negative thoughts deplete our energy and make our brains operate at their worst. In layman’s terms, negative thoughts ‘fry’ our brains.

Having a positive outlook in life is actually a critical part of Islam. In all conditions, we have to be and remain positive. That is why we say “Alhamdulilah ‘ala kulli haal“(Praise be to GOD under all conditions). This positivity should extend to the manner in which we interact with other creation (people, animals and nature in general). A good template to follow, as is the often the case, are the Prophets (peace be upon them all) sent by GOD.

Despite the situation, no matter what they faced, their belief, hope and trust in GOD Almighty maintained their positivity and propelled them towards great achievements. A great and classic example of this is the adolescent underdog Dawood/David (pbuh) overcoming the all-conquering Goliath.

Positivity is an essential ingredient of faith. GOD’s positivity is engraved in the Noble Qur’an from beginning to end. The positive messages speak of not only increasing one’s own optimism but also encourage the spreading of optimism and hope to others. When someone is down and almost out, we are supposed to brighten their day and try to rectify and transform their negative thoughts.

We see a beautiful example of this in the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life.

In this case, it was not him dishing out the positivity but he was receiving it from the Angel Gabriel/ Jibril (peace be upon him). There was a gap and delay in the revelations from Angel Gabriel. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had proclaimed the Oneness of GOD (Tawhid) and his prophethood to the majority pagan and polytheist Meccans. They began to ridicule him more and more as the revelations of the noble Qur’an seemed to have dried up. Self-doubt began to creep in the Prophet’s mind as he wondered if he had angered His Lord in any way. Then a positive and uplifting revelation came that raised the spirit of Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers. The verses would continue to raise his spirits later in his life and to this day, are recited to bring optimism during challenging times. The Noble Qur’an uplifted the prophet by saying:

In the name of GOD, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

By the Glorious Morning Light,

And by the Night when it covers with darkness,

Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He detested (you).

And the Hereafter is better for you than the first (life).

And your Lord is going to give you, and you will be satisfied.

Did He not find you an orphan and give (you) refuge?

And He found you lost and guided you.

And He found you poor, and made (you) independent.

So as for the orphan, do not oppress (him).

And as for the petitioner, do not repel (him).

But as for the bounty of the Lord – rehearse and proclaim!’

Surah Ad-Duha (Chapter 93)

What a beautiful pep talk.

GOD begins by mentioning the time after dawn when the sun shows its splendour.  The time of night is pointed out. Here, GOD is showing that under all times he does not forsake those who believe and trust in Him. GOD then mentions the hereafter as a better place than our current life. Here, GOD is making us realign to our ultimate goal, salvation in the hereafter. GOD mentions how He has always been present throughout the Prophet’s (pbuh) life and that the Prophet was empowered by Him. A pointer for us showing that we always have something to be grateful to GOD for, despite what we may be going though. GOD then gives instruction to be proactive. It is a sign for us to try and perform good deeds and to not drown in our sorrows. We have to swim!

Whenever we find ourselves depressed, we are not exempt from our religious duties.  Furthermore, our situation does not warrant us mistreating others. The revelation ends with the order to preach about the bounties of The Lord. Here we see that we can regain positivity by glorifying GOD Almighty.

Indeed The Lord does punish transgressors, but such is the positive message in the Noble Qur’an that GOD’s Grace and Mercy is mentioned far more than His anger and punishment. Sadly, this is not often reflected in our preaching of the message of Islam or our impressions of it. Preaching should not be one hundred percent doomsday preaching or “GOD will punish you” judgements. We should not be judgmental in our preaching. When the Prophets preached, their preaching was balanced.

The Noble Quran says they came with “Bashira wa nathira”. They came with glad tidings as well as warning. The headlining of “Bashir” in this phrase is significant. The positive message comes first and even in their warning, they spoke of GOD’s forgiveness to those who turned back to Him. Speaking of Muhammad’s (pbuh) mission the Noble Qur’an says:

And We have not sent you (O Muhammad SAW) except as a giver of glad tidings and a warner to all mankind, but most of men know not.” Qur’an 34:28

As Muslims, summoning and spreading positivity begins with gratitude and praise to GOD, it embodies acknowledgement of GOD’s favours to us, it breathes with hope and trust in GOD and it lives on because of all the above. We know and believe that with GOD, all is possible and despite being in a difficult situation, GOD can find a way out for us. Despite having a mountain of sins, GOD’s forgiveness is greater.

