History Will Judge Us

Yes, we must, indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

 Benjamin Franklin

Our country is at crossroads. Today our people are fighting for their own survival and identity as they are scattered all over the world in search for a better life and opportunities. Back at home, our people are struggling to keep ends meet despite all the chaos, political infighting and economic hardships which at the moment seems eternal to them. Most of them feel like they are in a vicious circle that never ends. This feeling has caused a widespread desperation and pessimism among the general public and as a result of that many of them are on the verge of resigning to this fate if not already.

This anarchy and pessimism is caused by many forces/groups who are pulling our country in different directions. They are luring and indoctrinating people with divisive and extremist ideologies. They are self-serving and have no regard whatsoever for the disintegration of our country and the suffering of our people. The voices of these groups are the ones that are loudest and being heard everyday.

From the devout single mother in Mogadishu who goes to the Bakara market to sell tea and samosas despite the imminent danger to her life, to the fruit picker in Afgooye have one thing in common: The only thing that crosses their mind is how to survive and feed their children. Both of them want to secure a better life and future for their children. They are not concerned with politics and divisive ideologies.

I believe that we don’t have to resign to this fate and lose hope. We have to be resilient and know with great conviction that although we may take different paths in life but that our destinies are linked together and that our final destination is the same. We have to use our collective minds and instill in our selves the value of community spirit.

The only way that I think we can come out of this predicament is when we first and foremost give our devotion and love to Allah. When we withdraw our allegiances from the self-serving groups and individuals and give it to our country. When we love, respect and help each other. When we realize that together we can rise and overcome our challenges. When we give our love and devotion to our country and become real patriots then it will be difficult if not impossible for our enemies and divisive groups to exploit our differences. However, being a real patriot doesn’t mean that we should become ethnocentric. We  should all love and respect humanity.

We have to let go of the past and forgive each other. We have to shutter the chains of tribalism, hatred and nepotism. We have to work together and embrace the future & its endless possibilities. We need to do better than the previous generations because if we fail, the next generation will look back at this era and say our forefathers failed us.

Finally, we have to realize that each country on earth has its own unique characteristics. We cannot just copy or import other systems and formulas that have worked in other countries to solve our problems. What we need to do is to seek and find an indigenous formula that helps us to solve  our problems. `

Ignorance Is Not A Bliss

Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”

– Quran 39:9

The first divine verse Allah has revealed to prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was Iqra which means “read”. This gesture truly indicates the importance God has given to education/knowledge. The benefits of education are numerous as it plays an indispensable role in life and greatly contributes to the development of individuals and nations. Education creates employment, improves living standards, reduces chronic poverty and preventable diseases.  It unlocks the human mind as it spurs creativity, imagination and innovation. Similarly it leads to critical thinking and reasoning. When people are educated, they are hopeful and are socially & politically aware. They cannot be easily misguided, manipulated or exploited. On the other hand, when people are uneducated, their social mobility is limited and they have fewer choices in life.

Education is the gateway to society’s development and growth. The more a country’s citizens are educated the more chances that country will have to grow and develop economically, socially, culturally and technologically. Japan barely has any natural resources, yet in the 1960’s and 1970’s its economic growth was averaging nearly 8%. This is a true testament to the value of education which is a human capital.

In the 21 century, the future belongs to those who heavily invest in education since we are now transitioning to a knowledge-based economy where education is of paramount importance. That is why it is now more imperative than ever to invest more time, energy and money on education. Governments should invest heavily on education and make education one of its main priorities. Education is a precious gift. I believe that it is in our nature/DNA to share things. When we receive a good news we can’t wait to share it with someone else. Likewise, education is a glad-tidings and therefore it should be shared. We should not just expect or demand from the public and private education institutions to educate people as we know that governments cannot solve all the problems that exist in society and cannot also educate every single citizen. Hence,  we should all embrace the spirit of volunteerism . Every educated individual should strive to share his/her knowledge and try to educate the unlearned ones.

Ironically there is this wide-spread believe that only through teachers one can truly get full education and knowledge. Of course the primary role of a teacher is to disseminate knowledge to students. However, we have to realize that our teachers cannot teach us everything specially when there are many other students sharing the class with us. You have to take the initiative and educate your self. You have to realize that your teacher is just there to guide you.

Education is a long-term project. It is challenging and time-consuming. You need to have patience,perseverance and determination to successfully gain your desired level of education. To those who want[ed] to study but found it difficult can I hope get inspiration and courage  from the following classical examples. A man  once found studies to be extremely tough. He lost his will and confidence and decided to go back to his home town. On his way back he saw a well on the other side of the road.  To his astonishment he saw how constantly drawing water  from the well makes the soft rope cut the hard stone. Then by getting encouragement from what he just witnessed said to himself:if this soft rope can cut the stone, why shouldn’t I also master my studies.” Suddenly he decided to go back convinced that he will finish his studies. This man was none other than  the great Islamic scholar, Ibnu Hajar Al-Asqalani.

