Friday, December 28, 2012

My Journey

Alhamdullillah, through the mercy of the Almighty Allah tonight I will be leaving to perform umrah Inshaa-Allah!
If you can please try and remember me and my family in your prayers. I am sure that I will have some very interesting experiences to share when I return Inshaa-Allah!
In the meantime, I wish you all a blessed year ahead, may Allah keep you and your families in peace!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I just finished read a book called “Roots” written by Alex Haley (the author of the Autobiography of Malcolm X). It's an old book, published in 1976. This book tells the story about an African man who was captured in his native village in West Africa and sold into slavery in America. It’s a distressing book because it focuses on the atrociousness of slavery, but at the same time, it’s a book which makes you realize the importance of knowing where you come from, and where your family comes from. A person’s roots plays a huge role in the development of their own identity, and this is one of the important lessons of this book.
There are actually so many important insights from this book and that’s why I decided to write about it here:
-          Firstly, in my previous post I wrote briefly about how people don’t have any value for others. Well, if I thought I knew what I was talking about then that’s nothing compared to the sufferings that people had to endure in the time of slavery. People were stolen away from their families, their lives and their culture and treated worse than animals. This is such a deep issue, the systematic and continuous devaluing of people’s lives was so intense that I could probably go on about it forever, but all I will say is that it was purely evil.
-          Secondly, the native people of different lands, were people with a culture, value system, social and religious system, and all this was replaced through oppressive regimes such as slavery and later on colonialism and imperialism. Now as a result, we have meagre traces of those rich cultures which once existed as most people are forced to “assimilate” within a Euro-American culture which is pale in comparison to the native cultures.
-          As a result so many of us do not know our own family roots and obviously this means that we cannot form solid identities and that’s why most people seem to be always in search of something.
-          Even in today’s times, people who attempt to hold on to their cultures and roots are regarded as people who are “backwards”. A “civilized nation” has somehow come to represent people who speak English, who live in cities, who work in office buildings and who basically have no connection with nature, except of course for the occasional spectator role we tend to take on. Yet the people who are regarded as “uncivilized” have this deep connection with nature. They can tell their way by the use of stars and the sun and moon (they don’t need any modern day navigation devices). They can determine things by focusing on the animals. They understand the language of nature and their communication is intricate and advanced, but still they will be regarded in all the negative terms because they don’t fit dominant ideas of civilization.
-          Finally, modern day slavery still exists, it’s all around us, it’s just that it’s disguised and made to look glamorous. Think about the soccer players who get traded and sold at will. Yes surely they get paid a lot to do what they do, but are they really “free”? What about the models or actresses who cannot afford to even eat things that they would like to, who have to look a and dress a certain way all the time, are they completely “free”? And what about the rest of us who find ourselves stuck within a system that determines what time we have to go to work, which days we have to work, how we live, how we dress (that is if we care about following fashion), how we speak, what we buy, what we watch and so on, can we say that we are really free? Or are the people who live in villages and work each day without having to worry about paying off debts or meeting deadlines or buying the latest things, actually the ones who are “free”?
- Sadly, you can easily see how events of the past have shaped the world today. So many things of today can be explained easily if we turn to the past, so the actions of our ancestors actually impacts on us directly and although many of us might regard history as something very boring, it is in effect an important key that opens so many doors of understanding.
Besides these issues, I think the thing that stuck with me from the book is that In order to understand where we are going; we need to know where we came from, this statement is made so much more profound after reading “Roots”.
So yes, I guess that even though it was distressing to read this book, and some parts really left me feeling so despondent about human beings that I was filled with anger, nonetheless, the lessons I’ve learnt are crucial and I hope that I am able to hold on to some of them.
The thing that I needed to focus on throughout the book is that Allah sees everything and although it may seem as if things have gone unseen, in fact Allah has only given people some time before they have to reckon for their deeds. In truth Allah Almighty sees and hears everything and nothing has gone unseen.
And Allah is the Knower of all things, the Greatest. Glory be to Allah !
May Allah help us all to leave behind us goodness wherever we go, and may Allah help us never to harm another person in any way at all.  
Image 1 from here
Image 2 from here

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Those who don’t value others

