Meet real people – not labels

Meet real people – not labels

Someone sent me the Amazon Prime Ad about the meeting between the priest and Imam which is here..

A dear friend asked me, ‘How did we become like this?’ …meaning, ‘How did we become so mechanical, bigoted, hatred driven?’

I answered, ‘That is because we have given up the world for others to run for us. We don’t meet neighbors any more. We watch TV instead.’ That may sound simplistic but the reality is that we don’t know people as ‘people’ any more. Our relationships are purely transactional. We don’t share our thoughts, fears, hopes, aspirations with others. We don’t laugh together. We laugh at each other. We don’t share in each other’s joy and sadness.

How then can we understand and appreciate one another. We need to change the way we live. In most cases, go back to how we used to live. In other cases, invent a new way to live where we relate to people as people. Not as labels.

We need to remember that we are human first. Everything else afterwards.

A simple question: In homes which have grandparents ask how many grand children spend time listening to them? Terrible waste of life experience and loneliness for the elderly.

We’ve lost the art of conversation and need to get it back urgently. We have no space in our lives for real people and meeting and talking to them without any material need. Just to meet and greet and talk. Our gadgets meant to make communication easy and free and social media which is meant to connect us to the rest of the world has actually enclosed us in sound proof capsules, isolated, lonely, desperate for contact; getting stressed if a reply doesn’t come in two seconds; forgetting that all we have to do is to go out and meet another person face to face to get full multimedia, instant response. 

 That’s why there’s stereotyping, prejudice and hatred. All breed like lice in the darkness of ignorance. We are a generation which has lots of information but very little if any, wisdom. We need to cure this sickness.

So now that you have reached this place – stop reading and go out and meet someone.  Don’t call, don’t WhatsApp, don’t email, don’t do any of that. Go out and meet. Meet your family. Meet your friends. Meet even strangers. Greet. Smile and speak to them.

Will you do it?

If tomorrow comes!

If tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow will be October 20, 2016. By the look of things today, I can say with reasonable certainty that it will come. Then why this title for this article? That is to remind myself that whether tomorrow comes or not matters only if I am still here. Only then can I say that
tomorrow came but it is called today. If that happens, it will be my 61st birthday according to the Gregorian calendar. In the Hijri calendar my birthday will be on Rabi Al-Awwal 4, 1438 (December 3, 2016) and I will be 63, not 61.
Our usual custom is to congratulate each other. No problem with that but given the kind of mind I have, I ask myself, ‘What is this congratulation for?’
For having lived this long?
Then I don’t deserve it because I had nothing to do with that. Like tomorrow, it happened because the Creator of the world decided it.
For how I lived?
Ah! Now that is a thought. But is that why I was congratulated? Is that in our mind when we congratulate people? If that is so, then some very famous and prominent people in this world would receive condolence messages, instead of congratulations. Messages to share with them the grief of others that they managed to stay alive an additional year. “If only you had died! So many others would have lived.” Sounds nasty. But that is a reality.
So it is useful for us to reflect on how we lived, rather than for how long. If we lived well, spreading some level of goodness around us, then living long was good. If not? It’s like a race. Everyone gets to the finishing line. But winning depends not on crossing the finishing line but on running the race. It is how you run the race that decides if you are among the winners. Not merely crossing the finishing line.
What tomorrow will also herald is the hour. The hour that tells me that I have one year less before it is time for me to meet my Rabb. So it is a time for some serious reflection and self-correction. Not that I must or do wait until tomorrow to do it.
Every second comes with this message. Every breath I take tells me not to be sure that there will be another to follow it. Every grey (now more white than grey) hair in my beard and head tells me that the day for that meeting is coming. And asking me what I have prepared for it. Every challenge I face in life, every decision, dilemma, cross-road, they all ask the same question, “What will you do and how will that effect you?”
Accounting and Retirement Planning are the two most critical subjects for one to learn. Both must be taught in primary school. But both are almost never taught. I say that because these two subjects teach two very important lessons:
1.      That every action counts and adds to our Balance Sheet either on the Debit side or the Credit side.
2.     And that it will show up in our Retirement Plan – not at 60 or 65 or whatever the statutory retirement age is, but at our real retirement from this life. It will all be there. Either a well-balanced, healthy Balance Sheet. Or a skewed one. If it is skewed on the side of credits with a huge Accounts Receivable, then rejoice for the One who has to pay you, has no resource crunch and will pay you more than you can imagine. But if is skewed negative, then there is a problem because once you and I go over the Great Divide, it’s over. No more entries permitted. No liquidation of liabilities. No reconciliation of accounts. It’s all done, signed, sealed and dusted. Now we only await payment.
That’s why I say that we must teach accounting and retirement planning in primary school. The sooner we learn to think in this way, the better.

So the birthday is a time for reflection, introspection and a time to balance our accounts. I ask for your dua and good wishes. That is all I need.

For myself, I remember the incident of the Beduin and make the same dua for myself;

“O The One Whom eyes cannot see, Who cannot be imagined, Who is beyond description, Who is unaffected by happenings, Who cannot be overwhelmed by the twists and turns of time, Who knows the weight of the mountains, the volume of the oceans, the number of falling raindrops, the number of leaves on the trees and everything upon which the night darkens and upon which the day brightens. No sky can hide another from Him, no surface of the earth can hide another from Him, no ocean can hide anything within its depths from Him and no mountain can conceal from Him anything within its rocks. 

Make the last part of my life the best, make the best of my deeds the last and make my best day be the one in which I meet You.”