So amazing is the positivity we can get from GOD, that a perceived negativity like fear can bring reward. As Muslims, we are expected to respect, exhibit God-consciousness (Taqwa) and have trust (Tawakkul) in GOD. Doing so is positive. The fear of GOD is like the earth terminal, although it is marked negative, the positive current cannot flow without it.  The noble Qur’an elaborates on the importance of fearing and trusting GOD Almighty:

“…And whoever fears GOD – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever trusts GOD – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, GOD will accomplish His purpose. GOD has already set for everything a decreed time.” Surah 65v2 and 3

The message of positivity is not only confined to the Noble Qur’an. Numerous ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad SAW) exude positivity. Here are a few:

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Give glad tidings, and do not scare people away. Make things easy, and do not make things difficult” (Abu Dawud).

“Hoping for good is also an act of worship of GOD” (Tirmidhi and Hakim).

Abu Huraira (RA) reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “A prostitute had once been forgiven. She passed by a dog panting near a well. Thirst had nearly killed him, so she took off her sock, tied it to her veil, and drew up some water. GOD forgave her for that.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3143, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2245)

“Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well, you will treat them well and that if they do wrong you will do wrong. But (instead) accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong if they do evil” (Tirmidhi).

“Wondrous is the affair of the believer for there is good for him in every matter and this is not the case with anyone except the believer. If he is happy, then he thanks GOD and thus there is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and thus there is good for him” (Muslim).

In conclusion, Muslims, by default should act like life coaches. We should be dissolving negative thoughts, emotions, and actions and transforming them into positivity. By being congruous to and by using the Noble Qur’an and legitimate ahadith as our curriculum on living a positive life, we ought to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Our impact and GOD’s guidance, should make them GOD-centric, the best person they can be in this earthly life and GOD willing, ultimately lead to their salvation in the Hereafter.

In overcoming our tests and helping others overcome theirs, may we be like jumper batteries that crank up the positive vibes in ourselves and in others. May we strive to have a positive outlook that is backed up by proactive deeds and non-lethargy.

Above all, may we continue to worship, fear, respect, love, believe in, trust in and hope in GOD Almighty. That truly is our never dying, faith-enriched battery of positivity.

Assalaamualaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu



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Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may the mercy and blessings of GOD be upon you all).

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our Lord, grant us beneficial knowledge).

Indeed Lord, we cannot fully praise You, You are as You have praised Yourself. Beautiful to our eyes are many of Your signs. The splendour of the sunrise in the backdrop of the Matusadona mountain range in Kariba surely has many proclaiming, “God is Great!” Our Lord, You are the greatest artist of all times. (Photo credit: Mr Moosa Ismail, Zimbabwean born and bred and one of the best bass fishermen in the world.)

In the previous article, we touched upon charity, which is one of the fundamentals of the Islamic faith. We now move on to, without a doubt, the greatest pillar of the Islamic Faith-Tawhid. It is the foundation of every Muslim’s faith. One certainly cannot have faith without Tawhid. It is the backbone of faith. It is the eternal spring that develops into other tributaries of faith. It is the validation of our good deeds. It is the passport to attaining true  piety and it is what makes us truly submit to the will of GOD Almighty.

Tawhid is the firm and unwavering belief in the affirmation of faith- Laa ilaha illAllah (There is no other deity worthy of worship besides the One True GOD).  Tawhid can be defined as the immovable belief in the Oneness of GOD, the continual awareness and consciousness of GOD in one’s life, and the sincerity, humbleness in ones actions in supporting this belief. The Oneness of GOD is expressed throughout the Noble Qur’an. It is a theme that continues from its beginning to its end.