Today was a weird day. My purse got stolen from my bag while I was doing shopping. Here’s how it happened. I was in the store with some other ladies, I thought we were all shopping for clothing, but they were shopping for something else. I had an odd feeling, I have to admit, I felt crowded by these women, it seemed that wherever I went they went, but I didn’t want to be rude or suspicious so I just carried on doing my shopping. Then one lady came to ask me to help her find the right size clothing for her daughter. All the while I still didn’t know what they were up to, I mean I’m not in the habit of assuming the worse of people. Anyway, I don’t know when they took it but when I got to the till to pay my purse was gone! It’s a terrible feeling, the initial shock and confusion, but Alhamdullillah it does simmer down after a while.
Luckily my mother and sister were with me, we tried to search the centre to see if we could find something, but nothing. It’s the habit for people here to steal, take what they want and discard of the rest so we thought maybe we’d find something in the dustbin or something, but we didn’t. Allah knows best!
It seems like a loss to me and a gain for the thieves, but actually it’s the other way around. They are the real losers. I may have lost some worldly things, but they are going to have to answer for it one day when they stand in front of their Creator and mine and I really don’t know what they’ll say. It’s a case of selling eternity for a trivial and passing happiness, that’s the way I see it.
The worst thing about all this is that they have no value for other people at all, it’s like people mean nothing. For them all my personal belongings are useless, they’ll take my money and discard everything else, everything else is nothing to them, it’s probably laying a bin somewhere, yet it meant something to me and they don’t even care.  They couldn’t be bothered about what their actions mean for me. I honestly don’t know how people live with themselves.
But this is a small thing, it’s true, it doesn’t mean much. Inshaa’Allah I will get back what I lost and life will go on. What about the people who do things to others that will last forever? What about the people who devalue others so much that they are fine with hurting, abusing, raping and even killing another human being. How can people place so little value on people and their lives, and as I think this I am saddened, not because I lost my purse, nor because I was duped and neither because I was absolutely helpless to do anything about it, I am saddened that my fellow human beings have lost so much of their humanity that they hurt others without even feeling guilty about it.
I have forgiven the ladies who stole my purse because I know that Allah likes us to forgive others and because I know that this is what my Beloved Prophet (PBUH) would do, after all, he (pbuh) forgave people for doing way way way worse things than this! Despite this, my sadness lingers on. What has happened to people? You don’t have to answer that question, and once again Allah knows best.
From Allah do we come and to Allah do we return, may Allah make us patient with everything we find ourselves in and may Allah help people to become like human beings once again.
Someone once told me that human beings have the ability to be higher than angels and lower than animals. 
May Allah not lower us, may Allah guide and help us all! 
 Image from here

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reflections of an absent blogger

My time away from blogging has allowed me to reflect on many things, one of which is my reason for starting a blog in the first place. I remember feeling the urgent need to “provide an alternative voice for Muslim women”. I was tired of all the negative stereotypes which are constantly being portrayed about Muslim women and I wanted people to understand that those stereotypes are more often than not, completely false, and perhaps can only be found to be true for a small percentage of Muslim women. I wanted people to realise that stereotypes about Muslim women could never be accurate, because in actual fact Muslim women are as diverse as the different flowers which can be found all around the world. I was pleased to find that there are many women out there who thought the same thing, but I’ve realised that in relation to this, is something which is also quite disturbing for me.

Recently I came across a project done by a group of American Muslim sisters. Their motivation behind this particular project was to “give Muslim women a voice”. They said things like, “we are tired of having others speak for us” and so on. All of this I can relate to easily, but the thing that created this nagging feeling inside of me is that all the talk was directed at showing the world that “we are just like you”. The bold claim being reiterated was that we want the rest of you to see that we are the same as you. Now please note that what I write here is my own opinion, you are allowed to differ with me and most of you probably will, but I’ll explain to you why I have a problem with this type of thinking.

You see as soon as we say that “we are just like you”, what we are doing is accepting a Standard. In this case, the “Standard” being mainstream Americans; and what this does is remove the place for cultural diversity and deny anything that is different. Instead of saying, ‘look we may be different, dress differently, speak differently and have different beliefs, but let’s find away to get along despite our differences’, what this type of thinking does is say, well you may see us as different but we are in actual fact just like you and we’ll do whatever we have to in order to prove this. That’s a completely different ball game because what we’re saying then is ‘we’ll only get along if we are the same!’ And that’s where I have a problem.

What stood out for me with this particular project was that American culture, beliefs and even way of dress was embraced to the detriment of Islamic beliefs. Now, I am not the judge of anyone, let us leave the judgement to the only one who owns judgement, Allah Almighty. However, to have a Muslim woman, dressed in western dress, and who does not wear a headscarf and who’s married to or engaged to an American man (which is not a problem in itself), sit there and say that “We’ve decided to speak for Muslim women”, really makes me wonder.

I just feel that a lot of the experiences that Muslim women face are lost in this case. For example, the discrimination that women who wear headscarves face for instance cannot be understood properly by a woman who does not wear a headscarf, and so on. Sure, the plight may be understood, but it’s not the same as actually experiencing it.

It just seems that there’s a whole lot of defensiveness going on, where Muslim women, from all walks, feel the need to stand up and “defend” who they are. And why should this be so? Why should anyone have to defend who they are? If you are happy with who you are and you are not harming anyone then why should you need to keep telling the world that they are wrong? In telling the world that they are wrong, does this actually change anything? And who gets to decide what “the Standard” is? Who gets to say that this is “wrong” and this is “right”? Are the powerful nations in the world automatically regarded as the “Standard” by default? Why do women all around the world have to lose their culture in order to fit in and embrace “empowerment”? Why do African women in my country feel the need to lose their traditional way of dress and start adopting a westernised style of dressing when they go to university or are in the workplace? Is losing your culture and fitting in with the western culture a prerequisite for good performance? Why do women from all cultures in my country (and there are many) all end up talking, dressing, looking and acting the same when they study and work? Is this empowerment?

Yes, as you can see my mind has been working overtime, I have so many questions and thoughts and I’ve contemplated writing this for a while because I didn’t know if it was going to come out of my head the way I intended. But nonetheless, I just feel saddened that we have to “justify” ourselves and that in order for Muslim women to fit in we have to keep making claims that “we are the same as you!”

