Standing on the shoulders of giants

 

Abdullateef Bioshogun

“if you want your name to be remembered after your death, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about”   Abraham Lincoln

I start this in the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful. I have just attended the 55th Fosis Annual Conference – my second ever Fosis conference – and it was a great experience indeed; Alhamdulillah. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the first 15 minutes. I had never had so many people approach me all at once trying to get to know me and I forgot more names within 30 seconds of hearing them than I care to admit. Nevertheless, I did make several friends and we concluded the night with some delicious cuisine from Afghanistan (Kobeda kebabs are a wonderful creation of Allah).

I had many deep discussions with my new friends and old friends alike. I remember one particular conversation with some brothers from Birmingham about whether there was a need to change one’s personality upon attaining a new position of leadership – and if so to what extent? It really got me thinking about the concepts of sincerity and personal development – two themes explored rather widely in the Quran. I request that my dear readers think about this after concluding this article.

While the event was brilliant and enjoyable because of the ample banter and nice food (Kobeda kebabs!), it was fantastic because of the well-chosen topic of the conference; explored thoroughly through the talks and workshops. The topic was legacy; its meaning, examples from history and ideas about how we can go about leaving our legacies.

Isaac Newton is known to have expressed a metaphor created by Bernard of Chartres that goes: “we are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter.” And while these legends were only saying this as an expression of their humility it is indeed how every legend is born – all giants were once dwarves. And, as we were shown in the many talks at the conference, we have more than enough giants preceding us. We simply have one job… climb onto one of their shoulders.

It’s easier said than done though, since the media and the way in which the world is generally run is fined tuned so that from birth we are conditioned to think small of ourselves and to settle for the ‘normal’ repetitive lives we are used to. Anything above that is left to be depicted in the movies and fairy tales. Shaytaan gave himself a job to do and his work ethic is remarkable! We should at least try to match it.

“Fame is a result of what you get in life, greatness is a result of what you give in life.” I got this from one of the talks. Our legacies are what we give to the world, a concept regarding which Islam provides much encouragement (does sadaqah jaariyah ring any bells?). The thing is, a lot of us are studying to become engineers, healthcare professionals, lawyers etc where we will get the opportunity to help people everyday and leave our legacies. But, with all due respect to these professionals and without diminishing the significance of their sacrifices, these are ‘normal’ legacies which many people achieve. If one is extending a helping hand, let them maximise the reach of their extension. This is the mentality the Prophet (peace be upon him) had and as such it is the mentality we should copy.

We should not be content with the amount we give to the world. We need to break away from the attractive spell cast onto us by the dunya. I ask Allah to make it easy to adopt this mentality and to make possible for us a legacy worth being proud of.

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There’s no love like His love

by HM

Bismillah: I begin in the name of Allah and express that this is a reminder to myself first and foremost…

Due to the subjectivity of love’s definition, I will refrain from attempting to define it. I will, however, say this, that Allah’s love is infinite. While we were raised or too often told of hell and haram, terms which are associated with Allah’s Wrath, we are not reminded enough of Allah’s Kindness and Mercy. Now, before I elucidate my point, it is important to note that yes Allah is severe in punishment and I do not refute this attribution in the slightest nor do I deny His Power and Might. But, it is the lack of reminders of Allah’s Rahma (Mercy) when in times of weak imaan (faith) or sin that plays a great role in steering one away from the deen (religion/Islam).

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A Reflection

by Ayesha Iqbal

Some of my best moments of introspection have been on trains. The kind that make me sigh and fall back in my seat, watching my reflection over fields. I was on a virgin train I take regularly and the guy on the PA system gave the usual introductory welcome in 3 languages: English, Spanish and Urdu. Don.

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Shallow Waters

by Humza Asad

“They muddy the water to make it seem deep

We have established that language, once misused, can become a dangerous tool. Wielding a semantical labyrinth which, at times, can become extremely difficult to navigate. Thus, a closer introspection of the use of language in specific spheres is necessary.

