10 Pictures that Just Make you Feel Great to be Alive

Being a person sucks sometimes. We all need a reminder every once is a while that there are good people in the world. When times are tough, when the chips are down, good people come through.

Who do you know that’s done something extraordinary for humanity? Add these folks to the list.

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Reflection & Knowledge

When we want to speak about reflection and how it serves man in his intellectual Islamic life on his journey to seek a close proximity to Allah s.w.t, we find that it is heavily emphasized within the Holy Qur’an’s teachings.

Let us ponder over this verse one moment:

الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللّهَ قِيَامًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىَ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ

“Those whom are [in a state of] remembering Allah s.w [while] standing up, sitting down or on their sides, reflecting over the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying] Oh our Lord, you did not create all this in vain, Glory be to you! Grant us salvation from the Fire.” Al-Imran [3:191]

Reflection can be defined as a calm state of careful and intended consideration of something where one is not unconscious towards the respective subject of reflection, but conscious of its presence and pondering over its very essence to discover more about it.

Spirituality in the parameters of Islamic teachings is not a state of unconsciousness similar to that of toxicity of sleep based on imagination and fantasy, on the contrary a Muslim is one whose vision is sharp and looks to pierce the reality of things even further.

It is the mind that Allah s.w.t has given us as a means and a tool to drawing closer to Him, as it is the mind of man that has made him distinguished from the rest of Allah s.w.t creation with its ability to pierce the internals of things and understand their inner workings, and not only the apparent surface of things. It is through man’s mind he can unveil the hidden secrets of existence without being restricted by time and space, breaking all material boundaries. It is also through man’s mind Allah s.w.t is known and worshipped.

So thinking is the key to this…

الإمامُ عليٌّ (عَلَيهِ الّسَلامُ): مَن أكثَرَ الفِكرَ فيما تَعَلَّمَ أتقَنَ عِلمَهُ، وفَهِمَ ما لم يَكُن يَفهَمُ.

Imam Ali (AS) said, ‘Whoever increases his thinking in whatever he learns, his knowledge will become proficient, and he will come to understand whatever he did not understand before.’ [Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 8917]

The Holy Qur’an has been revealed to man to define the methods for a believers thinking and reflection so that faith may not be blind.

It nurtures the human mind to be bestowed a faith, based on the grounds of reflection and convictive conclusions that are based on open mindedness and sound thought, nurturing it to be the most robust it can be.

In Islam, man does not need to look into the books of philosophy, but rather look into the book of the universe (The Holy Qur’an) and reflect over it in our existence to witness that there is an all-encompassing intelligence that is governing the whole universe and that He is grand in his countenance and presence.

The Holy Qur’an was also revealed for the purpose of nurturing man’s thought to rise to the level of opening up to Allah s.w.t and to be able to gain what it may understand of Him. Man is not able to understand the essence of Allah s.w.t as His essence is not in the realms of sensory experience or experimentation, but man can understand Him regarding what he has revealed about Himself and by reflecting over his actions in creation.

سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

“We shall certainly show them our signs in the [vast] horizons and in their souls until it becomes unveiled that He is the [ultimate] Truth, is it not enough that your Lord is a [all encompassing] witness over all things?”[Fussilat [41:53]]

The method of Islam, gave man the freedom of thought which was not granted to the rest of man’s limbs, for they were instructed to move within their prescribed limits, such as what man sees, what he hears or the way he uses his hands and feet or any of the bodies instruments is limited, except the mind, that was given utter freedom in what it may think and reflect over.

The mind of man was not created with tight restrictions like the external faculties which are restricted physically where they may go, for when we read the Holy Qur’an the mind travels the whole universe without any restriction what so ever…

Allah s.w.t told the mind to be free in what it thinks, think of Allah s.w.t, think of what the others may say and what they don’t say, but you are accountable to what you may think in the sense that what you think about must be on the path of that what is going to give you conclusive outcomes that make you reach the Truth, for in the hereafter man’s mind will be put to account before his limbs.

وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً

“And never concern thyself with anything of which you have no knowledge of: verily, [thy] hearing and sight and heart – all of them – will be called to account for it [on Judgment Day]!” [al-Isra’17:36]

الإمام الحسن المجتبى(عليه السلام): عجبت لمن يتفكر في مأكوله، كيف لا يتفكر في معقوله، فيجنب بطنه ما يؤذيه، ويودع صدره ما يرديه

Imam Hassan (a) said:”I wonder those who think about their body’s food, but do not think about their soul’s food. They keep away disturbing food from their belly, but fill up their heart with destructive subjects.” [Safeenatul Bihar Ch.2 page 84]

Passiveness has no place in Islam, as Islam is rigid in its composition and infinite in the vastness of its discoveries. One must be attentive as indicated by this hadith :

إمام علي ع قال: ألا لا خير في علم ليس فيه تفهّم .. ألا لا خير في قراءة ليس فيها تدبّر .. ألا لا خير في عبادة ليس فيها تفقّه.