I will highlight two chapters that express Tawhid in a poetic, frank and comprehensive way. The first is one of the shortest and probably the easiest Surah (chapter) to memorise in the Noble Qur’an. This does not invalidate its importance as according to Abu Said Al-Khudri: A man heard another man reciting (in the prayers): “Say: He is Allah, the One.” (Q112.1) And he recited it repeatedly. When it was morning, he went to the Prophet and informed him about that as if he considered that the recitation of that Surah by itself was not enough. Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hand my life is, it is equal to one-third of the Quran.”(Sahih Bukhari)

From the above we can deduce the importance of chapter Al-Ikhlas.The translation of Surah Al-Ikhlas (The Purifying, the Arabic Qur’anic verses of which are written in the cover picture) is as follows:

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

“SAY, “He is God, One. God, the Eternal. He begetteth not, neither is He begotten and there is none like unto Him.“(The Noble Qur’an 121:1-4)

In essence, the above verses define the oneness and unique qualities of GOD Almighty. They resolve why He is the Creator and above all creation. Surah Ikhlas makes some very clear points regarding GOD in terms of Him having a family. He is The Only One (AL- Ahad). GOD begets not, meaning that He has no offspring or heir. He is The Last (AL-Aakhir); therefore, no one will inherit from his Kingdom. GOD was not begotten, meaning that He has no parents. He is The First (AL-Awaal) and none came before Him. From the celestial bodies, to the angels, to the prophets, to other creation, nothing, I repeat nothing besides GOD can be defined by the above verses. It is the quick fire litmus test of monotheism and Tawhid. If someone is worshipping another being besides the One True GOD: the GOD of Abraham (pbuh), he will fail this test.

For proof’s sake, let us take the sun for example and see how it stacks up in the test. Sadly, many people worship the sun until this day. It fails to live up to most of the above verses. The sun cannot claim to be a ONE GOD because our universe is full of suns (stars), some of comparable size and some of greater size. Our solar system is like a drop of water in the ocean to what is out there.  According to a National Geographic article on the sun: “Compared with the billions of other stars in the universe, the sun is unremarkable…”

The Sun fails to measure up to the third attribute of GOD in the cahpter-that of not being born or formed from other matter. According to scientists, the sun was born/formed 4.5-4.6 billion years ago from other matter. Space.com mentions this. The sun is also not eternal as defined in the second verse. Through powerful telescopes, astronomers have seen other suns dying, some bigger than our own. Scientists have given estimates on the life span of our solar system’s sun. Our sun, with an age of 4.5 billion years, has used up about half of the hydrogen in its core. Hence, its estimated lifespan is nearly 10 billion years. The One True God is eternal and has no lifespan.

Revisiting the affirmation of faith, La illa ha illAllah, we see that it is made of two parts, a denial and an acceptance. In the same way, the sun was denied as a deity above, Muslims should deny everything else as a deity and they should accept only GOD for worship. The denial is part of faith, as is the acceptance.

The next chapter that further elaborates on Tawhid is the first chapter of the Noble Qur’an, Surah Fatiha (The Opening). It says:

“In the name of GOD, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

(All) Praise be to GOD, Lord of the worlds.

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. 

Master of the Day of Judgment.

Thee do we worship, And Thee alone so we ask for help.

Guide us to the straight path,

The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favour, not of those who have evoked (your) anger or of those who are astray.”(The Noble Quran 1:1-7)

The significance of Surah Fatiha is that it opens the heart to the acceptance of Tawhid. The seven verses are an essential component to another fundamental in the Muslim faith, Salaah, the ritual prayer, performed five times daily. It is recited in every rakaat (cycle of ritual prayer). By accepting The One True GOD as our only deity of worship, we testify that GOD is The Most Gracious (Ar-Rahman) and The Most Merciful (Ar-Raheem). These are additional names/ titles of GOD mentioned in the Noble Qur’an. We render all praise and worship to only Him. We testify that He is the Creator (Al-Khaliq) and Sustainer of the entire universe (Al-Muqit). We acknowledge that only He knows the final hour as He is The All-Knowing (AL-Aleem) and, on the Day of Judgment, only He will reign Supreme as The Judge (Al-Hakam). We testify that all help and guidance comes from Him and we show that our ultimate goal is to gain His pleasure.

When we are in a state of Tawhid, the above verses define our being. Acts of worship are performed solely for the pleasure of GOD Almighty. The acts of worship can be so vast from, praying before one eats, to visiting someone who is ill, to feeding the poor, among others. All these acts of worship fall under and strengthen one’s Tawhid if the intention behind them is to please our Creator.

A Muslim has to make a concerted effort to maintain and build the level of Tawhid he/she has. At the same time, an effort has to be made to continually avoid committing any form of Shirk. Shirk can be defined as the act of worshiping something or someone besides the One True GOD. Giving partners to GOD is also Shirk. One gives partners to GOD when they believe that another being can possess any of the unique qualities and attributes of The Lord.

