Monday, September 17, 2012


Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) 
 A Mercy for the Worlds




Intelligence demands that one must always look at a situation from different angles. Without fail, it broadens the mind, offers solutions and inculcates deeper understanding. New horizons are discovered and misconceptions shrink away. We as Muslims invite you to examine things from a different point of view. We invite you to set all pre-conceived notions, inherited ideas and frequently heard clich├ęs to one side and give this a fair, broad-minded, democratic hearing. Let us tell you something about the man, Muhammad (peace be upon him) that the Danish press and Hollywood did not. By the end of this article that consists mostly of quotes from non-Muslim writers, historians, Nobel Prize winners and the likes, you will be more than amazed. We believe, and have done so for 14 centuries, that every human deserves to hear about this man – a man who perfected humanity, yet was perfectly human
The world has not hesitated to raise to divinity, individuals whose lives and missions have been lost in legend. Historically speaking, none of these legends achieved even a fraction of what Muhammad (pbuh) accomplished. And all his striving was for the sole purpose of uniting mankind for the worship of One God on the codes of moral excellence.
Muhammad (pbuh) or his followers never at any time claimed that he was a Son of God or the God-incarnate or a man with divinity – but he always was and is even today considered as only a Messenger chosen by God. He continues to inspire faith in more than a billion men and women. Vouched for as the “Most historical of all religious personalities” by Encyclopedia Britannica, it is an accepted fact that every event of his personal and public life has been immaculately recorded, even the minutest details preserved conscientiously for posterity. His life and works are not shrouded in mystery or doubt but open for all to study. Yet it is sad that instead of the truth becoming clearer with the growth in information and communication, many a times, fabrication overshadows and outspreads the truth.                    
As Thomas Carlyle, the author of Heroes and Hero-worship admits, “The lies which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man  (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only.”
So let us see who Muhamamd (pbuh) really was, what was it about this man that he is accepted as the greatest sample of humanity by friends and foes alike. So many aspects of greatness did he cover, so many roles did he excel at, that it is difficult to summarize a lifetime of character in a few lines. 
K. S. Ramakrishna Rao a professing Hindu, writes in his book ‘Muhammad, The Prophet of Islam’, “There is Muhammad, the Prophet. There is Muhammad, the Warrior; Muhammad, the Businessman; Muhammad, the Reformer; Muhammad, the Orator; Muhammad, the Refuge of orphans; Muhammad, the Protector of slaves; Muhammad, the Emancipator of women; Muhammad, the Judge; Muhammad, the Saint. All, in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is alike a hero.” Not a god, nor supernatural, not an angel nor omnipresent nor all-knowing, he was simply the servant of God and His Messenger. In the words of Edward Gibbon and Simon Ockley, in the ‘History of the Saracen Empire’, “I believe in one God, and Mahomet, the Apostle of God,’ is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol: the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue: and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.”

Muhammad-The Praiseworthy

That is what Muhammad means-the one who is praised and the past and present have witnessed how people from all walks of life have praised him. Even his enemies could not deny his excellent qualities. When his enemy, Abu Sufyan was summoned by Heraclius to his court and questioned about the Prophet (saw), he was forced to admit his virtues. Even the Jews and those who did not believe in his message would come to him for arbitration in their disputes due to his justice and honesty. He was named “Al-Ameen’ ‘The Trustworthy’ and ‘As-Sadiq’ ‘The Truthful’ by his contemporaries. Even after centuries people admit his sterling qualities.
In his book Michael H Hart ranked Mohammed first in the list of people who contributed towards the benefit and uplift of mankind:
“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” (M.H. Hart, THE 100: A RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS IN HISTORY, New York, 1978) 



The world has had its share of great personalities. But these were one-sided figures who distinguished themselves in but one or two fields, such as religious thought or military leadership. The lives and teachings of these great personalities of the world are shrouded in the mist of time. There is so much speculation about the time and place of their birth, the mode and style of their life, the nature and detail of their teachings and the degree and measure of their success or failure that it is impossible for humanity to reconstruct accurately the lives and teachings of these men. Not so with Muhammad (pbuh). 

Lamar Tine, the renowned historian, speaking on the essentials of human greatness wonders: “If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls…. His forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; His endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; All these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two-fold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is MUHAMMAD. As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, IS THERE ANY MAN GREATER THAN HE?” (Alphonse de Lamar tine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854,Vol.II)

