There was a world before plastics and we lived in it

There was a world before plastics and we lived in it

First a disclaimer:Nostalgia alert: Not everything old is or was good. Not everything new is or was bad. But nostalgia feels so good. So enjoy and keep the salt handy.

In the world before plastics, glasses were made of glass, or copper or silver and water tasted better in them. Bottles were transparent glass or opaque ceramic. But both were breakable and did. Plates were ceramic beautifully painted. Also breakable and did. We also had steel plates which didn’t break but were less classy. Buckets and tubs were unbreakable, made of copper or galvanized iron and made a loud clang when you put them down and dropped the handle. So you were careful to put the handle down gently. 

Shopping bags were cloth, washed and reused until they wore out and then served as dish and polishing cloths until they vanished. Chairs were wooden or metal – some foldable, some not. All heavy and unstackable. So when plastic bottles, plates, cups, buckets and tubs and above all plastic bags came to be, we were thrilled out of our minds. Transparent like glass but doesn’t break? Buckets and tubs lifting which didn’t break your back? Chairs that could be stacked and put away when you didn’t need them? Shopping bags that you could print your label on and which the customer could use for other things or simply throw away? No need to wash and dry and reuse. Truly a vision of convenience heaven.

Beds were wooden cots without springs with cotton mattresses on them. Every year a man would come with an instrument that resembled a great bow and would be shut into a room with all mattresses. He would unstitch one side, pull out the cotton, prong it with his bow until it was fluffy once again and then stuff it back into the mattress. When you entered the room to give the man a cup of tea, you had to look for him in the white cloud of cotton fluff and dust that he generated. The drumming sound of him working was like an out of tune sitar. What it did to his lungs breathing in the cotton fluff, is not something that either he or we were conscious of but thanks to spring-less beds and firm mattresses we didn’t have backaches. PUF was unheard of. Foam was on soaps, not mattresses. And soaps were in the bathroom, not on TV. There was no TV.

Our home had resident wildlife – sparrows in the rafters making an infernal din every morning belligerently defending their nesting sites from intruders. In Urdu they are very aptly called Khana Chidiya (Khanchudi in Deccani) – house bird. Their feathers and at nesting time, all the grass and other tidbits they brought and then allowed to fall – they are incredibly messy nest builders – meant that the house had to be swept twice or three times a day. Occasionally a sparrow would get brained by a lazily rotating fan because they never seemed to realize that trying to perch on a moving fan was a bad idea. We would pick up the dazed bird and revive it and put it on a window sill so that it could fly away when it wished. It never occurred to us to de-sparrow the house. Sweeping was preferable to an aseptic house devoid of the chirping of the sparrow. Today with all the concrete and glass and pesticide sprays in the fields, sparrows are gone.

Municipal water came when it came so everyone had storage tanks in bathrooms. If those ran out there was the Bi-hish-ti (literally: man from heaven) who came with a leather sack slung over his shoulder and topped up the tank. More usually he would water the garden and simply sprinkle water in the yard after sunset to cool the place down before our cots would be set out for us to sleep under the stars all through summer. Those who didn’t have gardens had terraces or flat roofs used for the same purpose. How did it feel to lie in bed and look at the moon and stars through your mosquito net, secure in the thought that your house was not being burgled while you slept? I don’t think I can even tell you to try it out today . The world before plastics was different.

In that world we had no computers but we had time. We had no TV but we had friends. We had no cell phones but we spoke to people face to face. Conversation was an art, taught and learnt and grunts didn’t substitute for words. Language had value and was acquired and husbanded – new words tried out to see how they worked – phrases repeated, shared and appreciated. Poetry was an actual form of self-expression that underlined the thought and the ability to quote the right couplet at the right time was a mark of a person’s education. Conversation didn’t simply revolve around politics or controversial matters but we talked about thought leaders, exemplars of our past and shared their thoughts and writings, often verbatim – memorizing and quoting them being a sign of our own worth. An hour or two passed in this way, drinking tea and reciting poetry and marveling at the turn of phrase, expressing thoughts that touched the heart was something to be looked forward to and back on with great pleasure.

We worked in the home or for our families for love or duty but never for money. We were never offered money and would have considered it an insult to be offered payment for doing something for our family members, no matter how distant. The concept of paying children to work in the home was unheard of and considered deplorable. Money was called ‘dirt on the hands’ – we dirtied our hands for the experience. The dirt came as a result – we didn’t work for it. Mentioning what anything cost, what anybody earned or what anyone had spent on a gift, meal or any other form of hospitality was considered insulting and crass. Hospitality was a value, not an industry. The guest was someone you invited home to a meal. To take him to a restaurant was considered a lapse in the standard of hospitality. Even if you did it, it was done under duress. Never as a choice. If some family member informed us that he or she was arriving from another city, it was the standard for us to meet them at the station and bring them home.

 I will never forget the picture of my great-uncle Nawab Ruknuddin Ahmed standing on the platform on Chennai station with garlands when I arrived there in 1985 with my newly wedded wife Samina. He was staying with his daughter, Aunty Jahanara, who we would be transiting with on our way to the tea gardens where I worked. Even though it was not his home that we were going to, Mamujaan honored us by personally receiving us at the station. But then what am I saying? How can the daughter’s home not be his home? Just as my aunt’s home was my home. We learnt from the actions of our elders. Tradition was to keep those memories alive – not only by talking about them, but by emulating the actions. For a family member to stay in a hotel instead of at home with us, was an insult to our honor. The thought that elderly parents could be sent away to a ‘home’ was unimaginable. Home was where we lived – not some place to shunt old inconvenient elders to, to be taken care of by strangers. They were our elders. We remembered what they did for us when we were little. To do the same for them, was not only our duty but not even something we considered remarkable.


In that world we played real games on real earth not virtual games on a gadget. We ran, sweated, yelled ourselves hoarse, tore our shirts, fell down, skinned our knees, got covered with dust and when it was raining with mud and considered all this as having a whale of a time. In these games we learned leadership, sharing, standing up for our friends, being done in by those we trusted and learnt lessons from all of them. We learned to work as a team, strategize and see the result of that strategy. We stood up for each other, never reneged on our friends, even when we sometimes had to pay the price for that loyalty. We settled with our friend in private but stood by his side in public. You didn’t turn your back on your friends. It was as simple as that. It didn’t matter to us what the color, religion or social status of the friend was. It didn’t matter what car he drove because we all rode bicycles. It didn’t matter what brand of clothing he wore because we all had clothes custom tailored by the Darzee (tailor) in our Muhalla (neighborhood). Bell bottoms were in fashion and we wore them. So were pointed shoes, and Brylcream in the hair. It didn’t matter whether the friend was rich or poor because at the end of a good football game, we all looked the same – the color of mud. It didn’t matter if he was tall or short, handsome or ugly. What mattered was that he was my friend. That was all.

In that world manners were everything. Manners meant that you showed respect to elders by greeting them first and standing up for them. By anticipating their needs and running to fulfill them. Manners meant that if an elder had to carry a chair to a place where he wanted to sit, it was an insult to you as the youngster who stood by and watched. Manners meant that you spoke politely after asking permission and listened more than you spoke. ‘That is why you have been given two ears and one mouth’ – we were told. Manners meant that when guests came home you served them, not servants. That you were in the middle of studying for your exam meant nothing. Guests were more important than exams. When the guests left you went back to studying and still got straight A’s. No compromising on results.

