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What makes a Pakistani male “manly”?

Being a man isn’t just about masculinity

Published: September 17, 2016

It is generally seen as okay for a man to speak loudly or even yell or curse. Even in the most seemingly progressive families, girls are often told not to talk or laugh loudly. PHOTO: RANGIZZZ/SHUTTERSTOCK

“But that’s how we guys are.”

Is a common response when a woman asks a man about a few traits and attitudes that are seen as manly and macho.

While walking on a street near you, in a mall, or even when couples enter weddings – a familiar scenario ensues. The husband can be seen walking a few steps ahead of the wife for sure, and the wife trudging behind him, adjusting her ensemble, trying to catch up.

For Pakistani males, Def Leppard’s classic Two Steps Behind You is too mushy I’m sure. It is seen as some mark of masculinity to walk at least two steps ahead, if not four.

In our society, or maybe that is how it is all over the world, a few things are seen as ‘guy things.’

For example, the obscene joke sharing. It seems that there is an unsaid rule that in order to classify as a man, you absolutely must share lame and cheap jokes, and video clips and photographs of women in awkward or objectionable poses. Whatever one shares amongst friends is the personal business of each individual. But what is worrisome is how this is seen as a sign of masculinity. Such stereotypes are so etched in our social fabric that we are conditioned to think this is what makes a guy a ‘man.’

Ever seen prime time dramas on Pakistani television channels? They all seem to imply that it is some signature symptom of manliness for men to have affairs, cheat on the wife, and have physical needs, while a good, demure woman is stereotyped as a prudish character who is always shy and playing hard to get.

It is generally seen as okay for a man to speak loudly or even yell or curse. Even in the most seemingly progressive families, girls are often told not to talk or laugh loudly.

It is the men who are supposed to drive the car even if the wife or sister is the better driver or even if the poor husband or brother is exhausted after a long day at work. It is encouraging, actually, when one meets a man who is man enough to say “I don’t enjoy driving” if he doesn’t. But mostly they are unable to voice it, just like it is not easy for a woman to say she does not enjoy cooking.

Women themselves are participants in the act of perpetuating these stereotypes.

They feel sympathy for their sons or brothers if they help the wife with carrying the baby,change the baby’s diapers, or God forbids take paternal leave. Helping in the kitchen is something real men, of course, don’t do.

This conventionalising is not always in favour of men, and is not always healthy. Consider the economic arena.

In this age of inflation and consumerism, one salary is often not enough to support a family. With more and more women joining the work force in Pakistan, both can spend on the collective household. But gender stereotyping ends up pushing both males and females in pigeonholes of rigidly defined roles. The man ends up not helping the woman in the kitchen and housework even if she is also an earning member of the family. Similarly, even if he does end up lending a hand at home, many working women confess to feeling a pinch inside when they have to spend on their families. The feeling is best described as being made to do something they are not supposed to be doing.

Man-kind has not really progressed that much, has it, when the marks of manliness are not values like strength, courage and honesty, but instead driving a sports car, riding a massive motorbike in boots, or smoking a cigarette in public.

There are some inherent traits and tilts that are natural to both the genders. Some of these are natural. But others are not. They are just by-products of being exposed to certain socio-cultural habits of a nation.

For those who are the strongest of men, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to push their boundaries and challenge these norms by walking behind the wife or speaking softly and let the woman in your life have the last word. Being a man takes more than that.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

Don’t give up hope – Caring for the elderly

Farhanaz Zahidi September 11, 2016

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/dont-give-hope/#.V9_ShvkrLIV

