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.
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:
- Why the old policy of spreading “phobia” and hatred has targeted Islam and Muslims with an unprecedented intensity.
- Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent?
- What concepts and values in Islam disturb the programs of the super powers and
- 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.”
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!
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.
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Dar Es Salaam