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Implicit Irony

by Humza Asad

Language is a wonderful tool. Its continual evolving and developmental nature creates a rich diversity of discussion amongst its users, but just like any tool it can easily be misused. It is said that a wise man can learn more from a foolish man’s question then a foolish man can learn from a wise man’s answer, and in some cases, this could not be closer to the truth.

The problem stems from the way we interact with language around us. It is commonly thought that every question has an answer. And thus, using this to spearhead our logic, many of us fervently search until we can find the ‘correct’ answer which wholly satisfies the question posed to us. Yet what we have misunderstood is, not all questions necessitate answers. In other words, we should be questioning the question, rather than continually questioning the validity of our own answers.

What am I trying to get at here? For many of us, we don’t have the Islamic knowledge to answer seemingly tough questions directed towards us. And, in a desperate attempt to regain that strong iman and taqwa we once had, we haphazardly search online to find a ‘satisfying enough’ answer. But the problem is, many a times we don’t find exactly what we are looking for. Subsequently a drop in iman follows and that firm ‘yaqeen’ we once had now seems to just disappear.

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The Highly Effective Muslim

by Anonymous

One of the most common, funny and at times quite frustrating assumption people not from the Indian-subcontinent make is that our curries have nothing but oil in it. That all the meat you see in the bowl is floating in litres of oil. And it’s really unhealthy to have this curry, for how can one live after having so much oil in one meal!

This logic is flawed on so many levels. For starters, they don’t realise that if what they think of our curries is true, then our diet consists up of drinking spicy oil with boiled meat at least twice a day for our whole lives, which is quite silly. But I digress. This isn’t supposed to be an article supporting particular food or food habits. On the contrary, there is a lot we can learn from this way of thinking and attitude that people have.

You see, in actual Indian curries the oil you see on top is just there, on the top. It doesn’t have any depth, so to say. The rest consists up of gravy, spices, vegetables, stalk…the usual. Generally speaking, the total amount of oil used in cooking a curry is not even 5% of its total contents. And still it is judged unhealthy by many without even trying it. Reason: it LOOKS unhealthy.

This is what I want to highlight. You might see just the oil at first glance, but in reality it is a layer only a few millimetres deep floating on top.

And is this not how we perceive things in life, in general? The moment we observe some quality, an incident, a habit, a reaction, lack or excess of something, some lifestyle, a good deed or a sin we judge it on its face value sub-consciously, spontaneously. It can’t be helped as it is an inherent human tendency. Of course it goes without saying that passing judgements in such a manner is not an acceptable trait, especially for a Muslim.

So what about when someone’s actions are actually wrong? Should we not judge people on what they do?

Let’s delve into another facet of this discussion to understand different perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely have feelings or opinions against something specific. Let’s take the same example: Judging the curry to be unhealthy by seeing so much oil in it and not eating it is quite different than having an aversion to curries simply because they’re really hot and spicy, and it’s not your thing; the first part is being judgmental without knowing anything about the curry and latter a disapproval because you don’t particularly like that food, which is perfectly acceptable! Personally, I find a lot of habits and qualities around here quite unacceptable and have strong feelings against them (I mean, at least add some garlic to your rice!!!). But that does not mean I judge them!

The point I want to make: we can’t judge something on its apparent qualities or effects, although we are completely allowed to disapprove or approve the same thing as a standalone occurrence based on our preferences, inclinations and especially context; irrespective of its significance in the bigger picture.

So next time you happen to have a curry on your table, try to look past the layer of oil you see. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up liking what you taste!

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A Lesson From The Life of Musa (as)

by Anonymous

The day of Ashura was an absolutely beautiful day. The rites of rising early, depriving oneself of desire, and speaking only good, are made even more beautiful by an acute sense of moving clouds against a blue sky. This aspiration for proximity to the Almighty makes you soar with the clouds, moving rhythmically with them as they brush by. But the day would not be complete without a lesson from the life of Musa Alayhi assalam (Moses, may peace be upon him).

In the story of Musa, I find a parallel with the Sunnah of Allah (swt). The Sunnah of Allah (swt) concerns two matters: 1) His creation (e.g. how the sun rises), and 2) His commands. One of Allah’s ways is that good is always recompensed with good. It can never be that somebody is recompensed unjustly. In the story of Musa, I found a Sunnah of Allah’s way.