 

geriatric-care

As people age, what can we do to improve their quality of life?
“With the bam of a motorcycle I suddenly became the head of the family,” says Junaid Ahmed Qazi. While caring for the elderly is seen primarily as something that women are expected do, Qazi is defying the norms because life left him no choice. As an only child, life changed for him some 20 months ago when his father, a healthy man in his early 70s, became victim of a hit-and-run case.
“Ten days before the accident we had both climbed five flights of stairs together.” What followed was a brain surgery, weeks in the ICU, and a nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection his father caught, that left him invalid. “We believe he recognises us and has emotions. He wants to talk but cannot,” says Qazi.
For him the sound of his father’s voice is a far-fetched dream. Yet the optimist in him refuses to give up.
Qazi’s troubles are not unusual. The number of elderly people has risen globally with life expectancy having gone up due to advanced medical interventions. So has the corresponding number of their caregivers. The average life expectancy at birth of the global population in 2015 has risen to 71.4 years according to the WHO’s Global Health Observatory (GHO). HelpAge, a global network of organisations working with and for older people, predicts that by 2050 one in five South Asians will be over 60. The network states that South Asia is growing older faster than any other country in the world.
While HelpAge’s Global AgeWatch Index 2015, that ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring, rates Pakistan at 92 out of 96 countries, healthcare professionals and doctors feel the close-knit family structure in Pakistan mitigates cases of neglect and abandonment of the elderly.
“Caregivers are the unsung heroes when it comes to geriatric care. They are also underappreciated. When Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s strikes a patient, the entire family is affected,” says Dr Nadir Ali Syed, a neurologist at Karachi’s South City Hospital who has been treating elderly people for 25 years. In his experience, if the quality of life of old people in countries like the US and Pakistan is compared, the elderly in Pakistan are much better off, provided their families are taking care of them. “The family is vital for elderly people. Generally, our elderly are not subject to neglect.”
With an increase in urbanisation and more Pakistani women joining the workforce, old homes and healthcare centres for the elderly is a discussion that is expected to come up more and more in the years to come. The need for geriatric medical care and for doctors specialising in the field has also gone up, and related challenges are multilayered.
“There is a lack of awareness and an acknowledgement of geriatrics as a unique specialty with special needs, health issues and care requirements. This exists both at the level of physicians, and at the governmental level. Caregivers often do not understand the needs of their aged family members and the stresses involved in caring for the elderly,” says Dr Saniya Sabzwari who specialises in geriatric care at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi.
“Caregivers are the unsung heroes when it comes to geriatric care. They are also underappreciated. When Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s strikes a patient, the entire family is affected,” says Dr Nadir Ali Syed, a neurologist at Karachi’s South City Hospital who has been treating elderly people for 25 years.
The patience and endurance of caregivers are put to the test in more than one way and, practically, providing satisfactory healthcare to the elderly is an expensive proposition. “The biggest challenge is financial. Nursing care and attendants at home cost a lot. For those who cannot afford to hire professional healthcare at home, the challenge is even more daunting. It becomes physically difficult to look after an invalid person,” says Asma Nazeer, who requested that her real name not be shared.
Nazeer does not want people to know that she served her mother who had Parkinson’s and related dementia for 10 years, since she feels that it will take away from her award. “I was the only one, as all my siblings are abroad, so they sent help in the form of finances and sporadic visits but basically it was just me for 10 years.”
