Children’s Column

Ramadan: The Spiritual and Physical Detoxifier

Amatul Hakim

 

For those of us who are familiar and follow the beauty regime, we know the importance of regular detoxification in order to have healthy and glowing skin. It is a process where all the dead skin cells and dirt are removed, leaving the skin glowing and fresh. Surely this regime should not be restricted to one’s apparent self, but rather be re-enforced on our entire being which comprises of both physical and spiritual entities; therefore, our all-knowing Creator has made fasting an obligatory act which cleanses us both physically and spiritually. While staying hungry for long hours aids our body to repair itself and enhance its functioning, the act of suppressing our physical desires gives the spiritual being within us, a boost.

Fasting is mandatory on every sane, adult (as per shari’ah, it is one who has reached puberty), healthy Muslim who is not travelling. In the state of fasting one is supposed to abstain himself or herself from eating, drinking and having marital relations, apart from the other forbidden things which are sinful in every state.

Every prophet of Allah ta’ala who came with the shari’ah, that is the divine command describing the way of life, had fasting as one of the prescribed acts for their followers. As per the shari’ah of our prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), the month of Ramadan has been chosen, since it has numerous significances associated with it. It was during this month that the holy Qur’an was sent down from Lawh-e-Mahfooz to the lowest sky. Further describing about Lawh-e-Mahfooz, it is the protected tablet which contains all the divine books even before they were revealed down to the earth, along with the scrolls in which the destiny of every human that has taken birth in this world has been written down, every small or big event of the world which has already occurred or is yet to occur, including inventions and discoveries, have been recorded even before the creation of earth.

Allah ta’ala’s mercy and generosity are at its peak during this month, every good deed which fetched single reward at other times, gets multiplied seventy times during Ramadan, all evil jinnaat and shayateen are chained, doors of hell are closed and doors of heaven are opened. The blessing and guidance of Allah ta’ala descends down as desire to do good. When all this is happening around us Allah ta’ala wants His believing slaves to take maximum benefit from it and thus commanded us to fast during this holy month, thereby making us humble, submissive and spiritually high so as to absorb much of His blessings making it sufficient to last for next eleven months ahead. However, many of us fail to absorb this mercy, our fasts neither purify us nor do they fill us with guidance and mercy of Allah ta’ala, we wait for Ramadan in anticipation of iftar parties and get-togethers, standing for taraweeh prayers becomes burden for us, pangs of hunger of a fasting person no longer gives him the spiritual boost, because they are lost as he keeps himself busy with smart phones and worldly affairs.

Things we can do to improve ourselves:

  • My teacher often says the time of suhoor and iftar are like the two blank cheques offered to us by our Lord, supplicate as much as you can, ask for guidance.
  • Minimize the phone usage – games, WhatsApp, Facebook updating etc.
  • Recite the Qur’an as much as you can, ideally at least one Qur’an during the month of Ramadan.
  • Listen carefully to the recitation of the Qur’an during taraweeh. Do your homework ahead, go through the meaning of the part of the Qur’an which is to be recited for that night.
  • Thank Allah ta’ala abundantly for His blessings, and reflect on His creation. Connect with Allah ta’ala.
  • Be consistent in doing good deeds, even if it is small.
  • Eat healthy food and cut down on junk food.

Weird Millionaires

Parvez Akhter

What do the following names: Tobey Romes, Jasper and Jason, Tina and Kate, Trouble Helmsley, Flossie, Tinker and Gunther have in common?