May our hearts come together

The story, in a manner of speaking started a long time before this tragic event. It started during the Khilafa of Sayyidina Othman ibn Affan (RA) (644-56). He was a member of the Makkan clan of Bani Umayya. He remained in power for 12 years. Due to many circumstances which are outside the scope of this article, rebellion against him started in Egypt. Among the grievances which are cited is the replacement of the governors of Basra and Kufa with his relatives and the summary dismissal of Amr Ibn Al Aas (RA) conqueror and governor of Egypt and the appointment of his own foster brother Abdullah Ibn Sa’ad in his place. In his favor it is argued that there were independent and valid reasons for all these actions, but they gave reason to people who used these incidents to foment discord.

Opposition to Sayyidina Othman (RA)’s rule became widespread and especially in Kufa, Basra and Fustat people began openly defying the central government. Egypt and Iraq were up in arms against the Khalifa though Shyam which was under the rule of Muawiyya Ibn Abi Sufyan (RA) was peaceful. The rebels led by Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (son of Abu Bakr As-Siddique®) marched on Madinah from Egypt. The other leader of the rebellion was Malik al Ashtar who was an experienced soldier.

When Sayyidina Othman (RA) heard about this and was warned by his well-wishers that these people did not mean well, he in his typical peace-loving and kind manner told them to allow the group to come and that he was willing to talk to them. As this group traveled from Egypt, it gathered followers and a large armed group finally came to Madinah. Sahaba in Madinah including Sayyidina Ali ibn Abi Ta’alib (RA), Abu Hurairah (RA) and others offered to fight these people on behalf of Sayyidina Othman (RA) but he forbade them. Muawiyya ibn Abi Sufyan (RA), the Governor of Shyam, offered to send his army to fight these people. He offered to send the army even while they were traveling to Madinah and when Sayyidina Othman (RA) refused this help, he requested him to come to Damascus where he would be protected.

Sayyidina Othman (RA) refused saying that he would not leave the Madinatur Rasool for any reason. When the leaders of the rebels attempted to enter Sayyidina Othman (RA)’s house, Abu Hurairah (RA) stood before them and challenged them but Sayyidina Othman (RA) prevented him from fighting and physically pulled him inside the house and said that he would never allow Muslims to kill each other in the city of Rasoolullahﷺ.

Sayyidina Othman (RA) was fasting and reading the Qur’an when the rebels entered his house and demanded that he resign from the Khilafat. Sayyidina Othman refused and quoted the hadith of Rasoolullahﷺ when Rasoolullahﷺ ordered him and said, “O Othman, Allahﷻ will give you a garment to wear which you must never take off, of your own accord.” He said, “I am bound by the order of the Rasoolullahﷺ. Then they said to him, “In that case get ready to die.” He said, “Last night I saw the Rasoolullahﷺ in my dream and He said to me, “O Othman, tonight you will have your Iftaar with me.” So, I am ready. And he was martyred.

The Qur’an which was in his hands bears traces of his blood to this day and is preserved in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Many tragic events of this day are narrated including the fact that one of the leaders of the rebels was the son of Abu Bakr (RA), Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr. He caught the beard of Sayyidina Othman (RA) who said to him, “My son, if your father had seen you doing this, he would not have approved.” Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr got so frightened by this statement that he ran away. Interestingly Abu Bakr (R) married Asma (R) who was married to Jafar bin Abi Talib (R), the elder brother of Ali (R) after Jafar (R) was martyred in the battle of Moa’ta. They had a son, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr who Ali bin Abi Talib (R) brought up as his own son after he married his mother and who (very sad to say) led the rebellion against Othman (R).

When this evil deed was done, the rebels went to Sayyidina Ali (RA) and compelled him to become the Khalifa and forcibly gave him the Bayah (Oath of Allegiance) threatening that they would massacre all the Sahaba in Madinah if Sayyidina Ali (RA) did not accept. At that time Sayyidina Ali (RA) said, “The breach that you have created in Islam today will remain till the Day of Judgment.”

And Allahﷻ knows this is true.

This was the first time that the blood of Muslims was shed by Muslims and that too in the holy city of Madinah Munawwarah. It is called the First Civil War. This event was a watershed in Islamic history, as a tragedy of a magnitude that was never imagined and the effects of which last to this day.

After the Shahada of Sayyidina Ali (RA) at the door of the mosque in Kufa, at the hands of a fanatic Kharijite (Kharijiyya – a group that formed who were against both Ali and Muawiyya – RA) his elder son, Al Hasan ibn Ali (RA) was declared in Kufa to be the legitimate Khalifa. However, Muawiyya ibn Abi Sufyan (RA) who was the Governor of Ash Shaam (comprising of what is today Syria, Jordan and Palestine) successfully persuaded Hasan (RA) to abdicate in his favor in return for a substantial pension for himself and his family. Hasan (RA) increasingly unwilling to plunge the Muslims into yet another civil war agreed to Muawiyya’s terms and abdicated after a shadowy rule of 6 months. He and his younger brother Hussain (RA) then left Kufa for Madinah leaving the way open for Muawiyya to enter Kufa with no serious contender for the Khilafat. Hasan (RA) lived in retirement in Madinah for 8 years where he died at the age of 45 in the year 669.

Muawiyya (RA) declared Yazid as his heir. Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya (647 –683), commonly known as Yazid I, was the second Khalifa of the Banu Umayyah (and the first one through inheritance). Yazid ruled for three years from 680 CE until his death in 683 CE. The concept of hereditary rule was alien to the Arabs and the Muslims who elected the Khalifa. Many senior people in the Ummah including Sahaba in Makkah and Madinah protested this decision. However, Muawiyya (RA) using his exceptional diplomatic skill persuaded many of the provincial delegations to recognize Yazid as his heir to the throne. In 680 Muawiyya (RA) died at the age of about 75.