If you believe a fellow human being can see everything or hear everything, you are committing shirk for some of the attributable derived names/titles of GOD Almighty in the Noble Qur’an are The All- Seeing (Al-Baseer) and The All-Hearing (As-Samee). Likewise, if you believe that only one human being can help you if you are in a dire situation, you have indeed committed shirk because GOD is the ultimate Helper (An-Naseer).

The outright major forms of shirk are polytheism and idolatry. We have been warned by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the lesser forms of shirk as the Major ones are not a primary concern due to the strong monotheistic nature of the faith. These lesser forms of shirk can be hidden but rampant and dangerous none the less.

In his book, Gifts for the Seeker, Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Granddad states that in one hadith, the Prophet said, “Shirk is more hidden in my nation than the footprints of ants.” One can only wonder as to how many ant footprints are around. The Prophet enlightened on this matter by saying that showing off is shirk. Someone can ascribe himself or someone else as partner to GOD without even knowing it. How many of us practically worship ourselves narcissistically, how many of us worship sportsmen, politicians, musicians, movie stars or even a love interest?

The pursuit to fulfil only our own desires is also shirk. The attachment to the distractions of this world at the expense of seeking salvation in the hereafter is also shirk. Indeed putting your will above the will of GOD, is shirk. We should often question ourselves on whether or not we are committing shirk. Self-evaluation goes a long way to making oneself a better person.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss the reasoning behind the mentioning of Abraham (pbuh) earlier. The practice of Monotheism is not just a command for the followers of Muhammad (pbuh); it is a command for all humankind. Abraham’s (Pbuh) seed is practically everywhere for he most certainly had more than two sons for offspring. The level of Tawhid and avoidance of shirk practiced by Abraham (pbuh) would be so great that he would be the standard-bearer. He wholeheartedly submitted to the will of GOD gaining the title Khalil-ullah (Friend of GOD). This standard-bearer status is so profound that GOD alludes to the need to follow Abraham’s ways to gain nearness to GOD by stating that He (GOD) is the GOD of Abraham (pbuh). The ration behind this may be create a common ground to the followers of the Abrahamic faiths. At the time of Moses(Pbuh), “I was sent by The GOD of Abraham…” was the proof that Moses(Pbuh) needed to mobilise the Hebrew people in Egypt.

From the Torah, the Old Testament, to the book of Jasher, to the New Testament, to the Qur’an, Abraham (peace be upon him) is used as a reference point to what it means to believe and carry out deeds that please The Lord. Numerous times the noble Qur’an instructs not only Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers, but also all mankind to follow the religion of Abraham (pbuh).

Here is one verse:

“Say, “GOD has told the truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of the polytheists.” (Noble Qur’an 3:95)

Indeed Abraham (pbuh) was a father of many nations, a good example and a true reflection of Tawhid. He was a constant denier of shirk, no matter the circumstance (i.e. the threat to be thrown in fire and actually being thrown into a burning furnace).

Together with the Noble Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cemented this legacy.  The prophets after Abraham (pbuh), from Isaac, to Yakub/Jacob, to Yusuf/Joseph, to Musa/Moses, to Dawood/David, to Danyal/Daniel, to Isa/Jesus (peace be upon them all), all of them respected his legacy and ways. They in turn overcame their trials with their Tawhid  intact.  Should we not do likewise?

May GOD Almighty continue to guide us to Truth, for Truth is nearness to Him. GOD bless you all.

Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.



Assalaamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu (Peace be upon you all and may the mercy and blessings of GOD be upon you all).

Alhamdulilah (Praise be to GOD).

Rabbana Zidna Ilmaan (Our LORD, grant us beneficial knowledge).

Among the numerous names/titles of GOD in Islam are some that elaborate on HIS unmatched quality as a Giver. Pertinent to the topic at hand are the following Arabic names/titles mentioned in The Noble Quran and Hadith (mannerisms and sayings of The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him):  AL-WAHHAB translates to The Giver of gifts, AL-MUHYEE translates to The Giver of Life, AL- KAREEM translates to The Most Generous and AL- WADOOD translates to The Most Loving. It is also important to mention AL-ILAH translated to THE GOD. The contraction of the above name would go on to be the default name of GOD in the Arabic language, as well as an essential expression of GOD’s uniqueness as the only deity in Islam. Thus, the name ALLAH, Islamically is translated as The One True GOD.  The contracted but dense name ALLAH (The Most High) deserves its own in-depth article.