In that world, we read books. Not occasionally but every single day. We had our favorite authors but we still had to read the classics mandatorily. Books were (and still are) our best friends, opening doors into worlds unexplored. We saw the scenes as we read about them, laughed with the actors in those stories, shared their joys and sorrows. 

Books opened for us doors into the hearts and lives of the writers and their times walking through which we discovered ourselves. We read everything. J.R.R Tolkien, Ayn Rand, Alvin Toffler, Iqbal, Ghalib, Ibn Al Qayyim, Louis L’amour, George Orwell, Romila Thapar, James Herriot, Gerald Durrell, John Steinbeck, Munshi Premchand, Jakata Tales and many others, all spoke to us. They influenced us and shaped our thoughts and values and taught us to question, critically analyze and choose intelligently. Above all they taught us that we are not unique or more special than anyone else. That others also cry tears and laugh their way through difficulties and that in many cases our worst complaints are the dreams of others. We read and we learnt to write. We saw and we learnt to show by drawing vividly colored pictures with words. We dreamt and learnt to deal with the reality that some dreams are simply that – dreams. But that even the most unrealizable of them, opens vistas to that which might have been and leads to that which can become a reality. We learnt the value of philosophy and the solace it gives to a sore heart. We learnt to choose – sometimes painfully – but learnt the lesson that we could and must make choices. Sitting on the fence invariably gives you a sore crotch.

We had never heard of recycling but we always wore clothes that had graced the bottoms of our elder siblings. We used and reused them until the thing simply fell apart. Only then did we get anything new. Clothes covered our bodies, not our egos. Manners, not possessions were our statement. Not to say that we were always good mannered – one of the things we prided ourselves on was the ability to describe another’s ancestry in colorful terms for ten minutes without repeating ourselves. A skill that comes in handy when one needs to de-stress. The secret is to do it alone facing a wall. Otherwise it increases stress levels instead of de-stressing.

Since we didn’t have copy paste or auto correct, we learned spelling and wrote clearly in longhand. Ah! The joy of the feel of a fountain pen gliding smoothly across the page – these were the days before ball pens came into being. You chose your pen depending on the width of the nib. Sat with an inkpot and medicine dropper, filling the pen. Then screwed the top back on and carefully wiped the residual ink on your head and you were good to go. We wrote letters not only to give news but poured out our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes you would get a letter with a circle around a suspicious stain labelled ‘tear’. Then we waited days and sometimes weeks before we got a reply.

We couldn’t see the face, didn’t get instant responses and had to struggle with translating emotion into words – so we learned to write properly. Our vocabulary was a lot more than, ‘Ugh!, gr8, Like, youknowwhaimean? LOL. We didn’t explore – we checked. We didn’t reach out – we contacted. We didn’t try to reach – we reached. We used shorthand to take notes and short forms only for telegrams. We learnt to imagine, anticipate and adjust. We learned patience and we learned to write legibly because the addressee had to read what we wrote. We learned to write concisely because we didn’t want the reader to get bored and throw the letter away. We learned to write correctly and grammatically because not to do so was a sign of ignorance and a poor education. It still is.

In this world without instant coffee or tea bags we learnt the value of process – warm the tea pot before you pour in the hot water – and the reward of a properly done job – drink a cup of freshly ground coffee and you’ll see what I mean. And the lesson that everything had a use – used tea leaves are excellent mulch for roses. Drinking tea was also about demonstrating upbringing – hold the cup by its handle between three finger and thumb with the little finger (pinky) sticking out and you don’t slurp or blow on the tea to cool it. And god forbid, never slurp it out of the saucer. Not to say that doesn’t have it’s own pleasure but you didn’t do it.


Not that everything in the plastic-less world was hunky dory – we had power cuts or to put it more correctly, we were delightfully surprised when we had power. But we had candles and lamps. We had no cooking gas and so our rotis came with a wood smoke flavor. Corn was always on the cob, roasted on live coals, rubbed with half a lemon dipped in salt and eaten hot. What all this cooking on wood did to the forests is another story. We had no refrigerators so we gave away all leftovers and always ate fresh. Milk would be stored overnight in what was called a Hawadaan (literally: air container) – a cupboard with a wooden frame and mesh sides. If it still turned we converted it either into a sweet or into ghee. As I said, we recycled out of necessity and it was very enjoyable.

My generation is a generation that straddles times and change. We have seen more fundamental change than both our predecessors and successors and we love it.
Palestine – Why is it happening?

Palestine – Why is it happening?

We are all witness to what is happening in Palestine – deplorable, despicable, shameful, horrific and completely avoidable if only some good sense could prevail on all sides. Naturally we, the common people, Muslim or not, are anguished, perplexed and confused about why among those that have power, there is so much apathy and even active complicity with the aggressors and such a lack of sympathy for the oppressed.

AllahY made laws of success and failure in this life. These are as foolproof and as incontrovertible as the laws of physics, also established by AllahY. These laws must also be learned and taken into account if you want to succeed. For example AllahY said about being influential, victorious, powerful and leading people;

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 

Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).

Now keeping this basic principle in mind – that this world runs according to the laws of AllahY and if you want something you have to follow that law; dua without a strategy or a strategy while disobeying AllahY won’t work – let us see what is happening in Palestine.

To understand this we have to go back in history. Jews were persecuted all over Europe, both in Eastern (Russia) and Western Europe for centuries. The pogroms of the Tsars of Russia or the Final Solution of Hitler are all historical events – as deplorable, despicable and tragic as what is happening in Palestine today and has been happening for the past sixty years. Ironically, the only place where Jews were not persecuted was in Muslim lands, under the Ottoman Empire and earlier rulers. But it appears that memories are short and gratitude is a forgotten art. Hitler’s genocide of six million innocent people was the final straw after which Europe could no longer hide its discriminatory policies against Jews. Meanwhile Jews in Europe, though Semitic originally, became very European and a great number today have little to do with their Semitic origins and are racially speaking, European. This is important to remember in order to understand the events that unfolded after World War II and the birth of the State of Israel.

Europe accepted its culpability in the genocide of Jews at the hands of Hitler but its centuries old prejudice against Jews wouldn’t allow it to do what would have been honorable, just and logical – give them a homeland in Europe. Carve it out of Germany which was responsible for their genocide, thereby making the German people rightfully pay the price of silently supporting Hitler and his goons. Neither did the European ruling America and Russia accept their collective guilt in allowing six million innocent people to die and therefore grant a homeland to the displaced Jews in America or Russia.

Events of history always favor those who are prepared to take advantage of them. The seeds of Zionism were planted in 1896 by Theodor Herzl, long before the Holocaust. He lived in Austria-Hungary and wrote about the need for a Jews Only state – erroneously referred to as a Jewish State. Herzl founded the Zionist Organization in 1897. Israel was formed by mostly atheist Zionists whose purpose was to create a state for ethnic Jews, not to create a theocracy; a state for Jews, not a Jewish state. Zionism is a political ideology, not a theology and has nothing in common with Judaism.