Answer: they are not the names of humans. They are in fact the names of some of the richest animals in the world. For example, Gunther IV, the German Shepherd. This dog actually received his inheritance from his father, Gunther III, a German Shepherd who received an inheritance from KarlottaLiebenstein, a German countess. Gunther IV has bought a Miami villa from Madonna and won a rare white truffle in an auction. He’s worth about $372 million right now, thanks to his growing trust fund. Then there is Trouble Helmsley. He is a dog formerly owned by New York’s “Queen of Mean”, Leona Helmsley who famously cut her grandchildren out of her will, but left her Maltese terrier $12 million. Another example of a very rich animal is Tinker the cat. Tinker was a stray, regularly visiting Margaret Layne, an old widow. In return for Tinker’s loyalty, he was awarded a fortune. There is a $226,000 trust fund for Tinker, as well as a new home — worth about $800,000. Tinker has been joined by two lovely female cats, Lucky and Stardust. And the list goes on.

Another strange thing about the above list is that 99.9% of these non-human millionaires are to be found in the Western world and specifically in America, Britain and Europe. The general impression one gets from these extreme cases of generosity towards our fellow creatures is that animals are very well looked after in those countries.  Much more so than in the eastern world where some of these would be considered a delicacy fit for the dining table. The general impression, therefore, is that animals get a very raw deal in the non-western world. Having a glance at the streets countries like India and Pakistan where carcasses of cats, dogs, and even the occasional donkey are a regular sight this seems to validate the above impression.

But as they say, appearances can be misleading and a deeper look into the way animals are dealt with in the Western and particularly by the secular/scientific community reveals a very different and very disturbing picture. In fact, it reveals much more than that; it reflects a very sinister ideology in operation. An ideology about which every individual living there needs to be aware of because in future he/she may face the same fate as awaits many of our dumb friends. Let us first look at some factual information about animals in the western world.

According to Wikipedia:

‘Cats are most commonly used in neurological research. Over 25,500 cats were used in the U.S. in 2000, around half of whom were used in experiments which, according to the American Anti-Vivisection Society, had the potential to cause “pain and/or distress”.

Over 20,000 rabbits were used for animal testing in the UK in 2004.

One estimate of mice and rats used in the United States alone in 2001 was 80 million.’

So much for animal rights. Let us now see what the religious view of animals is:

“Yes, donkeys and horses are beaten pretty badly. Yes, most animals are not normally pampered and yes most animals do seem to get a raw deal in the traditionally religious societies. But in these societies, the raw deal extends to the most advanced creature as well. Moreover, the actual beliefs are different to the practices. In the religious view the relationship between humans and animals has had a long and varied history and has oscillated between extremes. On the one there is the refusal to make use of animals except for domestic purposes, hence vegetarianism and the wearing of anything made from animal skins. In contrast we have the ritual of hunting tribes, aimed at ‘reconciling’ the animal soul to its fate and the Muslim and Jewish ‘sacrifice’ of the animal as the supreme symbolic act of worship. Closely related to both these poles we find in early Christianity the belief that carnivorous beasts become gentle as lambs in the presence of a holy man.

“A stern insistence upon courtesy to the living creatures that share our world with us is common to the most diverse religious traditions. If a cobra comes into your garden, says a Muslim tradition, you may order it to leave at once. If it returns you should give it a second warning. And if it returns for the third time you are free to kill it. In another narration Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade striking animals on their faces. More seriously he narrated a story to his companions of a woman being sent to hell for neglecting her cat! Strange words coming from a man who has been called a terrorist by many.

“But never at either pole or anywhere along the line that joins them do we find the suggestion that man has absolute rights over the animals, to do with them as he pleases. But strangely and shockingly we find exactly this belief being practiced in the most unexpected place. The modern secular world.

“Many modernists/secularists would dismiss the above narrations as whimsical, but they miss the point completely. The main point of these is that man by virtue of his ‘central,’ viceregal position enjoys certain privileges but does not enjoy the right to abuse these privileges. Many of those (or their neighbours, colleagues and children) who leave huge inheritances for their pets would be the first to argue about the necessity of animal testing for the benefit of humanity. Even if some of them protest against animal cruelty the fact of the matter is that animal testing emanated and is being practiced legally and with the consent of the law and policy-makers who were voted in by a majority of the public. So much for their love of animals! In the very countries where we have a few millionaire pets and plenty of well fed and groomed cats we also paradoxically find animal factories, laboratories and genetic research centres where hundreds and thousands of brothers and sisters of Gunther and Tinker are tested and experimented upon in the vilest of ways by innocent looking bespectacled men and women in white coats.