Always remember that nothing in life is impossible when heart and mind is put into it. In the words of the great inventor, Thomas Edison,” Every time I failed, I was one step closer to success.

Products of Nature & Nurture

When we are young, our mind is fresh and our heart bold. We are full of dreams and hopes. We are full of  imaginations and curiosity.We are also free of biases and prejudices. We feel like we can do and achieve everything  that we set our minds on. We are not afraid of failure and see no limits to all the things that we can achieve.

 As we grow up, the people, experiences and the surroundings around us start effecting and influencing us. They start shaping our thoughts and perceptions about many things in life. Parents who are the first circle of trust for children are the ones that have the greatest impact on our way of thinking and seeing life. They instill in us many basic values such as speaking of the truth, justice, what is right and wrong and how to behave in certain occasions. They give us a sense of direction in life as they at this moment are our first role models. We also have to bear in mind that at this stage children are the most observant. They may forget many things as time passes by but still traces of many events and experiences will remain in their subconscious.

Whether it is negative or positive, it is this framework of mind and thought process generated through nature and nurture that shapes our attitude and outlook of life. Clearly parents have a major influence on their children. Many studies have recently shown that children who are brought up in healthy and stable environments are more likely to lead a happy and balanced life.

On the other hand, children who are brought up in a dysfunctional family where the environment is poisonous suffer from many psychological problems. Imagine you are growing up in a home where you don’t have a role model and you are constantly ridiculed and belittled. You are always criticized and told you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Of course, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how all this negative and unhealthy environment will greatly effect your attitude.The chances are that you will start to believe all this nonsense and register them in your head. Your confidence and morale will take a direct hit and as a result you will grow up convinced or at least thinking that you are good for nothing. That is why it is imperative that parents/guardians make sure their children grow up in a healthy environment.

I have been lately observing and hearing about a rising trend in our society which I strongly believe is counter-productive. I see a lot of young students who are enrolled in subjects which are not of their own choosing. They have no interest and passion for studying those subjects and yet they keep going to classes and feel miserable. When you ask them why are you studying these particular subjects if you don’t like them? Their answer is always the same: Parents told us or insisted that we do this. I know parents have at heart the best interest of their children as they want their children to be successful one day. At the same time it is important that parents let their sons and daughters pursue their own dreams and aspirations. Instead of sitting on the driving seat, parents should take the passenger seat and let their children become the drivers of their own dreams and aspirations.

There are many difficult circumstances and challenges in life. You will have your share of set backs and disappointments. You will come across naysayers,pessimists and people who want to put you down. The best way to ride the storm is to always remember who you really are. Have faith and confidence in yourself . Have patience,perseverance and never lose hope. Surely the dark clouds above will pass.

The Role Of Women In Society: Part-1

                 “Give me good mothers and I will give you a good nation.”

 –Napoleon Bonaparte

There have been dramatic changes taking place in the world for the last few decades. This sudden change has had and is still having  major effects on all spheres of life, be it political, social or economic. Globalization has changed and transformed the world as we know it. Advances in transportation and communications technology has decreased the distances between continents. Borders between nations are now just lines on a map. Similarly cultural and social barriers are blurring. The world is now more open and more integrated than  any other  time of humanity’s history. We are now living in a global village where everyone and everything is connected.

This process of integration and openness has had unprecedented positive impacts on many areas. As borders opened up and barriers to trade and investment decreased, new industries were created. Innovation and employment soared. Similarly, millions of people came out of poverty. In a nutshell, globalization has transformed the fate and destiny of many nations on earth. On the other hand, globalization has also redefined the fabric of society and its values. Now more than ever, the age old question of: what is the role of women in society is reemerging and becoming more relevant than ever.

The role of women in society is an integral one. They are the glue that holds society together. They are of such unparalleled   importance that Allah has named them after a whole Sura in the Quran: Sura Al-Nisa. Almighty Allah has endowed dignified position and honor of highest pinnacle on women. Islam has ensured the rights of women in the Quran. While giving the responsibility of the maintenance of the wife and children on the husband, Allah has given women the right to education, inherit property from husbands, parents and next of kin. Allah has also given them the right to marry and remarry. The right to ask for divorce if there is mistreatment in the union. They are also given the right to own property, and manage their own business.