Nursing care at home for the elderly who suffer from a lack of mobility is expensive. Yet more and more people are opting for it. “The biggest determinant for better geriatric care is affordability — to be able to pay for quality healthcare,” affirms Dr Syed.
Two round-the-clock certified nurses take care of Qazi’s father who, he shares, are pampered by him so that he does not have to go through the process of changing nurses and teaching them the ropes repeatedly. The price of nursing care at home is exorbitant but it still costs him less than the hospital would. His father’s room is now nothing less than the Intensive Care Unit of any hospital emanating the smell of medicines and sterilising liquids. Oxygen cylinders and the feeding tube through which liquefied food is transferred to his father’s stomach, like most elderly patients who are no longer able to eat by mouth due to multiple reasons, are maintained by nurses.
On average, depending on the level of expertise and seriousness of the patient’s illness, a certified nurse for a 12-hour shift costs anywhere between Rs1,200 to 1,800 or more, and are hired through an agency. The monthly cost can run into more than Rs100,000 if two staff nurses and two attendants are hired. “Many nurses are now turning towards attending to bedridden elderly patients at home because it pays well,” says 24-years-old Zaiba Kiran, a staff nurse who has been caring for elderly patients who are mostly bedridden. “We go through agents because it suits both the family of the patient and the nurse in case the nurse needs a day off or either of the parties has any complaints.”
Just like it is tough for caregivers, caring for debilitated elderly patients is not easy for nurses either. “With an elderly patient we have to be extra careful. They are very fragile. They can choke easily. We have to keep a constant watch over their vitals. Anything can happen at any time. It also takes more energy and time to learn how to deal with an elderly patient; they are often impatient like children.”
But perhaps the biggest side effect of seeing your loved parent become a shadow of who they used to be is psychological. “We saw the stages where my mother would hallucinate and there were behavioural changes. But the most painful was the stage when she could not even lift her finger. For the last three years of her life she was fed through a nasal tube,” reminisces Nazeer.
One of the jolts a family may receive is when they are told their loved one is now on what is called palliative or end-of-life care, a concept that is often not fully understood. The term does not mean that these are the final hours or days of the patient’s life. It means that the patient suffers from a terminal disease, and there is no hope of a cure. However the dying process may take years.
“With patients of Alzheimer’s the process may take seven to 12 years,” says Dr Syed. The aim of doctors and family, at this stage, is that the quality of life be improved and the patient be made comfortable. “In Pakistan you get drugs like heroine everywhere but intravenous morphine is not available to a dying patient to help relieve a dying patient’s suffering,” says Dr Syed, explaining the obstacles.
The goal, as Dr Sabzwari explains, is not longevity of life, unlike what families or patients want. “Most important is the quality of life.”
To see a loved one in pain takes its toll. “Till my father had the accident, I was a carefree guy. I can safely say I aged at least 10 years within days. I have lost a lot of hair ever since. I do feel depressed inside at times but I cannot afford the luxury to sit and cry because the responsibility of my family is on me,” says Qazi.
Luckily for him, his supportive wife has been his biggest strength. Even families of the elderly are psychologically impacted. “My six-year-old daughter is affected as well; she can’t understand why dada won’t play with her anymore.” Yet, Qazi refuses to give up on giving the best possible care to his father. “My father didn’t stop caring for me when I was a child and was totally dependent on him. How can I stop taking care of him?”
In Dr Syed’s opinion, one must not give up on the treatment and care of the elderly because a lot can be done to improve their quality of life. “A few years ago dementia was considered incurable and some of the treatments available now were not available then. Now, we can drastically improve the patient’s quality of life as well as slow down the dementia.”
The biggest challenge, then, is to not give up hope.