A Nation Transformed

When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) appeared in the uncultivable, harsh nothingness of the Arabian desert in 570 AD, he only had the power of God’s message and his lifelong struggle which completely transformed the barbaric Bedouins in just two decades, which shaped a new moral and religious civilization spanning 3 continents- Asia, Africa and Europe. Never would the world be the same again. It was destined not to be. The people he invited to the submission of One God alone and to universal brotherhood were a people who loved warfare, fighting bloody and savage wars. One such war consumed 70,000 lives and went on for 40 years on the slightest provocation (a camel straying into the land belonging to the other tribe). Muhammad (pbuh) taught self-restraint, forgiveness and compassion to such people. He taught them to pray in the battlefield and laid down rules for battle, humanizing the battlefield itself. Islam teaches not to mutilate, not to kill minors, women and the old, not to breach trust even with the enemies, it teaches not to destroy farmland or fruit trees unnecessarily, not to molest monks and priests. And what was even more amazing was that Muhammad (saw) exemplified these teachings and so did many generations of Muslims. That is why even today, one hardly ever hears of Muslims desecrating a church or the Bible, or Muslims annoying nuns in their typical garb or Muslims blaspheming Jesus. Non-Muslim minorities have lived peacefully for hundreds of years under Muslim rule in many countries (like Spain, Jerusalem etc), their life, honour and freedom completely protected by the rulers.
At the advent of Islam, the Arabs were debauched gamblers, burying their daughters alive, treating their women as chattel. He taught them to pray side-by-side, to respect and love their women and to live a life governed by accountability before God. Islam bestowed on women innumerable rights 14 centuries back, when contemporary civilizations were still considering whether women could be regarded as a human being. Islam gave women a status the Western woman is still fighting for. Centuries ago women were given the right to life, honour (for which Hijab plays a major role), education, owning property (England only passed such a law 12 centuries later in 1881), receiving a compulsory marital gift from the husband, the right of inheritance, testimony and financial maintenance from the husband. 

Thomas Carlyle was amazed, “How one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades.”

Equality and Brotherhood

The principle of the equality of mankind has been preached by all great religions, but the last Prophet put it into actual practice and achieved the greatest success.

The famous poetess of India, Sarojini Naidu says: “It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: ‘God Alone is Great’… I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother”.                                      (IDEALS OF ISLAM, vide Speeches & Writings, Madras, 1918)
 This is the miracle that history witnessed in Madina, when the Prophet migrated from his homeland of Makkah with his followers after facing severe persecution for proclaiming his message. The homeless migrants were united in a historical bond of brotherhood with the Madinites. The love, sacrifice, help and kindness that the emigrants received from these surrogate brothers went beyond the norms of human capacity. They shared everything that they possessed, their properties, houses and incomes with their brothers in faith. Our present world has so much to learn from this history if we are to survive peacefully together.
It was Islam alone which first achieved an almost complete abolishment of slavery without passing a single bill or law. Thousands of slaves were freed at a time when slavery was the norm. These slaves were not just freed to face further discrimination in society but due to the moral education of the entire society, these very slaves went on to become scholars of Islam, commanders of Muslim armies and lived at par with their counterparts. This is all well documented in Islamic history. Prophet Muhammad appointed a black slave, Bilal to the office of proclaiming Adhaan 5 times a day calling Muslims to prayer. At the time of the last pilgrimage that the Prophet made to the Ka’aba, the holiest place in the Islamic world, this black freed slave stood on the roof of the Ka’aba and called out the Azaan. People of the caliber of Umar, known historically as Umar the Great, the 2nd caliph of Islam would welcome Bilal whenever he saw him saying, “Here comes our master, here comes our lord.” Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told Bilal that he had heard his footsteps in Paradise in a dream, thus giving him glad tidings of Paradise. This was complete equality, in this world and the next, based not on colour, creed or status, but on the level of piety. Compare this to how the black people are treated by the civilized white races of today, how even after centuries of struggle, they have not attained equal rights everywhere or atleast not in the hearts of their fair-skinned counterparts. 
In the words of Prof. Hurgronje, “The league of nations founded by the prophet of Islam put the principle of international unity and human brotherhood on such universal foundations as to show candle to other nations.” He continues: “The fact is that no nation of the world can show a parallel to what Islam has done towards the realization of the idea of the League of Nations.” Every year the world witnesses this amazing spectacle of unity and equality when millions of Muslims gather from all over the world for pilgrimage at the Kaa’ba. Leaving behind all worldly identities of race, colour and rank, this universal family of Europeans, Africans, Indians, Persians and Chinese all merge into one body, clad in white, bare-headed, throbbing with the pulse that unites them, “Here I am, O God; at Thy command; Thou art One and the Only One; Here I am.”

