Friday, February 22, 2013

And that’s why we should never glorify any human being

The big media story this entire week has been the story of Oscar Pistorius. I’m sure you all must have heard about the story- The famous South African Paralympics champion was arrested last Thursday after his girlfriend was killed at his home. Whether he actually did premeditate her murder, or if it was in fact a real accident no one will ever know. Allah knows best about all things and there’s always loads of speculation and accusations in these types of cases. Honestly I’m not really interested in why he did it, if he did it with intent or if he really thought his girlfriend was a burglar. All of that doesn’t really make a difference to me, but there is something that does interest me about this case...

People have openly and boldly voiced their opinions, there’s disappointment and outrage that a National hero could do such a thing, people feel let down, angry and have even gone so far as to call Pistorius a “monster”. All of this hype really has to make you wonder. I doubt very much that this story would be so sensational if Oscar Pistorius was just another man. In fact, these types of cases are not at all uncommon in South Africa. Every week we read about people killing their girlfriends or wives, police officers who can’t take the pressure and trauma repeatedly make headlines for killing their partners. Not only police officers, but reports of such incidents occur so often that sadly to say it’s reached a point where it’s become rather mundane. Now my intention is not to minimise this event. It’s terrible that a woman got killed, by someone she loved and trusted; but it’s also equally terrible all of the other times it happens! The only difference here is that this case involves “celebrities” and this is the part that I felt I needed to comment on. When we “glorify” ordinary people and begin to see them as these perfect role models then we tend to forget that just like all human beings, they are prone to error, and then when they do make mistakes or show their human weakness, we go crazy and lose our faith in them, but we’re the ones who’ve created a superhuman image in the first place, so it doesn’t make much sense to feel “let down” or “disappointed”, now does it?

Human weakness is not something that is only reserved for us ordinary people. In fact, I would think that those people who are constantly in the limelight are more prone to give in to their human weaknesses. Not only do they have way more pressure than the rest of us, but they also have way more temptations- and you know what they say, “with great power comes great responsibility”- Perhaps when we forget that Power only belongs to Almighty Allah, that’s where we begin to go wrong.

So yes, this whole Oscar Pistorius story is a sad one, it’s terrible really that we should even hear of such cases, but for people to be so outraged simply because they’ve been let down by a “hero” doesn’t make much sense. If we’re going to call him a monster or whatever else, then we should do that to all the men (and women) who commit such crimes. If we’re going to be angry then we should be angry because a woman was killed by someone she trusted, but then we should be equally angry every time this happens. If we’re going to be upset then we should be upset that things like crime, inability for self restraint, anger, and such things are overtaking people, but this should be equally applied to everyone.

The question I leave you with is this: How do we so easily turn the pages of newspapers, (or scroll through the pages of the online newspapers), when the exact same cases occur with ordinary people, and now that it’s a “celebrity” we all make a big deal?  It’s really got to make you wonder what our ideals as human beings really are?

Furthermore, if we glorify a human being and forget that Our Creator is the only one worth glorifying then we will certainly be let down, big time. Even Allah’s beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not wish for people to glorify him. He constantly reminded people that Allah is the only One who deserves to be glorified and he (pbuh) helped people to turn their attention towards Allah. Remember when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) passed away and the people were extremely sad to the point that they did not wish to do anything, and Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) stood up and reminded people of the verse of the Glorious Quraan in which Allah Almighty says:

Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? “(Surat Al-Imran 3:144).

After the people heard this they were more at ease and able to go about with life again because they were reminded that Allah Almighty is the only One worth glorifying, and Allah will never make any errors, indeed only Allah is Truly Perfect and human beings can never come close to perfection.

May Almighty Allah guide us all and help us to always see truth, Inshaa-Allah Ameen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I have found my “Utopia”