Being a mother – How breastfeeding can save lives of Pakistan’s infants

breastfeeding pic
By Farahnaz Zahidi

August 7, 2016

The myth that just mother’s milk does not suffice has caught on, and this trend is an imminent danger to the lives of Pakistani infants

Her fifth child is due any day. Nazeer Bibi lives in a shanty part of Qayyumabad, Karachi, and has already decided that she will feed her baby formula milk.
“I work in three houses as a domestic help to support my family. I leave at 8 am after dropping my older children to school and return by 4 pm, and the baby will have to be at home. What option do I have? Besides, dabbay ka doodh (formula milk) makes babies healthier. I want my baby to be healthy like the babies in advertisements.”
Nazeer’s baby will be one of the 62 per cent Pakistani infants who are not exclusively breastfed. Only 38 per cent of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed, according to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-13. The rates are the lowest in South Asia.
The myth that just mother’s milk does not suffice has caught on, and this trend is an imminent danger to the lives of Pakistani infants, a danger that is not talked about often enough. As the World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated globally from August 1-7, the conversation around breastfeeding needs to be more audible and frequent in Pakistan. But bringing up the topic inevitably initiates parallel discourse regarding how lives of infants are less safer till formula milk is promoted as a choice. “From tobacco, to sugar, to formula milk, the most vulnerable suffer when commercial interests collide with public health,” says an editorial in medical journal The Lancet.
“Formula milk should only be given when there is a medical reason for it,” says Dr Azra Ahsan, an expert in mother and child health. “The baby gets complete nutrition through breastfeeding. The mother passes on her protective antibodies to prevent common illnesses in the baby. As no water is required to prepare it, unlike how formula milk is prepared, the chances of diarrohea and vomiting are minimised.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding has the potential to prevent about 800,000 under-five deaths per year globally if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed. Pakistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the region, all the more reason that breastfeeding must be encouraged, especially among the lower income strata.
The PDHS 2012-13 findings also show increase in bottle feeding rates in Pakistan.
“Babies who are born to mothers from the lower income strata are more at danger if they are not exclusively breastfed. The water these mothers use to prepare the formula is unhygienic, and the bottles are not sterilized. Also, formula milk is not cheap. Once they start the baby on it, they start diluting the milk over time so that the formula powder lasts longer; as a result, the baby becomes malnourished,” says Neha Mankani who works as a community health midwife at a hospital in Karachi.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding has the potential to prevent about 800,000 under-five deaths per year globally if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.
Once the baby is started off on top feed, the unaffording or unaware mother, over time, starts substituting it with unboiled cow’s milk or low quality tea whitening milk powder which is unsuited for an infant. “We can try and convince the mothers but only till they are in the hospital. Also, Community Health Workers (CHWs) have no access to women who deliver at home,” says Mankani, adding that she and her colleagues try to convince mothers to breastfeed.
However, part of the problem could be that healthcare providers are not doing enough to raise awareness. “Healthcare professionals are the main culprits. Instead of advising new mothers to breastfeed, they help perpetuate the trend of using formula milk. They are given incentives by formula milk companies. Research shows that children delivered in hospitals are more frequently formula fed,” says Dr DS Akram, Founder, Health, Education & Literacy Programme (HELP).
The laws protecting the right of the infant to health and nutrition are there. Lawyer Summaiya Zaidi says that the primary focus of laws like the Protection of Breast-Feeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002 is to protect the nutrition of the child and promote breastfeeding as a primary source of nutrition. After the devolution, each province developed its own Acts for the purpose.
“The Sindh 2013 Act stresses that manufacturing, advertising and sale of alternate sources of child nutrition cannot be promoted as better than mothers’ milk or even compared to it. This stresses the primacy of breast milk as the best source of nutrition for a growing baby, and only when the mother is unable to provide the same to her child should alternatives be made available. It basically controls the manufacture and advertising of child nutrition products by placing certain legal limits on promotion of the same,” says Zaidi.
Yet, the tussle between public health experts and forces of consumerism continue. Companies producing or distributing formula milk refused to give any statement regarding how they justify the tempting advertising campaigns.
At the 69th World Health Assembly earlier this year, a resolution welcomed WHO’s guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. The guidance states that in order to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks should be regulated. This recommendation is in line with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
“The laws are there, but the implementation is a distant dream. Formula companies continue to particularly tantalise urban markets,” says Dr Akram, adding that the government does not seem interested in this cause. Dr Akram and her team run the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) of WHO and UNICEF successfully in Pakistan for a few years. “When external funding stopped, the government was not interested in investing in it,” she says, adding that companies that produce formula milk mainly target the urban market to tantalise consumers.
“For the poor population in rural areas, breastfeeding is mostly the only available option. The urban social landscape is more challenging when it comes to breastfeeding. More mothers are working mothers; more options for top feed are available here; more people can afford to buy formula milk. Awareness is needed in both rural and urban areas,” says Dr Sara Salman of WHO Sindh.
According to Mankani, despite trying to raise awareness, most mothers follow popular myths. “They feel the baby is healthier if fed formula, owing to the aggressive marketing of formula milk.”
The biggest challenge for exclusive breastfeeding is the perception that mothers are not producing enough milk and should supplement with formula because the baby cries, says Meredith Jackson-deGraffenried from Helen Keller International. “This perception is driven by the misunderstanding that if the mother is undernourished and poor, she must be incapable of adequately nourishing her baby.”
“We try to teach these women basics about expressing their own milk and how to store it. Mother’s milk stays fine for up to three days in a refrigerator, and up to six hours at room temperature. It’s an economical and healthier option. But myths are hard to fight,” says Mankani.
Despite proven benefits like the mother who breastfeeds return to her pre-pregnancy state much earlier, and the incidence of breast cancer in women who breastfeed being much lower, as Dr Ahsan says, the myths seem to be winning.
“Socially, breastfeeding proves a challenge as well. There are usually no crèche or nursing rooms at work. That’s one reason working mothers stop breastfeeding,” says Dr Ahsan.

