Aliasgher Janmohammed (Cape Town, South Africa)
Hijab in the 21st century is a contentious issue.
As we are exposed to different cultures and different societies, we start asking many questions about the “norms” in our Muslim way of life. One area that often gets a lot of attention is hijab. Many argue that women are at a disadvantage as they must observe both the hijab of the eye and a head covering, while men are only required to maintain the hijab of the eye. Women are at a further disadvantage as the head covering is something the world can measure in a tangible manner, i.e. either the woman wore the hijab or did not. However, the hijab of the eye is more difficult to measure; how do you know if an individual man is observing their hijab? We can observe a woman and say she did or did not wear a hijab but with men it seems impossible.
Women are, therefore, scrutinised at a micro-level, while men get away with saying, “the first look is allowed”. While this particular statement is mentioned often in a humorous manner, deep down you wonder if people actually believe it. Many lectures often concentrate on the hijab of women as well. I recall listening to a preacher once who elaborated on how women must wear a head covering when vegetable sellers come to their homes (or any other na mahram), even though they interact with them on a daily basis. No mention was made about the female helpers that often occupy our households and how the men should lower their gaze. Even though we have forgotten this important aspect of hijab – the hijab of the eye – the Quran provides guidance for Muslims in every generation. With this, let us look at how the Quranic verses are structured in regards to this aspect.
Three verses of Sura an-Nur are attributed to this subject. Interestingly, the Quran approaches the subject in an entirely different manner, in that it begins by first addressing the men about the importance of their hijab – “Say unto the believer men that they cast down their gaze and guard their private parts; that is purer for them. Verily, Allah is well aware of all that you do.” Many of us might already know about the aspect of “lowering the gaze”. However, this requires significant practice to perfect and self-discipline, where one has to measure their own behaviour. As described previously, there is no tangible measure of determining if a person maintained their hijab of the eye, hence, we need to be our own judges in this matter.
The hijab of men can also be extended to two other areas, physical hijab and social hijab. On social media today, we are often exposed to images of our brothers showing their improved physique through body building exercises. This in accordance to Islamic laws is not permitted and means that we are not adhering to the physical aspect of the hijab laws set for men. We are not allowed to wear skin-tight clothing that exposes our physique in a manner to attract the opposite gender, and this law extends to men as well.
The social hijab also requires our attention. It is a common sight today to see girls and boys mingling freely as part of youth groups, community organisations, camp retreats or even conferences. All these events have good causes, but caution is important in making our young brothers and sisters realise that they must always maintain social hijab. However confident we may be in our ability to avoid Haram, let us not forget that Shaitan even tried to misguide Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail (peace be upon them). So what special spiritual powers do we possess that make us think we can completely avoid his evil whispers? On this note, it is important to note that parents must not maintain double standards in this regard. Too often we see guardians allowing their male children to be part of any gathering but limiting their female children. Hijab is for both, the boy and the girl.
My favourite Surah in the Holy Quran is Surah Yusuf. The stories narrated in the Quran are often broken into several chapters, but Prophet Yusuf’s entire story is described in one Surah. And what a beautiful story it is of a young beautiful child observing his hijab and preventing the advances of Zulaikha. “And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality.” This story should be the guide for all our brothers on the importance of hijab for men and how one can adhere to it.
Zishaan Karim (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Imam Sajjad (as) introduced himself in the court of Sham, with a beautiful description of himself. He drew attention to criteria step by step, showing the need for Ahl al-Bayt for succession of Muhammad (saww) He said, I am: The son of Mecca and Mina
O people! I am the son of Mecca and of Mina. I am the son of Zamzam and Safa. He said this to show his lineage that traced back to Ibrahim (as) who was a Muwahhid. Surah Al-Anaam, Verse 161: Say: “Verily, my Lord hath guided me to a way that is straight- a religion of right,- the path (trod) by Abraham the true in Faith, and he (certainly) joined not gods with Allah.”
Then he said, I am The son of Muhammad
The son of Ali
The son of Fatimah bint Muhammad
The son of who was killed at battle of Karbala
He gave a beautiful description of him being from a pure lineage and that of being the SON OF BEST FIVE, The Ahlul Kisaa (as). This Ramadhan, I want to reflect upon the Dua of Makarimul Akhlaq, and derive lessons from his golden words. We will place these lessons under Five main topics, and hence the title; ‘Five habits from the Son of the Best Five’.
I will name these habits and then pick lines from the dua to reflect upon them in order to maximize the words of SON OF THE BEST FIVE to the best of my limited capacity.
Imam (as)’s words are the best of words and I will journey in the ocean of his eloquent and spiritually uplifting words. May Allah give us tawfeeq in this holy Month to be inspired by the dua, and to take it a step further than recitation on Laylatul Qadr.