Additionally, the character of Muslim men is also judged based on how they treat their women as the hadith says: “ the best from among you is one who behaves best towards his wife.” Contrary to the mistaken beliefs of some people, this is how Islam treats and respects women.

Women are given the special ability to bear children and nurture them. Because of this unique ability that women have, they are direct contributors to the building of the nation and the advancement of society. That is why Napoleon Bonaparte, arguably one of the greatest generals in history once said “Give me good mothers and I will give you a good nation.” Women also play a major role in times of crises and war. They act as mediators and bridge the gap between opposing sides since they are known for their impartiality and smart political maneuvering.

As human beings we have the tendency to forget things very quickly and specially in times of mind-boggling changes as it is very easy to lose perspective on things. It is true that many of the traditional values are challenged and women are taking on different roles these days. This should not cause any alarm. In the words of Charles Darwin it is not the strongest, or the smartest but the most responsive to change that survives.” We are in a period of great transformations.  What we need to do is to adapt to the changes that are taking place in the world while at the same time hanging on and staying true to our faith, values and traditions.

The Value of Faith,Unity & Trust

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

In pre-modern times, human beings used to live in scattered places and they were dispersed  all over the world. Oblivious of the existence of other societies living in far away lands, each community was living in isolation from each other. Of course this isolated way of living made sense at the time since resources were scarce and hostile groups could strike any time. By living this way they thought that they were protected. Contrary to their belief, their way of life caused various problems for them. They became easy prey, prone to constant attacks by hostile forces as well as wild animals.

Later on people realized the strength in living collectively and that they were safer living in close proximity to each other as that increased their chances of survival and calls for reinforcements.The value of unity to society/nation is not something that is being realized and appreciated now, it actually goes back many generations-maybe it goes back to the beginning of time.

Unity is an integral pillar that keeps people and nations cohesive. A nation that is not united is vulnerable to many forces. It can be easily manipulated and destabilized  by outside forces. Divided they can be easily disintegrated and played against each other. United they are strong and become a force that has to be reckoned with. There is a Somali proverb that says: “ Ilko wadajir bey wax ku gooyaan” literally translated it goes like this: “together the teeth can cut“. The moral of this proverb is that “unity is power”.

Nothing in life is steady. It is like a roller coaster. It has many highs and lows. Through the chaos and unpredictability of life the one thing that can save a person is faith. An individual that doesn’t have faith in something that is greater than him/her can’t simply function effectively. He/she may go with the follow in rosy times but when hard times come – and surely they will, that person will surely crumble emotionally.

True tests in life only come in challenging times. That is when you are emotionally challenged. That is when doubt creeps in your head and your judgment is clouded. You are outside your comfort zone. you are in an unfamiliar territory. At that moment uncertainty becomes the only constant in your life. This is the moment you come to grips with the frailty of being a mortal being. You realize that you can’t find answers and solutions for all the things that you seek to understand and solve.

Hence, this is the moment when faith in a higher power most likely comes to your rescue. If you are a person with faith you will have a better chance of tackling your problems in a balanced manner. You will be more resilient and be in a better position emotionally to manage the situation. You will be able to give your best shot at things and accept your limitations. Even if things don’t go according to your plan you will at least be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Trust also plays a major role in the development of a society. When people have trust in each other, in their leaders and in the system the society becomes more stable. I know trust is an intricate concept as it doesn’t automatically come to us. Like all other things in life, it needs balance and constant fine-tuning. Trust is not just given, it has to be earned. When individuals trust each other, communication becomes effective and straight forward. Similarly, when there is a mutual trust between couples, they tend to understand and cooperate with each other more and as result of that enjoy a healthy relationship.

A dear friend of mine once told me that “your personality is 50% of who you really are and the other 50% is what people think of you”. Today we are in an era where perception is everything. People judge you before they even set an eye on you. If your business and dealings are not honest and are perceived as not trustworthy then you simply lose face and get relegated to the recycle bin of history.Trust is a great facilitator of things. Where there is no trust, there is cynicism. Therefore, we should  try to trust but always trust with care!

The Power of Balance

” We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and    wish for what we had.”

-Don Draper

If you carefully observe  the earth, heavens and the surroundings in which you live in , you will immediately realize that everything around you is in order and is functioning according to a pre-determined natural order. What may seem chaotic in the beginning may actually be part of a more balanced grand scheme.

Almighty Allah has created everything on earth in opposite pairs so that balance can be maintained . Male-female, day and night, life and death. We may think they are different things but in reality they are all the two sides of the same coin since the existence of one gives value to the existence of the other. We value life and cling on to it because of death. How can you realize the value of light if you haven’t experienced darkness?