Sayyidina Hussain (RA) who was living in Madinah from 661 onwards, refused to accept the Khilafat of Yazid. When he refused, they harassed him to the point where he decided to move to Makkah, a place declared by Allahﷻ as a place of peace where any kind of violence is prohibited and said that he would not accept the Khilafat but would also not contest it. He asked them to leave him alone to spend the rest of his life in Makkah in prayer. However, they did not leave him alone even there.

At that time many letters came to him from Kufa from people who invited him to come to Kufa and declare himself as the true Khalifatul Muslimeen and promising to support him. When these letters continued to come, and a large number had come, Sayyidina Hussain Ibn Ali (RA) sent Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) to Iraq to determine the actual situation on the ground.

When Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) reached Kufa, he was greeted by a huge crowd of several thousand people asking him to recommend to Sayyidina Hussain ibn Ali (RA) to come to Kufa and declare himself the Khalifa and saying that they would support his claim. Based on this intelligence Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) sent a letter to Sayyidina Hussain ibn Ali (RA) to travel to Kufa immediately.

Meanwhile however, when news of this gathering reached Yazid in Damascus, he sent an armed detachment under the command of Obaidullah ibn Ziyad to assess and control this rebellion. On reaching Kufa, when Obaidullah ibn Ziyad saw the gravity of the situation, he made an announcement at the time of Dhuhr salah that anyone found to be with Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) at the time of Asr would be arrested and executed. At Asr time, the number of people around Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) had reduced considerably. Then at Asr, Obaidullah ibn Ziyad made the same announcement that if anyone was found with Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) at Maghrib he would be executed. At Maghrib Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) found himself totally devoid of supporters. The very people who had invited Sayyidina Hussain ibn Ali (RA) to Kufa had all vanished in the face of Yazid’s army. Obaidullah ibn Ziyad then arrested Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA), took him to the top of the minar of the masjid in Kufa and decapitated him such that his head and body toppled off the minar and fell to earth. Thus, was Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) martyred.

Meanwhile, Sayyidina Hussain ibn Ali (RA) had already left Makkah for Kufa. Enroute several people came to him with news of what had happened to Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) and advised him to return to Makkah. But he preferred to go by the letter that he had received from Muslim ibn Aqeel (RA) and did not change his plans and continued to Kufa. When he reached Karbala, on the bank of the Euphrates and about fifty miles north-west of Kufa he was faced by Obaidullah’s army. Obaidullah insisted on an unconditional surrender and when Sayyidina Hussain ibn Ali (RA) refused, he murdered Sayyidina Hussain (RA) and his entire band. Thus, died the grandson of the Rasoolullahﷺ who stood for his principles even in the face of death.

The poet said:



Yazid then sent an army of 12,000 under the command of Muslim Ibn Uq’bah in August 683 to punish the people of Madinah. The Madinese fought with great bravery but were no match for the trained Syrian soldiers and were defeated in a desperate battle at a place called Harrah, a lava field just north of Madinah. When the army entered Madinah, Muslim Ibn Uq’bah declared to his soldiers that Madinah and all in it was ‘halaal’ to them for 3 days. Imam Ibn Katheer, in his history records that what this army did to Madinah and its people is beyond description. The things they did there, the extent of looting, murder and torture were such that one could not even imagine that such things could be done by people who called themselves Muslim to the people of Madinah, many of whom were Sahaba of Rasoolullahﷺ.

Imam Bukhari records in his Saheeh that all the Sahaba of Badr were martyred at the time of the martyrdom of Othman (RA) and all the Sahaba of Bayt-ur-Ridhwan were martyred at this time, the Battle of Harrah.  Among those killed were Ma’aqal Ibn Sinaan, Muhammad Ibn Hudhiafa and Ibn Abdillah Ibn Zama’a (RadhiAllahu anhum), all Sahaba of the Rasoolullahﷺ. It is recorded that for many, their arms and legs were chopped off and they were left to die slowly among the rocks in the lava field of Harrah.

This was a crime of a magnitude that had never been committed before and deprived the Ummah of the guidance of the Companions of the Rasoolullahﷺ and did harm to the Ummah that is impossible to calculate. One of the most famous of the Taabiyyun, Sa’eed Ibn Musayyib (Rahimahullah) records that for 3 days there was no Salah or Adhaan in Masjid An-Nabawi. He himself hid in the masjid and used to pray by himself. He said that he knew the times of the Salah by the voice he used to hear from the grave of the Rasoolullahﷺ. This is recorded by Imam Da’araami in his Sunan.

This army then moved to Makkah. Muslim died enroute to Makkah and was succeeded by Hussain ibn Numair who besieged Makkah in September 683. They first surrounded the city and then bombarded it from the surrounding hills using catapults throwing flaming shells. This set alight the Ka’aba and destroyed its cover and set fire to its roof and the Hajr Al Aswad (the Black stone) was split into pieces. Abdullah Ibn Zubair (RA) a grandson of Abu Bakr as Siddiq (RA) who had declared himself the Khalifa, put up a stiff fight. However, the death of Yazid in 683 made the army lift the siege and return to Damascus leaving Arabia under the sway of defiant Abdullah bin Zubair (RA). He rebuilt the entire Ka’aba and tied together the pieces of the Hajr Al Aswad and put it back in its place.

Abdullah ibn Zubair (624–692) was a Sahabi whose father was Zubair ibn al-Awwam (RA), and whose mother was Asma bint Abi Bakr (RA), daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddique (RA). He was the nephew of Aisha (RA) Abduallah bin Zubair (RA) was the first Muslim to be born in Medina after the Hijra. Starting from 683, Abdullah bin Zubair (RA) contested the title of Khalifa and rebelled against the ruling Umayyad Khilafa for nearly a decade.  Ibn Zubair established his power in Iraq, southern Arabia and in the greater part of Syria, and parts of Egypt. Ibn Zubair benefited greatly from widespread dissatisfaction among the populace with Umayyad rule. Yazid tried to end Ibn Zubair’s rebellion by invading the Hejaz and took Madina after the bloody Battle of al-Harrah. He then invaded the Tihamah and lay siege to Makkah but his sudden death, in 683 ended the campaign and threw the Umayyads into disarray with civil war eventually breaking out.

