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Monday, November 26, 2007

Blindness

Posted by Sara at 12:42 PM 0 comments Links to this post
One of the biggest tests in life is losing one's eyesight. Not being able to see the world and to constantly live in darkness… well I expect this to be extremely hard. May God reward all those who were afflicted with this calamity, yet endure it with patience.

What is even more perplexing, for me, is another kind of blindness, that is even graver and harder to understand. It is when people have eyes that can see, yet they are blind. I found the answer to my bewilderment in a verse from the Qur'an that says what can be translated as: "So have they not travelled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the chests ."

When you think of people who see God's marvellous creation without being able to realise the Greatness of the One who has created all this beauty in all these most innovative and complex forms, you simply wonder how blind man can get. Or those who fall into despair, lose faith, or go to the extreme of ending their lives because of a problem they are facing, forgetting about the rest of the abundance their Lord has given them. People sometimes simply throw away God's blessings, turning their hearts into cruel stones that cannot appreciate or remember. Other people can be blinded by money, power, or any other earthly pleasure, and never feel content with whatever they get since they are always busy running after more and more, leaving behind the simple pleasures and the true meanings of life. Such people's hearts become blind when they stop appreciating God's goodness in their lives.

Even stone can be tenderer than man's heart when it becomes blind, God says: "Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do ". Blind hearts would only allow a colourless life that is cold and dark, with blessings becoming insignificant. How is it possible to deliberately lead such a miserable life? Poor indeed is the one who sees God's bounties yet fails to cherish them.

I always ponder upon this verse, it never fails to move me: "They have not estimated Allah His true estimate; while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him." I seek refuge in God from having a blind heart. May He bless us with sound hearts. Let us pray that we never fall short of appreciating the Greatness, Omnipotence, and Mercy of our Lord.

Monday, November 19, 2007

{Quick Reflections 40} Terms of Usage

Posted by Badeea at 9:40 PM 0 comments Links to this post
How many “Terms of Usage” documents has each of one of us signed in a life time? Personally I have lost count! I had to agree to certain long lists of “Terms of Usage” hundreds of times whenever I attempted to download one program or another from the internet. The same was repeated over and over again numerous times in other forms with slight modifications to the title varying between “Lease Terms” for renting apartments or cars, or “Terms and Conditions” for bank accounts and credit cards, or “Terms of Agreement” for electric supply or cell phone lines, or “Certificate of Insurance” for health insurance and malpractice insurance (being a surgeon practicing in the USA) and the list goes on and on.
With time I am accumulating piles and piles of “License Agreements” that even my wife (who reads 5 times as fast as I do) and to whom I am trying to delegate the reading of such documents to is hardly keeping up with them. I will not be exaggerating if I say that within the past 2.5 years I have gathered over a thousand pages of different “Terms of Usage” documents. I am sure all of us have similar experiences.

Now when I started giving this very annoying and life disturbing repetitive event some thought I realized how my priorities were skewed. I could spend 3-4 hours reading a contract for a cell phone line that I would end in 2 years anyway or anything similar that has very limited functionality within a very limited time frame of my life. Not only that but I would also abide by all the terms that most of the time give more benefits to the agency or company that is issuing the contract and would do my best not to breech any of the terms mentioned for fear of the penalties as per the contract. I believe that we all share that attitude. We abide by terms and conditions set by other humans that mostly serve their own benefit more than ours in order to use something that is of very limited benefit to us in a limited time frame. We do not question them or object to any item if we really intend to use that service or object.

On the other hand how much time and attention have I given to go over the “Terms of Usage” manual provided to me by my Creator? He provided me with my “life”, with every cell in my body, with every blessing in this Universe, with countless mercies and gifts and did not ask for anything in return. On the contrary He provided me with a “Terms of Usage” manual that was provided by the Manufacturer to the “products” so that they would function in the best possible way. He will not gain or lose anything if I abide or breech the “Terms of Usage” manual He provided me. On the contrary I am the only gainer or loser if I abide by the terms or breech them. Not only that, how seriously have I taken that manual? How many times have I questioned it and thought whether it is fair or not? How many times have I made use of all the gifts and blessings provided by the Manufacturer yet continued to breech the “Contract”? Even when I breech the contract He does not immediately apply the penalties but rather continues supplying me with the “goods”! Not only that, He even gave humans the freedom to sign the contract or refuse to sign it without either decision affecting His continuous supply of blessings to both parties as long as they are still alive on this Earth. “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong” (Qur’an; 2:256).