So if I am to continue writing on this blog, I need to make certain things clear. I am different! I am different from what you claim as “the standard”. I do not dress the same, I do not have the same beliefs, I do not follow the same principles, I do not have the same culture. I do not have the same ideas of “empowerment” and “liberation”, I do not have the same understanding of “independence”. I do not have the same take on “gender relations”… But despite all this, I know that we have a lot in common. I am willing to accept you for who you are (although I disagree with a lot of what you say or do), and likewise I would expect that you accept me for who I am (although you disagree with a lot of what I say and do). I do not at any time expect you to tell me that you are the same as me, this would be taking away who you are. It doesn’t matter to me if you are different, as long as we don’t allow this difference to cause any harm to anyone.   

Furthermore, I have my own “standard” to follow. Being a Muslim woman, my standard is the example of my beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and likewise all the female companions and family members of my beloved Prophet are my example. I wish to emulate them only!

Finally, to make it clear, I cannot speak for all Muslim women. This would be ridiculous to claim. I can speak for myself, and the small group of women in my community and that’s about it. I can speak for us only because I know what our beliefs are since we are always discussing what we think and feel. Other than that, I can’t speak for Muslim women in America, England, Australia- hey I can’t even speak for Muslim women in another part of my own country.

We need to be very careful that in our quest to “take back the voice of Muslim women”, we don’t end up further silencing the very people we claim to be speaking for!

I think that’s all I’ll write for now, although I have many more reflections, if time permits and if Allah Almighty wills then I will share some more, but until then, take care and stay in peace!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Purpose of Education

I haven’t written an actual post on here for so long, it feels so strange, but I guess Life Happens and responsibilities have to take precedence over other things. Anyway, part of my reason for not blogging for ages was because I was asked to lecture a course at University. Naturally that takes a lot of preparation and the amount of reading I have to do makes me feel like I’m back at university myself. But all of this got me thinking about the true purpose of education.

I think I may be a bit idealistic when it comes to this topic, but I’ve always believed that the purpose of education is to learn, to gain knowledge and understanding about the world, about our role in the world and of course about ourselves. I guess I rather naively believed that most people study what they enjoy. This is perhaps why I had people looking at me strangely when I was in first year in university and I told them I was studying psychology. I still remember some of the comments; “but there’s no scope in that”, “will you be able to make money”... Okay, so these are realistic questions, which of course had no place in my “idealistic” idea of education.

It seems that nowadays “education” is about financial security and career advancement. People study with the idea that a degree will help them earn money and “live a good life”. Somehow we’ve all been led to believe that without an “education” we will be left to dwell in the lower socio-economic classes of society, struggling in poverty. This idea may make a lot of sense to many people, but not to me. You see I know people who haven’t even completed high school properly but they have multiple businesses and a lot of money, simply because of good business acumen and skills. (And of course firstly because that is what Allah Almighty had willed for them) In fact I can think of quite a few of these people, who have not studied further, but today they are “stinking rich”.

So clearly, receiving an education is not the only way to get rich and have a financially secure life, and placing economic value on education, in my opinion diminishes the true worth of education. There are many ways to get money, but education gained solely for the purpose of making money is questionable. Not only does it take away the value of important knowledge but it also gives the wrong impression to society. For instance, it makes people feel that they are inferior if they do not have a university degree. This is strange, especially considering that many people have a high degree of education which they have received in an informal way. And once again, can we really devalue the people who have knowledge about everyday life, just because they don’t have a university education. Take the mechanic for instance, or the plumber, or builder, these people don’t have a university degree, but I like to argue that their intelligence far outweighs mine. Think about it, if my car gets stuck on the side of the road, or if the pipes in my house are leaking, or if I need to build something, is a university degree really going to be able to help me?

So what then is “education”? Can it really be reduced to a university degree? And shouldn’t we be saying that our education should be ongoing, for the rest of our lives. It shouldn’t end when we receive the degree certificate, it shouldn’t end when we’re making a lot of money. In fact, we should “seek education from the cradle to the grave”, this is what was taught to us by our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

So I guess, we need to go back and look at our intention for receiving education. The reason why university degrees are regarded as “prestigious” is because it’s associated with money, power and status. In this sense then, the true value of education is lost. Someone can have a university degree and still be completely uneducated, because their purpose for “learning” was simply to get a certificate, which would gain them a career and money, but no real knowledge.  

When the purpose of education is removed from the money, power and status, then a different picture emerges, one that may not appeal to many people. Think of the Sufi dervish for instance, who gives up his life in pursuit of true knowledge, who lives in poverty and goes through difficulty just to end up learning life’s most important lessons. This is education!