It’s exactly a month since I returned from umrah, I guess I can say that things are “back to normal” now. Alhamdullillah my grandmother returned home on Sunday after spending 5 weeks in the hospital in Makkah, and she is doing well. Her recovery is not complete, but Inshaa-Allah in time she will get better, with the mercy of Almighty Allah.
So although things are pretty much back to normal, my longing to return to Madinah continues. (I’d love to go back to Makkah as well, but Makkah is very different from Madinah). I know this makes me sound rather greedy, but perhaps being greedy for this can’t be helped. So let me tell you more about my connection to Madinah and then you’ll understand why I just long to go back.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “Utopia” as follows:
“An imagined perfect place or state of things” (2008: p. 1593)
I have to tell you that I have found my “Utopia” in Madinah Munawarrah, only it isn’t imagined, it is actually real, and you’ll only believe me if you go there yourself. 
Here are some words I wrote one early morning as I sat outside the Masjid because I had my period. Although being in the state of menstruation meant that I was excused from prayers, I couldn’t stay away from the shining white Masjid. The magnificent nur (light) attracted me towards it and my heart longed to be near there, so I went with my mum and sat outside, but this in itself was such an amazing experience:
The Masjid which is usually magnificent is superimposing in the early morning hours, with the sky still dark and the air fresh, it seems to be illuminated, radiance emanating from it. Women come in drips and drabs initially, and then the crowds begin to come, groups and groups of women intently walking, on their way to perform the Fajr prayer, obedient to the order of their Lord. It’s early in the morning and its winter in Madinah, but children can be seen happily running around. One little boy chases a cat which was walking around outside the Masjid- the cat runs and then stops with the little boy stopping close by. I sit and watch all this and am reminded that this is the only thing in the world that makes sense. One of the only places where the transient world means nothing, the material world becomes immaterial. There are no problems, no worries, no stressors, no deadlines, nothing! There is obedience to Allah and nothing to divert one’s attention from the ultimate goal! ALLAHU AKBAR , I have found my Utopia and I am at Peace!

Those were my words then, and these are my words now, looking back at my time in Madinah:
The purple sky, that’s what stands out for me- My mother and I both agreed that we had never seen the sky purple anywhere else. The purple is so intense that it moves you, just a little while after Fajr, it turns purple, but the purple only lasts for a while, so you are fortunate if you see it. With the purple sky comes the PEACE. Peace seems to be surrounding the entire City and what can we expect, of course there is Peace, after all this is the place of the Beloved of Allah!

The winter breeze was welcoming, it wasn’t cold at all for those of us who are accustomed to much colder weather. In fact it was pleasant and comfortable. On the streets the people selling things sit and wait for customers; they’ve formed a support system so one lady easily leaves her goods in the care of another when she needs to go somewhere. There are many things to buy on the streets of Madinah, but you have to be careful not to get carried away, because the things are cheap and you can easily end up buying something unnecessary. Nonetheless I don’t think it can be a waste, everywhere you go shopkeepers rcall out “Madinah Barakah”, meaning that there are blessings if you buy from the people of Madinah.
 The children playing happily outside the Masjid of the Prophet (pbuh) echo the adults feeling of "no care in the world". Children are safe to play as they want to and it is accepted that play is an important job for children.
But the cherry on the top, the gifts of all gifts, besides being able to send salutations to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) so close by, which is a gift in its own. The gift I’m talking about though is the real piece of heaven on earth.
It is reported in a hadith something to the effect that:
This place is known to us today as the “Rawdatul Jannah”. It is a small place next to the grave of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and everyone wants to get a chance to spend some time there. I have been for umrah twice before and each time that small place was extremely crowded. Women and men get different times to go and so the previous times I found myself engulfed in “waves” of women. I did not even have space to perform one prayer because if I tried to go down in prostration I had women knocking me over from every direction. This is by no means an exaggeration. But this time, Alhamdullillah this time was so peaceful. I had time to pray as long as I wanted to, ladies were given time to sit there till 12:30am. There were empty spaces and the atmosphere was so calm and relaxed, honestly I wish everyone can experience the peace and tranquillity that we found in the Rawdatul Jannah this time. This is indeed a piece of heaven and my words do not do it justice at all. Once again you have to experience this to know what I’m talking about and I pray that anyone who wants to experience it is given the chance to do so.
One morning I was walking back to the hotel at 1:00am. I just came from the Rawdatul Jannah and thought there’d be other ladies walking in the same direction but there was none. The street was completely deserted. Initially I panicked- I’m from South Africa after all and here people can’t even walk in the streets in the early evening without getting mugged, robbed or worse, raped. So yeah, naturally I panicked a bit. But the walk to the hotel wasn’t that far and then I reminded myself that I was in Madinah and my panic disappeared. Alhamdullillah I don’t remember ever feeling as safe as I did in Madinah.
So back to my original statement- Indeed I have found my “Utopia”, but like I said it’s not an imagined place, it’s as real as real can be and my heart and soul longs to be there once again, so I pray that Almighty Allah provides the means and opportunity for me to once more set foot in the City of Peace! Inshaa-Allah Ameen!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Killing of the Imam