Originally published here: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/mother/#.V6hsuPkrLIX

Qawwal Gali after Amjad Sabri

Farahnaz Zahidi July 24, 2016

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/qawwal-gali-sabri/#.V5RfIfkrLIU

The palpable fear after Sabri’s murder in the historic neighbourhood in Karachi and much more

Qawwal-Gali-0081
Qawwal Gali is the collective name given to a group of five streets, named after five renowned Qawwals. — Photos by Faisal Sayani

The atmosphere in Qawwal Gali is uncharacteristically subdued since Amjad Farid Sabri’s life was snuffed out prematurely. “I knew him from the time when I called him Ummi and he called me Saifee, and we were just young boys, not Amjad Sabri qawwal and Saifuddin qawwal. I still cannot believe he is no more,” says Sabri’s friend, Saifuddin Qawwal, still shaken weeks after his death.
Waves of fear after Amjad Sabri’s murder in broad daylight have reverberated 9 kilometer south from the late qawwal’s residence in Liaquatabad to Qawwal Gali, the historic neighbourhood in Karachi where the clans of the famous Qawwal Bachay reside. Yet, these custodians of the Qaul refuse to shift to more affluent or safer residential localities of the city. “This is not just our area. It is our tradition. Our lifestyle.”
Karachi’s Qawwal Gali is the collective name given to a group of five streets, named after five renowned Qawwals: Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal, Moeen Niyazi Qawwal, Kallan Khan Qawwal, Jaafar Hussain Nizami Qawwal and Bahauddin Qawwal. Between 80 to a 100 families of qawwals reside in these streets near the Shoe Market area. They safeguard a tradition that travels back to almost 800 years, when their ancestor Miyan Saamat learnt this spiritual musical art form from Hazrat Ameer Khusro, the 13th century Sufi musician, poet and scholar. Popularised versions of the unforgettable and powerful poetry of Ameer Khusro, like “Chaap tilak sub cheen” and “Mun kunto maula”, have trickled down to Pakistani masses, who get a feel of spirituality through these renditions. But the hub of the original, undiluted art is the Qawwal Gali. These families have been guarding these compositions over the centuries, and their entire lifestyles are moulded to fulfill the responsibility of keeping alive a tradition they see as almost sacred.
While Sabri was not a Qawwal Bacha, a shared tradition and profession has led to lasting bonds between all networks of Karachi’s qawwals. In the wake of his death, all of them, too, are overcast by fear. The qawwal Gali in downtown Karachi, then, is ironically the one place that they feel safe in. “It is our sanctuary. Fear is nothing new to us. Staying here is our only survival,” says Saifuddin, who is an important member of the Najmuddin Saifuddin Qawwal Brothers ensemble.
When asked if he is ever tempted to leave this profession or Qawwal Gali, Toqeer’s answer is a vehement no. “This profession is our recognition; we must protect the tradition our ancestors left us with. I started learning this art at the age of seven.”

