Modern education vs Traditional belief system

by Nassir Jaffer – Toronto, Canada

In order to understand how Modern Education could be a challenge for a traditionally Orthodox conditioned mind we first need to weigh what the basic modern education might entail:

(Modern Education – ‘INQUIRY’ (scientific) however, if without ‘Awareness/Mindfulness’ could result in immorality/unethical action/diabolical. We have seen how some scientists have played it foul (chemical weapons, killing machines, Nuclear.. etc..), to include malpractice by some various related professionals and this does not absolve some Clerics (Ego/Desires/Accountability)! Formal education without internal inquiry resulting in self realization is as good as rain on barren land.)

Question the dogma: the ‘tell me why’, ‘tell me more why’ and ‘still tell me more why’. Note, the verses in the Qur’an do not seem to advocate on reprimanding anyone by inciting such questions, on the contrary…..

What was the cause then for our belief system to have (what may seem possibly) chained us over the centuries to not exercise our God given gift, the neo-cortex brain (relative to progress hence importance given to modern education)?

Let us reel back to Islamic Golden age/Empire/Civilization. We know for a fact Muslims then had to be open minded in order to have achieved their success having translated (before progressing any further) many ‘pre-Islamic’ knowledge related material like Greek Philosophy to include areas of medicine, mathematics, science (philosophy and not at the level of modern times), etc. where the collection came from various previous sources/civilization/nations (including from those who we call kafirs). Point to note is many contributors were also non-Arab and non-Muslim but fell under Islamic empire (in continuing with Prophet’s ideology with respect to giving importance to education – the condition of freeing the captives was they educate the Muslims as an example). Remember, knowledge contained in Nahjul Balagha could also be echoed from previous civilizations. No doubt knowledge and level of understanding also progresses with passage of time hence Nahjul Balagha contains impeccable piece of work.

Worth noting the lives of scholars like: Al-Khwarizmi, Avicenna, Al-Biruni, etc. we so proudly like to associate with would probably shock us in realizing that perhaps their understanding and practicing of Islam then may not quite have been the way our belief system is being practiced today. One wonders if they were sidetracked and bound by rituals like ours as many previous prophets and their household, disciples had also experienced mass killings/brutality but we do not hear from our aimas having built their ‘belief system’ by commemorating those previous events, occurrences or for that re-enactments, etc..?. Have our minds been so occupied with over the decades guilt and fear based indoctrination (by augmenting possibly out of context some verses from the Qur’an to reinforce) such that there is no room for facts? Psychologically we know (it could be argued) that there is no room for facts when our minds are occupied with fear.

Worth noting, the epic of Greek Mythology or for that Mahabharata with various related characters have been deduced to the tee and with that how the understanding of human psyche works ‘beyond the question of hero or villain’ which is where our conditioned mindset is so used to relating. Such knowledge was apparent with Prophets who came after including our aima as it is ‘Universal’ and does not necessarily belong to a specific nation or belief system. Have we ever heard of such level of knowledge being imparted on the mimbar (for the majority of us who are mimbar dependent) or for that from other related speeches/lectures (note, this is relative to deeper understanding of religious and universal knowledge as contained within the Quran regarding previous civilization)? Have we heard about the characters associated with the event of Kerbala as we compare with Bhagavad Gita (battlefield of Kurukshetra where thousands of individuals were slaughtered en masse and that also between relatives) or Ramayana/Mahabharata deduced/studied to that level or for that, extent (notwithstanding universal knowledge / faith)? On a similar note, we have the story of Julius Caesar where each character had been extensively studied and compared with how ‘human’ psyche works in relation to ‘reality’ and how our various ‘faculties’ play on us, literature after literature. What a classic dramatic speech at the funeral of Julius Caesar by confident rational Brutus followed by Mark Antony’s emotional and poetic where he totally changes the direction and sways the crowd off their feet contrary to Brutus’ thinking – logic vs emotion. This reminds me of how we used to be systematically ‘emotionally’ indoctrinated with fear and guilt at the madrassa as we grew up hence no wiggly room for any questions to ask, hardly much on meaning of this life rather all there is to it is remember the names of 12 imaams and jannah is yours, insinuation of ziyarat as being more important than Hajj, shed tears for aima and jannah is yours, etc…and with that mentality came segregation.