Almost 10 years later (692), the Umayyad Khalifa Abd al-Malik bin Marwan then sent against ibn al-Zubair the general al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. When Hajjaj approached Mecca, he sent a letter to Abdullah ibn al-Zubair (RA) telling him he had three choices; to be chained and taken to Abd al-Malik who was then the Khalifa in Damascus; to leave by himself wherever he wished, renouncing claim on all the lands he had under his control; or to continue fighting to the death.

Abdullah bin Zubair (RA) then went to his mother (Asma bint Abi Bakr ®) who was over a hundred years old for advice. Abdullah ibn al-Zubair (RA) said to his mother, “In death I will find peace and tranquility. My people have deserted me, even my children and my family, and I am left with a handful of men around me. And the people (al-Hajjaj) are willing to give me whatever I want from this world (i.e. they would let him leave freely without hindrance). What is your counsel?”

Asma (RA) replied, “You know better than me your circumstances. But I say to you this: if you know you are upon the truth, go forth and die like your companions; and if you are after this world, then you are the most wretched of men, for you have wasted yourself and those who are with you. And for how long shall you live in this world? And if you are upon the truth, but now that your companions have left you, you have become weak… this is not the action of a free man and a man of the Deen.”

He said to her, “I am afraid I will be mutilated by the people of al-Sham.” She replied, “My son, a slaughtered goat does not feel the pain when it is skinned.” He kissed her upon the forehead and said, “I swear by Allah, this is my opinion. I have no desire to live in this world, for my aspiration is the life of the hereafter, and all my life I have stood up for truth. But I wanted to know your opinion so that your opinion strengthens my opinion!”

His mother said, “Come closer my son!” When he came closer to her, she embraced him and when she did so, she felt that he was wearing chain mail. She exclaimed, “O’ my son! What is this? People who want Shahadah don’t wear this!” He said, “O’ my mother! I only did this to comfort you!”

She said, “My son, take it off. Tie your belt so when you fall, your ‘awrah is not exposed! Fight with bravery for you are the son of Zubair and the grandson of Abu Bakr and your grandmother was Safiyyah.”

That day he fought bravely and repelled huge numbers of men until finally, he was martyred. al-Hajjaj went to Asma bint Abi Bakr (RA) and wanted to break her resolve, and he said, “How has Allahﷻ dealt with His enemy?” She answered, “You have ruined his life, but he has ruined for you the hereafter!”

They beheaded Abdullah ibn Zubair (RA) and stuck his body up on a cross. The men of al Hajjaj shouted, “Allahu Akbar, Takbir!” Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (RA) went by and he heard them calling that. He turned towards the body of Abdullah bin Zubair (RA) and said, “I was there the day Abdullah was born and I am here the day he has died, and I heard those who said Takbir the day he was born, and I heard those who have said Takbir the day he has died. I swear by Allahﷻ those who said Takbir the day when he was born were far greater than those who have said Takbir today!”

The soldiers went to al Hajjaj and said, “Take his body down, it has been up for days.” to which he responded, “I swear by Allah I will not take it down until Asma’ begs me.” When they told Asma’ that, she said, “Take me to where the body of my son is.” She made dua for her son and said, “Isn’t it time that the knight of Allahﷻ was allowed to dismount from his horse?” And when they told al-Hajjaj this, he felt so ashamed and mean that he brought the body down.

Incidentally Al Hajjaj was the uncle and father in law of Mohammed bin Qasim, the great general and conqueror of Sindh.

Imam Bukhari in his Saheeh in Baab-ul-A’ataamil Madinah records a hadith where the Rasoolullahﷺ climbed a small hillock and addressed his Sahaba and said to them, “I see what you don’t see. I see a time that will come upon you when fitan (trials and suffering) will enter your homes and its landing places will be like the raindrops. And the people who do this will then melt away like salt.”

Muslim Ibn Uqabah died even before his army reached Makkah and Yazid Ibn Muawiyya died of a wasting illness with no apparent cause within a few months in 683. Haafiz Ibn Hajar al Asqalaani in his famous book Fath-ul-Bari writes that the time of Harrah, every word of this prophecy came true.

It must be remembered that none of the Sahaba who were alive at that time approved of or in any way supported the actions of Yazid. And that all the Ulama and people of knowledge of the Ahl-us-Sunnah (Sunni) have condemned these evil deeds. Unfortunately, despite this, much misinformation is spread, and much misunderstanding exists in the Muslim Ummah on this accord.

The biggest lesson we can learn from these tragic incidents in our history is that all that happened, the irreparable, incredible damage to Islam, its knowledge and traditions, the teachings of Rasoolullahﷺ , were all the result of greed and power politics. Yet centuries later we still see the same games being played between Muslims all over the world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the greatest damage to Islam and Muslims was done by Muslims themselves, thanks to their love of Dunya (life of this world) and total ignorance and carelessness about the Aakhira. Who but someone with no Imaan on Allah, no love for Rasoolullahﷺ and no belief in the meeting with Allahﷻ would kill the grandson of Rasoolullahﷺ or the grandson of Abu Bakr Siddique (RA)? Yet they were both killed by people who called themselves Muslim.

We don’t mourn their deaths because they both died Shaheed in the path of Allahﷻ and Allahﷻ said about them and all such people:

وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاء عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

A’al Imraan 3: 169. Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.

