A Higher Value

Mohamedarif Suleman – Nairobi, Kenya

A lot has recently been said about changing values of our society and so on. The eternal feud between members of the older generation and those of the current one is predictably cyclic. If anything, these differences, these so-called gaps of generations have been there since time immemorial. For at no one time have the expectations and perceptions of these two varying age groups been similar. A youth has to go grow into a higher age, perhaps outside what defines youth, to accept and practice certain hard core facts. In the same tone, one has to be a youth in order to possess that zeal, that unique enthusiasm that is necessary in , say, spurring a revolution. Both sides of the coin, you may say
Equally true are the conflicts arising between members of the opposite sex. Increasingly, both new and old couples are plunging into the inevitable conflict of individual roles in a home. The female sex, obviously wary of Islamic emphasis put on their rights are out to ask for equity, if not equality. Men, on the other hand remain strong disciples of the age-old teaching that the place of women is in the “kitchen” only. Again, a situation that has existed since marriage itself. The only difference is in the prevailing environment at the time. None of the sides are wrong, and yet neither is correct. A paradox?
Since Ramadhan, a lot of lectures have been given between the parent-child relationships. Preachers and zaakireen have on occasion gone hoarse in admonishing of the attending audience the necessity of optimum parenting. What exists presently, goes the argument, is extreme parenting. Parents are either too lax such as to let the children loose and wandering or they are so strict as to muffle the very virtues that youth is all about. Neither group is justified but given the choices at the disposal of these parents, their actions are hard to write off as abnormal. Those parents who offer freedom and immense indisposition of wealth to their children are, said to be compensating for their own lost time of luxury and affluence. Unknowingly and in the garb of love and affection, they are shoving their offspring into an unknown and unpredictable alley. Those who are too strict are too conscious of the perils of external influence, and are justifying their actions in the name of protection. Two parallel groups, none centre. Either right or left.
For Muslims, there is another violent struggle that ages a long time. Many times preachers are accused of distancing themselves from the contemporary society and levelling constant blame to the so-called “West” and “Western influences”. The proponents of such anti-Western sentiments prove the validity of their actions by the fact that the said society, due to its non-conformity to Laws of nature, are themselves dipped in social chaos, and can therefore hardly be role models to other societies. The other group feels that such attitude is anti=progress. The contention is that die to the outstanding progress that this particular sphere has offered, affords them the nature role of socio-economic leadership. If anything, their role in the upliftment of society is a matter worth emulating.
Constant struggles. Stephen Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” states that “Interdependence is a higher value than independence”. In this fragment, lies the wisdom that should suffice to put an end to these traditional conflicts. If each group, minor and major were to understand that they are each indispensable, or that various actions are carried out due to some form of significant circumstance, then the world would be void of battle. This is a value higher than all others.

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The Two R’s of Decision Making

 By Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi,Kenya)

Each one of us, has at one time or another, had to be at the center of certain decisions. Some of the decisions we made turned out well, others didn’t quite shape up the way we wanted them to. But, hey, who can blame us? After all, they were not simple decisions such as having two spoons of sugar or one in a coffee cup, They were very complex decisions. Decisions that would change the course of many individuals for the time to come.

Ask a father who has to decide about a marriage proposal for his daughter. Is this man going to keep my daughter happy? Is he the right man? Or you may talk to a university going student, for whom choosing between one course and another is horrendous in itself. A leader, too, has his worries. If he decides to take a certain step, he directly affects the lives of a multitude of followers or members, if he hesitates, there’s no saying what might happen. Life is a series of decision making processes. At each step, we are called upon to exercise the finer judgements to steer certain matters in a preferred direction. Most of the times we make trivial decisions, but the moments that account for those mammoth resolutions, cannot be sidelined at any cost. At the end of the day, one has to decide, lest he falls in the trap of the Greek mythical donkey, whose only choice was to feed out of a bundle of hay or a pail of water, but not both, For many days, it could not decide which one was more important to it’s survival. After the lapsed time, the donkey died…not out of hunger and thirst, but due to inanition, Indecision, if you may.