There is a very interesting conversation between Arthur Balfour, UK’s Foreign Secretary, and Chaim Weizmann, the representative of the Zionist Organization, which took place in 1906.
During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann’s objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda, (the Uganda Protectorate in East Africa in the British Uganda Programme), rather than in Palestine. 

According to Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:
“Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” He sat up, looked at me, and answered: “But Dr. Weizmann, we have London.” “That is true,” I said, “but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.” He … said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: “Are there many Jews who think like you?” I answered: “I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves.” … To this he said: “If that is so you will one day be a force.”

 
Two months after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, Zionist British cabinet member Herbert Samuel circulated a memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine to his cabinet colleagues. The memorandum stated that “I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be much the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire”.


The Jews themselves were sick of Europe and Europeans and the growing anti-Semitism and had been actively planning for an independent country for Jews in Palestine. Their worst fears came true with Hitler’s horrific holocaust which was directed not only against the Jews but also against Gypsies and other so-called non-Aryan people. But the Jews by far exceeded all other ethnicities for the number of lives lost. The holocaust is one of those events in the history of mankind which one wishes had never happened but also illustrates how those who are prepared can take advantage of the worst calamities and turn them into opportunities.

The plan to create a Zionist state in Palestine was underway much before Hitler came into power with the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917.

“The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on 9 November 1917. The “Balfour Declaration” was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.”

 


Figure 1The Balfour Declaration. Credit: Wikipedia

What came to the aid of the Zionists were the events of history and they were prepared to take every advantage. The great Ottoman Empire ceased to exist and was being dismembered and parceled off to local rulers who were puppets of the real rulers – British/American/European combine. The goal of finishing off the Khilafa Othmania or Islamia had been accomplished. Mustafa Kamal Pasha was enthroned on the Ottoman Throne with the mandate of demolishing the Khilafa which he did. However, two major problems remained – what to do with the Jews and how to ensure that a new Islamic Khilafa didn’t emerge if one day all the local rulers decided to unite under one banner.

The solution was very simple for anyone who’d read history and happened to have the strings of power in hand at the time. Create a ‘so-called historical Jewish homeland in Palestine’ which was the traditional land of the Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Palestine was never Jewish alone after Titus finished with it and was always the common property of the three religions who claimed common lineage from Abraham (Ibrahimu). But at this point in history, Islam was on the back foot – the Ottoman Empire was dead and the local chiefs who had recently been given their own kingdoms were like kids in a toyshop – beyond care for anything other than the latest toy their money could buy. The Christian powers were the brokers and the Jews were more than ready to do the deal. And so the term Judeo-Christian came into being and Israel was born.

This served both the objectives – getting the Jews out of Europe and putting a Europe friendly power in the middle of the chicken coop of Arab countries which could be used in the future to keep any aspiring leaders in check and ensure that no puppet could break his string. That is why all the military aid, atomic weapons and a carte blanche to Israel – after all you don’t become tough on your own tool.

As for Palestinians, they were conveniently as weak then as they are now. They belonged to nobody and were fair game; open season was declared on them and this has not closed since then. As the saying goes, ‘As long as lions have historians, history will always glorify the hunt.’ Weakness has never been fashionable and as Hitler said, ‘Victors write their own history.’ The poet Iqbal put it very aptly when he said:

Taqdeer ke Qazi ka ye fatwa hai azal se
Hai jurm-e-zaeefi ki saza marg-e-mafaajaat

 
From the first day of creation the ruling of the Judge of destiny has always been
The punishment for the crime of weakness is sudden death


Now let us apply the laws of AllahY to this situation. As is mentioned in the Ayah above AllahY laid down two rules – adherence to the Kitaab wal Sunnah and Unified Strategy. Each is not sufficient by itself. They have to both exist simultaneously and work dynamically for the result to happen. The plane needs wings and an engine. Neither by itself is sufficient. The man making Dhikr and dua still needs to pull the rip cord of the parachute if he doesn’t want to die. The rule is the combination of its elements. Not either element by itself. The equation works when both sides interact. With only one side it is not an equation. To recollect what AllahY said:

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 

Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).

The first part of the equation deals with the importance of personal piety and I have dealt with that in another article – without it there is no connection with AllahY and therefore no success.

Talking about the second part of the equation – Unified Strategy – there is probably no better example of what lack of unity can do than in the 13th century (1200-1260) when Genghiz Khan (in 1220) annihilated the Khwarazm Sultanate with its iconic cities of Samarkhand, Bukhara among many others which were iconic names in Islamic civilization and history. Entire populations were slaughtered, libraries burned, masaajid demolished, fields turned into grazing land for Mongol horses and cities razed to the ground. Khalifa An Nasir of Baghdad, the rival of Sultan Alauddin of Khwarazm, watched in delight as all this happened, not knowing of course what was to happen to his family and people in Baghdad.
In 1258 Hulegu Khan besieged Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Khilafa and upon its capture, executed Khalifa Al Musta’asim and burned the city to the ground. When Hulegu saw Musta’asim’s treasures he was so enraged that Musta’asim hadn’t used them to raise an army to defend his kingdom that he locked him up with the treasure and said, ‘Eat it as you are so fond of it.’ Musta’asim died there. The famous libraries of Baghdad and House of Wisdom were burned to the ground and the population decimated. This is considered the end of the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization.

But leaving all this history aside, if one were to ask, ‘What did we Muslims learn about the dangers of internal conflict and how is this learning reflected in our lives,’ we would be hard put to find an answer. It is almost as if we learnt nothing because if there is one thing that characterizes us as people, it is our internal conflicts, our intolerance for difference of opinion, our unwillingness to accept diversity and our impatience and anger with anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Our societies are rife with one group of Muslims calling another apostate (Kafir and Murtad) and on that pretext attacking and seeking to destroy them.

There is no unity even among the Palestinians themselves – the Fatah and Hamas conflict being clear all along. Israel has utilized this conflict to its own advantage for decades but Fatah and Hamas are unable to see through this. Palestinian politics is rife with corrupt leaders ever ready to sell their own people down the drain for their own interests. Their internal conflicts enable Israeli intelligence to know everything that happens there. The list of what is wrong in Palestine itself is long. But nothing different or particularly worse than the list for the rest of the Ummah. We can point a finger at Palestinians but three relentlessly point back at us.

As for the lack of unity among Muslim rulers – the only thing that they can agree on is that they can’t agree on anything. And by the look of it – not even a single statement against what is happening in Palestine/Gaza just now – it doesn’t seem that we are going to see any unity in a hurry. Muslim rulers are terrified of democracy in any form or shape and they will do anything in their power to stop anything that remotely looks like a democracy arising anywhere near them. Their sponsors and supporters, thanks to whom they retain their thrones, love to talk about democracy and posture as its protectors and promoters – but in reality democracy is the last thing they want in their client regimes. They would rather install or support dictators and deal with one man, no matter how corrupt or oppressive, than dealing with a democratically elected government of the people. Nothing is more clearly evidence of this than the reinstallation of dictatorship in Egypt.