Habit 1 ??Connect with The All Pure
The whole Dua is a conversation with Allah (swt) imploring Him to keep me on the right track, beginning with my inner thoughts to a reflection of them on my exterior self. The language is that of a needy who cannot manage if he is not held by the hand of the Needless- that of a desolated who cannot do without assistance from the All Powerful- that of one in darkness in search of a ray of hope from a glimpse at Al-Noor.
Raise my faith to reach the most perfect faith, and make my conviction to be the most excellent of convictions. Make my intentions to be the best of intentions, and my actions to be the best of actions. O Allah, increase my (good) intentions, through Your Grace, Improve my conviction, through what is with You, and reform what is corrupt in me, through Your power.
The very beginning lines of this imploration make it obvious to me that first and foremost, I need to work upon is my faith. I need to be convinced of what I believe in, and hold on to my beliefs with my life. This can only happen when I have believed after reasoning with questions and argument, having proofs to remove all doubts.
When my mind has accepted the One and Only Truth, the way forward to actions has been paved. Where the mind knows and recognizes the One and Only Infinite, intentions are geared towards the Infinite and His Divine Pleasure. Pure intentions yield pure actions.
Any action can outwardly be amazing and great but when it is void of purity, it holds no value other than being impressive to those who do not matter. To impress those who matter, recognition is a vital condition.
The question is, can I attain His recognition without His Divine Help?
I am in need of His Grace and His Power, to reform what is corrupt in me, in this blessed month, strengthen my conviction and thus purify my intentions to yield pure actions. That will be maximizing the month to the best of capacity.
Saleha Suleman (Cape Town, South Africa)
By 2030, the world population is expected to be 8.5 billion people. While the number of people increases exponentially, the earth’s resources are depleted at the same rate, if not faster. As a result, the first genetically modified food, a Flavr Savr tomato, was produced in 1992 with the same technique used to produce antibiotics for resistant bacteria – a favourable gene is taken from one species and ‘placed’ into another. This way, scientists can combine two favourable factors in one crop, for instance fast growth rate and resistance to pests.
Those in favour of such products argue that many impoverished communities in countries affected by drought or other natural disasters would have a reliable food source, and these crops would have been altered to be able to grow in unfavourable soils as well as be resistant to pests, rodents and the diseases they carry. Fungal infections could destroy acres and acres of papaya or potatoes and cause a farmer to be unable to sell those crops into the market, and GMO’s can prevent this.
Despite this, there have been several concerns in regards to the consumption of foods engineered in a lab, such as the lack of natural nutrients, the fact that this could become a business rather than a means to sustain people and even the religious ramifications, where some say that manufacturing GMO’s is equal to playing God. There are also several unknown health repercussions of consuming GMO’s, which may make themselves evident only in the long term. One of the more worrying conditions that people show concern for is cancer. I myself have had many a conversations with my family about whether these products lack in nutrients.
Furthermore, when the initial roll out of GMO’s started with corn and soybean, there were no regulations which required companies to state that these products were GMO’s, and so unsuspecting consumers were enraged for being cheated into having non vegan, kosher or Halaal foods. It has of course, since then been mandated to have labels in many countries.
In this article, I aim to summarise what the four major monotheistic religions – Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism – have to say about genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
Muslims are ordained to eat only halaal meats, and the consensus amongst clerics seems to be that as long as the genetically modified product consumed does not have any part of meats that are not allowed (such as pork), there is no problem in consuming such foods.
While some have argued that the Qur’an states that no man will be able to create anything as perfect as Allah has, most scholars elaborate on this verse by explaining that genetic modification is in fact, modifying already existing creations. Additionally, as Allah’s Khalifah on this earth, if something has more benefits than harm to it, Islam welcomes these benefits. If, however, there is more harm, or someone chooses to afflict harm by it, that act is prohibited.
Like Islam, Judaism requires food to be kosher, meaning it falls under specific categories of permissible foods and that it is slaughtered in a mandated way. The religious scripture of Judaism, the Torah, states explicitly that it is impermissible to mix breed two animal species, although the official stance of the Israel kashrut authority is that GMO’s do not affect a food’s kosher status if it is in microscopic amounts. The country also has very strict labelling policies, although not all kashrut authorities around the world hold the same standards.
In USA, for instance, a genetically modified salmon was produced a few years ago and classified as kosher because it technically still had scales and fins. However, the labelling around it was unclear in whether it would have a GMO label or not. People have often been seen to believe kosher foods are healthier than non kosher foods, and although this has no scientific basis, this could be construed by many as deception.
While the general view of the Vatican is that provided such foods undergo thorough ethical and nutritional examination, GMO’s could greatly help to reduce the hunger striken in a continuously growing world population in many parts of the world, especially considering that new technologies are able to ‘cut out’ allergens and unhealthy components of crops. The Church of England also infers that scientists’ ability to take part in these processes are “a result of the God given powers of mind and reason”.
