The Misconception about Persistence

By Sarah Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Persistence is a word that correlates strongly with opposition on a socially accepted level. Typically, when a person is labelled to be ‘persistent’, it is an unfavorable trait. But why is this? For this weeks’ edition, I dug deep into the etymology of this word simply to find out why this word stimulates so much negativity.

Being someone with a predominantly confrontational nature has led me to regularly question how it is possible for me to prove my point without being called confrontational or argumentative or negative words of the like. I remember visiting a near family member along with many other relatives of mine. As I listened to a conversation with broadly differing points of view amongst two siblings, I unconsciously waited for an elder to yell, “You’re arguing again?!” or something like, “Can’t you just let it go? Don’t be a sore loser.” But to my surprise, such a comment didn’t pass. This led me to wonder the circumstances under which a persistent person can be seen to be ‘good’ and vice versa.

It’s ironic that the word itself arises from the Latin meaning ‘to continue steadfastly.’ To me, that meaning bears a strong semblance to a word like ‘strive’ however, striving is looked at positively, while persisting is not. Here is where the misconception begins. Neil Kokemuller says, “The word persistent can have either a positive or negative – good or bad – connotation, depending on the circumstances of its use and the listeners’ interpretation.” He goes on to define persistence as “Sticking to an idea, opinion or course of action despite extreme challenges or difficult odds.

It turns out that the reason persistence carries such a negative aura is because it is interpreted to be a form of changing the opposite persons’ thought process. While instead, a claim should be focused on both sides of the story; persistent people are hell bent on proving their point regardless of what another might have to say.

That’s what the internationally spoken language elaborates to me. But delving further into the nature of the word, it is plausible to say that a listeners’ interpretation is what primarily determines how a persistent person is looked at. And no, it is not whether your point is valid or invalid. It is much more than that. In my opinion, it is dependent on a speakers’ tone, choice of words and ability to accept defeat. Going back to the stated definition earlier, persistence is associated with sticking to an idea despite difficult odds. As you can see, the idea isn’t to ignore or to destroy the odds; but simply to withstand.

While the general idea of persistence being good or bad may be something simple to understand; it is very easily overlooked when passing a mental, judicial or verbal judgement about someone’s attitude. We often assess that if a person is resistant to drop their idea; they are unfriendly and incapable of accepting another’s opinion. As the famous saying goes, ‘to each his own’ which means that everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion regardless of what the world around them feels. It is important to remember that our beliefs must be shaped by our own intellects because otherwise, we’ll spend our whole lives watering someone else’s tree.

Despite my belief that persistence is a likeable quality because it shows a persons’ strength and perseverance, I also accept that persistence can be your undoing. Therefore, it is important that both ends – listeners and speakers take into account the circumstances and arguments under which persistence is used. While one must be open to learning, he must also not let others’ statements or judgements be his own because then they are never really his/hers.

Words like argumentative and persistent have similar meanings but with different connotations. The context in which a statement is made should determine our judgement of whether or not a persistent attitude is problematic or advancing.

Treading upon this question was a learning experience for me too and its quite a relief that I had a rare discussion this evening during which I pressed an idea and backed it up with relevant facts and not once was I told by the listener to stop being so combative. Many times I have felt clichéd feelings like, “Nobody ever listens to me” or “I’m not arguing, I’m just trying to explain my point of view.” And I know for certain that I’m not alone. It was a relief for me and it’s my hope that it will be for you too when you realize that combativeness is not always a bad quality.

As you finish this article, I’d like to give you a heads up that I just persistently persuaded you and let alone being offended, you probably didn’t even realize I used it! By making you feel like it is normal to feel offended about how people call you combative, I quietly opened up a tab in your head that became more susceptible to the things I said. It’s really all about perspective, sometimes we only say a person is persistent (negatively) because we don’t agree!  But in that case, aren’t we persistently resisting their idea too?

The Holy Qur’an has the perfect combination and remedy for every situation. Allah (swt)tells us to couple persistence with patience and perseverance. Remember those 3 P’s, they’re your tools to expressing yourself and your ideas with ease in a social setting!