They are alive as are all the Shuhada, so there is nothing to mourn on that account. What we need to mourn and try to learn from is the terrible lessons about the result of greed, hatred, naked ambition and a total ignorance about the Aakhira. May Allahﷻ have mercy on us all.

I hope that this article will help to dispel these mistaken impressions and bring the hearts of Muslims together.


The Hope Forum

The Hope Forum

Welcome to The Hope Forum
Imagine a desert. That is our world. A desert of hatred, suspicion, violence and despair. Imagine wandering in this desert, throat parched, fearing enemies all around, nearing the end of your strength and just as you think you can’t go any further, you see an oasis. That is The Hope Forum. It is an oasis in the desert.
What does an oasis have that the desert doesn’t? Life giving water, shade giving trees, fruit to eat, grass to lie down on and gaze at the sky through the fronds of the trees, listening to the birds singing in the trees, the croaking of frogs on lily pads and the occasional plop of the Kingfisher when he dives for the unwary fish. The scorching life sucking wind of the desert, cools down and becomes the cool breeze that’s now wafting over your face. That is what breaking its force in the wind breaks and passing over water and does to it. It cools it down.
What else do oases do? They attract rain clouds. What’s the good of that in a desert? Have you ever seen a desert after the rain? For a brief span the desert blooms. The bleak, parched landscape turns overnight into a carpet of green and flowers. That’s not because flower seeds rain out of the sky. It is because every desert has in it, seeds of flowers. All it takes is some rain to make them grow. So eventually if oases grow and multiply – lo and behold – no more desert.
That is what we hope The Hope Forum will do. Give sustenance and life to those exhausted of traveling in the desert. Let them drink crystal clear, clean, cold water; eat sweet fruits, listen to birdsong and rest on the grass. Let them meet. Listen to each other. And think of how to create more oases.
If we can do this together and if we can do this enough, then a day will come, when people of the world will take charge of their destiny and wrench it back from those who control it today. The people of the world will put more value on life than on death, on virtue than on vice, on compassion than on cruelty, on justice than on greed. Then and only then can the wars end. Refugees will go back home. People will smile once again. TSA guys will have to look for gainful employment and our children will read about how the world was saved, because their elders broke the cycle. The cycle of hatred. The cycle of suspicion. The cycle of violence.
The Hope Forum is a place that the injured from Twitter, Facebook and other social media can come, to detox and cure themselves from the negativity of the world. There’s much good happening in the world that gets no lift. Bad news sells. So we’ll give each other good news for free. And you’ll be automatically chucked out if you post anything negative. The rule for this forum will be that only productive and positive things can be shared. Nothing negative. No criticism of anyone or anything. No praising yourself. Praise others and let others praise you. No pontificating, no proselytizing. No promoting of any particular religion, ideology, politics, shop, product, service or yourself. Only appreciating what others are doing. Let others speak about your work while you do it quietly and sincerely because you believe in it and in yourself. The Hope Forum is something that seeks to change the whole culture of social networking which is simply another name for self-promotion and one-upmanship. We have nothing against any religion, ideology, politics, shop, product, service or yourself. Just that if you want to promote any of this go somewhere else. This is not the place for it.
The Hope Forum is about promoting others. Showing the world how many good people there are, in every country, every nationality, every race, who are working quietly to make this world a better place. Your job as a Hope Forum member is to find them and tell the world about them through The Hope Forum. That is if you want to join.
Share a good song, story, picture, thought, dream, idea. But only good, only positive, only thankful, only appreciation. Tell all of us who are with you on The Hope Forum, what you liked, appreciated and recall with pleasure.

This is my first post. It is about this young man I saw in Pune – Samir Key Maker. Samir is a very Indian name and can belong to someone from any religion. Mohammed Samir (my nephew), Samir Joshi (a very good friend), Samir Singh, Samir Joseph. So Samir represents Indian youth to me. The best in Indian youth. A symbol of courage and confidence. He doesn’t just sit there on the pavement. He announces who he is. He has his phone number on the sign so that people can call him if they don’t have the time to stop by. He has a white sheet on which the tools of his trade are set out. What does a white sheet signify? To me it signifies quality. He is saying, “Look at my sheet and see if it is clean to decide what the quality of my work is going to be.” Now that is a statement of great confidence. His sheet is spotless. If you meet him, tell him I remember him. He doesn’t know me. But I know him. I remember him. I honor him. And I tell the world about him.  Samir is the symbol of hope. 

If you want to share a problem, a pain, a complaint; then reflect on it and think of a solution. Then share it with the solution. So the only problems we will allow are problem definitions of solutions. As someone said, ‘Every problem has at least two possible solutions. Do not enter this room until you have thought of both of them.’
The Hope Forum is open to everyone; any age, gender, religion or not, nationality, race, ethnicity, waist measurement, height, weight, strength; whether you can sing or croak, whether you can dance of shuffle, whether you can run or toddle, whether you are tall in your imagination or in people’s eyes, whether you can eat your cooking or others also can, whether anyone else loves you or not – we do. So join us. But read the condition below and stick to it.
The Hope Forum is open to everyone who accepts and agrees with our conditions of being a member i.e. good only, positive only, appreciation only, smiles only, solutions only.
No other conditions for joining.

October 20, 2016 is the day The Hope Forum was born. Long may it survive. Fast may it grow. And great may be the goodness it brings to all the world.

I will not allow what is not in my control, to prevent me from doing what is in my control.

Tiger, Tiger burning bright

Tiger, Tiger burning bright

There is a welcome awareness about the need to protect tigers in the wild and the wild places they live. Welcome even more because it comes now at a time when the tiger population in India (numbers are even more elusive and ephemeral than the tiger) has fallen from 100,000 in 1900’s to less than 3000 today.
Frankly, one needs to ask the question whether tigers in India can realistically be protected in the wild or whether one should look to a rescue plan rather than a protection plan.

