Friday, November 13, 2009

When the slaughtered babies testify

Killing, in its many forms, has always been a major concern of humanity. This is true especially when it involves the killing of innocent civilians, including women and children (which is an act of cowardliness). I believe that everyone with a healthy mind and heart will condemn these acts of cowardliness, no matter what justification the culprits use. The way the media treats killings as a hot commodity shows how corrupt and sick our civilization has become. The loss of human lives has become a source of income, and in many ways entertainment. Nevertheless, it can be a testification on how interesting this subject is for people.

Human beings are given the natural instinct to honor life. For Muslims, this natural inclination is further strengthened by faith. The Qur’an honors life of human beings with very strong words (5:32), stating that the one who kills a person without any strong reasons is as if he has killed all of humanity. Of course killing has existed since the beginning of the history of mankind, way back to the killing of Habil by his own twin brother Qabil (the story of Cain and Abel, Prophet Adam’s sons).

In the pre-Islamic period, the ignorant Arabs were used to do many horrible things. One of the most horrific of all is probably how they used to bury their baby girls alive. This tradition was based on the belief that men are superior to women, thus it was a disgrace to have a daughter. Regarding this, God the Almighty said in the Qur’an that these babies will one day be asked about their killing, and the killers will have to be responsible for what they did (Surah At Takwir ayah 8-9). “And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed?” This ignorant practice of the Arabs was banished by the Messenger of God, and was not practiced anymore.

Nowadays, it may seem barbaric if we hear people killing their babies, but the sad truth is, it still exists, at very alarming rates. These killings are manifested in a disgusting practice called child abortion. As much as 3700 abortions take place in the US in ONE DAY (this statistic is from the 90s, it might be worse now). Most of the reasons are said to be social reasons (93%). So as with the ancient Arabs, these so called “modern people” also do it for social reasons (free sex, the baby isn’t wanted, etc). Times may change, but the ignorance doesn’t. This “modern era” (age of ignorance would be better) we live in is said to condemn innocent killings, but at the same time legalized genocide of millions of innocent souls.

Nevertheless, those millions of innocent souls that have been slaughtered will get a chance to talk in front of their Lord. And on that day, everyone (including the murderers) will taste the fruit of what they did.

This is an age that DEMANDS us to seek for Devine Guidance to keep our humanity, to prevent corruption in our hearts. All the disgusting practices and corruption that we see all around us is a manifest from how distant we are from Guidance. May we all be among those who are guided and can value life the way that it should be valued.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Prophetic guidance in conveying knowledge

Nowadays we find people with beneficial knowledge everywhere. Among these people, some share what they know and many don’t. The ones who share also have different motives. Some are sincere and some are not. Furthermore, some people of knowledge think that they are so smart that they become overly confident in themselves and become arrogant, while the truth is, everything that we have is a blessing from The Almighty.

Anyway, one of the reasons for holding back beneficial knowledge is greed and selfishness. One example is in the scientific community, where people do their best to keep their results (although useful for others) for themselves until they can write a publication or until a company buys their research to be patented, which is a manifestation of greed and selfishness. It's how things work in our corrupt society, and it's difficult to get rid of it.

Some people don’t share beneficial knowledge due to being afraid of opposition, being debated or being humiliated. Most of the people that I know (including myself most of the times) get annoyed or angry when people oppose the thoughts they have, and usually build a psychological barrier to block the opposing person.

The highest peak of knowledge is the knowledge to know God, our Creator. Through this knowledge, one will know who he truly is, where he comes from and where he will be heading. But in our civilization, this kind of knowledge is one that is evaded by most people, and when it is talked about, people end up emotional and arrogant. It’s not the first time this condition has happened. It has happened every time since the beginning of humanity. And to teach and remind us, God sent prophets and messengers for us. For the prophets and messengers, this is definitely a daunting task, and from their struggle we can learn a lot about the best ways to convey knowledge.

One amazing example can be found in story of Prophet Nuh (Noah), peace be upon Him (Surat Nuh; 71). He was sent after corruption entered into the first generations of humanity (the sons of Adam). When conveying knowledge to his people, he did it out of love, kindness and sincerity, only because he did not want his people to go astray. So the words that came out were also full of compassion and kindness. Although the response of the people was negative, he didn’t give up. Rather, he asked forgiveness for the people and persisted in conveying his knowledge.