Qawwal-Gali-004
The fear factor is not just about safety; they also fear their younger generation will get lost in the contemporary world and lose out on this art they see as a divine gift. Their offspring, with increasing exposure to the outside world, do express the desire to move out towards better areas. “But we explain to them how important it is for us to stay here,” says Saifuddin.
“Our community has a lot of unity. Our joys and sorrows are shared. There are certain cultural traditions we live by. We would not survive elsewhere and neither would our art,” says Rauf Saami, the eldest son of Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, and part of the Saami Brothers ensemble of Qawwals.
Rauf does not believe in coercing his children into this profession, but wishes that this ilm (knowledge) does not die out. “But times have changed. I’m realistic.”
Qawwal-Gali-004
The work of qawwals is very nocturnal in nature. “Our work is at night. We leave home early evening and return around twilight. The more posh parts of Karachi are not alive during night time. Can you imagine what neighbours of Karachi’s affluent parts would think if 12 men are entering a house every day at 4am?” says Saifuddin.
The Qawwal Gali does not go to sleep. Its residents sleep during the mornings and are up and about in the evenings. The chai dhabas never close. The riyaz (musical practice) never stops. The hustle and bustle never dies out.
“While we are away, whether for performances at night or during our frequent travels outside Karachi, we are at peace that our families are safe. Here, everyone watches out for each other’s families, despite professional rivalry.”
Rauf echoes that sentiment. “We don’t only look out for other qawwals but also for our supporting members of the ensembles. We are there for each other whenever we need each other.”
The qawwali business is seasonal in nature, and the flow of money can be ad hoc. The community also supports each other in lean times when the earning is limited. In such times, they pay each other’s hospital bills and children’s school fee.
The women of Qawwal Gali are the biggest support for their men. “The women of our households do not have any complaints. They understand the demands of our profession,” says the 26 years old Toqeer Ahmed, who belongs to the Khurja Gharana’s Nohar Bani branch. Their ancestral lineage are one of the first things they learn, but their women’s names are not registered in those lists, neither are they allowed to sing. Till today, a majority of the qawwals marry within their families.
“My nikah is to be held soon,” shares Toqeer with a smile. The match was fixed within his family, “but my choice was also considered. This is a big decision. How can it be done without my choice?”
When asked if he is ever tempted to leave this profession or Qawwal Gali, Toqeer’s answer is a vehement no. “This profession is our recognition; we must protect the tradition our ancestors left us with. I started learning this art at the age of seven.”
In Toqeer’s opinion, if the Qawwals try their hand at any other profession, it would take them hundreds of years to make a mark.
“Why should we lose out on the honour and respect this profession has given me? And as for the Qawwal Gali, it is the only place in the world I feel I am me. It is my identity.”
In true Qawwal Gali-esque style, Saifuddin sums it up by reciting this couplet in Urdu:
Apnay markaz se agar door nikal jaao ge
Khaak ho jaao ge, afsaanon mein dhall jaao ge…
(If you wander away from your pivot,
You will become nothing but ashes, nothing will remain of you but tales and fables)

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 #Ramadan #Quran #ConflictResolution #CallTowardsAllah #Good #Evil

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 – CALL TOWARDS ALLAH, RESOLVE DIFFERENCES WITH GOODNESS & PATIENCE,

& SEEK REFUGE IN ALLAH

And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit?

And the good deed and the bad deed are not equal. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is good; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was an intimate friend.

And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty good fortune.

And if an evil whisper from Shaitan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O Muhammad, upon him be peace) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

Verses 33 to 36 –  Surah Fussilat:

Verse 41:33 – In a world full of words, talks and conversations, there is so much noise and too much info. Analyze the words we utter, speak, write, share. So many are undesirable – they may hurt others or be in-factual or exaggerated, or simply useless. But you can be sure that the most beautiful are the words that help others connect with Allah. Here, the act of dawah (calling towards Allah and towards Islam) is being called the best speech. But conditionally – the person doing so must couple it with righteous actions, and reaffirm his/her own faith. Needless to say that the act of dawah cannot be done effectively with hikmah (wisdom), rifq (gentleness), ‘ijz (humility) and naseeha (sincerity). yet, some from among believers must continue doing it, and the reward is multi-fold in an era where people are not ready to listen. Like today. That is precisely when it is most needed.