 

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The Existence of God

By Muhammad Siwji (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Having proved the need for a religion, and the need for a god, we now arrive to the point where we need to prove the existence of a god. There are several proofs for proving the existence of god, yet this one, the Ibn Sina’s argument, is the one that enables us to prove HIS existence entirely through the use of intellect and logical premises. This is so, because the use of premises based on revelation to to prove gods existence is just futile, since the validity of revelation depends on the proving of the existence of god first.

So, the intellect comprehends 3 types of existences, as follows;

Necessary existence – Exists in essence

Possible existence – Can and can not exist

Impossible existence – Can never exist

The analogy to understand the above could be that of sweetness;

Sugar is necessarily sweet as it is sweet in its essence

Any drink could be possibly sweet as it could or could not be sweet

Salt is impossible to be sweet as its sweetness goes against the universal laws

Impossible existences, as the name suggest, cannot exist. This is because it would be illogical as is obvious from the example above how something salty cannot be sweet at the same time

We hence cannot perceive the impossible existences, as they do not exist. What we are left with, hence, is the necessary and possible existences.

Whatever we see around us is a possible existence as it can and can not exist, for there was a time when it did not exist, and was then brought into existence by either a necessary existence or a possible existence. If it was brought into existence by a necessary existence, then we have already proven the existence of the necessary existence. If it was brought into existence by another possible existence, and this second possible existence was brought into existence by a third, we then form a continuous chain of possible existences.  The possible existences in the chain cannot exist, but by the existence of a necessary existence first as explained by pure logic;

Suppose there is a sweet drink, and this sweet drink was a result of flavouring a previous sweet drink, and this goes on and on. If one was to think further to the initial drink that was there to provide the sweetness to all the other ones, he would come to the point where sugar was once added to the drink, sweetening it, as the drink in itself, was not sweet.

One could argue that the chain of possible existences could be a circular one that is, the last possible existence in the chain gives existence to the first possible existence in the chain. This too, is impossible, without the existence of a necessary existence, again, as explained by pure logic;

Suppose there is a race, and racer one says to himself that he wont start unless the racer on his right doesn’t, and that racer says that he won’t start unless the racer on his right does, and on and on, until the last one says he wont start unless the first racer does. In this case, will the race happen? It obviously wont as everyone is waiting for the other to start the race. It can only take place if there is a racer who shall start racing independent to other racers. Similarly, the circular chain of possible existences shall not exist unless there is a necessary existence there to provide them with existence.

With this we have proved the existence of a necessary existence, and godwilling, we shall, in the next article look at the characteristics of such existences.

 muhammad.siwji@gmail.com

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Dar Es Salaam

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Social Media – A Path to Self Destruction

By Aliabbas Hameer (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

We mingle in society not so much to meet others as to escape ourselves Josh Billings

We live in a day of age where our lives are dependent on technology and we use that as a medium to interact and socialize with our peers through the social media platform. The self decorated woo-doo it is may spark positivity all around and create a surreal feel of immense interaction but within the depths of the core of this phenomenon, it destroys the human mind and the love instilled for one another.

Steven Strogatz of Cornell’s University in his study touched on a very interesting aspect in which he deduces how we foster our relationships when social media comes to play. In a conundrum, when we actively become part of the social media we tend to interact with more people and socialize with more people; different cultures, ethnicities and races. This all seems rather brilliant as we believe that since industrialization there has been a vast decline in people intermingling and now with this platform we can stay in touch. However, the irony is due to this platform we are gaining more relationships but we are loosing more meaningful relationships that we foster in the real world in comparison to the casual ones. Steven fears that our important connections will weaken, in specific; our wives, our parents, our children and our go to friends.

“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relation with kin –  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Constant updates, Double encryption and new versions of anti-thefts on a daily basis, yet still the human mind prevails and is of greater strength than the man made security. A fair number of tech users are not media literate and thus very vulnerable to a fair number of threats, mainly cyber bullying and loss of personal information such as credit card details often due to scams. Once an individual is a victim of this it becomes virtually impossible to desensitize from the forthcoming problem and that leads to a path of self destruction.

