How much do we see and how much do we look?

By Mehreen Mushtak Nazarali

OMG! Are you thinking the same thing? How can I use see and look in the same sentence? Did MS word put red squiggly lines under it? Yes, No, Maybe.

Well, read ahead to find out…

I have written it exactly right! And for those who answered ‘No’ for the squiggly line, yay, you are right J. Basically we all know that English is a pretty confusing language, and though we may use the words ‘see’ and ‘look’ as one and the same, they have different meanings. So after giving a big clue now, I ask this question to you dear reader, how much do you see and how much do you look? Let me break it down again if it still feels the same.

I saw a beautiful swan gliding through the pond; I stood there, and watched in awe. Oh how beautiful, the water glistened under the afternoon sun and cast a reflection of the swan right under it. I rushed for my phone, by my camera couldn’t justify its beauty, in fact no camera would ever be able to. Oh how wonderful my eyes said! It’s breathtaking, my heart said! This brief moment one afternoon made me so thankful for my surrounding, and indeed asking, “which of God’s blessings will you deny?

On the contrary if I had looked, I would have then seen a white swan on the pond, just like any other, and walked on in my own world.  We need such brief yet powerful moments everyday in our lives to be able to realize, appreciate and be thankful for our surrounding, bounties, and all the happiness around us.

Now I ask you, dear reader, what difference can you tell in both the words? We use these words a million times. “Did you look at her?” “Have you seen my phone?” but we never realize the actual definitions of such simple words used daily. That is why I think schools and colleges have these sheets of paper that they give out around exams which clearly informs us how to answer a question based on key words, because sometimes two words may feel like one, but they are totally different.

So after a long rant, what I ask of you is to develop a habit, to be present in the moment and to see around yourself. Who is there? What is there? What makes you happy? Trust me, even on a day you feel low, or you feel down, there is always something within you that has the power to make you happy. You just need to ‘see’, to feel to find it.

Recent research shows that depression is one of the major problems with youth in today’s world. Why do you think that is? Do we ever show gratitude? Are we ever happy and content with what we already have? Or do we just want to run behind the latest object/trend on the market. And do we even know why we do that? Or are we just like one of the sheep following the rest in the herd. Why do we always feel entitled to things? Or why do we want instant results.

Yes! Technology is super fast, but we are still human beings, and despite knowing a lot, there is even more that we don’t. Sometimes, it is because we only look, we don’t see beyond the surface. An example I would like to end with is of Steve Jobs. He struggled so much, but he managed to change the world of computers and smart phones, and one thing he made sure of, was that even the insides of the device is neat, and clean and presentable as much as the exterior must be. We cannot look at it, be those who want and those who know can see it. Not only with the physical eye, but also the way it makes one feel. Otherwise, why would we hear this statement all through the world? “Once a mac user, always a mac user.”

To end with, dear reader, I urge you to sit toady and ponder, what goal do I have? What goals did I have? Have I achieved my previous ones? If yes, what did I learn? If no, what went wrong? What can I change to achieve them? Nothing is impossible! If you have had the ability to visualize it, to dream of it, to think about it, it is just hard work and determination away. You just need to see where you are headed, and see beyond what the picture shows you, don’t just look at what is right in front of you.

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Sorrow in the Heart of a Graveyard

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

So you may want to ask at what particular time in your life do you pause and reflect.  When do you seriously transform your mundane business knowledge into profit for your next life travel? At what point do you really begin internalising the years of madrasah and majlis to get a clear ‘google map’ for safe navigation in the next world. The answer is clearly not as simple as the question.

‘O man, you are striving unto your Lord laboriously, and thus you are meeting Him’ – Chapter 84. V6, the Holy Qur’an.  If anything, this verse is a confirmation of where we are headed, but is our unpreparedness resultant of the fact that unlike our trips to other countries, this out-of-the-world voyage is something we have not planned ourselves and so it is imaginably a distant promise by someone other than ourselves, making it all the more impractical for us to plan?