Meanwhile Israel, the genesis of which was hatred and fear and which survives on this ideology and this image is what sustains it and ensures that it gets both an unlimited expense account and a James Bond License to Kill – will continue to do what it always did – keep that image of being the bastion of protection for the West alive. Israel has sold to the West the key message – WiiFM – What’s in it for Me? As somebody said, ‘Israel says that it is our only friend in the Middle East. But before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.’ Western leaders are not willing to look at this fact at all. The West considers Israel essential for its own safety. Israel will never do anything to debug this myth. It is not in the interest of Israel to do so. Its entire communication and propaganda machine is geared to ensuring that the Free Press is free to report only what is beneficial to keeping this myth alive and that all real information that may threaten to lift the curtain is instantly suppressed and killed. One can hardly blame Israel for not wanting to kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

No matter how much one may wish for the natural cooperation that should be the logical outcome of population, skill and technology demographics of Israel-Palestine – where Jewish technology and Palestinian work could make the desert flower – the desert flowers on usurped land, stolen water and the blood of innocents. All because if Palestinians and Israelis cooperated, Western (American) Military aid would lose its meaning and the carte blanche in global morality would cease to exist. That would be a very expensive bargain, especially given the history of sixty years of brutal oppression that Israel has written into its story.

Also at stake is the largest fresh water aquifer on which Gaza and a lot of inconvenient Palestinians are sitting. That water is wealth beyond belief for water starved Israel and the lives of a few Palestinians which may be the cost that Israel has to pay is very easy to do. Killing is always easier than dying. Another carrot is the gas reserves on the Palestinian coast which have recently come to light which Israel has no intention of allowing Palestinians to benefit from.

To come to the aid of Israel is sixty years of planning, investment, intelligent use of natural and human resources to ensure that no decision is ever taken in any forum which can be remotely inimical to Israel’s interests. Israelis may have internal conflicts among themselves and Israeli politics is as dog eat dog as any other, but they are a unified force when it comes to Israel’s collective interests. I wish one could say that about Muslims – that they also unite when it comes to the interests of Islam. But we know the sad truth.

Hamas’s strategy of armed resistance is obviously not working and is instead being used as an excuse for Israel’s expansion plans, legitimizing (at least in the minds of their sponsors) genocide of civilian populations and massive destruction of humanity. Hamas’s ineffective toy rockets are answered by highly effective F16 and Apache helicopter bombing with catastrophic results. Why Hamas doesn’t rethink its strategy is something that I have no answer for. But obviously they need to do that urgently.

The comparison made with the armed struggle of South African people against its own apartheid regime doesn’t really fit because apartheid on the basis of color and race has lost all credibility and support and though it still remains in the hearts of many, it is simply untenable in public. No political leader can call for it and expect to remain in power. However, the same is not the case with religious and ethnic (Semitic only) prejudice. It is possible for Israeli leaders to call for ‘Death to all Arabs’, ‘Kill Muslim children’, ‘create concentration camps in Gaza’ and such things and still survive and thrive. The world doesn’t find this as reprehensible as it found white supremacy ideology of the South African apartheid regime. So whereas it sanctioned South Africa until the apartheid regime came to its knees, it doesn’t lift a finger against Israel, who despite being the killer plays victim very successfully.

Secondly, what is different in this freedom struggle from that of South Africa is the attitude of neighboring countries. In the case of South Africa, neighboring countries opened their borders to freedom fighters to cross over into safe territory, permitted them to have training camps for their fighters, allowed equipment and supplies to come through their countries – all to support a cause they considered just. They also used all their diplomatic power to lobby for the freedom of Black people from the apartheid regime in all international fora. Countries in Europe, UK being at the forefront, stood firmly behind the freedom struggle and the leaders of the struggle operated from UK for years.

However in the case of the Palestinian struggle, their neighboring countries are doing the opposite. They are, if anything, more hostile to them than Israel. They have sealed their borders and are not even allowing medicines to go through. Their military personnel are infiltrating into Palestine to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel in order to destroy Hamas. The fact that Hamas is the duly elected government of Palestine means nothing to them or to their masters, who harp about democracy from the rooftops but strongly support dictatorships – all without batting an eyelid. As mentioned earlier, this is the same logic that prevailed in Egypt where the duly elected government was declared ‘terrorist’ and a dictator was installed and called the ‘elected President’. The Arab Spring – sprang into the lap of dictatorship once again. Palestinian freedom fighters therefore are completely alone without a single friend in any government, with the exception of the Government of South Africa and now several Latin American countries which still support the anti-apartheid freedom struggle.

Another question that is often asked is why Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience didn’t work in the South African freedom struggle even though Gandhiji started propagating it in South Africa. Gandhiji’s philosophy was eventually tried and tested in India and it worked very well in getting rid of British Colonial Rule. But in South Africa it was tried and failed and so was abandoned and armed resistance was adopted and eventually succeeded in gaining freedom for the black people from white apartheid rule. I asked one of my friends, a famous senior freedom fighter in the South African freedom struggle who spent over two decades in prison, this question. His answer, ‘The Apartheid Regime didn’t play by the rules like the British in India did.’ And that is precisely the reason why a non-violent movement will probably not work in Palestine either – the Zionists don’t play by the rules. Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver while she was attempting to protest peacefully against the illegal demolition of a Palestinian home.

The bigger tragedy is that nobody, including her own government, supported her non-violent action, nor did they criticize or punish the bulldozer driver who murdered her. The message to the Palestinian people was clear – non-violence doesn’t work.

The final, unusual feature in this whole game is the situation of massive civilian support for Palestine and against Israeli aggression. What is amazing however is the extent of civilian support for Palestine yet its apparent ineffectiveness in changing the situation on the ground. Social Media has played a vital role in exposing the truth to the general public so that despite state control of so-called mainstream media and Israeli influence on major media channels like CNN, Fox, BBC and others which enables them to use these channels as their propaganda machine, common people are able to get real information directly from the frontline from people who are directly affected.

Another tactic which seems to be working very well and the success of which must be attributed to Social Media – especially Twitter and Facebook – is the movement to boycott products made in Israel and Occupied Palestine. YouTube brought images to the public that mainstream television was trying to hide. Boycotting products gave the public a way to take action that is legal and in their power to do. Social Media made it possible to connect across international boundaries. We hope that all this will bring about change on the ground before it is too late.

Problem definitions are always easy for someone who has the benefit of perspective, a function of distance. The solution is also very simple to envisage in this case All people of conscience must learn to unite on justice; understand that injustice to one is injustice to all. For Muslims, follow the Book of AllahY and the Sunnah of His Messengerr and show the rest of the world how Arabs and Palestinians are not only not a threat but a big asset to the world. How to make it happen? Implementation is always the key. And only action can get results.

Notwithstanding all of the above, it is entirely possible that we may all be in for a huge surprise – and I for one am praying for it – where the huge involvement of civil society in upholding human rights and speaking out against murder and genocide may bear fruit and give justice to the Palestinians.

The reality is that when the bombs stop falling the Palestinians will have the freedom to live in their land, minus their homes, without electricity, water, schools, hospitals and all the conveniences and security that we take for granted in even the poorer countries. And Israel will still have the wall, the check points, the right and power to humiliate, violate, imprison and kill Palestinians without question. So really what kind of life is that? And of course I am not even talking about dealing with the psychological trauma of bereavement and desolation in their lives for no fault other than being in the wrong place – so to speak.