This point can be debated, and I don’t claim to know it all because in fact I know very little, but this is simply my opinion. Education should be for the correct purposes and for the right intentions. Otherwise, you will have the status, the power, and the money, but not the knowledge. The knowledge will be lost when all those other things come in. Also, an educated person does not necessarily have to be one who went to university and received a degree, and in fact I’ve found that the most educated people are those who seem to be the stupidest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Light and Darkness

Since I have limited time for blogging nowadays I've decided to quickly stop by and post something very interesting that I've learnt.
It is said that when the first man, and first Prophet Adam (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) was created he looked over his right shoulder and saw 3 lights:
 He asked what those lights were and he was told the following:
1. The first light is Intelligence   and it resides in your Head.
2. The second light is Conscience and it resides in your Eyes.
3. The third light is Compassion and it resides in your Heart.
Then he looked over his left shoulder and saw 3 darkness's:
When he asked about this, he was told that:
1. The first darkness is Arrogance or Pride and it resides in your Head.
2. The second darkness is Insatiable ambition (i.e. greed) and it resides in your Eyes.
3. The third darkness is Envy and it resides in your Heart.
Naturally he was surprised and said; " No, arrogance and pride can't reside in my head because Intelligence lies there, Insatiable ambition can't lie in my eyes because conscience lies there and envy can't lie in my heart because compassion lies there.
The answer he was given was this...
When arrogance or pride enters your head then intelligence disappears, when insatiable ambition enters your eyes then conscience disappears and likewise, when envy enters your heart then compassion disappears.
This is such an interesting story and a good reminder to us all. In the end we have a choice of whether we wish to fill our heads, eyes, and hearts with light or darkness. This choice may be difficult at times, but the struggle is worth it because not only will we have light in this world but Inshaa-Allah we will have it in the hereafter when we need it the most.
May Almighty Allah guide us all to always choose the light instead of darkness, to first of all recognise the light and goodness and to perceive the darkness for what it really is. May Allah fill us with light and save us from darkness. Inshaa-Allah Ameen!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hope you all had a Blessed Eid

Alhamdullillah I have had a very nice Eid, I hope that all of you have had a wonderful day too!

May Allah Almighty guide us all to continue practising on all the good we did in the Blessed month of Ramadhaan and may Allah give us a year filled with peace and blessings, and allow us to see another beautiful Ramadhaan and Eid, Inshaa-Allah Ameen!

All The Best;-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where the 5 times Salaah (Prayers) come from

People often wonder why Muslims have to pray 5 times a day. To many people it seems like it’s way too much and they just can’t understand it. I can tell you many benefits of praying, physical, spiritual and psychological benefits. However, I’m going to try and keep this post as short as possible today because it is the blessed month of Ramadhaan and people have much better things to do than read my blog.

Today I was reminded of where the 5 times Salaah comes from. This reminder was so good because it reminded me once again that Islam is linked to all the Prophets, from all times. This makes it clear to me that Islam is the final religion. The same message was given by all the Prophets, from the time of Adam (May Allah give him peace) till our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The link of Islam to other Prophet’s can be seen in many things and on many occasions but our everyday Salaah (physical prayers) reminds us of this link most clearly.

So here is where the 5 times Salaah comes from:

1.       Fajr Salaah- Very early morning before sunrise)- When the Prophet Adam (May Allah give him peace) was sent from Heaven to Earth, it was night time and the world was in darkness. This was very scary for him because he came from a world of light (Heaven) to this world of darkness. So when he saw the first glimpse of morning, when the sun shone its first, very faint light, Adam (PBUH) was so grateful that he bowed down and prayed to cycles of prayer thanking Allah and this is why Muslims pray two cycles of Salaah at that time.

2.      Zohr Salaah (Afternoon prayer)- When the Prophet Ibrahim / Abraham (PBUH) was tested and asked to sacrifice his son Isma’eel/ Ishma’eel (PBUH), and then Allah Almighty exchanged Ishma’eel (PBUH) for a ram. Ibrahim (PBUH) was so happy and thankful that he prayed 4 cycles of prayer, bowing in submission to the Lord Almighty and thanking him. This is why Muslims pray 4 compulsory cycles at that time.


3.      Asr Salaah (Late afternoon prayer)- When the Prophet Yunus / Jonah (PBUH) was  stuck in the belly of the whale and then Allah allowed him to come out. He was so happy and thankful that he prayed 4 cycles, thanking Allah . This is why Muslims pray 4 cycles of compulsory Salaah at that time.

4.      Maghrib Salaah (Very early evening, just after sunset)- We perform 3 cycles of compulsory prayer at this time because this is what the Prophet Isa/ Jesus (PBUH) prayed. He prayed 1 cycle, bowing to Allah rejecting any worship for himself, he prayed the second cycle denying the worship of his mother Maryam / Mary (PBUH) and he prayed the third cycle to show that Allah alone, the One Lord of all mankind, Creator of everything is the only One to be worshipped.

5.      Esha Salaah (Evening Prayer)- This one is attributed to the Prophet Moosa/ Moses (PBUH). After Moosa (PBUH) mistakenly killed a man in Egypt, he left and went on his way to Midian. He lost his way and this is when Allah guided him and told him that he is a Prophet. This happened around the time of Esha Prayer and Moosa (PBUH) was so thankful that he bowed down and prayed 4 cycles of Salaah. This is why Muslims pray 4 compulsory cycles at this time.