There are, however, other churches that are still anti-GMO’s and believe that it is not a permanent or magic solution for hunger, but rather ‘messing with nature’ or ‘playing God’. It is also important to note that while one church in a specific country may have a pro stance to GMO’s, the same church in a different country can have the opposite standing. This was the case at Anglican Church of Cape Town, South Africa in 2002, where the Archbishop believed that GMO’s would not be safe for consumption nor would they blend in well with the African systems of farming, causing hundreds of farmers to lose jobs.
The Hindu’s view on GMO’s is largely unclear, despite the anti-GMO campaigns that ran in India after GMO brinjals were permitted. One University of Florida religion scholar opininates that GMO’s may be used by Hindus in regular food but not as a part of rituals or offerings to their deities.
Eventually, it seems that with the world ethos moving gradually towards rationalization governing an individual’s decisions, unless religions specifically permit or ban GMO’s, it may be up to the individual’s personal understanding and beliefs that make this decision. However, my personal opinion is that as long as GMO manufacturers adhere to strict regulations to ensure no tampering and explicitly state the contents of the products in retail markets, large scale production would hugely reduce the burden on a declining agriculture industry due to continuous climate change. Additionally, to avoid negative competition between farmers and GMO producers, the two sectors should be merged, and incentives provided to farmers to have a blended production process of both natural and genetically modified crops where possible.
Miqdad Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
It is guidance to the God-fearing people, who believe in the unseen, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and from our provisions to them, they give to charity. And they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you, and with regard to the Hereafter, they are absolutely certain. These are guided by their Lord; these are the winners. [2:3-5]
You shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and bow down with those who bow down. [2:43]
Salah and Zakat are both given importance in these Ayaat, and subsequently in Islam. Muhammad ibne Yaqub al-Kulayni narrated from Mu’awiya ibne Wahb, who said, “I asked Aba Abdillah about the best of actions with which the slaves can attain closeness to their Lord, and the (action) which is the most beloved to Allah.” So he said: “I do not know of a thing after the cognizance better than these prayers (five daily). Do you not see that the pious slave – Isa ibne Maryam said: And He has ordained upon me the prayer and the purification as long as I live?”
Salah provides immeasurable rewards, especially when performed in its ‘appointed time’. Sayyid Sistani has said, “It is befitting that one should offer prayers punctually. A person who considers prayers to be something ordinary and unimportant is just like one who does not offer prayers at all.” There are numerous verses of the Quran and many Ahadith relating to the importance of Salah. The first two we have seen are among the introductory verses of Surah Baqarah, which declares the Quran to be a book of guidance, enunciates the ‘roots of religion’, invites mankind to accept Allah’s guidance, and criticizes the actions of the people of the past.
The benefits of prayer are not for Allah, for he does not need our praise. Whatever deed we perform for pleasing Allah has an effect on us. Not only does the worship of Allah create a sense of respect, it also elevates the soul of man. The remembrance of Allah disciplines the mind and reins the rebellious soul.
Those who pray are constant in their remembrance of Allah, whereas a person is negligent of his Salah and faith will sin without thought to the results of his deeds. Prayer reminds us about Allah and removes this negligence from our souls.
The Holy Prophet has said, “The daily Prayers are like a stream of clean water in which a person washes himself. If a person washes himself five times a day, he will never become dirty. In the same way, a person who prays five times a day and washes his heart with the clean spiritual spring, his heart and soul will never be filled with sin.”
Another benefit of prayers is cleanliness. Cleanliness is an important part of Islam, and the ablutions we perform before praying clean all impurities from our body.
For every prayer, there is a time, and it is necessary for those who wish to pray to do so within the time. Therefore, this helps a person become disciplined and self-restrained, and make them recognize the value of time.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Salah is that it shows the oneness in direction of the Muslims, as they stand towards the Qiblah as one. When prayed in congregation, the rewards are even higher and it promotes unity, as the worshippers stand in rows and pray together to Allah.
Allah is Aalim. There is nothing that can be kept hidden from him. If one does not pray punctually, he will know. The Holy Prophet has said, “a person who does not attach any importance to prayers and considers it to be something insignificant deserves chastisement in the hereafter.”
Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
The age-old debate if money can buy happiness, stands unresolved. Now more than ever, as the world reels from the devastating effects of a global pandemic, this philosophical question, will be put to test again and again.
The state of happiness of a people is generally measured against their physical, mental or emotional state, and correlates to the rates of depression or other mental conditions, often resultant of living conditions, innate and inherited value systems as well as earnings per household. For instance, Plano in Texas, USA was declared as the happiest state amongst US states because it has one of the lowest depression rates at 14%, and the smallest share of adults (13%) whose physical, mental or emotional problems affect their personal happiness. Additionally, Plano has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country (7%) and the lowest unemployment rate (3%). “Another indicator of Plano’s residents’ happiness is its low separation and divorce rate.