Has the time come for me to start rearranging my priorities and take the “Terms of Usage” manual sent to me by my Creator regarding my whole life on this Earth and in the Hereafter more seriously and to give it the same attention I give to the hundreds of human “Terms of Usage” regarding trivial temporary services?



I had intended to write in details about the different “Terms of Usage” in terms of the two meanings the title carries, the one mentioned above in addition to the terms needed to be fulfilled by one so that God would “use” him or her to serve Him best but then I thought I would defer the latter meaning to a separate reflection.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

{Quick Reflections 39} Whose Time?!

Posted by Badeea at 9:05 AM 1 comments Links to this post
The dimension of “time” is always fascinating to me. Unlike “place” with its three dimensions (length, width and height) which you can always see from inside and outside by changing your position “time” is always accompanying you and moving with you. As a human being you can never see it from outside.
To standardize the position or the place of things and try to find and describe the positional relationship between objects in space man invented the co-ordinate system. As an outsider viewer you can choose a certain spot and determine that it has the x:y:z co-ordinates of 0:0:0 and then relate the position of any object in space around that spot and its exact x:y:z co-ordinates accordingly. These 3 dimensions are independent of the ever mysterious fourth dimension; time.
Man does not know when “time” started and when will it end. Even the use of the term “when” to describe the absolute start or end of time is not correct because before it started and after it ends there will be no “time” to compare to and hence no “when”!! I will elaborate further on this if God wills 6 articles from now when we discuss the issue of “Eternity”.
Due to man’s limited capability of understanding and describing the ever changing time dimension it was more difficult for him to standardize time like he did with space. Hence in the process of standardizing time on Earth man opted to always correlate it to space or place. Accordingly he invented the “Time Zone” system which defines time in relation to your “position” in place on Earth.

Almost a year ago I was involved in a lot of traveling to and fro between East and West in a short period of time using different modalities of transportation including ground and air.
When I thought about it during my travel I found that one’s time of arrival is determined by three factors.

First is the time zone at your destination point. In the USA you are governed by 6 different time zones depending on which part of the country you are in. On the main land in the extreme East, where I currently reside, you lie in the Eastern Time zone which is GMT-5. As you head towards the West you gradually cross time zones starting with Central Time, then Mountain Time and finally Pacific Time on the West Coast which is GMT-8. Off the main land you have Alaska Time Zone which is GMT-9 and finally Hawaii Time Zone which is GMT -10.

The second factor that determines your time of arrival is of course the type of transportation used as it determines the speed by which you reach your destination.

The third factor is even more complicated. It is your direction of travel. Are you heading East or West?
Earth rotates in an anti-clock wise direction relative to the Sun and hence the generation of East and West and Day and Night as we see it and hence East is ahead of West in time. In other words if you choose a point in the middle between East and West and say that it is the “present”, East will be the “past” and West will be the “future”. Accordingly when you head East you are relatively trying to go to the “past” while Earth is always rotating towards the “future” and hence you “lose” time due to your relative adding to the effect of time on yourself. Let me provide and example here. If you are in the San Francisco, Pacific Time Zone (relatively West) and the time now is 3pm it will be concurrently 6pm in New York, Eastern Time Zone (relatively East). If there is a mode of transportation that would move you between these 2 time zones in only one minute and you leave San Francisco at 3pm you will arrive in New York at 6:01 pm. You would have already lost 3 hours in addition to the time it took you to get there (one minute).
On the other hand if you are heading West you are relatively trying to go to the future along with Earth which is always rotating towards the “future” and hence you “gain” time due to your relative canceling of the effect of time on yourself. If you reverse the above example and travel from New York to San Francisco you would gain 2 hours and 59 minutes (3 hours minus the one minute it took you to get there).