Imam Ali (a) says: “Surely there is no goodness in learning if there is no understanding, surely there is no good in reading without there being any reflection, surely there is no good in worship if there is no depth of its laws”[Jawahir al Bihar Ch. 49]

Also Allah s.w.t mentions in the Holy Quran:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَطِيعُواْ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْاْ عَنْهُ وَأَنتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ* وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ* إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِندَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ* وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لأَسْمَعَهُمْ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّواْ وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ

“O you who have attained to faith, pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not turn away from Him now that you hear [His message]; * and be not like those who say, “We have heard”, the while they do not hear. * Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason. * For, if God had seen any good in them, He would certainly have made them hear: but [as it is,] even if He had made them hear, they would surely have turned away in their stubbornness. “ [Al-Anfal 23-20]

We will certainly be punished for not reflected and using our abilities to discover the truth:

وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لاَّ يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لاَّ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لاَّ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا أُوْلَـئِكَ كَالأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ أُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ

“And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle -nay, they are even less conscious of the right way: it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless!”[al-A’raf 7:179]

The higher levels:

It is only through reflecting over knowledge of Allah s.w.t, that is manifested in everything, that we can reach the higher worlds that are invisible to the human eye, but are visible to the eye of the heart and mind.

The invisible is what manifests itself into the visible, for example, our souls are manifested into our bodies and the souls of other creatures into the material body.

Knowledge itself is invisible but is manifest and acting all around us.

This draws the conclusion that the invisible is more profound than the visible (even secular models teach this) and material, for it is the invisible that animates the material.

This can also be applied to the relationship between the creation and Allah s.w.t, which is the hidden secret to all that is manifest, but has made Himself known to us through it.

If one ponders deep into his soul and discover it, then after look into its kernel, then into the kernel of the kernel, will witness the countenance of His grand Lord at work…

The mind and heart of man are tools for traversing the vast horizons of Allah s.w.t through reflection and thought.

Is it a wonder that it has been made an obligation upon us to gain it?

رسولُ اللهِ (صَلَّيَ اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَ آلِهِ): طَلَبُ العِلمِ فَريضَةٌ عَلى كُلِّ مُسلِمٍ

The Prophet (SAWA) said, ‘The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim [Amali al-Tusi, p. 488, no. 1069]

And there is no strength except In Allah and peace be upon those whom follow the guidance…

ولا قوّة إلا بالله والسلام على من اتبع الهدى

Live and Let Live

The objective of the video, according to The Honesty Policy is “to show the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.”

Fortunately, it seems to have had its intended effect, going viral on social media, and being picked up by both the Independent and Huffington Post reporting it as a good news story about Muslims – something rare in today’s sensationalist, headline-seeking, “bad news sells” media landscape.

Whilst this may be seen as a good thing by most, unfortunately, some have come out as less than pleased with the video. The reservations boil down to two broad themes:

Impermissibility: the usage of Muslim women (in particular those who identify as Muslims by wearing a headscarf – “hijabis”) dancing to music e.g. Facebook posts “We complain about the state of Muslims, but we don’t see a problem with Muslims, especially sisters dancing to a song by an artist who has music videos sexually exploiting women?”

Capitulation to Western culture: attacks on the necessity of Muslims to making a video of singing and dancing, to show others they are happy and normal e.g. a blog entitled: I’m a British Muslim, and I don’t need to sing and dance to show I’m happy.

The proponents of the above themes of course have a right to their point of view but these analyses seem to overlook the fact is that “not everyone is like you”:

Legality in Islamic law is not monolithic: whether or not one individual considers this to be impermissible (which is their right), many others do not – in fact, this video explicitly includes a fantastic scene with renowned mainstream scholar Abdul Hakim Murad (aka T J Winters). The reality is that there are many different opinions on music and it is not a black-and-white issue. Whilst some might claim that those in the video were selling out their principles – for many of them, it very much was in line with their principles!

Everyone expresses themselves differently: whilst this may not represent how everyone expresses their happiness, for many it does. In a similar way to how some Christians who have lived in the Middle East, may have adopted the local culture, some British Muslims may have adopted a culture as their own here. For them, it is not a foreign culture – it is their culture!

Videos such as these have the greatest potential to influence others: with such a negative stereotype of Muslims in the press, using social media to show a good news story has the potential to counter the prevailing tide of negativity and influence the wider public. Other more fitting stories e.g. the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, where unsung Muslim heroes are celebrated and where the Prime Minister attended just do not get this kind of press coverage. In an ideal world we would not have to “show” anyone that we are happy and by doing this, we are not “proving” that we are. But we do have to try that little bit harder than others [whilst not selling out on our principles] given the cold truth – that we have a bad reputation!

In the end, just because one individual does not need or want to dance to show they are happy; and just because that individual does not want to use the media in this way to influence the wider public, that is the individual’s right – but as for me, I put myself firmly on the other side of the debate.

Failure of feminism in the Muslim community

The Muslim community seems to be decades behind British society in the treatment of women1 with feminism (see below) not yet permeating our mosques and community centres. Independently of whether this is a good or bad thing, the question is why? In my personal view, it is due to Islam and Muslims.