InshaAllah (God willing), this will be prepared at a later date.

Collectively, the numerous names/titles of GOD the Most High, are meant to make us appreciate, respect, love, fear and live in awe of our Creator. The Noble Quran calls Islam the religion of balance or middle ground, as such, we are not supposed to take anything to the extremes. Indeed, we are meant to fear The Lord but not to the point that it prevents us from having a relationship with Him, or dissuades us from conversing with Him in prayer, or detours us from loving Him wholeheartedly. These mighty names/titles of GOD ALMIGHTY are supposed to also inspire us to be better people. They are intended to encourage us to invoke Him for His help as they provide knowledge of His capabilities. We are meant to try and emulate some of GOD’s attributes, albeit to a lesser degree and magnitude, for in truth we can never equate to HIM and His benevolence.

GOD is supreme. One way in which GOD’s supremacy is illustrated is in His ability to give life. This ability is shown to us everyday, as our very existence is due to Him, our ability to procreate is due to Him, and our knowledge on how to grow and nurture plants that sustain us ultimately comes from Him. The Noble Qur’an also shows GOD’s ability to give life and other gifts through the miraculous gift called Rain. It is mentioned twenty three times in the Noble Qur’an.  In some of these places, there is a reference or connection to Charity. It is incumbent on each Muslim to practice charity. This all encompassing command is as encompassing as the beautiful rains in Southern Africa that bless the lands towards the end of the year and into the new Gregorian year. Some may ask, “Can a poor person give charity?” A perusal through the Hadith  of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) reveals:

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of ALLAH, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Every good deed is charity. Verily, it is a good deed to meet your brother with a cheerful face, and to pour what is left from your bucket into the vessel of your brother.”

(Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1970)

From the above we can see that even a smile is charity. Furthermore, we see acts of charity defined as even removing a dangerous object from the road:

 Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sas) said,

“Every joint of a person must perform a charity each day that the sun rises: to judge justly between two people is a charity. To help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is a charity and the good word is a charity. And every step that you take towards the prayer is a charity, and removing a harmful object from the road is a charity.” (Hadith-Bukhari)

From the above, we can begin to deduce that the acts of charity should be just, selfless, and full of concern and love. The above etiquettes are not just for people who are unable to give charity in the form of alms. If you are a Muslim, you have to practice good etiquette even when you give large sums of money to the needy. Poor, middle class or rich, you can still smile to someone as a means of charity.  In Islam, charity is like a tree with many branches. The similitude to a tree goes beyond its various branches. In the same way a tree shows its etiquette to other living beings, so should we when we practice charity. A tree does not discriminate on which birds it allows to roost within its accommodative branches. A tree does not discriminate which animal or human being can take comfort in its shade from the scorching heat. A tree bares its fruit for all those who are in need of sustenance. This is an example of a fellow creation showing us the way. Again, less indirectly, The Creator Himself shows us the way with His rain that falls on all whether they are good or bad, young or old and whether or not they are atheists or believers in Him. The Noble Qur’an says:

“And it is He who sends down the rain after they had despaired and spreads His mercy. And He is the Protector, the Praiseworthy.”(46:24)

We also learn from the above, that GOD’s grace and mercy extends to other creation, not just us humans. In times of no rain, fauna, flora and human beings suffer and when the rains arrive, we all rejoice in our own unique ways. A further branch of charity encourages charity towards animals.  Whether it is giving a thirsty dog water or letting birds, eat some of your crop, or paying for the release of caged birds and animals. Charity goes beyond the human species. Numerous times, GOD’s charitable mercies reach every being. Often when we practice the giving of alms branches (compulsory income and wealth derived Zakaat, voluntary charity such as Lillah, Sadaqah, among others) of charity, we tend to be detached and show a certain level of ego or superiority over the person we are giving the charity to. We look down on those in need, and yet in truth, we should be grateful to them, as they are the ones doing us a favour.

In Islam, it is a needy person’s human right to receive charity and it is our obligation to fulfil that right. Sometimes in giving alms, we tend to discriminate. Some of us give charity only to people we like, only to people that praise us, only to people of a similar race to us or only to people of the same religion to us. This goes against the etiquettes and guidelines to giving charity in Islam. Charity should be given to whomsoever is in need, starting with your relatives and expanding outward.