The beloved prophet relentlessly continued his task night and day, openly and secretly, to no avail. The people grew even more arrogant and rebellious. According to Islamic tradition, this went on for 950 years. Eventually Nuh a.s. realized that the people cannot be changed, and made a supplication that would eventually end his overwhelming task.

Nuh a.s. has set the bar for all of us when conveying beneficial knowledge to others. The first one is sincerity. The Prophet didn’t ask anything for the knowledge that he conveyed. All he wanted was God's recognition and for the people to be safe and truly successful. The second one is patience. Rather than getting angry and upset with the people who didn’t agree with him, he made supplication on their behalf and continued his efforts. The third one is persistence. He continued conveying the knowledge for 950 years. So when we give up after one or two debate sessions, think about the amount of trials that Nuh a.s. had to face.

Nevertheless, before conveying beneficial knowledge, one must first obtain it. Through knowledge, people can be more beneficial for other people. That is why the action of gaining knowledge has always been honored and the people who have knowledge are considered to have a higher status in all societies. However, for knowledge to be truly beneficial, one must be able to sincerely and willingly share their knowledge to others, and convey it with kindness, patience and persistence like what Nuh a.s. did.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The three groups of people in Al Baqarah: where do we belong?

It is inevitable that in our life, we will meet many kinds of people. Each person will have unique characteristics compared with the other. Many of them will be complex and difficult to understand as they have completely different ways of thinking. You will find egoists, activists, religious people, atheists, and a lot more.

Regarding the diversity of human characteristics, Our Creator, Allah Azza Wa Jall, has cut the chase and made clear classifications among people as revealed in the Holy Qur’an. One of these classifications can be found in Suraah Al Baqarah (ayaahs 3-20). This classification is for those who have intimately interacted with the Qur’an (and ponder on the meanings of its aayah’s) and Islam and believe (fully or partially) that the Qur’an is the truth sent down by The Lord of the heavens and the earth (as a blessing for all mankind).

The first group is consisted of those who are steadfast to faith and fully believe in the Qur’an, and use it as their sole guidance in life no matter what happens to them. They try at their very best to make the Qur’an (and consequently the Hadeeth of the Messenger Shallallahu’alayhiwasallam) as the base of every single action they do. Allah Azza Wa Jall says that these people will be the ones who are truly successful, as they have received guidance from their Lord.

The second group is consisted of those who comprehend, understand and realize that Islam is the truth, but do not want to take the leap of faith to admit it. These people continue to commit themselves to disbelief because of the fear to lose the things and comfort that they have achieved (money, career, position, study, etc), and their love towards the tradition that they have indulged into. It is said that Allah has put a seal on their hearts, and that they will be the true losers in the end (no matter how successful they may seem).

The third and last group is the trickiest of them all. In Arabic, these people are called al munafiqoon, the hypocrites. While the first two groups were described briefly by Allah in two or three aayahs (verses), the hypocrites are described by a staggering twelve aayahs. They are the ones that say that they believe in Allah and His Messenger, while they actually don’t. They are those who “think” that they are doing goodness on this earth, but the truth is, they are actually doing nothing but destruction (corruption, pollution, exploitation, and all kinds of mischief). When they are told to believe (to follow certain aspects of the Qur’an and Hadeeth), they undermine it and say that they won’t follow what the foolish people have followed. They are the ones that after testifying belief in front of people who believe, will go back to their “gods” and false deities (their jobs, their career, their wealth, etc.) and say that they are only mocking the true believers (by testifying belief). These people will eventually become the losers similar to the second group (the disbelievers), and that they will wonder in their confusion and darkness because of their heedlessness.

Regarding the last type of people, the hypocrites, we find them everywhere, including in massive Muslim populated countries. Many people say that they are Muslims, but they are so far away from the guidance of the Qur’an and Hadeeth, and don’t do anything to gain guidance, and when they do get the guidance, they don’t take it seriously. They put their belief in Allah at the very bottom of their priority, while they seek to fulfill they pleasure and their false sense of “achievement”.

When thinking about Allah’s classification of people in these aayahs, we should immediately relate our position and where we fit it. Especially for Muslims, the detail description of the hypocrites should serve as a frontal warning to stay away from hypocrisy, as every Muslim can easily fall into it (I must admit that I too fall into hypocrisy in many occasions..). We can ask all sorts of questions to review ourselves. How often do we put our prayer behind our work? How much of the Qur’an do we understand by heart (compared with all the other things that we read or study)? Do we feel the slightest bit of shame when we follow what Allah has commanded us? And all kinds of other questions…

May we all be among those who are truly successful in the end, and may we all be blessed with faith and tranquility in our hearts.