Masha’Allah I really love this and when I heard it again today I just knew I had to share it here. I hope that this can inspire others the way it inspires me. It’s so beautiful. These 5 prayers were given directly to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a gift for the Muslims. Allah Almighty loved the worship of these Prophets so much and he honoured Muhammad (PBUH) and his community of Muslims with this precious give. The link between Muhammad (PBUH) and all the previous Prophets (Peace be upon them all) is so evident and the link between Muslims and the Prophets is also so clear. Alhamdullillah (Praise be to Allah)!!!
This should serve as a reminder to us that we should love all the Prophets and we should also thank Allah for giving us this special gift of Salaah. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) If we remember this, it will also help us to appreciate our Salaah and to perform it in the best of manner’s.
Image from here

May Allah guide us all and inspire truth in our hearts and bless us with beneficial knowledge, Inshaa-Allah.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadhaan Greetings

The Blessed Month has dawned once more,
and there is joy and happiness all around,
the peace can already be felt
and the hearts are ready to receive the goodness.

The Devils have all been locked up,
and the blessings from Allah have descended,
all around people are waiting to receive it,
eagerly and willingly preparing to please their Lord.

May Allah bless us all and give us the opportunity to make the best of this beautiful month.
May ALlah forgive us all for our sins and accept all our efforts,
May Allah forgive the deceased who have not had the chance to see another Blessed Ramadhaan,
May Allah, All Glorious and Merciful shower His blessings and mercy upon us.

Please remember me in your prayers if you can.

Let us try and take this opportunity to make the best of the time we have been given, the days pass by very quickly and before we know it this Blessed month will be gone.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cancer CAN be beaten

 When I was a child I remember reading the slogan “ Cancer Can be beaten” which was displayed as part of a campaign by the Cancer Association of South Africa. At the time I obviously didn’t understand this deeply, I just remember reading it on billboards and hearing about it on TV adverts. I thought about this because while combating cancer seems to have been a top priority in my childhood days, these days there doesn’t seem to be much campaigning, and recently more and more people seem to be getting cancer.

Last week we visited a family member who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. In her case the doctors can’t do anything and so she basically has to live with it. She’s been given some strong   pain killers to combat the pain but there is no other treatment they can do. This lady made me realise that indeed cancer can be beaten. Maybe not physically, but with a positive attitude, this disease can be stopped from taking over your life.

She calmly sat there telling us how she is not afraid of death because death is inevitable and how else will she return to the Lord, who created her. Her words were something like this; We are not going to a terrible place. We are going back to Allah who made us and who loves us.  She is trying to live each day to the fullest and she seems happy and content despite her illness. She also told us that this disease has given her a different perspective on life and now she knows that she should only focus on good things. The thing that stood out though was that she said to us that there are days when she feels sorry for herself, but then she reprimands herself and asks herself what is there to complain about.

Another strong woman I know, the Director of a counselling institute I worked at was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I saw her after her first chemotherapy treatment. You would expect her to be in bed, but she was at her office in the counselling centre. She told me that she had to fight this and could not let it get to her. She was at the office doing what she could at her own pace, but just being around people made her feel better.

These are just two examples, but there are many more. These days it seems that cancer is all around. I know of at least 5 people who have recently being diagnosed with cancer, and those are only people within my very small social/family network. Many people agree that this disease appears to be more prevalent these days. Allah alone knows what the true reasons for this are. But from what I can see, cancer can be beaten! It’s not medication or chemotherapy that can beat it, but a positive attitude and willingness to accept what is happening to you. In the end, even if someone does die from cancer, the cancer would not have beaten them if they were positive till the end. After all it is not a disease that kills you. The disease is just an excuse for our return.

I pray that Allah helps all those with cancer to remain positive and strong and if He wishes to cure them, then I pray for their cure, but if Allah wishes to take them, then I pray that they find peace in the hereafter. May Allah ease the burden of all His servants!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Inspiration comes in all forms

This week I had the pleasure of meeting some amazing Muslim women, and Alhamdullillah (Praise be to Allah), today I had the added pleasure of spending some time with them. So what makes these women so amazing and inspiring? Well, of course I’m going to tell you, otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to this post, now would there?

These women are part of a volunteer programme. They go to run down public hospitals and give out sandwiches, fruit and juice to poor people who have to wait there for almost the entire day. Now you first have to understand the health care system in South Africa to appreciate what I am saying here. You see unlike in many other countries, South Africa has public hospitals and private hospitals. The private hospitals are clean and well staffed. Patients get seen to easily and relatively quickly. Equipment is new and so on. But the people who go there usually pay large sums of money or they have medical aid schemes, which amount to large sums of money in the end of the day. Majority of the people in this country are unable to afford going to a private hospital, so they have to settle for public hospitals, which are mainly older, less people working there, much more patients, older and less equipment, dull looking and cold, no televisions in the wards (like the private hospitals), no private wards and so on. Here people have to wait for hours on end to be treated because there are just too many patients and too little staff and supplies. The situation is unjust and totally unequal, but this is South Africa after all, a country which has one of the widest gaps between those who have and those who don’t.
So back to these inspiring ladies- They are part of this project, called the Faith Based Initiative. People from different religious groups take turns to go to the public hospitals and hand out sandwiches and stuff to people. I got to go with the ladies today and although I was very saddened by the patients situations, it was definitely a worthwhile experience.

As we walked from ward to ward handing out food and sweets (to little kids), I could see that these ladies were passionate about this. They were so compassionate and caring that it moved me, and really people were so grateful to get something to eat while they waited in the cold hospital, anxious , tired and sick.