“The question that has to be asked is not whether these farming techniques or these experiments involve suffering (a matter upon which there may be legitimate differences of opinion) but whether we have any inherent right to do such things; in other words it is a basic principle that is at stake. On this point, the traditional doctrines are unanimous. This is a misuse of the living creatures which share our world, an offence against creation and therefore against God. If we are determined to find ways of prolonging our earthly lives beyond their natural term we would do better to experiment upon ourselves rather than involve non-human ‘peoples’ in our greed for longevity.

“By a most curious irony, it is only since men came to see themselves as no more than clever animals without any central role or any supernatural privilege, that they have started to treat the animal creation as totally alien and totally without rights. The future does not bode well for animals and for people there.”

[Taken and adapted from the chapter, Man as Viceroy, in King of the Castle by Charles Hassan Le-Guy Eaton]

Did You Know That….?

  • More than 99.9% of all the animal species that have ever lived on earth were extinct before the coming of man.
  • Nearly 50% of all bank robberies take place on Friday.
  • Ten inches of snow equals one inch of rain in water content.
  • The base of the Great Pyramid of Egypt is large enough to cover 10 football fields.
  • The greatest snowfall ever in a single storm was 189 inches at the Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in February, 1959.
  • The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582 AD, and was adopted by Great Britain and the English colonies in 1752.
  • The highest point of the earth, with an elevation of 29,141 feet, is the top of Mt. Everest in Tibet.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in the world was 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit at El Azizia, Lybia, on September 13, 1922.
  • The linen bandages that were used to wrap Egyptian mummies averaged 1,000 yards in length.
  • The lowest temperature ever recorded in the world was 129 degrees below 0 at Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983.
  • The metal instrument used in shoe stores to measure feet is called the Brannock device.

Tragedy or Blessing?

By: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

Years ago in Scotland, the Clark family had a dream. Clark and his wife worked and saved, making plans for their nine children and themselves to travel to the United States. It had taken years, but they had finally saved enough money and had gotten passports and reservations for the whole family on a new liner to the United States.

The entire family was filled with anticipation and excitement about their new life. However, seven days before their departure, the youngest son was bitten by a dog. The doctor sewed up the boy but hung a yellow sheet on the Clarks’ front door. Because of the possibility of Rabies, they were being quarantined for fourteen days. The family’s dreams were dashed. They would not be able to make the trip to America as they had planned. The father, filled with disappointment and anger, stomped to the dock to watch the ship leave – without the Clark family. The father shed tears of disappointment and cursed both his son and fate for their misfortune.

Five days later, the tragic news spread throughout Scotland – the mighty Titanic had sunk. The unsinkable ship had sunk, taking hundreds of lives with it. The Clark family was to have been on that ship, but because the son had been bitten by a dog, they were left behind in Scotland.

When Mr. Clark heard the news, he hugged his son and thanked him for saving the family. He thanked God for saving their lives and turning what he had felt was a tragedy into a blessing. Although we may not always understand, all things happen for a reason.

‘It may be that you hate a thing and it is good for you or it may be that you love a thing and it is bad for you, Allah knows, you know not.’ (Surah Baqarah: Al-Quran)

Just Listen

 By: Rachel Naomi Remen | Kitchen Table Wisdom

I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps, the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart.

When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don’t value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simple saying, “I’m so sorry,” when someone is in pain. And meaning it.

One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them. Subtly, her pain became a story about themselves. Eventually, she stopped talking to most people. It was just too lonely. We connect through listening. When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we care. Many people with cancer can talk about the relief of having someone just listen.

I have even learned to respond to someone crying by just listening. In the old days, I used to reach for the tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their experience of sadness and grief. Now I just listen. When they have cried all they need to cry, they find me there with them.