There are many things which are good for human beings but if used in excessive manner they all become harmful to us. For instance, when thirsty one must drink water .There is only that much amount of water you need to drink in order to quench your thirsty. If you exceed that level then you know that it will feel weird in your stomach and it is likely that you will throw up as a result. Similarly, death is part of life. If everything was immortal then earth would have been overpopulated and natural resources overburdened and finally drained therefore there has to be death in order to maintain the balance, avoid chaos & destruction and continue the cycle of life.

Every religion understands and appreciates the value of balance. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran: “But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” Surat Al-Qasas{28:77}

In this Ayat you can clearly see the balance that Allah is talking about. He is saying that we should worship him and do good deeds in order to deserve heaven in the hereafter which is the eternal home yet we should never forget about our share in this world since we are his vicegerents on earth and have a responsibility. yet, I always encounter many people who strongly believe that this world is not for them and is a world that is made for the unbelievers.

In order to protect the balance of power Allah has ensured that there will be no one supreme power on earth since it will lead to tyranny, oppression and injustice on earth. Through out history there hasn’t been one single supreme power!. When the Roman Empire was at it’s peak there was the Persian Empire which challenged their authority. Today the U.S is the undisputed Hyperpower in the world but it’s power is not limitless as there are other powerful nations such as China and Russia who limit its movements.

Balance is an integral part of nature but it is one of the most challenging things to achieve. A wise man who was a taxi driver once said to me that” human beings are never truly happy with any state of their lives “.I believe his expression was a true reflection of the moods of our times. Everyone wants more than they already have. We are advised to never be soft but instead be kind. What defines us as human beings is our ability to express our emotions yet being very emotional clouds our judgments and perspective on things. We are also encouraged to be generous but never be frugal. The list is unending but one thing is clear from these statements.

It is obvious now that the key to solving all the above paradoxes is ‘balance’. I think the reason we are facing so many challenges these days is because we have lost our perspective on the power of balance. We should all embrace the spirit in the power of balance. We should all strive to achieve balance in our thoughts and actions because a balanced life is life well lived.

Standing Up For What is Right

“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice

-MLK Jr.

Whenever I watch the news or read newspapers I can’t help but wonder why there are so many negative things happening in our society.Cultural, ethnic and religious clashes are on the rise while intolerance is spreading like a wild-fire across the world. These trends are motivated mainly by ethnocentrism, hatred and fear of unfamiliar practices & believes of others.

We know that some of these issues are just preposterous and plain rubbish. They are fabricated and used for propaganda by our enemies and critics in order to discredit us and  spread negative perceptions about us. For instance, some people  see cases of abuses against women in a Muslim country. Immediately they conclude that Islam doesn’t give rights to women.  The fact is, there is a difference between what the religion of Islam advocates for and what some people do and practice because of their culture.

However, there are also some issues which are real and need to be addressed carefully. It is a widely accepted fact that our religion is being hijacked by a few misguided and ignorant minority who think that they are our only saviors, know the path to salvation and  what is good for us. Since they believe that they are the rightly guided ones no one is supposed to disagree with their tactics and question their judgment. They  use every tool and  means in their power to achieve their goals and  even mostly justify the killings of innocent people by saying it is for “the greater good”. Those who dare to go against them are simply assassinated or branded as “traitors of Islam”.

They condemn and judge before preaching and seeking the truth. Instead of listening and seeking consensus they impose and rule by force. They alienate any one they see as an outsider and alien to their culture. They gave themselves the right to excommunicate anyone whose ideas does not resemble theirs, blatantly ignoring the Islamic doctrine that says no Muslim  has the authority to question whether someone “is a proper Muslim” .

What disturbs me the most is that our intellectuals and individuals of high influence in our society are scared of speaking up and standing up for what is right and just. Hence, the voice of knowledge and wisdom is silenced and overshadowed by the ignorant and this is the main reason why we are seen as fanatics and extremists by the outside world because the only voice that is emanating from our society is the one of the ignorant.

Since this is our situation, our enemies and critics have capitalized on it and are using it against us and that is how they always intervene and meddle in our affairs.

Now you might think that we  are in a dire situation where we have to choose between the lesser of two evils: weak and corrupt governments or radical and merciless lunatics with distorted believes. I strongly believe that there is another alternative to the above mentioned scenarios. What we need to do is to take matters into our own hands. We need to speak up and always make clear to the world what we stand for and never let any one or any group hijack our faith and our values.What we also need to do is to collectively be on the right and just side of history. We need to eliminate our fears and always be ready to stand up for the truth  even if it means putting our lives in danger. The day we become bystanders and don’t go against oppression and injustice is the day we stop being  moral beings.