Peace

The word ‘Islam’ means ‘submission’ (to the Will of God) and is related to the word ‘salam’ (the daily greeting of the Muslims) meaning peace. Nothing in the teachings of the Prophet or his life represents anything other than peace. He is described in the Quran as ‘mercy for the worlds’. And he lived up to this title showing compassion to Muslims and non-Muslims, friends and foes, humans and animals alike. The first pact that he concluded with the Jewish minority on coming to Madina was a peace treaty. This was the main object why he allowed war – to unite human beings and to perpetuate peace.
Since not all human beings in this world are in favour of maintaining peace and many would disrupt it for their own vested interests, sometimes force has to be used to maintain peace. This is why we have the police who use force against criminals and anti-social elements to maintain peace in the country. Throughout his life the Prophet (pbuh) practiced such exemplary forgiveness and magnanimity that it has no parallel in human history. In his personal life, he never hit a woman or child, never scolded his servants, never held a personal vendetta. When he went to preach his message in the town of Taif, a few miles away from Makkah, the people set loose a mob of ruffians on him. They called him names and threw stones at him till his shoes were full of blood. God sent the Archangel Gabriel to ask him if he wanted this town destroyed. Bleeding and beaten, he still forgave them.
He was forgiving not just in weakness but more so when he gained victory and had the power to punish. For 13 years he suffered inhuman torture at the hands of his people who rebuked him, beat him up, tried to kill him and when he was forced to migrate to Madina, waged many wars against him. When at last he returned to his hometown as a victor leading an army of 10,000, the city lay at his feet. Instead of a massacre in the name of ‘jihad’, plundering or even public beheadings what did this great man do? He forgave his bitterest enemies saying “This day there is no reproof against you and you are all free.” Is this the image of a turbaned terrorist? Has the world ever seen such mercy? Compare this with what happened in the crusades, the mass killing of Muslims in different places, the rapes of Muslim women in occupied territories, the cruelty and havoc victorious armies wreck on the masses. Compare this to Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Palestine.
As he entered Makkah, Muhammad (pbuh) was all humility. There was no jubilation, no pride, no terror displayed by any Muslim that day. He forgave Hind, who had mutilated his uncle’s corpse after a battle and chewed his liver. He forgave Abu Sufyan who had fought bitter wars against him, he pardoned Habr bil Aswad, who had pushed his daughter Zainab off her camel as she was trying to migrate to Madina, causing her to miscarry and lose her child. The list goes on. He would have been justified by the laws of war to avenge the great cruelties he and his followers had suffered, yet all he had for his enemies was love and sincerity. Then how should the Muslims not be enraged at this cruel portrayal of such a man? 
Diwan Chand Sharma wrote, “Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him.” (D.C. Sharma, THE PROPHETS OF THE EAST, Calcutta, 1935)
In Madina, he constantly faced intrigues and setbacks at the hands of the hypocrites. They would spread rumours about his own wives, they withdrew their forces at the Battle of Uhud at the last moment, yet the Prophet dealt with them with forbearance and patience. When the leader of the hypocrites died he gave his own shirt for his burial and prayed for him at his grave. He entertained the Christian delegation from Najran in Madina for 3 days; he was married to Maria the Coptic Christian and Safia the Jewess. Where does anyone find proof that he hated or terrorized non-Muslims?
It was his kindness and noble qualities that won people’s hearts and not the sword. He was unlettered yet spoke with such eloquence and feeling as to melt the hearts of the listeners. 
Mahatma Gandhi said about Muhammad’s (saw) character, “I wanted to know the best of one who holds today’s undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life.”

Ruler of Hearts

Inspite of ruling more than a third of the then inhabited world he was a man of heartbreaking simplicity. After Islam spread far and wide, wealth began to accumulate, yet this king mended his own shoes, swept the floor and helped his wives in household chores. Many weeks would lapse before fire could be kindled in his house, his food being only dates and water. He would spend his nights standing in worship till his feet swelled and slept on a coarse palm mat.
When he died all he left behind were a few coins and grain. 
Reverend Bosworth Smith remarks, “Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a body guard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man had the right to say that he ruled by a right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for all the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.”
One of the tests of a person’s greatness is whether he was found to be of true mettle by his contemporaries. Muhammad (pbuh) was loved and followed by men of the greatest caliber of his time. It speaks volumes of his sincerity and truth that his most intimate companions and relations believed first and most strongly in his message. He was not only followed by the weak and the downtrodden but soon by the noblest and best of society. Had they not found him upto his claim they would not have laid down their lives for him. On the other hand his followers braved excommunication, torture and even death for his sake. 
Encyclopedia Britannica confirms, “A mass of detail in the early sources show that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were like-wise honest and upright men.” (Vol. 12)
 Even after his death, his companions carried on his mission in the most scrupulous and dedicated manner as if he was still commanding their minds and hearts. Unlike other leaders, no skeletons in the cupboard were discovered, no scandals and deception, nothing to mar the image that Muhammad had left in the hearts of millions to come. 

Thomas Carlyle praised him in the following words, “”A silent great soul, one of that who cannot but be earnest. He was to kindle the world, the world’s Maker had ordered so.”

The Last Messenger

The Quran says: “(The believers say) We make no distinction between one another of His (God’s) Messengers.” (Quran 2: 285) As Muslims, it is incumbent upon us that we accept all the Messengers of God and honour them equally. Not believing in even ONE of them is tantamount to disbelief. In other words our faith is not acceptable unless we believe in every one of the Messengers sent by God such as Moses, Jesus and the rest mentioned in the Quran.
Yet what distinguishes the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from the rest is that while each Messenger was sent to a certain people in a specific time, he was the final Messenger and consequently his message was for all of mankind and for all times till eternity. God perfected and completed the guidance He wanted to give to humanity through His Final Messenger and made sure it would be preserved unchanged. The Quran is believed to be the literal word of God. Unlike the Bible, it has remained intact and undisputed even after 14 centuries. Not a word or alphabet has changed in it to date which is a miracle in itself. Countless prophesies and scientific facts stated in the Quran centuries ago have now been confirmed. 
Even a hostile critic like Sir William Muir admits, “There is probably in the world no other book which has remained 12 centuries (now 14 centuries) with so pure a text.”
As such for Muslims, their book is not irrelevant at any time or their Prophet a mere historical figure, but for them these are their active guides at every point in their daily life. 