Al Baqarah 3-20, islam, hypocrites, hypocrisy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All the evil and suffering in this world = No God?

People who have not tasted the delight of belief in their hearts will deny that Allah (God) exists by all kinds of reasoning. One of the reasoning offered is by saying that there is no God because there is too much evil and bad things happening in this world. They will even question our own mishaps in order to strengthen their claim. To tell the truth, there was also a time where I myself was in their position. But after sometime, I eventually gave up and submitted (and eventually felt content due to the knowledge that Allah gave me, Alhamdulillah). I believe that if one is truly sincere in searching for the truth, and puts the best effort in it, by the will of Allah, he/she will be guided to it.

There are several points that we need to take into consideration when we look at the evil/bad things that happen around us (and all over the world).

The first point is that there is no such thing as pure evil or pure bad. Through something that we conceive as evil/bad, comes many things that we consider good. Through pain and suffering we can appreciate the pleasures that we are blessed with, and in turn, learn to help others in experiencing it. Through sickness we learn to appreciate health. Through our mishaps we learn to be patient. Through hardship we learn to grow wiser. And the list goes on and on...

As said by the beloved Messenger of Allah, "If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials." All we need to do is be patient, ponder on what has happened, and stay optimistic.

The second point is that humans use their finite (limited) knowledge and wisdom to determine whether something is good or bad. And in our ignorance, we conclude that what we perceive is what is correct. However, the truth is, whatever we think is bad, may possibly be a good thing. No one truly knows the true nature of things that happen but The All Wise, The One Who possesses infinite knowledge and wisdom.

Allah has addressed about this in the Qur'an (Al Baqarah aayah/verse 216)

"Holy fighting in Allah's cause is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know."

For a Muslim, the third and last point that needs pondering is that there is an eternal life after this short life of ours. The average life expectancy (death age) of a person in developed countries is only around 75-85 (accompanied with all the sickness and pain of old age), and many die at even much younger ages. What is 80 years compared to the earth's age, more else “eternity”? The Messenger of Allah says that suffering which is handled with full of patience and optimism will be compensated in the hereafter. No Muslim is affected with harm but that Allah expiates his sins because of it.

If we are able to be conscious about those three points, by Allah’s will, we will be given contentment and tranquility in our hearts, and consequently have more trust in Allah even after calamity or something bad strikes.

To me, all the suffering, evil and the bad things that happen in this world further clarifies and strengthens my faith in the existence of The All Wise Creator, and that we were created in different conditions so that we can help and get to know each other by and according to His will. I hope we can open up our hearts and be given the wisdom to see the good in everything that we experience, no matter how bad they are and act accordingly with the best of actions.

Keywords: Al Baqarah 216 life God Allah atheism

Monday, February 23, 2009

Night and day, a sign for the mindful

The normal cycle of a human being is to sleep/rest at night and work in the day. Scientifically, the phenomenon of the body’s cycle is explained by a term called the circadian rhythm, which was made popular by scientists in the early 20th century. It means an approximate daily periodicity, a roughly-24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living beings, including human beings. In simple words, what our body is supposed to do (rest or be active) at a given time.

The main factor that affects the circadian rhythm is the light accepted by a region in the brain (hypothalamus). However, the light that affects the circadian rhythm is highly specific (in wave length, intensity, and other attributes), and to no surprise, the corresponding attributes are found in no other than our own sun.

Allah the Almighty has said about this in The Qur’an in Surah (chapter) Yunuus verse 67:

Which can be approximately translated (according to Tafseer Al Jalalayn) as
“He it is Who made for you the night that you should rest therein, and the day to see. Surely in those are signs, indications of His Oneness, exalted be He, for folk who are able to hear (those who think deeply).”

Allah the Almighty has made it clear for us to use the night to rest, and the day to “see”. The word “see” here shows Allah’s define knowledge (revealed to our beloved Prophet nearly 1400 years ago) that it is indeed “light” that affects our cycle, similar to what has only been recently discovered using modern science. Note the precise manner in which Allah addressed this matter. 