Narrated `Uthman:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” (Bukhari)

Verse 41:34 – We lose it sometimes. We say things that cause friction and rifts, and cause fights and disagreements. We have falling outs of friends and break ups of spouses. Sometimes we feel it is just too late to say sorry or to make up. And sometimes, it is truly the fault of the other person. In either case, the casualty is the relationship. Here, the Quran says something beautiful: Good and bad behaviour are not the same and therefore yield different results. And if at all you make a mistake of hurting someone or souring a relationship, act toward that person with kindness, sincerity and affection. The golden rule here is that good repels evil, just like clean water washes away dirt. So even of your behaviour is faulty and full of mistakes, keep doing good deeds to makeup for your mistakes. Exceptions will always be there, but as a general rule, loving and kind behavior can makes friends out of foes and can rejoin broken ties.

Verse 41:35 – But to be nice to someone with whom you have had an unpleasant episode is not easy. Imagine having to say sorry after a fight. Imagine being kind and gentle to someone who was rude to you. This might be the path to rejoining relations, but its not easy. Yet, to crush one’s ego and take that first step, according to the Quran, is something also those with patience can do, and in the sight of Allah only the lucky ones get to do it.

Verse 41:36 – Remember when you contemplated being the first one to say Salam or say sorry or extend the hand of friendship after a fight? Shaitan will dfinitely whisper to you that it makes you look small, and remind you that you are not in fault, and plant in your mind the question “Why should I do it?” Because the reward of doing the right thing is so much, seek protection in Allah from such misleading whispers of Shaitan, and do the right thing anyways.

 

Day 18. Day 19 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #HumanLifeIsSacred #ValueOfLife

Day 18 – VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had killed the entire mankind. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved the emtire mankind. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.

This is verse 32 from  Sūrat al-Māidah, Chapter 5, of the Quran.

The words are powerful and clear. While the contextual address is to the Bani Israel, all of humanity, and every witness and reader of the Quran is addressed here. Allah (swt) who loves each human, His unique creation, more than the love of 70 mothers put together, is reminding us what each life means to him.  Prophet Muhammad (saw), in his last Sermon on the sacred day of Hajj, the 9th day of Dhul al Hijjah, 10th year after Hijrah, in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, said these words that remain etched in history:

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.

This verse 5:32 needs to be read and re-read, in our hearts, from our lips, in private and in public, to remind us of the value of the life of each person in the sight of Allah.

The same message is repeated in Verse 17:33 of Surah Bani Israel (Chapter 17):

And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].

Saving a single life, by any means, whether medical treatment, charity, and service of humanity, wins us limitless reward. The opposite will have the opposite results. These verses remind us yet again – each life matters.

 

 

 

 