Young or old, male or female, any cast, any creed, one after the other, are falling down, into a far-off dimension where we can never reach out ever again.  As you walk past familiar names at the cemetery, the ‘network signals’ are all around us but we could only receive these signals if our ‘handsets’ (read inner beings) were not switched off or on ‘airplane mode’ (worldly mode).  One frequently gets amazed at how, completely oblivious of what surrounds us, many of us fleet past familiar tombstones without as much as a jolt or a jitter.  More surprising is how we just can’t seem to stop talking – amongst the graves, while the burial is taking place or even when condoling the bereaved.  Feels like nothing can distract us from talking, rightfully so, we do live in the midst of a generation of talkers.

Seriously, there are so many of us just eager to speak, there is barely anyone listening.  Every second person wants to tell others of their strong beliefs in any given number of topics, every other person is also an authority on a wide range of topics that they cannot help but just display his or her verbose diction on the matter.

When people stop listening, they stop learning.  Equally, those who are talking, cannot be listeners at the same time.  Consequently and by astute logic, even the lessons presented to us in the face of death or by attendance at a graveyard, cannot be learnt because we are deaf in the face of things.

Naturally, we are going to rue this opportunity of learning that regardless of your bodily muscle power or build, irrelevant to your social status and breed, and unaffected by the mountain of dollars and cents you possess, death is inescapable and will come to us at anytime, not allowing us a moment longer to prepare.  There in the graveyard, lay before our eyes, the lifeless bodies of the richest, most respected and the strongest of them who walked the same land that we are on today.

If for a moment, we can look beyond the concrete and the sand, we will inevitably see the sorrow that faces us should we fail to prevail upon the excesses of this world and brace for the life ahead.

A burial is the last place you want to plan to socialise with your friends, it is only in your solitude that you will hear those sounds, that will give you the realization of your finality as you see ants crawling in and out of a grave.  These sounds are significant, it is in these practices that are entrenched in our real life existences.  It is in these lessons that we can get to live the prescribed life of piety and submission to Allah (SWT)

The positive thing about our times is that knowledge is widespread, the negative sides, however, far outweigh the pros.  We are failing to practice anything we learn yet we are anxious to preach to others, and also our knowledge is making us forgetfully arrogant such that we are going further and further away from our own truths.

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Respect for Women

by Abida Ali (Uganda, Tanzania)

Since the olden times, women were always seen to be of less importance in the society and trust me, I have no clue why. Maybe it was because their role as women were seen to be very shallow and that they do not become the “heirs” of their family. And when they marry, they no longer keep their father’s name continuing. And of course, as for men, they always want to be known by their names and what possession they hold. In a judgmental society like ours, everyone believes that women cannot be heirs of their family. This is completely not true. How can we even prove for this to be true?

Throughout the years, women have been degraded and underestimated for everything they try to do. In such a society, we need to appreciate the efforts of a woman. People judge women for being so weak and timid while in real life, they can be stronger than the strongest man on earth. Yes, they may be physically weak but mentally and emotionally, women can bear more burden than men can. In this generation, since gender equality is seemed to have widely been practiced, the importance for women should be highly considered too.

In our society, women are taken lightly because we think that they do not have the potential to control anything. They are judged to be too emotional therefore they cannot easily make decisions with a clear mind. This may be true in some cases but it doesn’t give the right to anyone to mock the women of this society. We have seen so much oppression that happens to women to the extent that they have lost their voices. When they try to stand for their rights, it is taken as such a mere thing because oh! Its men who rule the world. Actually, it is women who make our society strong and it is their right that they have to be respected no matter what the case. Women are being judged daily on how they look, what they say, what they wear and it doesn’t stop. Our society has become so ill minded that if a woman is fat, it’s a problem, if she’s thin, then she’s anorexic. Society has made women the target of being oppressed and judged. Also, as a community, we really need to take a stand. Women are way more important than they are considered to be, as William Golding has put it “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men. They are far more superior and have always been.”

Furthermore, men need to consider the decency of women. It is against the modesty of a women for a man to say anything inappropriate only because they find it funny. In the current times, the world has grown so much out of shame that men oppress women by raising their hand on them, abusing them, sexual assaults and it has even gone to the point where if a woman is raped, her way of dressing is judged. If a man wants his satisfaction to be fulfilled, he would rape a woman even if she was wearing layers of clothes to cover herself. And what is worse, nobody says anything. And why? Because they are afraid that they will be judged. They are afraid that they will not be listened to. Our society needs to stop judging women based on their appearance. We need to start looking at women with great respect. We need to understand that their worth is priceless and nothing in this world should stop them from achieving their dreams.