Well, we must admit, with the exposure of Western ideology (modern education), we have started to question (though it is still a stigma with the majority), look at things differently and evolve quietly with our belief system and thinking to some extent (though a long way to go). Yes, we have been reluctantly embracing modern education (fragmented) at turtle’s pace mainly because we (the mass) never fully understood our belief system (reciting or memorizing verses of Qur’an without knowing/understanding the contents and meaning) on one hand and with over the decades of blind faith indoctrination on the other hand has restricted our pace to fully assimilate/advance towards modern education especially for those of us who have been bogged down to neither here nor there and are now being challenged by the new generation with hardly much to offer let alone reason. Note, modern education does not mean/equate with western culture essentially though it could very well be a fine line (depends upon your definition and extent of understanding – remove logic, build on fear/guilt and you are left with…..).

My high level analytical assessment is purely for academic purpose and possibly to foster a constructive unbiased or agenda related debate.

With that said, I’ll leave it to your understanding when prophet (PBUH) said, would you follow the religion of your forefathers even if they were wrong? Would our revered Imaam’s really be pleased listening to the material coming from the Mimbar – has our belief system underplayed or for that misrepresented them? Have we redefined (for better or worse) in due time course the ‘Universal’/holistic approach, understanding, intent and message of God?

As a side note, whenever we are faced with issues, we tend to look at a reductionist point of view/one angle rather than wholesome/holistic. This tends to put us in awkward position many a time. I highly recommend reading: ‘The Third Jesus’, ‘War of Worldviews’ and ‘You are the Universe’ by Deepak Chopra.

From the above and relative to modern education, we need to first nip in the bud our current issues/concerns of our tailored belief system before we can progress. Are we ready for that, will we ever be?


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Nocturnal Life

By Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) 

As time goes by, societies seem to have been pushed to the brink by the ever-evolving technologies around us.  It is not uncommon to hear many people complain that a day of 2 hours is simply not enough to do everything one wants to do.  As a result, whether it is for learning or entertainment, it would be nearer to the truth to assert that we have effectively changed the rules of living based on needs and wants that we have created ourselves.

The 24-hour retail store, the city that never sleeps, burning the midnight candle, and many more such clichés, while legitimately observed during very impending circumstances, such as appearing for exams, or a public service that needs fixing before daylight, and other such emergent situations, there is a vast majority of people, who have converted the meaning of nights into hours of compulsory entertainment, rendezvous of a variety of types and wheeling and dealing of smart men and women.

Whichever way you look at it, the clock has been shattered as the barrier between night and day is increasingly thinning for most.

Imam Sajjad (AS) in one of his prayers, while praising the limits imposed by the Almighty on the well defined hours of both day and night, and boldfacing the how immensely necessary they are to the nourishment and growth of living beings, moves on to clearly define the natural functions to be observed during these times – ‘He has therefore created for them, the night they may rest in it from the work that is wearisome and from movements that produce pain.  He has made a covering for their comfort and sleep, so that they may be refreshed and strengthened and thereby obtain pleasure and a renewal of appetite.  He made for them the day which is full of light, that they may therein seek His grace.  That they may find means of sustenance provided by Him and walk about in His earth, searching for that which will yield comfort in this life and blessings in the life to come’.

On the scientific side, research shows that consistently getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night is beneficial. Any more or less can increase your risk for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even death. Getting enough quality sleep is also key to a healthy lifestyle.

Modern sleep scientists believe that sleep deprivation has deleterious effects on mental concentration, memory, mood, and quality of life. In addition, recent data indicate that sleep deprivation impairs endocrine and metabolic functions.

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker

Apart from the heaps of evidences that one can search for in relation to sleep, there is another – a more sinister effect of being a night bird, and this one impacts society.  Not merely the productivity aspect that economists and commerce experts would be interested to assess, but also the vices that erupt from gatherings, parties and so on, late into the night.

Before annotating these social ills, productivity aspects brings to mind students – not those who are studying in earnest, but those who just cannot sleep at night, and must consume themselves through chatting, movies or just surfing the net for hours on end.  ‘Early to bed, early to rise’ becomes and invalidated and antiquated thesis in such an environment.  Whether the children learn these things from parents, whose nocturnal social lives prevent them from enforcing any manner of discipline, or that the new trends are simply embraced as the right things to do, as is the case with many parents who feel that they faced subjugation at the hands of their parents, or some kind of deprivation and hence they are all too eager to admit any novelty that a teenager advances to them.  The reason could be either or both, the aftermath is certainly undesired because the body, deprived of adequate sleep, fails to then cope with what then becomes a ritualistic visit to the school.

‘They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots.  Their actions are never good.  They make no attempt to turn from evil.’ – Psalms 36:4 NLT (Bible)

It is not a secret that our society is also plagued in part with this habit of late night gatherings – not just in the Holy month of Ramadhan, when it actually peaks exponentially, but all year round.  Some groups choose to use an aid in the form of a chewable herb that supresses sleep, but because of its partly intoxicating effect, one can as well utter a lot of gibberish in the process.  Overworked long distance truck drivers habitually use this ‘drug’ to keep them awake.