Be that as it may I want to state here the major issues which have led to this situation and addressing and solving which is absolutely critical to protecting tigers. You will see that almost all of them have to do with people more than tigers. The two major issues are habitat destruction and the market for dead tigers.

1.    Habitat destruction:

a.    Our tiger reserves (except in one or two cases) are surrounded by villages. They cook on wood fires and the forest provides the wood. Our forest protection laws prevent them from cutting live trees, so they ring bark trees and cut them when they dry. Or they partially cut the tree and wait for the next wind to drop it and then they have their firewood. Human ingenuity, fueled by hunger and real need does wonders.

Deforestation in Tala village in Bandhavgarh

b.      Villagers have small fields in which they do marginal agriculture and grow food grains and vegetables for themselves as well as to make a small income. If they can cut a few forest trees in the adjacent forest and expand their land holding, it means free land and the wood from the cut trees as a bonus. It is amazing how many crimes become invisible when some of this largesse is wisely spread around.

c.     The fields and their produce is precious. It needs protection. In the old days before electricity came to the villages, the villagers used to build high platforms in the fields and sit up all night periodically beating tin cans to drive away any straying grazers or wild boar. After electrification, things became easier as was perhaps intended but not in this way. Villagers now simply hook a naked wire to the electric pole or their irrigation pump connection and string it at ankle height along the boundary of their land. Anything that comes into contact with it, fries. That way they can have a peaceful night’s sleep and perhaps a high protein meal the next day.

d.    Villagers are poor, have cattle to graze but no money to pay for the fodder. They can’t grow their own fodder and stall feed their cattle as they need their small fields to grow food grains. So they take their cattle into the forest to graze. Cattle eat the grass that otherwise prey species herbivores would have eaten. Cattle are cows, buffaloes and in many cases goats. This means that they feed on grass as well as leaves. Their dung of cows and buffaloes is carried out by the grazer as they dry it and use it as fuel, so it doesn’t add to the organic matter on the forest floor. The urine and dung of goats is highly toxic to plant growth. Cattle also carry foot and mouth disease (what politicians have is foot in mouth) and rinderpest which is highly infectious and lethal especially on Gaur. Cattle grazing in tiger land is like waving an ice cream cone under my nose – hard to resist a bite. Then the tiger is labelled ‘cattle lifter’ (instead of ‘cattle acceptor’) and pays for his hunger with his life.

Tiger territory marking with claw marks on trees and spraying urine
e.    Then there is the territory problem. Tigers are solitary territorial creatures who will fight to the death to defend their territories. If there is over crowding of sanctuaries, tiger populations decline. Given the huge tract of land an individual tiger needs, we simply don’t have the kind of area to support increasing tiger populations. So relocation, captive breeding and new sanctuaries are all options that must be explored. Young tigers seeking to establish their own territories will travel. This exposes them to temptation (cattle killing) and to poachers. Animals adapt to changing situations but the tiger has far more difficulty than its much smaller cousin, the leopard. And the day will never come when traveling tigers will thumb rides on trucks on the highway.

2.    Market for dead tigers: The market for tiger bone powder, skin (not so much today) and body parts. Tiger bone powder is more expensive than gold, precious stones or any illegal narcotic drug. It is easy to conceal and transport and easy to sell for those who have the contacts. Killing a tiger is easy. Poisoning is the most usual way. Then the rest follows. National Geographic Tiger Temple, Thailand investigation. This is the natural result of the market for tiger products. For them the tiger is like a sheep in a farm. Or a chicken. You don’t object when it is slaughtered and its body chopped up and sold. So why do you object if it is a tiger? A farm is a farm. What is on the farm is not the issue. It exists for profit. There is a market. So the trade will continue. That is the logic. Try beating that logic. The tiger in the wild is even better because it cost the seller nothing to raise and it still fetches the same money. The trade is not in skins any more. It is in meat, bone and body parts. Which means that hiding it is even easier.

Sariska blue bull which was nosing around a packet of Lays potato chips. See the eczema on his neck
1.    All people have to be removed from tiger sanctuaries. All villages must be relocated. Much more difficult option is temples inside sanctuaries as there is in Sariska. But without relocating, the temple traffic and all its attendant evils can’t be controlled. The amount of plastic and garbage in Sariska all along the route to the temple and at the temple itself is incredible. I saw a Neelgai bull trying to get into an empty Lays potato chips packet. I am sure he managed and then swallowed it and eventually died of obstruction of his intestine. Who cares?
2.    Then we have to kill the trade. That is what funds poaching and makes it lucrative. As I said, tiger bone powder is more valuable than any precious metal, illegal drug or precious stone. As long as that market remains, there is a price on the head of every tiger.                        
3.    A time is coming soon when tigers will only be left in zoos. That is why captive breeding programs are important. And then reintroduction into the wild.
4.    We need a combination of habitat conservation with very tough laws that are actually implemented, very tough policing with shoot to kill orders on poachers, liberal compensation paid instantly for every domestic animal that is PROVEN to have been killed by a tiger, education about conservation in every school and college and connection with forests built into the education of all our children.

5.    I don’t mean going to sanctuaries and zipping around in Gypsies – which if I had my way, I would totally stop – but actually walking in the bush, camping at night, sleeping under the sky, reading sign, photography and sketching, learning jungle lore. That is what builds a connection. Not the TIGER SHOW that happens in our sanctuaries – which is so embarrassing and idiotic that it is not funny at all. Twenty Gypsy vehicles, with people dropping out of the sides and a tigress walking nonchalantly past threading her way through all the chattering monkeys. Ugh!! If I were a tiger, I would commit suicide.

Tadoba Tiger Show, Ugh!!