Firstly, Islam – or the mainstream interpretation of Islam – is naturally conservative. It is most closely understood as being supportive of “traditional family values”. Major scholars from all schools of thought, are united in their belief that men are and should be the financial breadwinners; men are and should be the natural leaders and men are and should be the interpreters of the law. At the same time, it is women who must be available to their husbands; it is women who must cover their bodies and it is women who must be segregated from the rest of the society (unless there is a reason not to). In this climate, is there much reason to expect a different outcome?

There are some who are challenging the status quo – and are referred to derogatorily as “progressives”, “liberals” or “reformists”. Whatever the label, it is of utmost importance that any such discussion is done:

In a holistic manner: women’s rights cannot be discussed without discussing responsibilities e.g. if one were to argue for the rights of women to have a career and not be at the husband’s beck and call, this cannot be done without also considering financial responsibility of women in a family setting.
With due deference to those with differences of opinion: in any culture or religion, major scholars live(d) in societies which are very different to our own. It is not fair to blame them for not seeing the world in the way that the progressives of today do!

Secondly, we come to Muslims. Regardless of religious viewpoint, even the most conservative believers would find it hard pressed to justify the misogyny and idiocy that fills many of our religious institutions. For example, the space for women in mosques is always worse than that of men; many institutions do not even allow a space for women at Jum’a or Eid prayers; and women’s views are rarely taken into account in mosque decision-making (other than areas which are solely to do with women)2. Naming all the injustices that are done to the mothers, sisters and daughters of our community, would take forever. So why are Muslim institutions (as a whole) getting away with this type of nonsensical and unjustifiable misogyny? In my view, there are three key reasons:

Old people: Those who run our institutions, are in general, the older generation, who primarily are immigrants and have brought their patriarchal culture with them – this is very difficult to change, other than by democratising our mosques, and allowing a greater say to all.

Men: If you are in a position of power or superiority, there is little reason to fight to give that up, whether or not you think it is right. Just put yourself in the position of the men in the marriage process – would you prefer to have a situation where the society supports your freedoms and does not judge you? Self-interest drives societies, and from a pure political perspective, it is not in men’s interest, to drive the feminist agenda. To change this, must be done by aligning all our interests in a collaborative manner where possible, building coalitions rather than being antagonistic and always wanting a fight!

Women: A significant proportion of those who want change are women who have experienced the discrimination, whether directly or indirectly; whether intentionally or unintentionally; and whether at a small or large scale. Yet how many actually do anything about it or support those who do? In reality, who are the ones who put down those who speak up?

We can all talk about how society is at fault for not providing the space for this debate, and to an extent this is true – but really? Why not create the space? Did Bibi Fatima (AS) stay silent as her rights were ignored, whilst living in the most ignorant of all societies? The response is often – “but what will people say” (in a whingeing tone, and most often worrying about marriage). Grow up people! If you believe in this cause, then “won’t somebody please think of the children” and the next generation? Who will be the role models: will it be those who sat on the side; or those who did something? Did the Suffragettes make the change in the Western world without sacrifice?3

For those who believe in a more equal society, there are three key principles:

Be strategic, build coalitions and understand politics: work differently and appropriately on the levels highlighted above, building an argument based on the audience’s specific issues; and do so in a sensible manner, not alienating those who support your cause!

Pick your battles and do not fight irrelevant points when the broader narrative is being written. In the last week when discussing similar topics, I have seen women ignorantly referred to as “females”, “womenfolk” and “the female gender”. This complete ignorance as to suitable language, is an important issue but the right response is not to get mad at anyone who says “men/women” and insist on using terminology like “wo/men” to ensure women are put first. This kind of nonsensical behaviour (although hilariously funny) just undermines the cause that is being fought

Do something about it and be ready to sacrifice: when there is change, there is inertia and opposition to change. Without people willing to stand up and take the expected abuse, society will not move forward. I am not saying that we need a sacrificial lamb (or ewe lamb!) but we have to realise the necessity of sacrifice and abuse; and therefore, the requirement for this to be a collaborative effort with mutual support to mitigate this as much as is reasonable / possible.

And really, we cannot sit back and let this continue. We have to all identify where there is patriarchy and misogyny, and strategically do something about it, not only to solve the issues of today but also for the longer term.

(1) Personally, I think that this statement itself is relatively patronising, as it is talking about treatment of women, considering women to be the “other”. The reality, however, is that given the men run the mosques, the “treatment of women” seems to be the only statement that captures the idea I am trying to address

(2) There are so many institutions who still do not provide a vote for women, or do so in a ridiculous way – I can’t believe that this still happens in the 21st century, and nobody seems to care!

(3) I know that this is a simplification to some extent, and ignores the strides being made in the community. I know also that there are other causes I have not mentioned but I genuinely consider these to be the biggest reasons.

Note the first paragraph has been edited: it used to say “Western values” but that was not the intention.