By some accounts, the rate of marital issues that crop up in our community, is a result of our inability or sheer reluctance to focus on our new family life but insist on maintaining ‘friend nights’ each week, when we can detach ourselves from responsibilities of the home.  These escapades can last long and are profoundly counter product, especially when dealing with little children at home.  Initially it was just the men, but now even the ladies have their own nights.  And what do we really imagine may be happening in the company of close friends? Obviously, letting off one’s inner secrets, scandalising someone else, or falling into a vicious cycle of attraction to other people, despite being married.  And while all this is ongoing, children inevitably ape their parents’ lifestyle, and so the cycle perpetuates itself.

The problem is still a matter of faith – we don’t seem to realise that being a Muslim is not just about wajibat, mustahabbat, muwaddat, and so on, it is a complete way of living such that our developed personalities are capable on their own, without necessitating elaborate tabligh, to attract others to the deen.  At present, we stand convicted of not following the very prescriptions that we claim to others are the truth.  And so, the effect of our persuasion is diluted, but of course.

‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’ – Benjamin Franklin

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Strands of Life

By Mehreen Mushtak (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) 

The most beautiful yet taken for granted gift we have is life. Life is made of so many strands that are strongly intertwined together which make everything perfect. The strands are our family, confidence, health, wealth, friends, knowledge, skills, values, and the list can go on and on. But when do we realize the value? When the strands start unraveling. It definitely hurts when one strand is taken away in an instant; and we wish for a lot at that point. Imagine losing someone close to you, do you regret that you didn’t have more time? Or do you cherish the numerous memories you made together? This is definitely a difficult situation to get over, and it takes great efforts to hold all the strands together.

From the extreme scenario, lets move to a much lighter one, which we all face. Every time you get flu, you miss the basic of breathing with your nose. It starts feeling like a luxury at that point and you promise yourself that after your flu goes, you will value the ability. I’m not sure if it really goes that way after a few days though until the flu comes around again.

Every individual have different strands, and each strand could be of a different length, thickness, color; you name it. Picture your life as pieces intertwined ropes; all vary based on the values and importance you have placed for each factor. Won’t that help you balance out your life? Or identify any imbalance? No one is perfect and it is only you who fully know yourself, if you don’t, no one will.

A few basics I would follow to have a strong rope with numerous strands intertwined are to draw it first. It may not sound important but do try it, you will be able to piece a lot together, discover areas abbot yourself that you didn’t know before, create balance in the chaos of life today, and most of all, be grateful. Losing a strand is okay; many factors are beyond control. Just try to stay strong and tighten the remaining strands. You wouldn’t want to have loose ends, would you?

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The Treaties on Rights

By Imam Ali Zaynul Abidin
Excerpt from “Risalatul Huquq – Treaties on Rights”

Introduction: Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin’s `Treatise on Rights’ is the only work attributed to him other than supplications or relatively short sayings and letters.

In the Name of Allah, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate

 Know – God have mercy upon you – that God has rights against you and that these encompass you in every movement through which you move, every rest through which you rest, every way-station in which you reside, every limb which you employ, and every instrument which you put to work. Some of these rights are greater and some less

The greatest of God’s rights against you is the right which He has made incumbent upon you for Himself and which is the root of all rights, then those which He has made incumbent upon you in yourself, from your crown to your foot, in keeping with the diversity of your organs.

He has given your tongue a right against you, your hearing a right against you, your sight a right against you, your hand a right against you, your leg a right against you, your stomach a right against you, and your private part a right against you. These are the seven organs through which acts (af’al) take place.

Then He gave your acts rights against you: He gave your ritual prayer a right against you, your fasting a right against you, your charity a right against you, your offering a right against you, and your acts a right against you.

Then these rights extend out from you to others who have rights against you. The most incumbent of them against you are the rights toward your leaders (a’imma), then the rights toward your subjects (ra’iyya), then the rights toward your womb [relatives] (rahim).

From these rights branch out other rights. The rights of your leaders are three: The most incumbent upon you is the right of him who trains you through authority, then of him who trains you through knowledge, then of him who trains you through property.

The rights of your subjects are three: The most incumbent upon you is the right of those who are your subjects through authority, then the right of those who are your subjects through knowledge – for the man of ignorance is the subject of the man of knowledge – then the right of those who are your subjects through property, such as wives and what is owned by the right hand.

The rights of your womb relatives are many; they are connected to you in the measure of the connection of the womb relationship. The most incumbent upon you is the right of your mother, then the right of your father, then the right of your child, then the right of your brother, then the next nearest, then the next nearest – the most worthy, then the next most worthy.