There is nothing in this world that will ever give you the price of a woman. And for all the men out there reading this right now, there is one thing that should always be remembered, “How cheap can such a man be. He comes from a woman, gets married to a woman, and the same woman he marries, may give birth to a woman, and yet he decides to disrespect the women of the society?” There is a whole day dedicated to women on the 8th of March just to spread awareness and appreciate everything a woman can willingly do, just to make herself, her family and the society happy. We shouldn’t discriminate women for being so weak just because men are physically stronger. If men are so strong, then where are those men who insult and abuse their sisters and mothers instead of standing up for them? Can we call such men strong if they do not have any respect for the woman who brought them into this world while bearing a lot of pain?

We as a community, we need to show high levels of respect for any woman, whether it is a little girl or an old lady, or a teenager. All women are the same and they need to be treated with great care and affection to show that yes, women can be and should be respected at all times. If a woman speaks, she has surely made a difference in many people’s lives. Just the way Brigham Young has said “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation!”

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The Power of Listening

By Aamir Kanji (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The word “listen” simply means to hear something with thoughtful attention. (Merriam-Webster). Listening is a very important skill one needs to have in their daily life. Across the globe challenges arise and get resolved. However, some of these challenges do not simply because we do not want to utilize our natural ability to listen appropriately.

In this world every living thing strives to make a mark in a satisfying way to one’s needs. A tree makes its mark by producing fruits so that it is valued by the people who eat from it. Without the fruits the tree is still able to make a mark by being the source of oxygen for other living things to be able to breathe healthy and pleasant air. An animal tries to make a mark by either producing food to satisfy hunger or by showcasing dominance towards other animals. Such is there natural cycle of life.

Instinctively, humans have their own innate desire to make a mark and prove to everyone that their story is worth a listen. We all come from different backgrounds and lifestyles hence making each and every one of us unique and special. We have been mentioned in the Holy Quran as “Ashraful Makhlukaat” which means the best of creatures. Within us, lies the ability to accomplish tasks beyond any other living creature’s capacity as well as overcoming challenges by the simple use of our intellect.

Let’s look at one of the key challenges facing the Muslim world today. Listening well and thoughtfully is something that we fail to follow and sometimes this happens on a daily basis. If this basic ability is not enhanced efficiently and followed appropriately it leads to misperceptions among other issues. To understand this subject further let us carefully examine this basic tool in three aspects.

Firstly, in order to be able to listen to others we must first be able to listen to ourselves. This may sound easier than it actually is but usually is the most common cause of conflicts in our daily conversations. The power of listening is generally underappreciated to the extent that when difficult situations arise we sometimes lose control of our anger and cloud the voice in our head that usually speaks to us. Listening to yourself requires perseverance and deep understanding of who we truly are and what we intend to become. “And no one will listen to us until we listen to ourselves” – Marriane Williamson.

Spend at least ten to fifteen minutes before sleeping at night to listen your heart and mind about the activities that you pursued throughout the day. Analyze your actions and evaluate your decisions. This will help you to maintain your right ones and improve on the ones you feel weren’t the choices. Ultimately, this will give you a deeper understanding of life.

Secondly, we must be willing to listen to others. Whatever we do, wherever we go we will always meet people and ask for assistance. In order to benefit from people’s advice we must be willing to listen thoughtfully and give the appropriate time to appreciate what they have to say. This can only be achieved if we are willing to listen. It is also a way of showing respect to the people including our families and friends. Sometimes the only help that struggling people need is someone who can listen to them. Giving someone your time is also a form of charity. In today’s world many people head into depression simply because there is no soul to listen to their battles and struggles. Try and listen to what people have to say, who knows what you may learn or in what way you’ll teach. There is always a plus side of helping someone out.

Lastly, listening to our creator. Since childhood we have been taught that God is everywhere. He does not need to be found in order to be spoken to. He loves having conversations with us. He voices out to us to speak to him on a daily basis whether through our actions. Obviously, this varies with every religion’s methodologies. However, the goal is one and the same. He also gives us the option of listening to him by reading His books i.e. the Holy Quran, The Holy Bible among others. Always remember that while humans are limited in their capacity to help each other out the creator is not bound by such boundaries. He will always be ready to listen to us. Prayer is the cure for a lost soul, confused mind and a broken heart.