Some of the patients are AIDS patients, this includes kids, and as one of the hospital staff explained to me, these people are on ARV’S (anti retrovirals) and they need to eat in order for the medication to be effective, but some of them are so poor that they have no food to eat for days, so for them, to get a sandwich from someone is a big deal. Some parents don’t know what they’ll feed their sick kids when they get home, so they are glad to get a sandwich and some fruit.

It’s amazing how much we take for granted. A few slices of bread can make such a huge difference to people, and for us this is nothing. Our houses are full of food and we still say that we have nothing to give and nothing to make. There are people who value two slices of bread so much, and I am so grateful that I got to witness this first hand.

One of the women waiting with her kids asked me, “where is this coming from”, when I explained that people have donated it, she said to me “this is such a good thing, we appreciate it”. Indeed I really had to agree with her.

These volunteers are so dedicated; every week they go out and share a little of their time to help others. Their small effort makes a huge difference, even if they don’t always know it. I am inspired by these women, inspired by their willingness to help with no physical, material reward; Inspired by their warmth, inspired that they don’t only think about themselves, but have remembered others as well. I pray that Allah rewards them all well, and that Allah gives them strength to continue doing this. Inshaa-Allah Ameen.

There are so many things to do in this world, if we only take the time to look around we will see that we are able to make huge differences by doing small things.  
Image from here

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Our Youth can make a difference

The 16 June is a public holiday in South Africa. I’d like to think that it’s a very important public holiday; because June 16th, is celebrated here as “Youth Day”. Of course like many good things, this public holiday goes back to a tragic day, 36 years ago. It was June 16, 1976 , during the horrendous Apartheid era in South Africa when innocent school children were shot and killed in Soweto for protesting against the implementation of Afrikaans as the language medium in schools where people did not speak Afrikaans as a first, or even second language. Those children who were killed deserve to be remembered, their sacrifice needs to be celebrated, so this is one of the few public holidays that I actually don’t mind celebrating.

 But while we’ve become a nation who seems to be over consumed with celebrating, we have in the process forgotten that celebrations cannot take place without any reason. All we have to do is look at our youth today, and we will realise that something has gone terribly wrong. Let us go back 36 years and look at the passion, the interest, the concern about important issues that were displayed by the youth of the time, and compare them to the youth of today.

 It’s sad to say that most of the youth of today are self-consumed and couldn’t be bothered about anything that happens around them, unless of course what’s happening around them has something to do with their favourite celebrities, TV shows, PS games and so on. Today’s youth can easily be seen walking around with their faces glued to their cellular phones and their fingers typing away incessantly. The youth of today could not be bothered about politics or what happens in society, and as far as social change is concerned, the youth of today wouldn’t know where to begin.

But let me not be too harsh and let me not generalise. This of course does not apply to all the youth of today, there are a few of them who have their heads screwed on the right way, so I’ll give them their due.

The thing is that real change can only come about through the youth. They are young and have fresh ideas and they speak the language of today. Youth are able to get through to people in a way that other people can’t. This is why we can still remember June 16 , 1976 with pangs in our hearts, even though we were not born at the time. It’s because of the innocence and the brightness of youth. It just seems that youth has so much to offer and so much to give to society.

I know I kind of sound like an old lady here, but I really think that the youth of today do not know their true worth. They have been sucked into an abyss where they are taught to be self-centred and materialistic. Their lives revolve around the latest cell phone technology and they have been led to believe that the only form of communication is through facebook, BBM, twitter and so on. They do not know that they are the ones who hold the keys to the future. The youth are the ones who are able to be the most productive members of society, and yet they have somehow become the least productive. Instead of working with parents and other adults, they have been brainwashed into believing that they need to be out there, having fun, trying new things (which most of the time are not good new things). They have been convinced that parents are the enemies and they only wish to stifle freedom.

Yes, the only idea of freedom that most of our youth have is about freedom to go out at night and meet their friends and have “fun”. Talk to them about freedom of oppressed people, or freedom to dress the way you want to, or freedom to work and so on, and they will laugh at you.

SO let’s go back to the youth of 1976, those innocent youth who lived in oppression and poverty but were willing to fight for their freedom to be taught in a language that they could understand. Those youth gave their lives protesting for an education, when our youth find education boring and basically throw it away. Those youth understood what our youth cannot even begin to understand.  Those youth should be celebrated; will people be able to say that about our youth 30 years from now?

I sometimes think that when life is made easy for us then we become complacent and lazy. When we are given freedom, then we cannot understand that there are people who need to fight for their freedom. When we are given rights, then we do not look around and realise that there are people whose rights are taken away from them. When we have ease and comfort, then we forget that there are others who are suffering and going through hardship. Alhamdullillah for our ease, and May Allah never give us hardship, but the thing is that through all our ease, we must not forget that we have a duty towards others and a role to play in society, even if the role we play is small.

Yes, youth should be celebrated, but our youth should be reminded of their worth every single day, so that they can stand up and be the people that they are able to be, and maybe one day, people will look back and remember the youth of today with fondness and admiration.  

May Allah guide us all, Inshaa-Allah for we cannot achieve a single thing without the will of the Almighty Allah.