‘In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion, which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age.”

Let us Uphold Truth and Justice

A faith must never be judged by the actions of its followers. What Muslims or Christians have done should not be the criteria for judging their respective faiths or Prophets. Muslims are raised to love the Prophet more than their parents, children or their own self. This love is part of a Muslim’s faith. It deeply hurts the Muslims if their Prophet (pbuh) or any Prophet is insulted.
The Quran asks us to honour the symbols that others hold dear. No Muslim has responded in kind by insulting Jesus or the Bible, though some have resorted to violence which is regrettable. But before blaming the Muslims for the entire episode let us ask ourselves, would any person belonging to any faith accept humiliation of their most respected ones? Are Muslims the only ‘species’ that uses violence on provocation? More than a decade ago, a film called ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ showed Jesus making love to a woman. In Paris someone set fire to the cinema showing the movie, killing a young man. Would anyone like their faith and Prophet degraded that too on the basis of untruth? What does the law call public defamation without proof? Libel, slander, discrimination? What does the heart, the internal lawgiver call it? Provocation, playing with emotions, hurting sacred sentiments? Islam strongly condemns all such yellow journalism and scandal-mongering. To add insult to injury, we are told that this is freedom of the press. Wasn’t it this same freedom of press that caused Princess Diana.’s death? Did you know that in some European nations such as France, Germany and Austria it is forbidden by law to deny acts of genocide such as saying that the Jewish Holocaust did not happen? Several European countries have anti-blasphemy laws that place limitations on speech, as do several states in the USA. In many countries, hate speech (such as holocaust denial, incitement to racial hatred, advocating genocide) is a criminal offense prohibited under incitement to hatred legislation. So it is infact impermissible to make certain statements in several countries including European nations. Hence freedom of speech is not unconditionally ‘free’, but subject to certain rules and limits.
Freedom of expression must not be allowed to undermine human sentiments and human freedom or to disrupt peace. What about freedom to practice and propagate our religion?
What about freedom to wear hijab for Muslim women? Shouldn’t that be a major consideration too? We must not forget that freedom of any sort does not mean transgressing the limits set by God or our own humanity.

Islam – A Legacy to the World

Islam, misconstrued as a terrorist-producing faith, is infact far from it. Islam paved the way for a nation of barbarians to become pioneers of science and enlightened civilization. Robert Briffalut concludes in his well-known book, ‘The Making of Humanity’, “The debt of our science to the Arabs does not consist in startling discoveries or revolutionary theories. Science owes a great deal more to the Arab culture: it owes its existence.”

George Bernard Shaw said, “I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion for from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Savior of Humanity.” He also said, “I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.” (Sir George Bernard Shaw in ‘The Genuine Islam,’ Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936.) 

To say that Islam was spread by the sword is the greatest of myths. On an average, the Muslims ruled Arabia for 1400 years. Yet today, there are 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians i.e. Christians since generations. If the Muslims had used the sword there would not have been a single Arab who would have remained a Christian.
An article in Reader’s Digest ‘Almanac’, year book 1986, gave the statistics of the increase of percentage of the major religions of the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. At the top was Islam, which increased by 235 %, and Christianity had increased only by 47 %. May one ask, which war took place in this century which converted millions of people to Islam? 

The noted historian De Lacy O’Leary writes in the book “Islam at the cross road”: “History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated.” 
The world needs to benefit from this faith that many of their wise men have already hailed. 
Carlyle bids the world to listen, “The word of such a man (Muhammad) is a voice direct from nature’s own heart; men do and must listen to that, as to nothing else; all else is wind in comparison…” 
FIRST PUBLISHED AS A BOOK BY ALHUDA INT'L, PAKISTAN
THEN BY THE ISLAMIC AFFAIRS AND CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES DEPT, DUBAI

Sources: 
  • “Muhammad, The Prophet of Islam” by K S Ramakrishna Rao 
  • “Answers to non-Muslims’ common questions about Islam” by Dr Zakir Naik 
  • “You should know this man” – WAMY Series on Islam 
  • “Don’t be fooled, this isn’t an issue of Islam versus Secularism” by Robert Fisk 
  • “Muslims and the West: A culture war?” by John L Esposito, Professor at Georgetown University

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

FOOD FOR THOUGHT


I’m walking in a park in Saudia and a mother is sitting with her toddler on a bench coaxing her to drink a juice with some chips. The toddler is coughing a painful, choking cough. Yet the mother seems to be oblivious to the relationship between the packaged sugary syrup she is feeding her child and the constant coughing.
This is NOT an exceptional case. Children today are happily fed a staple diet of junk food by otherwise sensible, even religiously-conscious parents. This is besides the additives and pesticides that are already going into their bodies. Cooking healthy, nutritious and balanced meals is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Even when a baby is born, many mothers deny it the right to the best nutrition and protection it could ever get-the mother’s milk. As soon as the infant can eat, he is fed bowls and bowls of processed, dehydrated cereal. I too committed that error and then one day I tasted the gook and it was too sweet even by my standards. So I switched to a vegetable flavour. But it took years to develop my child’s taste for normal food as compared to my second born who ate home cooked food from the beginning and eats almost everything to date.
As soon as the child can start school, which is sooner than later for most, mothers conveniently pack him off to school without any breakfast in the morning. Mothers I have asked come up with the same answer “they just don’t want to eat in the morning”. This is alarming since after atleast 10-11 hours of sleep, the child should be ravaging hungry. The problem may be a disturbed toilet routine where the child is not emptying his stomach in the morning before breakfast or at night and is therefore too full to eat.