At times, we blissfully and boastfully publicise our acts of charity, even going as far as dehumanising the recipients of our charity. This opposes the impeccable standards that GOD Almighty has set for Himself and it goes against the etiquettes GOD has taught us when it comes to giving alms. Sometimes we have this belief that if we give someone charity, they become indebted to us. If you do someone, a ‘favour’ do not hold him or her to ransom for it. We should not continuously remind them of our act of kindness. Never allow your act of kindness to morph into a sword that brings injury. The Noble Qur’an advises:

“Oh You who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury as does one who spends his wealth [only] to be seen by the people and does not believe in Allah and the Last Day. His example is like that of a [large] smooth stone upon which is dust and is hit by a downpour that leaves it bare. They are unable [to keep] anything of what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.”(2:264)

There are still other etiquettes involved in charity. I learnt some, from personal experience. I was with a Sheikh in Erasmia. Erasmia is Pretoria’s equivalent of Harare’s Ridgeview. As we approached a roundabout, I noticed an Indian man, and a Black woman begging on the roundabout pavement. The woman had placed her young baby on the ground. I looked if I had any coins and unfortunately, I had only one five Rand coin. I made the decision to give it to the woman as she had a child. I lowered my window and before I could say a word, the Indian man was at my window. I reluctantly gave him the coin. As we drove off, I complained to the Sheikh, “Can you believe that man? He should have let the woman get the money.

The Sheikh responded, “Akhi(My brother), in this case we don’t know the predicament of those who are asking for help. This Covid-19 has left many people jobless, some have now resorted to begging to survive. Always give the benefit of the doubt when giving. What if that woman and man are a couple?

Later that day, as we had some tea, the Sheikh continued, “The acts of charity do not often get the respect that is due to them. Some people will give charity in a way that will undermine a man’s role as a provider to his family. It is better to give a man on the side in private so that his wife and children do not look down on him and so they have that image that he has provided for them. Also, in this way the male children will learn to be providers.”

The Sheikh spoke with wisdom and I appreciated the lesson.

The need for sustainable charity was shown while I watched an eNCA news report. The patron of the donor organisation Gift of the Givers was interviewed and he brought to light the huge demand for help exacerbated by Covid-19. He mentioned that some people who were supporting them could no longer, as they were made redundant. He gave the example of one woman who was a lawyer and shockingly, was now reduced to asking them for handouts. Islam has always encouraged the creation of buffers to prevent situations where people in need cannot be helped.

Charities that empower others and make them independent and sustainable are heavily encouraged. While we live, we are encouraged to leave behind sustainable charities. We are encouraged to help fund the building of schools and boreholes for communities and as well as to plant fruit trees. These charities will continue to add to our good deed count after we have passed on. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said,

When a man dies, only three deeds will survive him: continuing alms, profitable knowledge and a child praying for him.” The above form of sustainable charity is known as SADAQAH JARIYA.

Another branch of sustainable charity is known as the WAQF fund. In this scenario, individuals, businesses, donor organisations or governments can earmark income-generating assets specifically for charity. An example is buying two flats and stating that the rentals of the flats should fund students who are unable to afford tuition. A female Christian health care worker said to me once, “I am grateful to the Muslims, a charity organisation funded me in university and allowed me to compete my degree.” South African Muslim organisations are making an effort. The rich Arabian world is full of WAQF funds with incomes running into the billions of US$. African governments need to take a leaf off these sustainable WAQF funds. Setting aside mining claims, farmlands and getting competent people to run them as WAQF funds, will go a long way in alleviating the challenges that face us today.

God’s advice is always best and a concretive effort needs to be made to advise African governments to think about sustaining the current needs and future needs of people in need. As individuals, we also need to make our donations more sustainable. Instead of giving a community of people one thousand fish to eat, could the money not be used to teach the people and kick start fish farming within the community? That way the community will become self-sustaining. There are enough brains, money, love and expertise in this world to prevent anyone from going hungry. We just need to make the collective effort.

It is important to remember one more etiquette. No matter the effort or size of what someone gives as charity, we should not look down on the effort. Only GOD knows what truly is in our hearts and the level of sincerity within.

May GOD ALMIGHTY bless us all and guide us to become generous givers.

Assalaamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu.

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