Theoretically speaking if you manage to travel around Earth heading West along with Earth, and hence canceling the effect of time on yourself, with the same speed Earth rotates around itself time will not change for you and it will remain constant. However there is a catch here! Even if you travel with the same speed at which Earth rotates around itself you are consuming time to do that so again you are forced to move to the “future” albeit at a slower speed than people sticking to the regular movement of Earth.

Practically we do not travel that fast but we certainly do gain or lose time when we travel by air. For example if you travel from Chicago (Central Time) heading East to Cleveland (Eastern Time) you are losing time. If you take off from Chicago at 9am (concurrently 10 am in Cleveland) and it takes you one hour to get to Cleveland you will reach it at 11am Cleveland time so you would have lost 2 hours (the one hour traveling time in addition to one hour time zone difference).
On the other hand if you take off from Cleveland at 9am and head West to Chicago (where the time is concurrently 8am) and it takes you one hour to get there you will arrive at 9am Chicago time. So you would have gained one hour time zone difference but lost one due to travel time and ended up with a net stationary time.

Now where am I heading with this complicated and confusing time analysis issue?!

When I was a teenager I was told by one of my mentors that shortening and uniting of prayers and aborting fasting during traveling was a merciful lightening of duties from God in the past on travelers due to the hardships of traveling people used to face in the past. In light of the development of relatively very fast and easy air transportation modalities (the second factor mentioned earlier which affects our time of arrival at our destination), there is no need to use that specific “mercy” in our age.
However my dear mentor was mistaken in his analysis. He took into account only the speed of transportation in reaching his conclusion. He forgot about the other 2 important factors; time zones and the direction of traveling with its consequent loss or gain of time issues. According to which time zone will you determine your prayer time or your start or break of fast time? The starting point or the ending point or somewhere in between? What about the lost or gained time? How will you account for that in your calculations? Certainly it is a very controversial issue that would cause a lot of havoc and debate amongst people.
Accordingly God’s merciful and wise lightening of worshiping duties, prayers and fasting, during travel also applies to our time in spite of all advancement in transportation modalities to avoid unnecessary confusion or argument that could arise due to the above mentioned new two factors that were not present in the past; time zones and gain or loss of time when traveling fast enough.

Correction: I received the following comment about when time stops absolutely, rather than relatively, "by the way time would only stop when u are equal in speed to light and then mass becomes infinite if that was applicable. i am physically speaking. read one two three infinity. it is a nice book"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

{Quick Reflections 38} The Devil; Live!

Posted by Badeea at 8:58 PM 0 comments Links to this post
If you believe in the devil (or evil powers) please continue to read. If you do not believe in the devil that is even a stronger reason to continue to read this reflection!
Let us start by addressing the group that believes it has only one life to live; the atheists. If you believe that you will live only once and that there is no other life after death then it makes perfect sense that you make the best out of this life for 2 reasons. The first being that it is the only life you have. The second being that if you were wrong (which is definitely a “chance” since you believe in the concept of “chance” and “probability” which is the corner stone that the theory of evolution and hence all this life and universe is built on) and there happened to be a God and an afterlife, and as the scriptures you do not believe in say, you will eternally live in hell in the other life so you better make the best of this one.
In order to make the best of this life then you better live in a most peaceful place and stay away from any conflicts that could negatively affect your social or financial life. Accordingly you will have to minimize the differences between you and other people to avoid conflicts of interests as much as you can. This will lead you to try to find “guidelines” to differentiate good from bad. Now in the absence of “Divine” “guidelines” and due to the variability of way of thinking on individual basis from time to time, place to place and culture to culture it will be impossible to reach a consensus on these guidelines. Now the absence of these clear cut definitions or guidelines to the exact definition of good (or lawful) and bad (or unlawful) does not negate the fact that they are present. Now the moving force behind “evil” or “bad” that religions or “Divinity” define as both the devil and evil inclinations present in everyone do not mater to you so you will not bother pushing it away or fighting it. However you are still stuck in the struggle present between living beings in which the survival is for the most fit according to the evolutionary theory. Now since the chance of perishing in such a struggle is almost 50% then it is better not to have such a struggle in the first place. This leads us to the first point which is to try and live in peace with all others as much as we can.