Image from here

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who’s looking out for them?

In the icy cold winter the beggars who roam the streets of Johannesburg day and night brave the darkness and the cold to go and see if they can find food, anything at all will help fill their hunger. Last night there was one at our front gate at half past two in the morning, before him, there were quite a few more. As you drive to work, warmly dressed in your comfortable car, you see them standing in the freezing cold begging for some money. Some of the beggars are children, chances are that they either ran away from an abusive home out of desperation, or got involved with the wrong crowds and turned to drugs, or they may have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. All these scenarios are common in this country, people are destitute and in need.

People who have enough keep complaining that there are so many beggars because people are lazy. Yet even the ones who try find it difficult and I have to admit that I can understand why many of them decide to just give up. There’s this lady who we know for years. Sometimes she helps us out with some work, other times she just comes when she needs something. For about the past ten years she has been trying to complete her Grade 12. She was enrolled at one of these colleges that do adult teaching and she did one or two school subjects a year. She would come and tell us how difficult it is, how their teachers keep leaving them and the teachers themselves don’t understand the work properly. She would enthusiastically come to ask us for help in explaining her English work, because like many South Africans, English is not her first language. She would ask us for books and stationery and every time she was writing an exam she would come and tell us. I saw her eagerness and willingness to make a better life for herself and her son, yet despite her motivation, it took her about ten years to complete. Eventually she came with the good news that she had completed her Grade 12 and she had passed all her subjects. She was so proud of that certificate, I can tell you, I don’t ever remember being even remotely as proud of any certificate I’ve received. But she had worked hard, and in the end it had paid off.

Then she began to look for work. It had been very hard for her to find work because she worked slowly as a domestic worker and people didn’t seem interested in hiring her. Now that she had her High School certificate though, she thought that things would be different. For her, obtaining this certificate would open up roads. For months she searched for work, but to no avail. She thought that it would be a good idea to apply for an admin job at the South African police Service. She had heard that if you have a Grade 12 certificate then they will accept you. She was told that she had passed the age for enrolment and couldn’t apply for any job there. A few more months and her job search brought no job. It’s almost one year after she received her Grade 12 certificate and still her life has not changed at all. She is still living in the small shack in an informal settlement. She still comes every week complaining that she is hungry, asking for money for paraffin and candles.  She still has to worry about her own neighbours stealing her little belongings or her small shack being burnt down. But amazingly, she still continues to try and she still has hope.

Her most recent attempt to do something about her situation is to go and study at university. This is not an easy thing to do for someone who has no money to buy food. There is no free education in South Africa and university costs a lot of money. But in any case, she was told that she could apply for exemption and after that she will be allowed to study. Just going to the university to sort things out was difficult for this woman because she had to raise enough money for transport and this was a mission given her circumstances. Eventually she got all the money she needed and went through to the university in Pretoria and now she is awaiting their decision, with hope and enthusiasm. She truly believes that this will help her get a better life. I hope that it does, I really do, but I can’t help feeling sceptical.

I am reminded that there are millions of people in this country that are suffering on a daily basis. The beggars who come to our door all the time, people like this woman I’ve mentioned, the people begging on almost every street corner and intersection (and really I am not exaggerating here), the men who have taken to standing on streets helping people find parking in return for small change, these are but a few of the people who are suffering. Who’s looking out for all these people? Who is worried about their needs? Who is helping them to get education and jobs? Who is making sure that they have a better future, or in the very least that their children will have a better future?

The government can only do so much, it’s easy to blame those in power, and many times the blame is justified, but when you have a country swimming in debt itself and increasing demands in education, jobs, housing, health and all sectors of society then really it’s very difficult to take care of the millions who are suffering, so let’s try to understand things from the government’s point of view as well. The truth is that they are only human.

Only Allah Almighty has the ability to take care of every single one of His servants. Only Allah can see to the needs of everyone. It is easy for Allah, as easy as “Be and it Is”. But Allah tests us, and Allah wants us to turn to Him for help, and Allah wants us to rely on Him and Allah wants us to ask and expect things from Him. We are told something to the effect that a servant will get what he expects to get from Allah, so if we believe that Allah can give us absolutely anything, even things that seem impossible, then Inshaa-Allah Allah will definitely give it to us. It is when we forget Allah that things become negative.

I’m not saying that all the people suffering have forgotten Allah, maybe poverty and difficulty is their test and their means of finding Allah. I don’t know every situation and Allah Knows best. What I am saying though is that only Allah is able to look out for every single one of us so it is only Allah that we should rely on. The perfect example we are given is that of how the birds leave their homes in the morning and receive their sustenance at the end of the day. And when you really look at it, you will see that the lady I mentioned earlier is still surviving, despite her struggles she still gets by and she still has hope. The beggars on the streets find their food, even if it is late at night. Those begging for money get their cups filled somehow. In the end, Allah is taking care of every one of Allah’s servants, we just do not understand the ways in which Allah Almighty works.

So who’s looking out for the poor and the destitute, for the sick and the old, for the animals and the plants, who’s looking out for me and you, of course the answer is simple, None other than our Most Perfect Creator.