Then there is the right of your master who favours you [by freeing you from slavery], then the right of the slave whose favours reach you [by the fact that you free him], then the right of him who does a kindly act toward you, then the right of the mu’adhdhin who calls you to the ritual prayer, then the right of the imam who leads the prayer, then the right of your sitting companion, then the right of your neighbour, then the right of your companion, then the right of your partner, then the right of your property, then the right of him who has a debt he must pay back to you, then the right of him to whom you owe a debt.

Then the right of your associate, then the right of your adversary who has a claim against you, then the right of your adversary against whom you have a claim, then the right of him who asks you for advice, then the right of him whom you ask for advice, then the right of him who asks your counsel, then the right of him who counsels you, then the right of him who is older than you, then the right of him who is younger than you.

Then the right of him who asks from you, then the right of him from whom you ask, then the right of him who does something evil to you through word or deed, or him who makes you happy through word or deed, intentionally or unintentionally, then the right of the people of your creed, then the right of the people under your protection, then all rights in the measure of the causes of the states and the occurrence of events.

Therefore happy is he whom God aids in the rights which He has made incumbent upon him and whom He gives success therein and points in the proper direction!

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Pursuing Excellence, The Guide to Memorising The Holy Qur’an – Part 1

By S.L. Al Hakim
Published on Books on Islam and Muslims | (

Beware: Satan’s Whispers

A common argument is that there is no point in reading, let alone memorising, the Holy Qur’an if we do not understand it, and that the language is foreign to us. This, of course, is one of many forms of demotivating sophistries by the master of fallacies, Satan. Subtle, yet convincing. Plausible, yet fallacious. Imam Khomeini, may his soul rest in peace, states that: We imagine that recitation without insight has no effect –this is the whisper of Satan.

Had it not been for worship and piety, Satan would have been amongst the noblest, and behind the Divinely Guided (as), Satan would be most knowledgeable of creations in all forms of sciences. With that knowledge, and having sworn to be the enemy of mankind, the tools at the disposal of Satan, the cursed, is far greater than imaginable, and he should always be expected to be waiting in ambush for the next opportunity.

Satan Said, ‘Now, for Thy perverting me, I shall surely sit in ambush for them on Thy straight path; then I shall come on them from before them and from behind them, from their right hands and their left hands; Thou wilt not ?nd most of them thankful.’ (Al-A’raf 7:17-18)

 Be on guard! Always. Even at times when one feels that finally they have started to climb the mountain of spirituality. For it could be an illusion, a decoration of our deeds, a deception of the time, and one that can lead to a greater loss. And we must also be on guard that the actions we think are pious and good, and performed in the name of religion, may not be according to the commands of the Creator. We must always question our actions lest they be decorated in a way that makes us believe something which is not.

…and Satan decked out fair to them their works, and barred them from the way, though they saw clearly. (Al-Ankabut 29:39)


..if only, when Our might came upon them, they had been humble! But their hearts were hard, and Satan decked out fair to them what they were doing. (Al-A’nam 6:43)

 Is it a wonder why so many narrations confirm the need to start any task in the Name of Allah, reciting the first Ayah of the Holy Qur’an

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (Al-Fatiha 1:1)

 Yet, when wanting to recite the Holy Qur’an, we must first seek refuge from the cursed Satan?

So when you recite the Qur’an, [first] seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the expelled [from His mercy]. (An-Nahl 16:98)

 Satan will do everything to take you away from reciting the Holy Qur’an, finding every excuse, and showing you every temptation. Phones will ring, messages start coming in on social media, and lucrative deals and opportunities will be put before you.

Take heed, this is the work of Satan, the Cursed one, tempting us away from the duty on hand.

Part 1: Why Memorise The Holy Qur’an?

 The youthful mind is designed to remember and memorise. That’s a primary function of the brain: Memory. It will seek out thinks to store in its memory, and will therefore chase poetry, passages, speeches, songs and whatever it can find in order to remember. Is it not better that one has a program to assist the mind in memorising the Holy Qur’an?

It is unfortunate however, that some scholars may discourage the youth (let alone the elders) of their communities from memorising the Holy Qur’an. Many reasons may be presented, such as that

  1. It is not important to do so;
  2. Some of the enemies of the Puri?ed Household (as) have memorised the Holy Qur’an and it did not bene?t them, why or how could it bene?t us?
  3. More important than committing to heart is the application of the Holy Qur’an…

Some will ask if there is even any narrations suggesting we should memorise, or that there is no point memorising without understanding.

Part I will provide answers to these questions, while Part II will look in to memorisation technique.

To be continued…
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