The amazing transition of night to day

In my laboratory here in Japan, everyone works on an average of more than 10 hours a day. Some from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., some work shorter but there aren’t a few who work even longer. However, the majority stay disciplined and use the night for resting. This normal cycle doesn’t apply for everyone though, as there are some who prefer to work at night and sleep in the day. This actually reminds me of what I used to do in my undergraduate years, where I participated in events that sometimes went on until morning. At those times, I’d sleep in the morning, and get up at noon. To me, it felt terrible. I’d feel unfit and would need to chase things the whole day to adjust myself to the normal cycle of people around me.

Straying away from what’s natural (of what Allah has commanded), can lead to serious disorders. In the case of disregarding the natural cycle of night and day, one can experience disorders such as the circadian sleep disorder (results in insomnia or excessive sleepiness during the day), the delayed sleep phase syndrome (could only sleep after 2am), and others. 

There are so many phenomena around us that we overlook (and consider casual) due to our ignorance. The alteration of night and day is one of them. How the earth precisely rotates, how the distance between the earth and the sun stays that way, our body’s the circadian rhythm, and everything we can think of, are all proofs of the perfection in His creations. If we ponder and think about the creations, it will further increase our faith and belief in the Almighty creator.

Approximate meaning (Yusuf Ali translation):
“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding (Ali Imran 190)”

May we all be given the awareness and wisdom to ponder on all the blessings that Allah has given to us, no matter how “small” or “casual” they may seem.

Keywords: circadian rhythm, science, scientific, Ali Imran 190, Yunuus 67, night, day, Qur'an

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rivalry in achieving false success

In our so called modern civilization, almost in all societies, success and happiness is measured with how secure someone is financially. Even school and education are directed towards being “financially secure”, where the end product is to be able to gain a good job with a high paid salary. This of course ruins the true purpose of why one should receive education in the first place. When someone has a large paycheck and trillions of currency in their bank, people will unanimously say that he/she is successful.

The quest to achieve this kind of success has become a rivalry among people. People compete with each other to be most “successful” disregarding all the consequences. People compete with each other to get the highest pleasure/joy this world has to offer by buying all the luxurious things that they can buy. Beautiful clothes, big houses, exotic cars, antique glassware, Rolex watches, the highest/most expensive education, and everything else that can make them look the most “successful”.

The traps seducing us to drag ourselves to adopt the same attitude (to reach for this kind of success) is empowered by almost everything around us. Everywhere we look, there are always temptations. We’re seduced by the soap operas on the TV, the ads and articles about these “successful people” in magazines, the billboards using these “successful people” as if they are heroes, etc. For Muslims, this is something we need to beware of, as it’s one of satan’s trick to misguide the majority of humanity.

Devine words from Allah in the Quran has stated the danger of getting carried away in the rivalry to gain this kind of false success, including the piling up of riches, in Suraah (chapter) At Takaathur.

This has approximate meaning (according to Yusuf Ali’s translation) as the following:
1. The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things/obedience to Allah),
2. Until you visit the graves.
3. But nay, you soon shall know (the reality).
4. Again, you soon shall know!
5. Nay, were you to know with certainty of mind, (you would beware!)
6. You shall certainly see Hell-Fire!
7. Again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!
8. Then, shall you be questioned that Day about the joy (you indulged in!).

For Muslims, the surah is a serious warning about being indulged in the competition and rivalry to enjoy the joys of this world. In this surah, Allah repeatedly reminds us (emphasizing) on the danger of striving to achieve the “false successes” that this world has to offer. This warning is not on things that are forbidden (haram), but rather on the halal things, which have the potency to make us forget about our real purpose (which is to worship Allah and do righteous deeds). If the basis of all that we work for is only to achieve this kind of false success, we will indeed be the losers in the end. Everyone, even the ones who have doubt will be certain about this matter at the time their dead bodies are taken to the graves, the moment where their short lives end.

True success cannot be achieved through collecting riches. It can never be achieved, as it is in human's nature to never be satisfied and always want better things than what he owns. True success can only be achieved when a human being bases his actions on what he/she is supposed to do, which is to do righteous deeds and prevent evil. This world is full of traps and tricks that attempt to corrupt our true nature (as noble beings), and that is why we all need to equip ourselves to protect our nobility.

May Allah protect us all from all the evil that this world has to offer.

Keywords: At takaathur, human nature, Satan, life, rich, poor, islam, happiness, success