If it is a ‘dutiful’ mother, she’ll dole out a cereal or a glass of milk to the unwilling child. She packs a lunch of chips, noodles, biscuits or juice or hands the child some money to buy the same from the canteen. In the afternoon, after half a day of eating nothing worthwhile, the child returns to a lunch of leftovers or if he’s lucky some home-cooked food, or he might pick up something from a restaurant or vendor on the way. One advantage of home schooling is that children at the age of two-and-a-half and older are not deprived by the school of a relaxed, healthy breakfast with their mother or a midday snack. Most children, even if their parents don’t feed them junk food at home, pick up the habit from peers at school at a young, impressionable age.
Be it an Islamic class or a regular school, I have seen children given junk food at parties and snack time by the teachers and school authorities. What is even more disturbing is that the 'well-behaved' children are rewarded with a sweet or lolly pop. I said to one such a rewarder 'this is more of a punishment than a reward'. I hope she understood what I meant. In our well-meaning but naive way, we are opening the doors of harm for our own future generations.

Evening comes with the children playing outdoors and cycling but always with a plastic bag full of candies or chips. Maids are close at hand to never let the supply run dry. To my chagrin my sons usually walk in after playing with their friends with a candy in hand and two in the mouth. Dinner for most kids is, well anything to put in their mouths, from fatayer (pizzas), French fries, burgers or an egg. The essential and loving ritual of the family having mom’s home cooked dinner together talking about the day is gone ever since the school, office and restaurant has started running our lives.
And so the day of a child is over. So is his health.

What most parents don’t realize anymore is that this is the most crucial time not only of a child’s growth and development but also the start of a lifetime of healthy eating habits. A child raised on junk food or erratic eating habits cannot have a healthy, active life. His bones, teeth, eyes and overall health will suffer and deteriorate long before old age. The chemicals he douses daily will ruin his insides. He constantly falls sick and takes antibiotics every month and we can’t understand why. He has a multitude of allergies and skin problems and we blame it on the climate or pollution. He doesn’t have a proper appetite and doesn’t eat wholesome, home-cooked food anymore. And we can't seem to realize why.
Diabetes is knocking on almost every door and "this is a very recent phenomenon in the history of the world. Human genealogy has not changed to bring this about. But nutrition certainly has.Changes in farming practices and the preponderance of high glycemic, fast foods being aggressively marketed are the root cause of the insulin resistance that sets this process off. 
• Diabetes currently affects 246 million people worldwide and is expected to affect 380 million by 2025.
• The five countries with the highest diabetes prevalence in the adult population are Nauru (30.7%), United Arab Emirates (19.5%), Saudi Arabia (16.7%), Bahrain(15.2%), and Kuwait (14.4%).
• Every 10 seconds two people are diagnosed with diabetes.  
• At least 50% of all people with diabetes are unaware of their condition. In some countries this figure may reach 80%.
• Up to 80% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity."
http://www.metabolic-syndrome-x.info/diabetes-statistics.html

It’s a vicious cycle too, a child raised in this fashion will not know better and will probably raise his children the same way. An interesting study says that junk food may be just as addictive as hard drugs as it produced the same brain response. So once hooked to junk food, the habit may be very hard to break.
I cannot say I never give my children junk food but I try that it should be an exception or treat rather than the norm. I try to choose the healthier alternative when eating out. Also I’ve noticed that when you start allowing a little, it can suddenly get out of hand until you wish you’d never relaxed the rules.But there are many who don’t even know or realize that what they are feeding their children is harmful. They buy junk food in bulk with their monthly grocery and serve soft drinks with every meal. It’s as if Shaitan has deluded people into thinking that there is no other way to live.

Years ago, a sister made me realize that the packed cupcakes I was feeding my child could easily be bought fresh without the preservatives or even better baked at home with wholewheat; that nuts and fruit make a great snack instead of biscuits and chips, that plain yogurt tastes just as yummy to the baby as flavoured, sweetened yogurt, that dates and honey satisfy sweet cravings amazingly.
However some people when advised give the strangest arguments. One common argument is “well everything is harmful these days, like the microwave, like x-rays, but you can’t give up everything. A little junk food won’t kill you.” This argument is the same as saying “the sun’s rays can also cause radiation, so being exposed to a nuclear bomb can’t be all that bad.” There are certain things that can and should be avoided and that are within our power and control. In this age of chemicals and hazards, we must try our utmost to save ourselves and our families from harm as best we can.