Now let us get back to the people of the monotheistic religions be them Jews, Christians or Muslims. Needless to say that this group of people believe in the presence of the devil(s) and his (their) evil ways and how he (they) want(s) us to do as much wrong as possible and commit as many sins as possible.
One of his (their) main goals is to make us not believe in God and hence in his (their) presence in the first place and this way they can get us with no resistance what so ever on our part. You can not fight what you do not believe in!
If he (they) fail in the above goals he (they) move on to the second most important one; spreading hatred, arrogance, prejudice and negative feelings amongst a group of people towards another group of people. They start with a group from one sect of a certain religion towards another group belonging to another sect of the same religion (amongst Christians Catholics against Baptists, Orthodox against Catholics, amongst Muslims Sunni against Shiite and so forth). If they fail in that they move on to people from one religion to another group from another religion although both religions are monotheistic (Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Jews, Jews against both Christians and Muslims, and so forth)! The fact is that non of the scriptures in any of the three monotheistic religions tells you to hate any other human being. On the contrary there is always a stress on how much you should love all other human and living beings. It is the personal interpretation and hijacking of the scriptures by some ill intentioned or ill minded or both that pushes the masses into believing that they should hate and fight people from other religions. The devil wins by dividing and ruling.
If the devil fails in the above he moves on to the next step which is spreading of negative feelings amongst individuals for any petty reason. It could be simple paranoid thoughts of no basis what so ever or thoughts based on different social or economic or even egoist basis.
If he fails in the above he moves onto making you just “forget” about God and the devil and the whole issue. Yes you continue to believe in God but you actually stop thinking, feeling and living that belief. Yes you are not harming anyone but you are totally unaware that you should be, with a direct true intention, living your life building and earning your way to a better afterlife.
Finally if he fails in all the above he moves on to pushing one into committing sins in which one disobeys God in one way or another without necessarily harming other people (like not performing certain religious rituals) or with things that have a long term negative impact on the whole society (like committing adultery).

Now the above mentioned sequence is not necessarily what truly happens with each one of us but certainly it is put in an order of what is most harmful to what is least harmful to both this life and your afterlife.
Now the question that arises is how does the devil(s) do that? One very important fact that we should keep in mind all the time is that the devil(s) is(are) not less smart than you are. A second fact is that that’s their only job, they have nothing to do until the day of Judgment but to push you further away from God. A third fact is that they have no control over you, you have total control over yourself, they just throw ideas or thoughts in your way and you choose either to follow it or decline.
Now back to the same question, how do they do that? They have a running biography of your life, what you like, what you dislike, what are your weak points, when are you most susceptible to obey them, different trends in your personality and so forth. In order to push you into making a certain mistake it does not have to be an impulsive action but they could plan for a sequence of events that could take hours, days or even months until you fall into a certain trap or another.
So now what is the way out and how to fight and defeat them in a most efficient way?
First of all you have to be aware of what really God wants from you; obedience to Him, love to all others manifesting in being most useful, giving and forgiving to them, hate of bad deeds but not to people who perform them and very good manners in dealing with any “other”.
Second, just like the devil studies your personality and keeps a running biography of you, keep an autobiography. Notice patterns in your personality, record when you are most susceptible to fall into traps by the devil and commit any of the above mentioned mistakes of negative thoughts, feelings or acts whether with God, people of your religion or any other religion. Based on that biography modify your thoughts, feelings and practice such that you are less vulnerable for the devil and his traps.

To conclude the above “live” demonstration of the devil and his ways I would like to mention the verse in the Qur’an in which God says what can be translated into, “Indeed, Satan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy” (Qur’an, 35:6). He is plotting all the time against you so take the time to plot for yourself in defense and never give your back to your enemy or under estimate him. Be aware of your enemy and be on your guard and deal with him in the same manner you deal with any enemy by being alert, aware and in a continuous smart proactive fight.
Accordingly do not ever be fooled by the Devil into thinking that other human beings are your enemies. Your only true enemy is the Devil. If human beings from all walks of life live with that mentality we would have been living in a much more peaceful world as it should have been if only people listened to God and His messengers. Here is a saying by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)that in one sentence sums up how to defeat your enemy, the devil, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Brother here refers to brother in humanity. If you want to be a good God-oriented person you should truly wish the best for all other human beings without ever looking down on any human being let along making any enemy out of him/her.