It is essential for the world to remember that the challenge for all people of conscience is not merely to stop the bombing but to ensure that this never happens again. The only way to achieve that is to ensure that justice is done, murder is punished and its perpetrators are brought to book. Its supporters must be taught a lesson that they won’t forget in a hurry. Only then will a soldier think twice before pulling the trigger, when he has a child’s face in the cross hairs of his telescopic sight.

Only then will we once again dare to call ourselves human.

—–
References:
“Balfour Declaration.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 25 July 2014. Web. 3 August 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration>

Chossudovsky, Michel. “War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields.” Global Research. Global Research, 08 Jan. 2009. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.

Fadhel, Mohammad. “Israel Wants Palestine’s Water and Gas.” Newsletter. Gulfnews.com, 27 July 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.
Parry, Nigel. “Photostory: Israeli Bulldozer Driver Murders American Peace Activist.” The Electronic Intifada. The Electronic Intifada, 16 Mar. 2003. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.
 

Quranic formula for success

Quranic formula for success

We are all witness to what is happening in Palestine – deplorable, despicable and completely avoidable if only some good sense could prevail on all sides. Naturally we, the common people, Muslim or not, are anguished, perplexed and confused about why there is so much apathy and even active complicity with the aggressors and such a lack of sympathy for the oppressed among those that have power. People are even asking, ‘Why doesn’t AllahY do something?’
When I was asked this question, I answered, ‘He did.’
‘What did He do?’
‘He made you,’ I replied.
And that in one line is the reason. The day we understand this – at an individual and collective level, all oppression will evaporate and nobody will be able to oppress anyone else. The buck indeed stops with each one of us personally. AllahYdid something – He made you. He made me.
Before I try to analyze the Palestine story – a word about AllahY’s creation of this world in which we live.
AllahYcreated this world and created systems for it to function. For example He said:


Sajda 32: 5. He arranges (every) affair from the heavens to the earth, then it (affair) will go up to Him, in one Day, the space whereof is a thousand years of your reckoning (our time/space dimension). 6. That is He, the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen, the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful. 7. Who made everything He has created good, and He began the creation of man from clay. 8. Then He made his offspring from semen of worthless water (seminal fluid).
AllahYmentioned here some of the laws of functioning of creation that He created. We know these as the laws of physics, aerodynamics, gravity, displacement and so on. The key thing to remember is that if you want to float a ship you have to construct something that conforms to the law of displacement. If you do that, you will be able to float ten thousand tons of steel. Without that a paper boat will sink. Similarly if you want to fly a plane you have to construct something that conforms to the laws of aerodynamics and flight. If you do that you can fly a thousand tons of steel. If not, your paper plane won’t take off. Finally is you want to leap out of a plane at twenty thousand feet and land safely on earth, you have to take into account the law of gravity and work to counter it. Otherwise you will become its victim and have a grave experience when you meet Mother Earth traveling at 32 ft/sec/sec.
Similarly AllahYmade laws of success and failure in this life. These are as foolproof and as incontrovertible as the laws of physics and so on that I mentioned above. These laws must also be learned and taken into account if you want to succeed. For example AllahYsaid about being influential, victorious, powerful leaders;

Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).
So also in the case of the law of power and influence. Our history both ancient and present is replete with examples of both personally pious people and people with good strategies but disconnected with AllahY who both failed to create and sustain vibrant nations.
As you can see from this – influence, strength and power depends on two things which are inter-related and entwined – obedience to AllahY and His Messengerr and unity between ourselves. Either one is not sufficient in itself. Just as the law of flight is a combination of two things – wing design and takeoff speed. That is why the best designed aircraft will not take off until it reaches takeoff speed and a Ferrari will never fly. You need enough horsepower and correct wing design.
Rasoolullahr exemplified this in Madina where he created the Muslim Ummah – a Brotherhood of Faith. A term that is replete with meaning. It is a brotherhood. Not merely a collaboration, cooperation, agreement, alliance or even friendship; but a brotherhood – with all the implications of concern, compassion, sense of responsibility, shared honor, and giving up your entitlement for the benefit of the brother, seeing one’s own success in the success of the brother and doing whatever it takes to enable the brother to succeed. And that brotherhood is based not on racial, tribal or even family relations but on faith – on obedience to AllahY and His Messengerr. That in essence is the meaning of this Ayah in practice. And as they say, the rest is history.
Islam spread from Madina, not Makkah. It did not spread from the Ka’aba but from the birth of the Ummah. The Muslims understood this so well that when they had to date their calendar, they used the birth of the Ummah, not the birth even of Rasoolullahr as the starting point to begin counting. It was as if to say that time began when the meaning of this Ayah was fulfilled. History is witness that as long as they stuck to the principles of success that AllahY laid out in this Ayah they succeeded. When they broke the pact, they failed.
One big lesson therefore to learn from this is that AllahY does – but He does in His own way – not as we would like Him to do. Ideally we would like AllahY to descend to earth and sort out our problems for us. It is this need that gave rise to the many Avatar ideologies that exist which depict people who took charge of their lives and changed their own destinies and the destiny of their people by following the laws of AllahY, as human embodiments of god, who came to earth to take care of earthlings. God doesn’t come to earth to take care of earthlings because He taught earthlings how to take care of themselves and sent instruction manuals and teachers to teach them by demonstrating the method personally. What therefore can you say to those who despite all this, still insist on breaking the law and complain when they come to grief?
If someone jumps out of a plane at twenty thousand feet and refuses to pull his rip cord to open his parachute but spends all the time he has in Dhikr begging AllahY to save him from death – what do you think will happen to him? You may say that he died with the name of AllahY on his lips – but he will die as surely as someone who commits suicide. As a matter of fact his death would be considered suicide and not an accident. If someone asks at that time, ‘But why didn’t AllahY do something?’ You would tell them, ‘AllahY did. He taught him the rules of gravity. He gave him a parachute. Taught him how it works. Gave him the power to pull the rip cord and the freedom to do so if he wished.’ So did AllahY do something or not?’ Despite all of the above if he didn’t pull the cord and crashed, whose fault is it?
Now keeping this basic principle in mind – that this world runs according to the laws of AllahY and if you want something you have to follow that law. Dua alone or a strategy alone while disobeying AllahY, won’t work.
So to recollect what AllahY said:

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 
Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).
As is mentioned in the Ayah above AllahY laid down two interacting dynamic rules – adherence to the Kitaab wal Sunnah and Unified Strategy.
Each by itself is not sufficient. They have to both exist simultaneously and work dynamically for the result to happen. The plane needs wings and an engine. Neither is sufficient by itself. The man making Dhikr and dua still needs to pull the rip cord of the parachute if he doesn’t want to die. The rule is the combination of its elements. Not either element by itself. The equation works when both sides interact. With only one side it is not an equation.
To look at an example from the Seerah which illustrates this – we have the example of the reversal of fortunes in the Battle of Uhud. Who were more pious than the Sahaba? In Uhud they had a good strategy and they were winning. But at a critical moment, some of them – disputed amongst themselves and disobeyed the instructions that Rasoolullahr gave them – and the victory turned into a rout which proved to be very expensive and tragic with the death of 70 of the best of them including Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib (RA). Remember they hadn’t become rebellious nor did they stop believing in the Messengership (Risaalat) of Rasoolullahr. They merely disputed about his instruction and its meaning and application. Some said that it was to be obeyed unquestioningly in word and spirit. Others said that it applied to a specific time and situation and was no longer applicable. And these left their appointed places on the hillock where Rasoolullahr had placed them. Khalid bin Waleed took advantage of the situation and charged with his cavalry and the Muslims were routed.
The lesson? That when they ignored one of the elements of the law, the other element couldn’t help them. When the wings fall off the plane the weight of the engine makes it fall out of the sky faster. When the engines fail, the plane will glide for a while but will surely crash in the end.
Now apply this rule – Personal Piety + Unified Strategy – to not only the Palestinian situation but to the Muslim Ummah in general. Palestine is the symptom of the major illness. It is the headache or the stomach ache, painful though it is, is only a symptom of a more serious disease that may put the life of the patient at risk. We need to put Palestine in perspective to understand what is happening and hopefully to be able to find a cure for the real ailment. Not simply a Band-Aid to cover a cut.
To diagnose what our state of personal piety is, our state of obedience to AllahY and His Messengerr , I don’t think we need to go too far. It is sufficient to look into our own lives and ask ourselves some hard questions. The same applies to our countries which talk about being Islamic but permit everything that AllahY has prohibited and prohibit what He permitted. All our pretentions about practicing Islam fool only ourselves – because the world sees our real state clearly. People listen with their eyes and so are not impressed with our protestations of piety and adherence to our religion. Without going into details which are more than clear to anyone who can read, let us suffice to say that we have to clean up our act to meet at least the first of the conditions of the law of success – become obedient to AllahY and His Messengerr. Obey AllahY, earn and eat Halaal, and follow the Sunnah. Refusing to accept reality only assures disaster. No order of AllahY and no Sunnah is too small to obey. That attitude of selective obedience is the root cause of bringing upon ourselves the anger of AllahY as He mentioned:

Baqara 2:85    Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.
AllahY clearly mentioned the danger of our policy of selective obedience and showed us that selective obedience is disobedience and will attract its own consequence. That also is a natural law in our world of cause and effect.
AllahY told us that our conditions are governed by our actions and our actions are the cause of our conditions. Let us reflect on this for a bit.
ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ 
Rum 30: 41.  Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds) that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (to AllahY – Tawba).
This in fact is a sign of love that AllahYhas for us that He warns us in advance so that we may correct ourselves and repent and save ourselves from more serious punishment.
It is all very well to blame this or that country or head of state for whatever is happening in that country which amounts to the disobedience of AllahY but if we reflect on our own lives, we may well be faced with the bitter prospect of admitting to all the disobedience of AllahY that exists in our lives. But as with other laws of existence, if you want to change the effect you have to address the cause. Addressing symptoms can at best give temporary relief but can never cure the real ailment. We have to admit that we are disobeying AllahY. Repent to Him and return to the way of Rasoolullahr the Sunnah so that AllahY will forgive us and change our situation and conditions. We are all authors and write our own destiny.
AllahYreiterated that we are the writers of our own destiny and said:
 إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ 
Ra’ad 13: 11   Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allah).
The Sahaba understood this and used to introspect when they lost a battle or faced an adverse situation. They didn’t spend so much time on external factors but reflected on what may have been going on in their lives which could have led to the adversity that they were facing. They understood the connection of A’amaal to Ahwaal – deeds to circumstances. We understand this connection in a materialistic sense – for example the market forces in a free market economy where lending rates effect economic growth. But we don’t or refuse to understand the effect of the same lending rates in their context of being Riba on the overall wellbeing of our society. We have legitimized what we like to do by giving ourselves freedom by calling it lifestyle choice, personal freedom and so on – ignoring that all choices have consequences – some of them permanent and painful. We are free to choose but no choice is free. Every choice has a price tag.
Sometimes I am asked the very reasonable question: If this law of obeying AllahY and His Messengerr and a unified strategy is indeed a universal law then how is it that the Zionists for example – who are not obedient to AllahY or His Messengerr are so successful in their aims and goals.
To answer this question I must first explain two matters: The definition of success and the fact that the rules for insiders are not the same as those for outsiders. Insiders have to follow a stricter regime.
This is also our way in life – for example if food runs out in a party, the family go hungry but don’t allow guests to feel that anything is wrong. When you enter Islam, you are an insider and so the rules change for you – those who have access have to behave differently – more carefully as you are in the presence of the King.
Success is what AllahY defined when He said:
A’al Imraan 3: 185. Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Jannah, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing). 
Success is not what happens in the world but what happens when we meet AllahY. Anyone with discretion can see that our materialistic world and its hedonistic standards have created a society that pretends to be happy and contented but is based on a system that uses discontent to fuel growth. That is the philosophy behind all materialism, marketing and advertising – convert desire to need – where a person will do anything to buy what he doesn’t need, to show people he doesn’t like and live a life of slavery for the next twenty years to pay for what he will eventually discard or leave behind. That is why our entertainment consists of ways to make us forget the reality of our lives and transport us however temporarily into a world of fantasy and make believe – a necessary release without which we ‘burn out’. Yet we pretend that this life is a dream that we need to chase – a dream the waking up from which is called death. A dream which in reality is a nightmare – but we choose to ignore its horror and forget ourselves and continue to live our lives in a self-induced trance. However ignoring reality neither makes it go away nor does it save us from its evil – so we continue to suffer even though we have the solution and can not only alleviate our own suffering but also help others – if only we face facts and take positive action. But that takes courage which AllahYreminds us.
Islam on the other hand is deeply rooted in fact and reality which we will all face, that all actions have consequences in this life and that one day there will be a reckoning before AllahY about what we chose to do or not do and a price to pay or a reward to receive for our choices. Nobody can hide from AllahY.
The second rule is to understand that when you enter Islam, the rules change for you. That is because you now know AllahY and can connect to Him and access His power and help. You are now an insider. And so a different code of conduct is expected from you. Once again going back to the Seerah for an illustration – take the example of the Battle of Hunain – where the Sahaba were united and had material resources – but fell to relying on their material more than on AllahY and once again the battle turned into a rout. It was only when they renewed their pledge so to speak and answered the call of Rasoolullahr that AllahY turned the tide of battle back in their favor. Their unity and material didn’t help them when their Tawakkul moved from AllahY and when they changed their stance, they were victorious once again.
Take the case of the letter Sayyidina Omar ibn Al Khattabt wrote to Sayyidina Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqast when the latter was commanding the Muslim army in the Battle of Qadsia which shows the understanding of the Sahaba about cause and effect.