6.    It will be conservationists, hopefully supported by a live media which has a chance of making an impact on tiger conservation. With habitat destruction and the trade in tiger parts, it is a losing battle. Local people must see how protecting tigers will put food on their table and money in their pockets. Only then will they be allies.                   
7.    All of the above can be tackled but the pressure of population and vote banks is the biggest threat. Politicians always want to appease their voters. They have to. You can’t blame them. That is their bread, butter and lots of jam. They need to be educated that the survival of the tiger is vital because with them will survive the forests and show them how that will still get them elected. Don’t ask me how. But that is critical. Until we can show a direct link, they will not support the tiger against their vote bank. Sadly, tigers don’t vote. People do.
I hope that by the time our politicians can be educated, there will still be tigers left to save. Indian forests without the tiger will be like a body without a soul. Dead.

Marriage Evils

Today it is tragic to see that Muslim weddings in our city seem to be devoid of any commitment to Islam. They have instead become famous for ostentation, vulgar display of wealth and wasteful expenditure. That too when we as a community are among the most economically backward and deprived of all people. To see the wealthy among us displaying such a colossal lack of concern for the deprived, by spending lakhs and crores on weddings while poor Muslims suffer untold miseries is something that is designed to attract the anger of Allah.

According to the statistics for 2014-15, Hyderabadi Muslims spent Rs. 4000 crores on catering and hall rental for weddings. The actual amount spent will be far higher as we all can guess. How will we answer Allahwhen we meet Him as we surely must? Meanwhile our divorce and separation rate is three times that of any other community in the country. So obviously our spending is not bringing us any happiness. I am not saying that divorces are only because of spending. They are also the result of the almost total lack of upbringing of our children, the total lack of Akhlaaq, the very little connection with Allah and His Deen. Our insane spending in marriages is an indicator of a much deeper malaise which is destroying our community.

See these statistics:

Allah honored the marriage by calling it one of His signs. He said:

Rum 30: 21. And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may find tranquility in them, and He has put between you, love and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.

Marriage in Islam is an act of worship because if it is done according to the Sunnah of Rasoolullah it is something that Allah will reward us for. The key is to ensure that we do it in accordance with the Sunnah.

Abdullah ibn Mas’udtreported that Rasoolullah said to us: O young men, those among you who can support a wife should marry, for it restrains eyes (from casting evil glances) and preserves one from immorality; but he who cannot afford it should fast for fasting is a means of controlling sexual desire. [Tirmidhi]

In this Hadith and in several others, it is clear that marriage is the responsibility of the man who must make arrangements to contract it according to his means. It is not the responsibility of the girl’s parents to worry about her marriage or to incur any expenses in this connection. This is the cardinal difference between the Islamic way and that of others, where the woman and her parents are freed of this responsibility.

Abu Hurairah (R) narrated from Rasoolullah who said: “A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her religious commitment. Seek the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may you prosper).” [Bukhari & Muslim]

It is clear from this Hadith that though you may look for the other three things in a spouse, what you should choose her/him for is religious commitment over and above anything else.
It is the rich who set the trend. And it is thanks to them that middle class and poor Muslim parents are pressured to spend more than they can afford for the weddings of their children. As a result, one of the biggest problems in Muslim society is that of indebtedness – inability to pay back interest bearing loans. Even more tragic is the fact that in most cases it is women who pressure their men folk to spend money on all kinds of customs and practices which have nothing to do with Islam. 

The only purpose is to ‘impress’ others with the degree of Jahaalat that one can achieve and the constant refrain is, ‘What will people say?’ Allah called ostentation and ostentatious spenders the brothers of Shaytaan.

(Garland for the bridegroom being brought in by a crane in a Hyderabadi wedding)

He said:
Isra 17: 27 Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayateen and the Shaytaan is ever ungrateful to his Rabb.
Add to this the evil of dowry which we have adopted with the result that men have no shame in demanding it and parents of the bride are forced to cough up the ransom for their daughter. We have all kinds of shameless ways of asking for it. Dowry is Haraam. Asking for it is either begging or extortion and makes you a Bhikari (beggar) or a highway robber. I ask the parents of brides, ‘Why do you want to marry your daughter to a beggar or bandit? Then there are demands on the bride’s family for ‘fat’ weddings with all kinds of unislamic customs like Manja, Sanchak, Mehndi, Sangeet, Dholak and the pressure on the bride’s family to host a dinner on the day of the Nikah.
All these customs are against Islam, add to the expense and make the wedding a source of great suffering for the bride’s family. In addition, all these customs are against Islam and sinful to say the least.

Compare this to the Islamic way: The man or his family send his proposal to the bride’s family. The man and bride meet face to face and decide if they want to marry. The amount of Mehar is decided among them which the man has to pay. The Nikah takes place in the masjid. Then the man hosts a Walima (meal in celebration of his wedding) on the same or next day. The bride’s family incurs no expense at all. The man incurs whatever expense he wishes as the Walima is his responsibility. And all this happens simply, with dignity and in accordance with the Law of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger. Such a marriage is blessed and its results can only be good.

We believe the time has come for all people with a conscience to raise their voice against these evil practices. Whether or not you are religious, it is our duty to refuse to support these social evils.

For this it is essential that we do three things:

1. When we have a wedding in our family ensure that it is strictly according to the Islamic way which I have described above. In that alone there is Khair, the blessing of Allah and the honor of the Sunnah of Rasoolullah.

2. When you are invited to a wedding, ask about what is happening there. If there is any unislamic custom, don’t go. Tell them clearly that you will not attend because the wedding is not according to Islam. Don’t make an excuse. Say clearly that you are against unislamic weddings as you are a Muslim and so will not attend.