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2009 THEME: Islam in the West and Our Children (Discussion & Resources regularly updated)

There is increasing concern that second and third generation Muslims in the West are mostly no longer Muslims so they actually end up adding to the Christian or Atheist population of the West, albeit racially from a non-Western origin. Accordingly, the ratios mentioned in the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU) would be correct in regards to race or ethnicity but not necessarily to religion.

It is a grave danger facing our children and grand children from a real life stand point as statistically only 1/5 of the second generation stay really Muslims when they grow up and are independent and almost non from the third generation are Muslims. And that is why the Western authorities are still permitting the immigration of Muslims inspite of the figures provided in the above video. They know that on the long term the descendants of Muslims in the West leave Islam because their parents raised them up with an Eastern mentality in a Western society instead of an Islamic mentality that encompasses all cultures.

You can see more about that by Jeffrey Lang; an ex-atheist American Mathematics University Professor who reverted to Islam in 1982. He has also written 3 books that I highly recommend; "Struggling to Surrender", "Even Angels Ask" and "Losing my Religion; A Call for Help".
Now I will leave you to enjoy 2 short excerpts from one of his lectures followed by links to his most important full presentation regarding our children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmqN75NI0xg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT1KGyxBXC0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMANKaX8khw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgivQJKtQME
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga2rIUWcPPs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYb2v3Yx1LY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhMN_TZavW0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHeM0H0EMAw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD-YefJH9x0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2eVOKjOqHE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBQp7aZjxjc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4_xxQVGU44

Here is a solution that is yet to be implemented.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geRM4AlFBOU&NR=1

Raising children here is not an easy task ofcourse but if we do it the right way they will be true Muslims in shaa Allaah who are "Informed Muslims" rather than "Muslims by inheritance" like their counterparts in the East. Hopefully they will then be a much better generation than ours.

Quickly, I do believe that the best 4 authors (for example, there are many others but these are my favorite) who could guide us through this difficult process are Yahiya Emerick, Jeffrey Lang, Jamal Badawi and Dalia Mogahed.

Here are some links for future reference and for an ongoing learning process that I have started collecting slowly.
Please spread the below information to all your Muslim contacts in the West.

Jeffrey Lang:
http://meccacentric.com/jeffrey_lang.html I highly recommend the lecture titled "The Purpose of Life". It has true meanings that I have not come across in any Arabic literature.

Yahiya Emerick:
Articles:
http://www.islamicedfoundation.com/articles/articles.htm
http://www.islamfortoday.com/yahiyaemerick.htm I highly recommend reading and spreading the last article in this link by the name of "The Confusion of the Scholars"
Books:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-keywords=&field-author=Yahiya+Emerick&field-title=&field-isbn=&field-publisher=&node=&url=&field-feature_browse-bin=&field-binding_browse-bin=&field-subject=&field-language=&field-dateop=&field-datemod=&field-dateyear=&sort=relevancerank&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.x=29&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.y=8 There are only 14 books, about half for adults and the other half for kids. The extra are just repetitions.

Jamal Badawi:
Many products including books, articles and lectures mostly for adults. You can find them by searching his name online. My favorite is;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMfWURGcvBI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HXGRYaUy6g
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyMD_tE6U68
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AixgiXpAFTY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WUgbgLgMXM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3VLRoQ3qUw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5UvvkCDrm4

Dalia Mogahed: (Obama's adviser)
Has one book so far but has a great potential. "Who Speaks for Islam".
You can watch her debate with Irshad Manji (an openly Lesbian Canadian Muslim who is distorting the picture of Islam in the name of "Progressive Islam")http://fora.tv/2008/07/01/Irshad_Manji_and_Dalia_Mogahed_-_Who_Speaks_for_Islam

Finally here is a website for a store that sells lots of Islamic products including Islamic cartoon DVDs in English and Arabic for kids.
http://www.astrolabe.com/category/17/Cartoons_and_KidVid.html?sid=ceb7c5cf8de15b8f1cb92ad29e183a44
 

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