“…I order you and all troops that are along with you to be obedient to Allah   in all circumstances, as this is better than the weapons against the enemy and a strong stratagem in the war. I order you and the soldiers who are with you to be more cautious and afraid of your own crimes and sins than your enemy, as the crimes and sins of the soldiers are more dangerous to them than the enemy.
The Muslims are victorious only because their enemies are disobedient to Allah  and had it not been so, we have no power over them, because neither our number is equal to their number, nor are our weapons like theirs. If we commit crimes and sins as they do, then they (our enemies) will have superiority over us in power and we will not gain victory over them. WE DO NOT OVERPOWER THEM WITH OUR STRENGTH.
And you should also know that in this marching of yours, there are guards upon you from Allah  and they all know what you do. So be shy from them and do not commit Allah  ’s disobedience while you are going in Allah  ’s Cause and do not say: ‘ Our enemy is worse than us, so they will not overpower us.’ Perhaps some people who are worse than the others may overpower the others as the (disbelievers) Magians overpowered the Children of Israel when they (the latter) involved themselves with Allah  ’s disobedience. So they (disbelievers) entered the very innermost parts of their homes and it was a promise fulfilled.
And ask Allah   for assistance over your own selves, just as you ask Allah   for victory over your enemies. I ask Allah   for that, both for you and for us.”
This advice is with reference to AllahY’s mention of the incident with Bani Israeel when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnazer (in 600 BC) and then the Roman Emperor Titus (in 31 BC) sacked Jerusalem. AllahY mentioned:


Isra 17: 4. And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture, that indeed you would do mischief on the earth twice and you would become tyrants and extremely arrogant! 5. So, when the promise came for the first of the two, We sent against you slaves of Ours given to terrible warfare. They entered the very innermost parts of your homes. And it was a promise (completely) fulfilled. 6. Then We gave you once again, a return of victory over them. And We helped you with wealth and children and made you more numerous in manpower. 7. (And We said): “If you do good, you do good for your ownselves, and if you do evil (you do it) against yourselves.” Then, when the second promise came to pass, (We permitted your enemies) to make your faces sorrowful and to enter the mosque (of Jerusalem) as they had entered it before, and to destroy with utter destruction all that fell in their hands. 8. [And We said in the Taurat (Torah)]: “It may be that your Rabb may show mercy unto you, but if you return (to sins), We shall return (to Our Punishment). And We have made Jahannam a prison for the disbelievers.

Interesting thing to reflect on is that AllahY didn’t say that it was the Bani Israel who lived in Jerusalem who were disobedient. The Ayaat address the Bani Israel in general wherever they lived at the time which was not only in Jerusalem. AllahY mentioned the Bani Israel many times and gave us their example as we are closest to them and we’re the Ummah who succeeded them. So it is for us to learn from their lives and examples and avoid making the same mistakes.

All these Ayaat clearly connect the issues of personal conduct and collective conduct to the external conditions that we are faced with and to the fact that the rules for Muslims are different and that they are held to a higher moral standard than those who are not Muslim yet. That is why Muslims are punished more quickly and apparently for lesser crimes than those who are not Muslim yet. This is actually a mercy from AllahY because the punishment of AllahY in the Aakhira is much worse than whatever worldly trials we may face. AllahY told us that this slap on the wrist is what He gives so that we can return to His obedience.


Sajda 32: 21. And verily, We will make them taste of the near torment (i.e. the torment in the life of this world, i.e. disasters, calamities) prior to the supreme torment (in the Hereafter), in order that they may (repent and) return (to AllahY).

And about those who continue in disobedience despite all warnings, He said:

فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ أَبْوَابَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ حَتَّى إِذَا فَرِحُواْ بِمَا أُوتُواْ أَخَذْنَاهُم بَغْتَةً فَإِذَا هُم مُّبْلِسُونَ
Al An’aam 6:44    Then, when they had forgotten all that they had been told to take to heart, We threw open to them the gates of all [good] things  until – even as they were rejoicing in what they had been granted – We suddenly took them to task: and lo! They were broken in spirit.

We see (understand) with our knowledge. Islam gives us the lens to view the world and understand its reality in the light of the knowledge that it’s Creator gave us. That is why a Muslim must strive to be a diagnostician – not merely a spectator. A Muslim must diagnose the problem, derive a cure and apply it. Only then will conditions change. I ask AllahY for His Mercy for Palestine and for us all because we are all responsible for Palestine. Palestine is the meter of the health of this Ummah. Need I say more?
Success is to please Allah

Success is to please Allah

Ramadan comes to teach us one big lesson and to give us the opportunity to focus on the biggest priority – to please AllahY. The winner is decided only at the end of the race – not during it. So let’s make sure we win. AllahYsaid about the winner:

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَآئِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ وَما الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ 

A’al Imraan 3: 185.       Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is saved from the Fire and admitted to Jannah, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing).

AllahY gave us examples of many people in the Qur’an who had everything of this world but didn’t please AllahY and so they lost the race. And of those who had nothing in worldly terms but pleased AllahY and so they won the race.

In the same time and place lived Rameses IV – the Pharaoh of Musau – a man who claimed divinity – owner of the greatest kingdom on earth with unimaginable wealth. Absolute monarch with the power of life and death over his subjects – who ordered the slaughtering of thousands of infants of the Bani Israeel with nobody to dispute his decision or even to plead against it. He had everything of this life that anyone could not only want but even imagine. Yet about him AllahY said:


Ghafir 40: 46.       The Fire; they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon, and on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): “Cause Fir’aun’s (Pharaoh) people to enter the severest torment!”

All his wealth and power couldn’t save him from the anger of AllahY which his actions attracted and not only was he destroyed in this world but his punishment in the Aakhira is assured and made an example to deter others.

AllahY said about the wealth and power of this world and it’s real value:


Ash-Shuara 42: 36. So whatever you have been given is but a passing enjoyment for this worldly life, but that which is with Allah (Jannah) is better and more lasting for those who believe (Islam) and put their trust in their Rabb (Tawakkul).

So whoever uses what AllahY gives him in this world, to earn the wealth of the Aakhira, then he is successful. But whoever chooses the wealth of this world in exchange for the Aakhira will be the loser. AllahY said:


Ash-Shuara 42: 20. Whosoever desires (with his deeds) the reward of the Hereafter, We give him increase in his reward, and whosoever desires the reward of this world (with his deeds), We give him thereof (what is written for him), and he has no portion in the Hereafter.

The key is to understand that we have been given the opportunity to write whatever we want in terms of our Aakhira whereas in this Dunya what we are destined to have has already been written. Those who understand this – play the game like Monopoly – they use their depreciating assets to buy appreciating assets which will last forever. They become good ice sellers – who convert their block of ice to money which doesn’t melt in the sun. Those who don’t understand this, use their ice to feel cool but at the cost of losing their asset and returning home empty handed.

So let us see what those who understood the reality did and what choices they made:
About Ibrahimu and his son Ismailu, AllahY told us:


As-Saaffat 37: 102. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what do you see!” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Insha’ Allah (if Allah will), you shall find me of As-Sabirin .” 103. Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); 104. And We called out to him: “O Ibrahim! 105. You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!” Verily! Thus do We reward the Muhsinun (people of Ihsaan). 106. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. 107. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (a ram); 108. And We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times. 109. Salamun (peace) be upon Ibrahim!”