3. It is especially important that Ulama and opinion leaders don’t attend because their attendance becomes a proof for people that what they are doing is correct. When Ulama don’t attend and tell people why they are not attending, people stop to think and InshaAllah this can bring about change. One argument in support of Ulama attending unislamic weddings that I heard takes the cake. Someone said, ‘If we don’t attend people will do even worse and they will dance naked.’ Not my words but the words that I was told.

4. My submission is that this argument goes directly against the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Allah said about supporting good and not supporting evil:

Ma’aida 5: 2 Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Severe in punishment.

Rasoolullah said: Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (R) said: I heard Rasoolullah say, “Whoever sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]

Please see this Ayah and Hadith and tell me where is the permission to participate in a gathering where the laws of Allah and the Sunnah of Rasoolullah is being broken and remain silent and benefit from the meeting? The only justification, especially for Ulama to go to unislamic weddings would be to stop whatever is happening there which is unislamic. Needless to say, that would create an even bigger Fitna. And so the only choice they have is to boycott such events and tell people why they are boycotting them. If not, they will become the proof that people will use to commit Haraam and they will be answerable before Allahfor that.

There are two stages that a person goes through in life – the wedding and the funeral. That is why in Hindi and Urdu – we have the same word with a slight difference, for the traditional vehicle of the bride which symbolizes the moving from one state to another – doli and dola.

I ask you, will you accept a funeral with a band and dancing before the Namaz-e-Janaza? Why then do you accept a wedding with bands, dancing, free mixing of men and women, ostentation and vulgar display – all against Islam?

All social change starts with one person – me. So take this decision that you will not attend a wedding which is not in accordance with Islam. Tell others about it. And stick to it. Don’t go even if it is the wedding of your closest relative. And if anyone talks about family ties, please tell him/her that our ties with Allah and Rasoolullahtake precedence over all other ties. Allaheven ordered us to disobey parents if they order us to disobey Him. So where is the question of doing thing to anger Allahto please anyone else?

Islam seeks to make Nikah easy and Zina (fornication) difficult. We have turned this on its head and then we wonder why there is so much corruption in society.

Abu Hurayrah (R) said: Rasoolullah said: “If someone whose religious commitment and attitude pleases you proposes marriage, then marry [your female relative under your charge] to him. If you do not do that, there will be tribulation in the land and much corruption.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Maajah, Sahih by Albani).

Hazrat Aaisha (Radiyallahu Anha) reports that Rasoolullah said: “The Nikah with the most Baraka is that Nikah wherein the least expense was incurred.” (Musnad Ahmad)

The primary responsibility to ensure that no unnecessary expenses are incurred and that nothing is done which is against Islam is that of the bride and groom. NOT OF THE PARENTS. If you don’t think you are old enough to stand up for your Islamic duties, then you are not old enough to get married. Obedience to parents or anyone else comes AFTER obedience to Allah and Rasoolullah. Neither your parents nor anyone else is going to come into your graves with you. You will be there alone and you will answer why you allowed unnecessary expenses and unlawful practices to be done in your marriages. How do you expect Baraka in your married life, the help of Allah, good children, happy relationships and prosperity and safety when you did everything possible to anger Allah during your marriage? Get real people. Stop fooling yourself. You are not fooling anyone else. So please grow up or remain unmarried. It is as clear as that.

Narrated Anas bin Malik (R): Rasoolullah saw the trace of yellow on ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (R) Rasoolullah asked him: What is this? He replied: Ya Rasoolullah I have married a woman. He asked: How much Mahr did you give her? He said: A nawat weight of gold. He said: Hold a Walima, even if only with a sheep. (Sunan Abu Dawud; Sahih, Albani)

This shows that when he got married not only did he not host a meal inviting his friends on the day of the Nikah but he did not even invite Rasoolullahand Rasoolullah didn’t know that he had got married until the next day. This is not an indication of lack of Adab. It is an indication that the Nikah is to be a simple ceremony without any party after it. 

Rasoolullah told him to give a Walima which he did. That shows that the Walima is the responsibility of the groom and not the bride or her family.

Finally, please remember that if we, especially the wealthy among us, don’t change our ways, then we will invite the Adhaab of Allah. It is in this connection that Allah warned us and told us that we are the architects of our own destruction. He said:

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).

And He warned the wealthy among us, especially and said:

Isra 17: 16.   And when We decide to destroy a town (population), We (first) send a definite order (to obey Allah and be righteous) to those among them who are given the good things of this life. Then, they transgress therein, and thus the word (of torment) is justified against it (them). Then We destroy it with complete destruction.

Allah promised to punish those who insist on disobeying Him. Allah’s orders are for our benefit. When we obey Him we create a beautiful society that is beneficial to everyone. If we disobey Him, we harm ourselves in this life and attract His anger and punishment. Allah said:

An’am 6: 44     So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened to them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them to punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regret and sorrow.

Please remember that you are the most important person in the world and all change begins with you. So first of all if you took a dowry, calculate it in today’s money and return it to your wife. Let her give it to her family or keep it. It was Haraam for you to take it and so return it. Do this for all the material stuff you took also. Calculate the value in today’s terms and return it. Then make Tawba for whatever you did or allowed to happen in your marriage that was against the orders of Allah and the Sunnah of Rasoolullah. Free Tawba is not accepted. You have to compensate people for your oppression before you seek forgiveness of Allah. So please do this. And do it immediately. And it you feel reluctant about it, then remember that when you meet Allah this compensation will be extracted from you and that will be far more expensive. I don’t wish that on you under any circumstances. Thank Allah that He kept you alive and gave you an opportunity to make Tawba. Don’t squander that. Make Tawba and return what you took.

Remember that you will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ You will be asked, ‘What did you do?’

So don’t allow what is not in your control to prevent you from doing what is in your control.