According to Bullyingstatistics.org, over half of teens who use social teens have been bullied online. And over 25% of those have been bullied repeatedly. 4,400 cases have been registered with suicide linked to cyber bullying every calendar year. 

With everything on our fingertips, the human race feels more connected and has everything accessible with just a touch. Surely, society has lost the importance of connecting physically and sparing a bit of their time to mingle and release the day’s stress. Instead we opt to Netflix and connect with one another using the social media platform, more is lost than actually gained. The theory that withstands is that Long distance relationships are less likely to work out in comparison to short distance.  The logic behind it Is rather straightforward and does not require rocket science to dissect, when one is with another physically they tend to share, open up and feel that sense of belonging which is virtually impossible to perceive over Facebook or Skype for that matter. Reality is more of an open book till you see into one heart and find out about their unique challenges only then will we treat each other more gently, with more affection, patience and tolerance.

Over the course of the article, we could conclude that in real terms we are more socially inclusive but psychologically we are more detached than ever. Adolescence is globally accepted as the most sensitive phase and is when the youth are required to socialize as they feel the need to share their problems with their folks. However, social media leads to the youth not very able to express themselves in the manner they wish to and feel very isolated in their box and this leads to, the most common outcome according to experts that youth are very prone to anxiety and depression.

All users, regardless of age are very addicted to their phones and spend hours on the phone everyday, a minimum of two hours in a day can destroy the sleeping patterns of one as the brain feels uneasy and very active due to the rays emitted from the phone. Humor aside, here our sleeping patterns are hindered and then there is us who hinder it by using it unreasonably and take our sleeping time by using our phone.

Lastly, the one that is very common in our community and one that needs to be stressed upon is the Inferiority complex and FOMO’. The two states is what at least 95% users of our community phase if not the whole, who are in constant need of creating an image and trying to blend in with everyone as they have have the ‘fear of missing out’. While the rest are busy comparing their lives relatively and end up belittle themselves, technically that should never be happening but we are not in control of the obvious. Thus, this leads to a very big problem that is regarded as common and not given the great importance that it is deserving of, which is building an ‘inferiority complex’ where one is completely shunned into a dark and is very complacent and is not willing to take on any task.

To conclude, I am a victim of all above. I use this as a medium to express this to you all that these are problems that if not dealt with seriously can lead us by getting stabbed on our back. If the social media mediums are used appropriately and productively there is nothing that is better and beneficial like it, but don’t let it use up your time where you could hit up on a football field, mingle over supper or a beach deck to socialize with your peers.

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Is Feminism Emasculating?

Saleha Suleman,

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

 

Feminism. Such a popular word in today’s day and age. But what does it really mean? The most basic, straight out-of-the-dictionary definition of feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is a range of ideologies, political and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.”

From the definition alone, we can say that the simple answer is that no, feminism isn’t emasculating. And this is truly not the voice of someone who is a staunch ‘feminist’, a word that has grown unpopular over the years, or the voice of someone who hates men (which is not at all a feminist trait, by the way), or even someone who believes that women are better than men. This is a response from someone who believes in the theory of feminism.

There are so many surprising false notions about feminism. The most shockingly misogynistic one was probably in this article I came across – written by one man addressing other men – because it said, and I quote, “most unattractive women are more likely to gravitate towards feminism”. He also goes on to say that women want equal rights without equal responsibility, which is really not the case.

Like any advocate for feminism will tell you, we don’t want to turn the tables to the opposite extreme and have us ruling the world and other extremist nonsense. Feminism is not the belief that men should bow down to women. No, it is the belief that women should be respected for who they are, for the choices they make (which includes whether they want to work or stay home, whether they want to have one child or five). Feminism does not mean a woman wants to be the ‘man of the house’ and take all the decisions, it isn’t a dictatorship. It wants us to have an equal say. Feminism is not the belief that being aggressive or ‘girly’ causes you to forfeit the right to call yourself a feminist. No again. You can be a feminist regardless of your choice of dressing, interests and faith.