Of course, you would expect margins of errors as well as prejudices in many such surveys especially where data is hard to come buy, hence general statements like Taipei in Taiwan being the best city in the world, is suspect because the survey subjects are usually expatriates whose earnings are better than if they were in their home countries and so all the other socioeconomic factors, seem stable and harmonious. Yes, empirically speaking, these are some of the best available methods to measure happiness today.
For those with more spiritual persuasions, happiness is conceived as transcendence beyond the physical or the sensual to achieve the long-lasting eternal happiness which is with the mercy of God and His heavens. So, earthly life is just a path toward the eternal home. In this vein, and with respect to the Muslim ummah, the Holy Qur’an suggests an alternative cure for this malaise – In Chapter 13, verse 38 “Truly, only through the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find peace (satisfaction)”, alluding to a whole new dimension about what our pursuits in this life ought to be about.
The 24-hour news media and the self publishing audio-visual world population is busy weaving stories arising from the different dimensions of the crisis, prominent amongst which are the economic battery to individual and family incomes, the mental and psychological impact consequential of a life in isolation and the overarching fear of the infection that knows no bounds. One of the stories that caught my eye was the way couples and parents have been grumbling about the difficulty they face in cohabiting in unlimited time within a confined space. This has led to a rise in the rates of divorce petitions across New York, for example, where the new normal in which couples have to ‘forcibly’ be around each other for more than 4-5 hours of wakeful time, is leading to a domestic pandemic on its own. The lack of tolerance with nagging children and the inability to find any me-time away from the hustle and bustle of family life, all attest to the vastly changed human mentality in which the roles of family and society have changed completely.
In a meme published by the THE MUSLIM FAMILY to remind us of the role of the family in Islam, we read as follows – the family plays an important role in the life of a Muslim and is a foundation of Islamic society A family unit is highly valued The peace stability and security it offers is seen as essential for the spiritual growth of Muslims They are encouraged to look after elderly members of their community in particular those of their immediate family. Hence the reason why most Muslims live in extended families. Caring for parents is considered an honour, blessing, duty, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth.
The problem is our attitude to life. And it really does not matter if you are from the East or the West. The ubiquitous element that seems to be all of our ambitions is money, status, power and fame such that even those in whose names we purport to be working hard, are last on to-do-lists. We go the mile in extending a public show of love for our families, we admit our children in high status schools, we weigh our women in gold and jewellery only but we build the pillars of our families in separate units or compartments. The husband has his own set of friends with whom he congregates for hours on end for the purpose of amusement and of recovering from hard work at our workplaces and at home. We encourage our wives, sons and daughters to follow a similar pattern of life, where privacy, social activity, possessions et al are given eminence over family togetherness, homely together activities and discussions that can spur intelligence at home. Yes if there were a balance, things would be different, but the current pictures we see show that our lives are actually skewed to an extreme that Islam does not recognise nor condone, an you do not have to be a Sheikh to understand that the family is the most important unit of a society and any investment you make inwards will reap untold benefits both in this transient world and the permanent hereafter.
“Our capacity to draw happiness from aesthetic objects or material goods in fact seems critically dependent on our first satisfying a more important range of emotional or psychological needs, among them the need for understanding, for love, expression and respect.” – Alain De Botton. Alas, the other pandemic that we continually experience, in the same pursuit of power and fame and wealth is our profound dedication to advising others, whereas we have not fulfilled ourselves first. Imam ‘Ali (AS) showed us by example that even advising a boy against over consumption of dates, had to be preceded by one’s own conscious practice, but the number of self proclaimed advisors in the world, is perhaps another reason why this ship we call life is going aground. For even if the counseling is all sagacious and well meaning, the mere abundant supply of the same, is clearly leading to an undervaluation of the essence of their words.
The concept of happiness is very superficial amongst humankind, for true happiness is more than just doing fun things, rather it forms the bedrock of doing meaningful things. Let us see, who is happier, the brave doctor working round the clock to treat patients even at the risk of his own well being? Or the one who is at the beach having the time of his life? You be the judge. And your answer will indicate the bracket of Maslow’s hierarchy you belong to knowing well that the doctor is using knowledge to save others with all his or her ability and the beach-goer is obsessive of his own personal amusement, one lasts longer then the other. In utopia, both would be admissible answers, but this is earth, a transient station of trials and tests.
With all the incorrect aspirations of attaining happiness in this life, as we scramble for every crumb and dime, the purpose of creation is lost to our senses, and we therefore become unkind, keeping ourselves before others. Allah (SWT), the most kind, could not have created us for the level of unkindness we see today, but if you do not believe in divinity in the first place, then please start reading over.