I ask myself what it is that allows a man to do this – to agree without question to sacrifice his only son who was born to him in his old age after years of asking AllahY? What is it even more, that allows a little boy to answer a question from his father like, “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look (in your heart) what do you see?”  What did that little boy see that grown men who consider themselves to be educated and scholars today, don’t see? What was this Tawakkul based on? What was this relationship with AllahY that made this father and son so special that their Rabb revealed their story in the Qur’an and quoted them as examples for His Nabi Muhammadr and for all of mankind until the Day of Judgment?

AllahY told us the story of Musau and the incident when AllahY ordered Musau to bring the leaders of his people to Him. Musau came hurrying, leaving his people to follow behind. So AllahY asked him:


Ta-Ha 20: 83. “And what made you hasten from your people, O Musa?” 84. He said: “They are close on my footsteps, and I hastened to You, O my Rabb, that You might be pleased.”

I hastened to You, O my Rabb, that You might be pleased – What a beautiful answer! AllahY liked it so much that He repeated Musau’s words in the Qur’an.

‘Rabbee – My Rabb’, said Musau. He is also my Rabb and your Rabb. But do we relate to Him as our Rabb? Do we have a relationship with Him? And if not, why not?

Then we have the example of Rasoolullahr himself when he went to At-Ta’aif where he was attacked and was injured. His dua is a lesson in fortitude and focus on one single objective – the pleasure of AllahY. In this dua he said, ‘O my Rabb, I will continue to work to please you until you are pleased – Hatta Tardha.’ That was his attitude all his life and so His Rabb reciprocated and said:
Duha 93: 5. And verily, your Rabb will give you (all that you ask) so that you shall be well-pleased.

Ali bin Abi Talibt said, ‘People say that the Ayah of greatest hope in the Qur’an is when AllahY said:


Az_Zumar 39: 53. Say: “O ‘Ibadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

‘But we, the Ahl-ul- Bayt say that the Ayah of greatest hope is:
وَلَسَوْفَ يُعْطِيكَ رَبُّكَ فَتَرْضَى 

‘Because we know that Rasoolullahr will never be pleased and will never rest until every last one of his Ummah is forgiven and granted Jannah. AllahY promised to please him – so we say that this Ayah is the Ayah of greatest hope for us.’
My brothers and sisters, we were sent into this world for a purpose – to do a job and go back home. We forgot why we came, what we were sent to do and that we have to go back home. We got lost here and started living here as if this is where we have to stay forever. But our foolishness doesn’t change reality. We still have to return home and give account of what we did about the job we were sent with. That is the reality.
This world is the world of camouflage. Camouflage is used for one of two things – to save yourself or to kill your prey. The one who gets fooled by camouflage either goes hungry or dies. That is the reality of our life. Ask yourself, ‘What are the things in my life which are in camouflage? What are the opportunities that I am losing or the danger that I am facing because I can’t see through the camouflage?’ Let us ask this question and open our eyes before our eyes are opened for us.

Ramadan comes every year to remind us of the purpose of our existence. To give us the opportunity to take time out and reflect on where our life and our ways are taking us. To enable us to take stock and make significant changes in our priorities, values and behavior so that In-sha-Allah when we return to AllahY it will be to receive His Mercy, Forgiveness and Jannah.

I remind myself and you to take full advantage of this month so that we are able to reap all the benefits that this month comes laden with. But like the clouds that come laden with moisture and life giving rain – the only farmer who benefits is the one who has tilled his fields and dug his irrigation channels. For the others the rain simply falls on the ground and flows away leaving their fields dry and barren.

Let us ensure that by making Tawba and sincere effort to correct our ways and by bringing our lives on to the Sunnah of Rasoolullahr we are able to take full advantage of the rain of mercy and forgiveness that Ramadan brings and that the promise of freedom from the fire comes true for us.
Bush Camp Diary – Dawn and Dusk

Bush Camp Diary – Dawn and Dusk

Which is more magical? More peaceful? More dynamic? Dawn or dusk in the bush?

Dawn with it’s rapidly strengthening light promising a clear, hot day or dusk with light decreasing gently promising a night of peace, danger – life and death struggles, full or empty bellies – rapidly beating hearts – all dependent on who you are.

The hoot of the owl as he sits on his favorite perch ready to take flight, scanning the dark earth with eyes which catch the lowest of light and see what others can only imagine. His ears, aided by their asymmetric position and his flat reception-disc face listening for sounds of the whisper in the grass as a mouse searches for food – little realizing that he is himself being ‘searched’ as food. Then he flies off on silent wings without a hint of the menace that he is for those who are close to the earth.

There’s a lot of water in the Kruger at this time, thanks to unprecedented rains and so we saw a lot of Waterbuck – all of whom sat upon the toilet seat before the paint was dry. Underlines the benefits of low pans which would have saved this rather embarrassing situation. What an amazing detail of creation where one species has this completely unique marking not shared by anyone else!

The Waterbuck herds are shepherded by the dominant male with his beautifully symmetrical horns – lethal for the inexperienced lion or leopard. Like all antelope and deer, they are curious and run a little way off and then stop to look back at what it was that scared them. And that is what gets them killed – for the hunter waits for that stop which he knows is coming. But it also gives you the best photo op and here is one result.

Sand River Bush Camp – Kruger National Park – Memories

Sand River Bush Camp – Kruger National Park – Memories


The Kruger Bush Camp had been a dream of several years standing when I received an invitation from Honorary Ranger Mr. Farouk Hassan to participate in the camp from March 27-30. I was delighted to say the least and accepted with great alacrity before he could change his mind.
How do you describe the experience of sleeping in a tent listening to lions roaring on the other side of the river? Or hippo grunting as they bathe in pools opposite your tent? The joy of a nature walk which opens your eyes to the so-called small things – each a marvel of creation which truly gives meaning to the phrase – ‘God is in the detail.’ How can I describe the powerful healing power of silence – simply sitting in the shade of the trees in the camp, listening to the birds and the soothing gurgle of the river hurrying along to Mozambique?

Mr. Farouk Hassan’s knowledge, combined with his patience in explaining, his beautiful manners and friendly and highly approachable nature – I truly regretted when the camp ended.


For me the bush camp was not so much about what we saw – and we saw many things apart from all the Big Five – but about being in the midst of nature, the creation of Allah who we worship and whose signs we see in His creation. It was about linking myself to my Creator by seeing His Majesty and Glory in a simple spider web or in the fact that the Diddiric Cuckoo lays eggs of 18 different shades depending on the host species whose nest she chooses for her egg. In each of these small things – which we tend to miss when we rush around Kruger in search of the elusive lion – is a story of the Majesty of the Creator that is amazing, inspiring and comforting.

I was also very fortunate to get some photography lessons from Mems which I hope will enable me to improve my skills. The catering, care-taking and warmth and affection of the two Yusufs and their team, all made the bush camp an experience never to be forgotten.
I look forward to using these learnings in my lectures to get people interested in nature and to drive home the importance of conserving and protecting it – because our own welfare and survival is intrinsically linked to it.

I would like to thank Mr. Farouk Hassan and all the Management of Kruger National Park for inviting me to this camp and to say that I am very happy indeed to have come all the way from India to participate in it.