You can be a feminist regardless of your gender.

Yes, that’s right. I say men can be feminists too because feminism isn’t just a fight for our equality, it is for yours too. It is the fight to break free from these self destructive stereotypes that limit us, those that say that you aren’t ‘man enough’ if you are sensitive or chivalrous, if you take advice from another person, if you admit an insecurity. In his TEDTalk titled “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough’ ”, Justin Baldoni says, “I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with you or me, and men, I’m not saying we have to stop being men. But we need balance, right?”. And that is exactly what we want too. He adds  “Growing up, we tend to challenge each other. We’ve got to be the toughest, the strongest, the bravest men that we can be. And for many of us, myself included, our identities are wrapped up in whether or not at the end of the day we feel like we’re man enough.” But it’s not. It shouldn’t be.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe if men can accept and can be accepted as the altered, better version of being ‘a man’, women and men alike won’t need to fight their instincts so hard. Emma Watson, Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, delivered a moving speech in 2014, in which she speaks about similar issues faced worldwide. This is an excerpt from her thirteen minute speech: “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer.”

As a Muslim woman with many Muslim friends, much too often, in schools and homes, in lives of my friends, I see that anti-feminism has become synonymous with religion, often related to Hijab and chastity. It’s not quite like that though. Islam and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive, they are interrelated.

There are, of course, many historical instances which prove this, especially from the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Not only was his wife (one of the most affluent merchants of the time), Lady Khadija, an integral force in the spread of Islam, he proudly spoke about the affection he had for his daughter when the people of his time mocked him for having no son and thus, no heir.

Among other missions that the Prophet had been sent for, the one to bring respect to women in the hearts of the men of that time was a vital one. He declared that women “have rights to inherit property and determine who and when they marry. For this, the Prophet was ridiculed for mixing with the ‘weak’.”

“Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female – you are equal to one another.” (Qur’an, 3: 195)

It is safe to say that Islam is a religion that empowers women. What we face is often a bias that stems from our cultures. In fact, in a news blog article on The Huffington Post, Muslim women are described as the ‘true feminists’, because our feminist ideals go beyond the singular aspect of our body alone.

The same follows for men and boys in Islam. Never has a messenger of God been described rightfully as insensitive or resistant to advise from their female counterparts.

So to reiterate and to answer my initial question, feminism is not emasculating, unless your definitions are still old school.

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The lessons we get from Karbala

MohammedHussein Kara,

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The event of Karbala is renowned in Islamic history. This tragedy took place back in the year 680 AD, where the grandson of the Holy Prophet Mohammed and his family were massacred in the battlefield after being deprived of food and water for three days. This however, did not satisfy their beastly nature, after butchering the men, they went ahead, to torment and loot the ladies, snatching away their veils, chaining them, setting the tents on fire. This caused them great humiliation, and yet, they preserved their patience. This incident generally stands for the ultimate sacrifice that Imam Hussain made for the absolute love of Allah. All characteristics portrayed by his entire army played a vital role in this happening and are of distinct examples to us. They tell us we can make this world a better place to live in.  Out of the variety of lessons we draw from this incident; these are some.

On the day of war, when there was a swarm of arrows, came the time of prayer. Imam’s army did not hesitate to perform their prayer. This gives a lucid note to the Muslim community that prayer must be considered under any situation. This also shades light on the fact that Imam offered prayer despite the threat to his life, so what excuse do we have for not offering prayer? Therefore we must understand and keep the essence of Islam alive by performing our obligations.

Another lesson we gain – and is by far the most inspiring is that it’s never too late to repent. Hurr Al- Riyahi serves as an excellent figure for this. Initially, he was the person to block the access of Imam’s army to the river of Euphrates. He was among those who schemed against Imam. Before the day of Ashura, in the night, he regrets his actions and comes pleading to Imam’s camp. Imam tells him that he forgives him and Hurr was honored by being one of the first martyrs. Imam gives us a subtle message here – we should forgive even those who have wronged us, for it is wise. The Holy Prophet is also reported to have said “the best of you are those who reconcile with whoever that cuts you off, give to whoever that deprives you and forgive whoever that wrongs you.” If Imam could forgive someone for plotting to kill him, why can’t we forgive people for their simple mistakes?