I just completed reading a book called ‘The Killing of the Imam’ which chronicles the life of a South African Imam, by the name of Abdullah Haron who was killed in prison by the apartheid police in 1969. The book was initially published in 1978, but was banned in South Africa and it has recently been reprinted. I won’t speak about how horrendous apartheid was, we all know about that already, and the Imam’s story is not very different from many others. He was held in detention by the then security police, for 131 days in which he was relentlessly questioned, left in solitary confinement and eventually physically beaten to such an extent that he passed away because of his injuries. All through this he did not give up the people he was working with and insisted on not giving the police any names. Today he goes down as a struggle hero, and his story has been a motivation and inspiration to many.

While reading this book I naturally contemplated on some things. Firstly, we will never know what the capture and the death of the Imam did to his family. Years later the effects of this event is still dominant in their lives. This illustrates how every action has a ripple effect, whether positive or negative and most times people don’t even consider the consequences of their actions and who it will affect.
Secondly, the claim of superiority by any person or group of person’s always needs to be looked on with scepticism because those who are truly superior will never show their superiority; in fact they will not even believe that they are superior. The example of our beloved messenger, Muhammad (pbuh) comes to mind once again. There can be no person who is more superior than Muhammad (pbuh), no King, no Prince, and definitely no President. Allah Almighty himself has asserted the superiority of Muhammad (pbuh). Yet this Blessed man never once believed that he was superior nor did he behave in a superior manner at any point. On the contrary he insisted on remaining humble, a slave of Allah who slept on the floor, ate on the floor, stayed hungry for days and gave to others before even thinking of himself. What a perfect example this is for us all. Through humility everyone benefits and everyone is treated with respect, and through pride and arrogance the opposite occurs.

These were important reflections, no doubt, but it was the Imam’s assertiveness that his fight against apartheid, (which he regarded as a fight for the people) was the right thing to do as Muslim, that really stood out for me. It was related that Imam Abdullah emphasized the social responsibility of Muslims, how we are supposed to care about others, see to those in need and stand up for the oppressed. He provided charity and assistance to families of those who were convicted and called “terrorists” simply because they dared to stand up against the oppressive white apartheid government. He did this with full knowledge that he himself might be implicated and regarded as assisting “terrorists”; and this is exactly what had happened. When he was arrested his charity work was questioned, his motivation for freedom and equality was questioned, and basically his humanitarian efforts were regarded as “terrorist activity”. But he stood firm, because he believed that as an Imam his duty to the people extended far beyond the minbar (pulpit) and the Friday sermon. Many hailed him as a martyr when he was killed, Allah knows best about everything, but I can definitely look upon this man as a role model for us all.

And then I can’t help but feel saddened by our generation. We have a rich legacy, but we don’t even have knowledge about this legacy. What would people like Imam Abdullah say to us today? How would he feel about our level of apathy and selfishness? I feel like we have been deprived- we do not know the importance of many things, including other people because our lives are mainly virtual and this means that we are mainly individualistic.  We have everything in terms of material things, but we have very little in terms of human morals and values!

Here in South Africa the new generation has been given freedom on a golden platter. We have fooled ourselves into believing that the struggle is over! Yes, apartheid may be over, but the struggle is far from over!  Just the other day a horrible rape of a young 17-year-old schoolgirl occurred here in our country! Not to mention the many more rapes which were reported on subsequent to that. We are losing our youth to drugs and crime. Our streets are filled with beggars, education is dismal- children are in Grade 7 but they cannot read and the literacy rate of the country is so poor it’s embarrassing. These are only but a few of the many struggles we have to deal with.

 How can anyone say that the struggle is over when we have so many battles on our very doorstep? How can we continue to live in our comfort zones when the world is going mad around us? Where’s our sense of caring, our sense of social responsibility? If only we had the outlook and conviction of people like Imam Abdullah Haron, perhaps our country would be better and perhaps we would be able to leave behind our own legacy which could one day be admired and followed by others.  