Remember that listening is a key tool in changing lives. It is a gift from our creator to us. Always be ready to listen to yourself, make time to listen to others and most importantly spare time to listen to your creator and then see this life in a more positive reflection.

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The Historic Letter of the Grand Maraje to Youths in the West

By Late Mustafa Mawjee (United Kingdom)


The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei addresses the youth of the West in an unprecedented message.  This is probably the first time a Grand Maraje has directly written to the youths, particularly living in the West.  Do think and ponder over every word and save the document for posterity.


The full text of the letter is shown below:

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful

To the Youth in Europe and North America,

The recent events in France and similar ones in some other Western countries have convinced me to directly talk to you about them. I am addressing you, [the youth], not because I overlook your parents, rather it is because the future of your nations and countries will be in your hands; and also I find that the sense of quest for truth is more vigorous and attentive in your hearts.  I don’t address your politicians and statesmen either in this writing because I believe that they have consciously separated the route of politics from the path of righteousness and truth.

I would like to talk to you about Islam, particularly the image that is presented to you as Islam. Many attempts have been made over the past two decades, almost since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy. The provocation of a feeling of horror and hatred and its utilization has unfortunately a long record in the political history of the West.

Here, I don’t want to deal with the different phobias with which the Western nations have thus far been indoctrinated. A cursory review of recent critical studies of history would bring home to you the fact that the Western governments’ insincere and hypocritical treatment of other nations and cultures has been censured in new historiographies.

The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of colour and non-Christians. Your researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodsheds wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during the First and Second World Wars. This approach is admirable.

By mentioning a fraction of this long list, I don’t want to reproach history; rather I would like you to ask your intellectuals as to why the public conscience in the West awakens and comes to its senses after a delay of several decades or centuries. Why should the revision of collective conscience apply to the distant past and not to the current problems? Why is it that attempts are made to prevent public awareness regarding an important issue such as the treatment of Islamic culture and thought?

You know well that humiliation and spreading hatred and illusionary fear of the “other” have been the common base of all those oppressive profiteers. Now, I would like you to ask yourself:

  1. Why the old policy of spreading “phobia” and hatred has targeted Islam and Muslims with an unprecedented intensity.
  2. Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent?
  3. What concepts and values in Islam disturb the programs of the super powers and
  4. What interests are safeguarded in the shadow of distorting the image of Islam?

Hence, my first request is: Study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.

My second request is that in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns, try to gain a direct and first-hand knowledge of this religion.

The right logic requires that you understand the nature and essence of what they are frightening you about and want you to keep away from.

I don’t insist that you accept my reading or any other reading of Islam. What I want to say is: Don’t allow this dynamic and effective reality in today’s world to be introduced to you through resentments and prejudices. Don’t allow them to hypocritically introduce their own recruited terrorists as representatives of Islam.

Receive knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources. Gain information about Islam through the Qur’an and the life of its great Prophet. I would like to ask you whether you have directly read the Qur’an of the Muslims. Have you studied the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his humane, ethical doctrines? Have you ever received the message of Islam from any sources other than the media?

Have you ever asked yourself how and on the basis of which values has Islam established the greatest scientific and intellectual civilization of the world and raised the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals throughout several centuries?

I would like you not to allow the derogatory and offensive image-buildings to create an emotional gulf between you and the reality, taking away the possibility of an impartial judgment from you. Today, the communication media have removed the geographical borders. Hence, don’t allow them to besiege you within fabricated and mental borders.

Although no one can individually fill the created gaps, each one of you can construct a bridge of thought and fairness over the gaps to illuminate yourself and your surrounding environment. While this pre-planned challenge between Islam and you, the youth, is undesirable, it can raise new questions in your curious and inquiring minds. Attempts to find answers to these questions will provide you with an appropriate opportunity to discover new truths.

Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to gain proper, correct and unbiased understanding of Islam so that hopefully, due to your sense of responsibility toward the truth, future generations would write the history of this current interaction between Islam and the West with a clearer conscience and lesser resentment.

Seyyed Ali Khamenei

21st January 2015




“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

“It is not my business to think about myself. My business is to think about God. It is for God to think about me.”



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