Loyalty is rare today. However, this trait is was prevalent in the army of Imam. Habib Ibn Madhahir was an old friend of the Imam. He was 75 years of age when he fought in the battle of Karbala. If friends only meet in times of hardship, it is indeed not a true friendship. Habib did not turn his back on the Imam in time of need, even if he was struck by old age. He was martyred and is so honorable; he is buried in the shrine of Imam Hussain in Karbala, Iraq. Another explicit illustration is Hazrat John. On the day of Ashura, Imam told John “you have accompanied us all the way, but now you may go.” John only said “it is not fair that I benefit from you company and hospitality but abandon you in your hardship.” Another prime model is Hazrat Abbas, the brother of Imam. When he had gone to fetch water for the children, he did not drink a sip of the water all because his family and friends hadn’t drunk water for three days and so he didn’t either. All of these lofty personalities stood for the truth and displayed loyalty and love even in the most severe scenarios.

Globally, Islam is known as the religion of truth and righteousness. The incident of Karbala is in conformity with this. Karbala was where the truth was in rivalry with falsehood, where the entire religion of Islam was at stake. The truth reinforces the values emphasized in the Holy Quran. For sure, standing for the truth is not an easy thing to do. Imam stood for this truth, went the entire distance and sacrificed all he had for us. Even after all Imam and his army went through, Imam’s army’s faith did not shake nor did their objective change but they stood for the truth they had faith in. We must comprehend that the truth is what Islam stands for and when a Muslim sees injustice, oppression or tyranny, he/she must oppose it for it becomes our duty.

Amr Bil Maruf and Nahi Anil Munkar are of paramount importance in Islam, they are two of the ten branches of our religion. Karbala teaches us not to flee when things get intense and out of hand. We also mustn’t be frightened while forbidding evil. We must focus our minds on the permanent outcomes in the afterlife and our abode there. One night before the day of Ashura, Imam gathered his entire army and put off the candle that was the only source of light. He then told those who don’t want to take part in the battle anymore to take off so no one saw them and they wouldn’t be embarrassed. When Imam put the candle back on, no one had left and they were all in tears saying that it was not in their capability to desert the grandson of the Holy Prophet.

Having patience and remaining steadfast in the times of distress is a tough thing to do. Patience is not just a matter of willpower. Instead, patience as a virtue is Allah’s gift for us. Allah says in the Holy Quran “those will be awarded the chamber for what they patiently endured, and they will be received therein with greetings and (words of) peace.” [25:75] Allah clearly states that those who remain patient will receive a reward without measure. The Imam did remain patient in this time of hardship and so did the ladies when they were dragged on the streets and jailed. Their patience was not out of weakness or compulsion but a demonstration of their persistence and bravery. Imagine seeing your entire family being murdered in your presence and remaining patient and trusting the will of Allah. Can we do that?

After the showdown in Karbala, the women and children were taken captives. They were tied up and tortured on the route from Karbala to Kufa then to Damascus. The entire way, they were forced to walk behind the soldiers who carried the heads of the martyrs, which were mounted upon spears. When they arrived at Yazid’s headquarters in Damascus, Imam Sajjad requested for all the heads to be removed from the proximity of the women and children in order to protect them from spectators. This act shows how Islam takes Hijab seriously and should be observed by everyone, regardless of gender, age or race.

This tragedy represented a role which one of the extraordinary humanitarian roles gave the Islamic world so many unforgettable lessons which won’t be forgotten along all of eternity. Imam directed a fatal blow towards Yazid’s army, leaving behind a legacy of truth that shall prevail till the end of times. In this noble land, the martyrs ran their battle of dignity and scarified themselves for honor. This was the most effective event in all of Islamic history. Every year, Ashura crosses by us to remind us of their heroism and firm stance against falsehood.  It is therefore essential that we learn from these lessons and implement them in our daily lives.

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