May Almighty Allah help us all to do what pleases Him, to care about others to the point that we will protect them no matter what, to be a benefit to those around us (because obviously we cannot help everyone). May Allah help us to become aware and awake to the things that really matter so that we too can become people of substance and honour! Inshaa-Allah Ameen

Book Image from here
To read more about Imam Abdullah Haron you can also visit:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Umrah and The constant reminders of Allah

Its two weeks since I’ve returned from umrah already and I’m still struggling to adjust to things at home. There are two reasons for this:

1.     While we were in Makkah my grandmother (aged 83) had a bit of an accident. She got run over by some ladies (without them realising) and with the result she fractured her leg and was hospitalised in Makkah.  Now she is still there with my uncle and aunt (Allah has favoured her) and since she is old she is being treated for many different things, Allah Knows best what He has willed for all His servants (please try and remember my grandmother in your duaas). In any case leaving her behind goes down as one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life, but Alhamdullillah we have faith that Allah works things out for the best and we know that my grandmother is very fortunate to be in Makkah for such a long time.

2.    The second reason that I’m finding it difficult to adjust is simply because life is so completely different in Makkah and Madinah. Everything about life there is so in sync with your life as a Muslim, it just feels like that’s where you belong and when you’re there amongst the thousands of people, you just simply fit in. You may not speak their language, or share their culture, but the overriding thing is that as Muslims we are all the same! When that adhaan (call to prayer) is called for salaah, every single person there does the exact same thing, and so it’s clear that as servants of Allah, we are united by Islam.

There are so many reasons why I love Makkah and Madinah but I’ll mention some of the things I miss the most now:

-          Life is not dictated by crazy systems – there are no 9-5 jobs , people are driven by the times of Salaah. Work is centred around Salaah, sleep is centred around Salaah, meal times are centred around Salaah and even hospital visiting hours as we came to learn is centred around Salaah times- SubhanAllah, what a beautiful way to manage your time!
-          Second, everywhere you go you are reminded of Allah! When you’re driving on highways there are signs with the words of Allah (SubhanAllah – Glory be to Allah, Allahu Akbar- Allah is the Greatest, the beautiful names of Allah and so on). You get into an elevator and instead of exploitative adverts wanting to sell you something you see posters with prayers on it and you automatically read it. Even the shopping centres are peaceful as you here shops playing recitals of the Glorious Quraan. These constant reminders of Allah are small things for the people who live there all the time, but for someone like me, coming from a society where your attention is constantly diverted away from Allah, these things are a big deal!

-          Thirdly, people are generally honest. So many incidents come to mind. One day in the shopping mall my father forgot to take his change (which was something like hundred Saudi Riyals) we were almost at the exit of the shopping centre when the man from the shop came running after him to give him the change. Then one night my sister’s cell phone got missing while in the Grand Masjid. Someone found it, the battery was almost dead- he took the sim card out and put it in his own phone so that the owners of the phone could contact the number. He then spoke to my brother in law when he phoned (in broken English but Alhamdullillah he could speak English). He came from his hotel which was like 800m away (if I recall correctly) met my brother and brother-in law and returned the phone to them. Yet another night a taxi driver charged us half the price he initially said he’d charge because he couldn’t drop us off exactly where he said he would! SubhanAllah, this is such a contrast to people in my country who go out of their way to cheat, steal and lie, may Allah guide us all!

Everything about going for umrah reminds you that the life of a Muslim is beautiful. From the construction workers who stop work to pray, till the people sitting relaxed at the Masjid for hours, the peaceful atmosphere, the feeling of brotherhood (or sisterhood), and the urgent need to only be present in front of your Lord and nowhere else- SubhanAllah, I pray that everyone gets a chance to experience this beauty!

I am so thankful to have had this chance once again for a few days in my life to be present in a place that fills the heart with peace. I am glad to have had the opportunity to be removed from the “rat race” “robotic type” lifestyle of modern day society for a short while so that I could be reminded of what is true and what really matters in life. I am happy that I was taken to a place where everything draws you closer and closer to Allah!

I have to admit that a part of me actually does not want to “adjust” to my life and get back to the way things usually are because it feels like my bond with Madinah and Makkah will be weaker if I just get back to normal life. In time it will get easier for me I suppose, but I will always continue to long to be in those Blessed places because really there is no better place on Earth!

May Allah be with us all, fulfil the wishes of those who wish to go to the Blessed Lands, and accept all our prayers -Inshaa-Allah!