This simple thing has not been that easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

Losing My Religion – A Call for Help

Dr Jeffery Lang

To the Homegrown American Sisters and Brothers,

At present, our community in America, whether or not we are aware of it or acknowledge it, is engulfed in a decisive conflict, and we are taking heavy losses. Mass numbers of descendents of Muslims, converts, and spiritual seekers are forsaking the American Islamic community and many of these will inevitably abandon the religion. The confrontation is, of course, not military, but rather is occurring on the intellectual plane. On one front, our religion is being both subtly and overtly demeaned by the media. On another, anti-Islam websites are assaulting the faith with mostly discarded but now resurrected antiquated orientalist criticisms.

On another, an extreme, virulent and irrational interpretation of the faith has assumed, with a good deal of outside support, centre-stage on the world scene. On another, most mosques in this country impose, in the name of Islam, traditions and beliefs of questionable necessity that obfuscate the fundamental message of God’s last revelation to humanity and that are driving individuals from the faith in droves, and that serve to confirm for too many youth of Muslim parentage and American converts the overriding negative impression of Islam that society seems to hold at large. Instead of seeing a path to spiritual growth, enlightenment and fulfilment, many of these disengaged Muslims start to see a stagnant, retrogressive, patriarchal remnant of a lagging culture, mired in meaningless controversies and hollow, lifeless formalism.

If this is going to be countered, it will require an immense and courageous intellectual effort, and those upon whose shoulders this challenge and duty primarily rests are the second generation and converts who have held fast to their faith despite the many challenges this has presented.

It is you, the activist American Muslim youth and converts, though your numbers are small, who have been placed in a pivotal role. Through your American upbringing, you have come to fully know and understand the surrounding society, and through your love and commitment to God and your religion, in a milieu that constantly tests it, you have by nature and necessity become the crucial bridge between your faith and its future in this country. You are in the best position to rationally respond to Islam’s detractors and to communicate and demonstrate to your fellow countrymen and women what it really means to be a Muslim. You think their think, talk their talk, and appreciate their confusions and concerns. You are also in the best position to reassess the vast tradition that has come down to us in the name of Islam.

It is precisely because you have not been reared in a traditional Muslim culture and because you have been taught since your first day in school to search, question, critique, and analyze that you are the prime candidates to endeavor to separate religion from culture, to distinguish the essential to Islam from time and place bound interpretations. It is you who are best able to understand and communicate to the disaffected Muslim youth. This is your Jihad (struggle), a Jihad for minds and hearts, a Jihad of intellect and reason.

So I encourage you to arm yourselves, my younger brothers and sisters, with books, and pens and personal computers, and all the other instruments of learning. And arm yourselves with knowledge of your religious tradition and the works and thoughts of its great minds of the past. But also arm yourselves with modern techniques of critical, analytical, investigative research, so that you can better study and critique past contributions in the Islamic sciences. Learn all you can in your coursework, and especially in such fields as religious studies, history, anthropology, and linguistics. Arm yourselves also, if you have the inclination and aptitude, with advanced degrees in these areas of research so critical to the project of reappraising our community’s traditions. And arm yourselves with humility, because it is vital to objectivity, and with courage and perseverance, brothers and sisters, because you will be opposed from without and within the Muslim community.

And remember to always pursue the truth, for God is the Truth, and always pray for and trust in His guidance. And so arm yourselves also with steadfast devotion to your Lord, never forgetting that to Him, and Him only, you have surrendered – not to a tradition, or a school of thought, or a local community or culture, or scholarly legacy – and that your living, striving, sacrifice and dying, all is for Allah (swt).


The article was excerpted from Dr. Jeffrey Lang’s book entitled Losing My Religion, an in-depth analysis of the current acculturation of the Muslim American identity. Dr. Jeffrey Lang is Professor of Mathematics at The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. He is the author of two best-selling works: Struggling to Surrender and Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America. Both Books have been translated into other languages.