Any decision involves two R’s. Risk and Return. Sounds too financial? Believe it. This is true because all decision making involves the future. We can only make decisions about the future; no matter how much we may regret it, we cannot alter the past. Indeed, there is one thing certain about the future, which is that we cannot be sure what is going to happen! Sometimes, we have be able to predict with confidence that what actually occurs will be one of a limited range of possibilities. We may even feel able to ascribe statistical probabilities to possible outcomes of occurence, but we can never be completely certain of all the future. Risk is therefore an important factor in all decision-making and one that must be considered explicitly in all cases.

In all aspects of life, risk and return tend to be related. Intuitively, we expect returns to relate to risk. In investment, for example, investors require a minimum rate to induce them to invest at all but they require an increased rate of return, the addition of a risk premium, to compensate them from taking risk.

Life is toughest for the individual making the decision, although some people make it look like child’s play. For these, it is perhaps their resoluteness or their objectivity in thought that affords them the luxury of calm and composure, otherwise a lot of people simply lose their cool. For the on-looker,however, everything appears magnified, exaggerated. One fails to understand why X is taking so long to take a decision which, one evidently feels is so minute. These variations vary out of perception. The striker of a football team knows best why a ”golden chance” was in fact so difficult. To the commentator and other viewers, there couldn’t have been a better opportunity.

As a community, our leaders are called upon variously to make certain very sensitive decisions. Decisions with which we are mostly not satisfied. Workers in various social circles as well are victims of this insensitive and incomprehensible attitude by fellow community members. And if the very circumstance were to fall upon these outsiders, they would probably act similarly, if not worse off. So what is the moral of all of this. Each one of us is taking risks all the time, sometimes we lose, sometimes we gain, but it is the collective understanding that might just make the difference.

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The Politics of Class

Mohamedarif Suleman – Nairobi, Kenya

Suffering from the vagaries of a class society, our community today is divided well amongst three classes.  There’s the ultra rich, the thriving middle class, who are increasingly reaching for the top slot, and those that are in economic crises.

Yes what you are reading is not necessarily a chapter from a Karl Marx book, where the lesson of communism is taught.  The eternal struggle of classes that he preached may be a reality, but the world has taught us that the ideology does not work.  This is the state of affairs of a Khoja society we are talking about.

The ultra rich and those tagging along in this group are very dear to the community, since they provide the bulk of the finances that committees yearn for in order to take charge of a people’s socio-economic prospect.  It is true that we cannot do without this class.  But while some are true contributors and sincere sponsors, most are unfortunately out to exhibit their prowess in society.  Giving large donations and then reminding everyone that “I donated it”, is a culture well ingrained and deep rooted.  But it must be accepted as well that their display of arrogance and wealth is the only way they can remain distinct from the mass of that society.  Then come the fast-paced community middle-class, which unlike its economic (that of Marx) counterpart, is a dull and detached class of people that resent the “first class” because they are snobbish and show offs, and abhor the third class (yet to be discussed) since they comprise of  fanatics and the have-nots.

That brings us to the last class of people, who are very important to society because they form the bulk of participants in any function or forum.  They have little voice or political leverage and are usually denominated as traditionalists whose only role is to give a vote to the leadership.

A lot of the readers may find this particular interpretation of classes as very provocative, while an equal number might find this article a true picture of the current state of affairs.  What you think, matters less because it is the time of reckoning, and you must be prepared to call a spade, a spade.

Sandwiched in this three-way bread-and-filling situation is, usually, the leadership.  Again, a lot depends on where the leader originates from, which class to be specific.  If he belongs to the first category, then it is pretty easy for him.  He just has to keep all the parties happy.  Perform religious activities to please the third raters and show development projects to delight the rich.  But his peace will be subject to the ease with which he can say yes to the demands of put forth by the sponsoring class.  The moment he says no, regardless of the merit in question, there is a great fall out of support, and those who promoted him yesterday will do everything necessary in their power to stop him.  Their formula is a bit complicated though.  Their cause has got to be justified.  It has to have a certain tinge of legitimacy attached to it.  The only way this is possible is by swaying the third vote.