One of the commandments where all of mankind is addressed directly is about food, “O mankind! Eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth, and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan. Verily he is to you an open enemy.” (Al-Baqarah: 168)
We need to think, what was it that Shaitan used to tempt the first human being , Adam (alaihi salam) with- FOOD! And he’s doing the same with his progeny, which is why the entire mankind is addressed in this verse for we are all descended from the same set of parents who lost their Paradise because of one slip.
If we don’t equip ourselves physically and spiritually, we too shall fail this test. We have been sent as ‘khalifa’ to this Earth for a pre-ordained and limited time. This means that we are succeeding each other generation after generation and our role is to implement Allah’s rule in this world so that people may be saved from destroying themselves. Food is immensely important for us to function properly in this world and fulfil our goals. Yet little attention is given to what we are putting into our body, whether it is helping us fulfil our role on this earth or if it is becoming the biggest obstacle.
Our acts of worship, our health, our sleep, our state of mind, our moods and desires are very much governed by what we eat. Feel the difference in mood as soon as the first cup of caffeine enters your blood stream!

Today Shaitan, mankind’s avowed enemy, is tempting us with a variety of food never known in history before. Today we eat what our forefathers never dreamt of. As a result we have cuisines from all over the world available at our doorstep. Hundreds of varieties of food adorn supermarket shelves, a restaurant beckons from every street, food shows are aired round the clock on multiple channels. Fast food chains offer toys with kids meals that see children running to buy the food to get the toys. Even in Makkah, I marvel how the fast food chains swallow the devout Muslims as soon as they step out of the haram. The processed, refined, polished rice, flour and sugar makes our bellies bulge and visiting the bathroom a nightmare.

Everyday we create crimes against our very own body and stomach. We starve it in the morning when it is in need of some energy and our metabolism is fastest, then we down a coffee or tea kick-starting it to work. We don’t eat for long hours ignoring the hunger signals our body is giving us and then grab a sandwich or burger which we eat while we are on the phone, at our desk or on the computer. In the evening when our digestive system is slowing down and about to shut down for the night we barrage it with a flood of rich food of many different types. The only thing that gets our attention is when some system in our poor body breaks down and gives up. Then we run to doctors, go on crash diets and make the grave situation no better.
We eat leaning on sofas or dining chairs that again strains our digestive system which requires our legs to be up at level with our stomach for the blood to flow to the stomach for digestion.
We were supposed to eat a third of the capacity of our stomach but we usually don’t stop until our buttons start popping or the food before us finishes. The super sized French fries and drinks don’t help the situation. We never see how the Prophet (saw) achieved so much in such few years, because his eating habits and lifestyle were in harmony with nature. He hardly had enough to eat, yet even when he did, he did not binge eat to store reserves for future days. He ate and slept and rose with the rest of the universe, not against it. He had his food sitting down with one leg propped up. He used all five senses while eating, using his fingers to eat, not half comatose like us in front of a screen.

Yet like cattle we chew and eat without a clue, without a thought or purpose. Has Allah created us for no purpose? Has he given us this supreme intellect for no reason? Is eating a meaningless activity like it is for the cows and sheep? Did Allah create such a complex system within our bodies so we could treat it carelessly? Do we have sole ownership rights to our bodies to do with them as we please or do they have to be returned one day? If we don’t provide our children with healthy eating habits and food, will we not be questioned about them? How many times a day are we feeding our children things that are harmful for them?
We all have the power of choice. Let's use it.




Monday, May 7, 2012

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
A MERCIFUL GOD?




Catastrophes, hardships, difficulties bring out our real selves - the heroes and cowards crouching within, the faith or hypocrisy in our hearts. The bigger the test, the clearer is the result. Natural disasters, in particular, are a massive test. Bodies are battered, beliefs are shaken, lives and destinies are changed forever.
Yet a greater catastrophe follows. While people lose their lives and limbs, some start losing their faith and questioning the mercy of God. They ask how God, Who is supposed to love us more then seventy mothers could kill so many innocent, poverty-stricken people, how he could kill innocent children, how He could destine so many to a life of disability and pain. "Why did it have to be that young man who just got married, why the old widow, who was going to see her grandchildren?" they ask. "Why do this to poor people who already had so many troubles in life?" They begin doubting Allah's Wisdom, Justice and Mercy.
Man remains a hasty creature, judging situations and others superficially, mistrusting everyone. He even has the audacity to sit in judgment on his own Creator, The Most Merciful Ar-Rahman. He forgets the countless manifestations of His mercy in his own life, His wisdom in guiding his way in life, His justice that has not yet been completely manifested. For the benefit of doubting hearts and uncertain souls, let us examine the proof of our Merciful God.