Isn’t it time that we turned to Allah completely?  Perhaps if we all turned to Allah together then we will get what we want and the suffering will stop. Perhaps if we all followed the rules of Allah and shared and cared for each other, then Allah would shower mercy upon us. Perhaps if we keep asking Allah for help then Inshaa-Allah we will get the help that we need. Only Allah can see to everyone, and all we can do is turn to Allah and do our little bit. Allah is the Greatest and Allah is The Best Helper.

Image from here

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Double-Standards and Respect for Women

 Yesterday I heard some very disturbing news. I found out that an ex-professor of mine was no longer at the University because apparently he had sexually harassed a number of students and they spoke out against him. The person who told me this stated that she has no respect for the man. Obviously I agree with her, my perception of him was changed completely on hearing that news.

It’s weird; I thought he was a nice guy. He seemed decent you know, with a wife and adult children and all that. He was at the University for years and I always kind of saw him like part of the old furniture. Although I have to admit that I found his lectures very tedious in my undergraduate studies, I actually came to like him when I did my postgraduate degrees and I saw him as someone with a lot of knowledge and experience, someone you could learn a lot from.

Then he became my research supervisor and I remember feeling more comfortable that he was an older guy, if only I had known!  I was actually quite shocked yesterday, as you can imagine.

My feelings and reactions aside though, there’s another reason why I’m mentioning this. You see, I did my Masters research on Muslim women. And of course, given the current political climate, the issue of ‘Muslim women’ is a heated topic. At some point I even remember the same professor saying to me that; “I wouldn’t want to be you researching this issue”. Anyway, it turned out quite well for me, Alhamdullillah and the research was much better than what had initially been expected (which I take no credit for). One day though, he said to me that he gets angry when he sees Muslim women all dressed up in black, completely covered, with their husbands walking in front of them. His reason for getting upset was that he felt it it was unnecessary and just like many people he believed that this stifles Muslim women.

At the time I understood that everyone has their own opinions when it comes to the dress of Muslim women. In fact, it would seem that more people have an opinion on this than things they actually need to have an opinion on. Nonetheless, I now find myself feeling quite angry, because if this professor really cared about women’s rights or respect for women, then how could he disrespect women by harassing them, and how could he infringe upon the rights of women while pretending to be bothered by women who he regarded as being oppressed?

Of course these sorts of double standards are prevalent in society, and people simply fall on the bandwagon of believing everything that they hear without actually understanding or a lot of the time, without even thinking about things logically themselves. Think about it right, if this particular professor had to speak about Muslim women for instance, then people would automatically believe what he had to say, because obviously he had great academic credentials. Yet, his words would’ve been false as he himself disrespected women and violated their rights.

The thing that gets to me is that everyone has a lot to say about Islam and how Muslim women dress, yet it is because Allah wants to protect our modesty, chastity and honour that we are supposed to dress this way. Allah Almighty tells us in the Glorious Quraan that the dress of women is for protection. Despite this, people start screaming about “oppression” and “the need for liberation” when they themselves cannot uphold respect and honour of women.  (Please note that I am not saying that all Muslim women are respected and honoured as there are many cases where Muslim women are oppressed, but also understand that Islam does not oppress women, nor do the laws of Islam, people who abuse and misunderstand the laws of Islam oppress women- And Allah Knows Best about everything and will bring Justice in every situation).

Back to my discussion- This case is not unique; it happens all the time. Women are preyed upon by men in power who abuse their power to achieve their own personal needs and wants. I have to wonder though, if the system of the so-called Western world is so perfect, then why do these things still continue to happen, over and over again?

I also can’t help but wonder what the real reason is for people hating the way Muslim women dress. Could it be because it goes against male ideals of what women should look like? Could it be because it deprives men from gazing at women?  I really can’t say, but what I can say is what I’ve mentioned before, Muslim women’s dress should be a non-issue, because the way someone dresses does not by any means determine their level of intelligence or their ability to contribute to society and so on.

The most important thing in this whole case is that women are not treated with the respect and honour that they deserve. While the world seems to suddenly care so much about the oppression of Muslim women, what about the oppression of all women? Why not launch huge campaigns and bring laws into effect to put an end to this type of harassment altogether? Instead of banning the niqab and making a big show of it, why not implement stricter punishments for men who harass women, whether in the workplace, or educational institution or wherever. So yes, people like this professor may lose their jobs, but what about legal punishment? Why don’t those in power make a big show about this type of oppression? Why do we not have stories like this as front page news? Really if we can have stories of oppressive Muslim men who marry women, take them to their native countries and give them a hard life on the front page of the newspaper, then why can’t we have stories like this as big news? The double standards in society keep surfacing, and not many people seem to notice!  

Women should be respected, honoured and protected at all times, and within all systems. If anyone is found guilty of infringing upon the rights of women, then it is only right that they be punished for their actions. People should make a big noise about oppression of all sorts, not just the sort that fits their stereotypes.

All women should be respected, despite the way she dresses. Whether she chooses to cover up completely or not, a woman is not what she wears, nor is she only about the external body. It’s really sad that even though the human race claims to have progressed, we still have these type of situations which can only make you shake your head and wonder whether there is hope for the human race.

May Allah protect us all from all types of harm, evil and oppression, and may Allah save us from being hypocrites who display double standards.