Let’s briefly outline this one moment of his life. Nobody tells it better than Allah (swt) so please refer to Surah Qassas (28). Musa flees his land running for his life after having accidently killed a man. Home was no longer safe. He arrived in Madyan, believing “It may be that my Lord guides me to the Right Way.” Upon arrival, he noticed men surrounding a water hole with their flocks, not leaving any openings. You can imagine water holes are rare in the desert (see Planet Earth II :P) and shepherds are hurrying to water their animals, crowding the source. Musa noticed two women standing apart from this crowd, holding their flock back from rushing to the water. He wondered what could be the matter, so he approached them and asked. They informed him that they were waiting for the water hole, and that they were responsible for the animals as their father was elderly. Upon hearing this, Musa AS took their flock and watered them. Only then did he retreat to take rest in the shade, but not without beseeching Allah (swt) for help. His own situation was still no better — he had no home, no income, no direction.

The du’a he made under the shade was: “My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!”

And how was that Du’a answered? Musa got a job, a place to call home, a family, a community… Everything. In one sweep.

Now I invite you to examine this story a little closer with me.

Musa AS had just arrived in this new place after a long and weary journey. He is likely to be thirsty, hungry, and both emotionally and physically exhausted. His first thought upon noticing the water should have been himself. Or at the very least, he could have sat down in the shade for a while. But he chose to assist the women first. Assisting people when you have free time and energy is one thing, but doing so when you are tired and running late is another. Next time you think you don’t have the energy to catch up with someone carrying groceries, just take a deep breath and run. If you think you don’t have time to give someone way on the road because you’re running late, just make your intention for Allah and invite them to go.

Keep your intention for Him and see what happens in your life. Musa AS did not do what he did because he thought it would get him a home, a new community, a family, even a job. He did what he did purely for Allah’s pleasure. And what was that good deed? Being compassionate to women. Out of all his deeds, that is the one Allah swt chose to reward him for with all this. He got a stable income. A family to love. A place to call home when his own home had become inhabitable. A place for his soul to find contentment. All because of Allah’s mercy due to his deeds. He did not pass up the opportunity to do a good deed despite his exhaustion.

These rewards are the general things concerning us now. You’re either asking for: a job; a degree; a spouse; a nice house; a nice car, or all of the aforementioned. When I was reading the surah, it was a profound lesson for me that put my heart at ease. It showed me that I don’t need to worry or take any action. I just need to focus on pleasing Allah (swt) and never pass up the opportunity to do good, and the good will come to me by itself through Allah’s favour. There is so much sakina (peace) in that thought.

Whatever it is you are wishing for and working towards. Whatever good you are in need of, just as Musa was. No matter how dusty and tired you are from your journey. Do good, and good will come to you. Not because you or I deserve it, but because that is the Sunnah of Allah.

I will contrast this story with a modern-day alternative. I attended an Islamic class at a new venue for the first time. During the break, I headed towards the table with tea and biscuits. A crowd of young men surrounded it, so I stood at some distance but with clear intent. I stood for quite some time, wondering if the men would notice and allow me through. None did. It was as if I was invisible. I felt quite sheepish yet determined for a cup of tea, and so continued to stand there, my feet burning a hole into the ground.

After what felt like an eternity (probably 90 seconds), one of the young men behind the table noticed me. He asked if I would like some tea. I smiled with relief and answered in the affirmative. He made me tea and handed it to me, and then politely informed me that if I wanted more, the table for ladies’ refreshments was on the floor below.

…I had been wondering where all the women were!

He did not ignore me. He anticipated my need and fulfilled it. Just as Musa AS did for those women he saw. I wonder what good will come to him. May Allah provide a way out for him from every hardship.

Be compassionate. Even when you are weary.

هَلْ جَزَاءُ الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ

“Is there any reward for good other than good?” (Surah Rahman, Ayah 60)

May Allah grant us the ability to do good and accept it from us.

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