AT OUR WEAKEST AND MOST VULNERABLE
If we only consider our own lives, we can find enough proof of the Mercy of Ar-Rahman From the time He designed us intricately in our mother’s dark wombs, till the time we emerged as incapable, weak infants in an unknown world, it is Ar-Rahman Who fed us and took care of our most private needs through a miraculous system inside the mother’s body. After leaving that security, it is He Who teaches the infant to suckle, it is He Who educates him from the start and enables him to survive in this world. None other than The Merciful sustains even those who are born with a disability. Many a times it is He who saves a child from fatal hazards that surround him that no parent can foresee or prevent.He is the One Who puts mercy in the heart of the mother so that she sacrifices her sleep, appetite and life to bring forth and nourish a child- not just amongst us sensible humans but even among wild animals. 
The Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us, “Allah has divided Mercy into one hundred parts, and He kept ninety-nine parts with Him and sent down one part to the earth and because of that one single part, His creatures are merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up its hoof away from its baby animal, lest it should trample on it.”   
                                                                                  (Sahih Bukhari)
Had it not been for this parental love, no new life would have been able to survive.
Then as we grow older, Ar-Rahman gives us the ability to express ourselves in words and those who cannot speak, in many other ways. He teaches us how to walk, love, eat, laugh, cry, and feel a rainbow of different emotions at exactly the time when we require these faculties. He teaches us to strive from the start and to understand that experience and knowledge come with pain, that walking cannot be learnt without falling. 

HEADY YOUTH AND ITS FOLLIES
Then as we enter youth, it is Allah who patiently bears our newfound rebellion and our transgressions, waiting for us to return to Him. Is it not His overwhelming Mercy that even after sinning for a lifetime and living  a life of ingratitude and rejection for years, when at last His slave does turn to Him in repentance, He greets him with open arms and wipes out his past forever? Not only that, if His slave does righteous deeds, He replaces his sins with good deeds. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that if a person takes one step towards Allah, He takes 10, if a person walks towards Him, Ar-Rahman runs to him. He rewards a believer’s good deeds by 10 or 700 times or more but never multiplies the punishment of a single sin, rather He rewards him even for an intended sin which his slave refrains from doing. This same Ar-Rahman, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us, is happier at the return of his repentant slave than a man who loses his provision-laden camel in a desert and when he is completely despairing of life, he finds it again (hadith).
Even parents disown or write-off a constantly disobedient offspring, they reach a point where they never want to look upon such a child again, but not Ar-Rahman. His love and mercy exceeds a mother’s love for her child. He hates punishing His slaves more than any parent would and he gives them many chances and warnings so as to avoid the Great Punishment. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that He waits for His slaves who err in the morning that they might repent in the evening and descends to the lowest heaven in the third part of each night, calling out, “'Who will call on Me so that I may respond to him? Who is asking something of Me so I may give it to him? Who is asking for My forgiveness so I may forgive him?” (Bukhari and Muslim) He accepts repentance until a person’s last breath before he sights death.
THE GREATER CALAMITY
On that Final Day, we will see the complete manifestation of His mercy as in this world He has sent only one part and kept the other 99 parts with Himself. We consider a natural disaster to be the greatest calamity, yet a greater calamity; a more continuous and devastating catastrophe awaits us. That is the Day when we will only have His Mercy to depend upon, for our good deeds can never be enough to repay the debt of His limitless blessings. The Day when the mountains will be shattered and blown away like dust,  when the earth will be shaken to destruction and life will end; then the scales would be set up, the sun would be close, sweat would envelop everyone, thirst would be unbearable and the wait for the judgment, endless. Passing over the bridge of Hell where one slip could mean an eternity in the Hellfire, that is where we will need His Mercy the most. It is this enormous worry that should give us sleepless nights spent in prostration and a constancy in our struggle.
Ar-Rahman will forgive many on that day. He will save many from the humiliation of exposing his sins in full view of others, for many He will allow intercession; many will be removed from the Hell-fire and admitted into Paradise. Only those who constantly denied Allah, the worst of humanity, would be left in Hell. We are told that the raging Hell would call out for more and more, yet Ar-Rahman would silence it with His Foot.


Yet His Justice also demands that those who transgressed His right and the rights of other humans must be brought to account. It is to be borne in mind that while Allah (swt) has said about Himself that “He has inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy” (Quran 6:12), He is also “swift in taking account” (Quran 5:4) and “strict in punishment.” (Quran 2:196)
ALLAH'S MERCY: PARADISE
The people of Paradise would experience the greatest manifestation of Allah’s Love and Mercy. They would have everything that they desire and more. Yet the height of their pleasure would be when they behold Ar-Rahman with their eyes and receive the blessed news that He would never be displeased with them from then onwards.
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN

So, the warnings, adversities, trials and punishments that come upon us in this world are for our own good. They are also a proof of Allah’s love for us, that He wants to arouse us from our stupor and apathy before it’s too late, He wants to save us from the greater and everlasting punishment by giving us a small taste in this world of what lies ahead.
It’s at these times of shock, trauma and suffering that our heart’s eyes open and we see a glimpse of reality. We discover the presence of a more Powerful Being than ourselves. Hardened and rusty hearts thaw out, eyes moisten, hands extend in supplication and the mercy of Ar-Rahman gathers us in its arms.
COULD WE HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT?
Allah says: “Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves.” (Quran-10:44)
Allah doesn’t punish us immediately for the wrongs we commit daily. He gives us many opportunities and ample time to take heed of his signs, warnings and verses. Were He to start punishing mankind for their ingratitude, there would be no life left on earth.
And if Allah were to seize mankind for their wrongdoing, He would not leave on it (the earth) a single moving creature, but He postpones them for an appointed term…” (Quran- 16:61)
We cringe and become infuriated when anyone tries to point out our mistakes. Yet lessons from the Sunnah teach us that Muslims suffered losses and setbacks, even during the life of our Prophet (peace be upon him), due to their own actions. The actions of a few Muslims during the Battle of Uhud turned a victory into imminent defeat. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was injured and many Sahaba died. The Quran taught the Muslims at this point to blame none but their own selves for their losses. Allah told them: “And Allah did indeed fulfill His promise to you when you were killing them (your enemy) with His Permission; until the moment you lost your courage and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you (of the booty) which you love.” (Quran - 3:152)
We blatantly do all of the above: disobey Allah and His Messenger’s teachings every day, dispute with fellow Muslims over minor religious issues, run only after worldly gains and have lost all courage before the enemies of truth. We refuse prostrating 5 times a day (whereas Satan refused once and was doomed forever) and still expect no consequence of our actions? How Satan has made our deeds beautiful for us, how he has deluded us, how he has affected our very intellect that distinguishes us from other creatures!

Instead of blaming a non-compassionate God for the problems and calamities in our lives, exactly as Satan did when he said “Because You (Allah) have sent me astray, I will surely sit in wait against them (humans) on Your straight path.” (Quran- 7:16) we should analyze our own actions and blame only our selves for the events in our life.
SEE THE COMPLETE PICTURE
We see only apparent misfortunes such as poverty, disability, death as complete failure yet we fail to see how this could turn into eternal bliss. The blind have been promised Eternal Paradise and its visual treats (as reward for their faith, piety and patience) in return for the misery of not enjoying eye-sight in this world. The poor people will enter Paradise 500 years before the rich. The disabled and ailing will be rewarded for their suffering by having their sins expiated for every pain they go through. 
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari)
WHY SO MUCH PAIN AND SUFFERING !


People who die painfully, for instance mothers during childbirth or people who drown have been given good news of a grade of martyrdom. Children who die in their childhood (according to one view, even of those who are not believers) are admitted to Paradise. Innocent people who die in collective punishments will be raised on the state of their faith. 
Umm Salamah, the Prophet (saw)’s wife heard the Messenger of Allah (saw) saying: “If sins become apparent in my Ummah Allah will surround them with punishment from Him.” She said: “O Allah’s Messenger! Will they have righteous people among them then?” He (saw) said: “Yes,” She asked: “What will happen to them?” He (peace be upon him) said: “They will be stricken as the people, but they will end up with Allah’s forgiveness and pleasure.” (Ahmed)
We do not look at the entire picture because for many of us, this immediate world is the end of our dreams, goals and the complete culmination of success and failure. We should remember that the similitude of this world and the Hereafter is like the water that wets one’s finger after having been immersed in the ocean, as compared to the entire ocean.


O mankind! Verily, the promise of Allah is true. So let not this present life deceive you, and let not the chief deceiver (Satan) deceive you about Allah.” (Quran)
WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?
The question for us, rather for me is, what am I doing to receive Allah’s Mercy in this world and the next? What share of my time, money, efforts and talents have I dedicated to His cause? What have I gained or lost in this catastrophe? Have I emerged from its debris with a stronger faith, an urgency to do something for my Hereafter, a transformed life? Or have I explained away the event, passed my own judgments, put my conscience back to sleep and resumed my regular life again? If the answer is the first, then for me, this catastrophe has been a test which I have passed and a merciful awakening. If my answer was the second, then this catastrophe has been a punishment for me.
At the end, I have myself to account for.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Story - From Darkness to Light

Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem


THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY
It was in the Ramadan of 1999, that my post-teen life took an absolute U-turn. What I mean is a total spiritual and mental awakening and discovery of myself and the purpose of my life. I owe unlimited thanks to Allah and also the means by which He granted me this favour: Al-Huda.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TASBEEH


Angels, spirits of light
Utter His praise in flight
Through the day and night
Never tiring of this rite.
Birds poised amid land and sky,
Mountains standing firm and high,
Clouds unfolding like cotton buds,
The wind whispering hymns of love,
All praise the One Most High,
Obey His will until they die.
The thunder roars aloud His glory
The rain cries tears of humility;
Trees spread out their limbs in prayer
Leaves tremble from His fear;
Waves break down on the shore
The sun bows down before His Throne.
But who stands perplexed amidst this scene?
Who knows not purpose, plan or scheme?
Who wanders aimless in a world of plan?
Who can find peace nor joy nor calm?
When will he see the signs within?
Hear the speech of the Highest One?
When will he join the obedient ranks?
Surrender his will to a higher plan?
Allah needs us not, 
It is we who depend,
The universe is enough to praise Him Alone,
If we rebel, He can replace us with more.