If the leader belongs to the middle class, rough seas await him, and uneven shores receive him.  It is pretty rare nowadays to have a leader outside the first class due to the numerous pressures involved in leading a community.  This then eliminates the need for a from a third class.

Alas, what must be understood is that each one of us is a leader, and we inevitable belong to one of these classes.  Should we not genuinely put aside our differences and rise to the bigger ideal of unity and togetherness? Should we not consider ourselves as equal when we join hands to recite Dua Wahda on Fridays? Should we not be wary of the ultimate fate that awaits each one of us, rich or poor? Should we not become more Muslim in our dealings than engage in petty politics in the pursuit of fame?

While the onus definitely lies with the leadership to set the ball rolling, it would be fair to say that the members of any society are crucial in the transformation that we have thus far been paying lip-service to.

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The Meaning of Tabligh

Mohamedarif Suleman – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

It time has come when, as Muslims, we should cross the boundaries of our homes and propagate the word of Allah (SWT) to greater audiences. It would be right to say that it is our immediate duty to preach, in any form and substance possible, the message that the Holy Prophet (SAW) left to his Ummah, and the message for which Imam Husain (AS) sacrificed his life.

Unfortunately, one may assert that the above are very grand statements that have little relevance in our real life situation today. This, given the fact that we have limited manpower and resources at hand to swerve the direction of humankind today. On the other hand, one may as well contend that when we talk of propagating, we do not necessarily imply the use of financial power or enormous government lobbying to achieve our goals. Something as small as what we did last Aashura (holding a session of informative talks by prominent speakers in audible and intelligible language), could be regarded as a milestone achieved in terms of crossing our threshold. And inshallah, with renewed zeal, it is hoped that such programmes will prove to be vital source of tabligh of our religion. History shows us that it was only due to the interaction of the Holy Prophet (SAW) with the communities surrounding him, that his mission attained success. Of course, one indelible mark he left for us to gaze upon was the aspect of his character. It was his character, and not any material prowess that saw him succeed. The funds that Janabe Khadija (SA) lent to the entire mission were undoubtedly the means with which the propagation was spearheaded, but it was not the basis.

Christians, too, believe that Jesus Christ (Prophet Isa) was a man who mingled with various kinds of people, and eventually influenced them with the power of his character. Hereunder is an interesting excerpt from “Health and Happiness” by E G White, which talks of his presentation with varied peoples:”He attended the great yearly festivals of the nations, and to the multitude absorbed in outward ceremony, he spoke of heavenly things; he brought treasures from the storehouse of wisdom. He spoke to them in a language so simple that they could not fail of understanding. With tender, courteous grace, he ministered to the sin-sick soul, bringing healing and strength…While he ministered to the poor, Jesus studied also to find ways of reaching the rich. He sought the acquaintance of the wealthy and cultured Pharisee, the Jewish noblemen, and the Roman ruler. He accepted their invitations, attended their feasts made himself familiar with their interests and occupations, that he might gain access to their hearts…”

If anything, the above narrative teaches us to project ourselves outward to touch the various avenues of society, and penetrate them with the objective of influencing its members.

But a question that we must ask ourselves is whether going out to serve the Lord is for us a timely task at this hour. Are we prepared to answer the questions that will arise about our own faith? Is our learning sufficiently helpful in guaranteeing out success? Are we involved in further learning our own faith? Are we passing this knowledge to our offspring? If the answers to all of these questions can be in the affirmative that it would be safe to assume that we are ready for real tabligh. But if due to our own unhealthy and lax attitude towards our religion, we have ourselves lost track, little can be said about the blooming prospect.

When community leaders shout about the much-flagged “youth” slogan, they forget that they are conspicuously absenting the elders from any answerability about the state of these youths. If youths are unresponsive, disobedient and lack the interest to serve in the community, who, one should ask, made these youths? And frightful as this may sound, how do we expect these individuals to father/mother their children, given that they are pretty devoid about religion themselves? Many questions arise. Do we have the answers? Or re we too preoccupied in making a living or a name to really care about the next generation?

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