Day 11 to 17 #Ramadan #Quran #GoldenVerses #FormulaForSuccess

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Certainly will the believers have succeeded
ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَٰشِعُونَ
They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ ٱللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
And they who turn away from ill speech
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَٰعِلُونَ
And they who are observant of zakah (obligatory charity)
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَٰفِظُونَ
And they who guard their private parts
إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ
Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed
فَمَنِ ٱبْتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْعَادُونَ
But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَٰنَٰتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَٰعُونَ
And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَٰتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
And they who carefully maintain their prayers
أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْوَٰرِثُونَ
Those are the inheritors
ٱلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally.
Beautiful, self-explanatory. Some of my personal favourite verses form the Quran. Ideal for those who want to do some hifz (memorization) and recite these verses in their namaz  after reflecting on their meaning.
These initial 11 verses from Surah al-Mu’minoon, Chapter 23, of the Quran, are one of those portions where a cluster, or a list as we may call it, of dos and don’ts, give us a short cap up of the basics. An example of similar clusters of these gems in the Quran are verses 63 to 76 of Chapter 25, Surah al-Furqan.
What is always unique in such certain key words in each verse.
The first 11 verses of this Surah have so many profound themes in them. The inter-relation of spiritual connection with Allah (swt) through ‘ibaadah (worship), and then social ethics, as well as inner purification and relationships with humans – what a complete eco-system of a good life!
The translations are pretty simple. I will just be going over some key terms.
Verse 1: The word “Aflah” from the root “fa-la-ha” denotes success that is complete, holistic and lasting. It is interesting to note that many words in Arabic that start with the sound “fa” give the meaning of something that is broken or split. “Fallah” in Arabic is a farmer – one who plants a seed, works on nurturing it, and the seed then splits, giving way to sapling and then a plant and then a crop, the benefits of which the farmer harvests. Likewise, a momin (believer), when working hard at pleasing good, avoids what Allah wants him/her to void, and does what Allah wants him/her to do, is traveling on a path that will ultimately lead to complete Falaah – success in both dunya and the Hereafter.
Verse 2: “Khaashi’oon” – The verse is not merely asking us to establish prayers, but goes a step further, and talks about what really makes an act of worship we perform 5 times a day worthy of Allah’s pleasure. To have Khushoo’ is to submit to God in complete humility, with acceptance of His Power, His Majesty and His Mercy. Thus, namaz (salaat) is not to be just a physical exercise but the heart must be involved.
Verse 3: “Laghw” – Speech that is useless, non-productive, evil (against one’s self or against another person), dirty – in short, all kinds of words and speech which Allah would disapprove of. Simply put, it displeases Allah (swt) when we misuse the beautiful gift of speech we have been given – cursing, profanity and expletives, backbiting, rumour mongering, verbal abuse, lying, and callous loose talk just for what everyone today calls shughal or fun. Not ok. Have to avoid consciously.
Verse 4: “Zakat” – Simply means purification. Notice how the verse literally says that the successful one’s are doers of purification. Obligatory charity is called Zakat because it purifies not just our wealth (from spending on wrong things, from over spending or from being stingy), but also purifies our heart from greed and selfishness. Tazkiyah – a word from the same root – is used for purification of the inner self from diseases of the soul like hate, jealousy, malice etc. This is a constant process Islam wants us to do till we are alive.
Verse 5:”Haafizoon” – Those who guard; here, guarding their chastity. A recurrent theme in the Quran is to not give in to physical lust or temptation. The pleasure one derives from that is temporary, but the guilt and consequences (in both this world and the next) are lasting.
Verse 6: “Ghaira Maloomeen” – Not blameworthy. The same act, in a relationship (marriage) prescribed by Allah, becomes an act of worship, for when a person fulfills one’s inherent physical desires in a relationship permitted by Allah, it becomes an act of obedience. Fidelity in marriage is important for a Muslim. Married or not, certain sins need to be kept at bay – “love” does not make it ok.
Verse 7: “‘Aadoon” – Those who transgress. Those who seek sexual fulfillment beyond the permissible, and insist on their sins, even though they have understood that this is forbidden, and feel no remorse, and have no intention of doing taubah (repenting).
Verse 8:”Raa’oon” – Beautiful word. Those who attentively guard. Two things to guard mentioned here: Amaanaat (trusts) – whatever Allah has entrusted you with (all the blessings and everything in your control which you could use or misuse to please or displease Him) and ‘Ahad – commitments, promises, pledges, whether you made these commitments to Allah or His creations. Islam does not take breaking of commitments lightly.
Verse 9:”Yuhafizoon” – Those who guard – here, referring to guarding their prayers. The daily obligatory prayers in particular are our constant connection with Allah. We may become wonderful human beings in other ways, but that does not make up for the required connection with Allah. Inner cleansing and spiritual connection with the Creator is not possible without regularity in namaz (salaat).
Verse 10: “Waarithoon”, some may pronounce it “Waarisoon” – the inheritors. Implying that they are deserving of what they will inherit in the Herefter – Paradise.
Verse 11: “Khaalidoon” – eternal. Jannah is worth struggling for because in this world, no pleasure is forever. Everything in this temporary world withers, changes and eventually ends, whether it is physical beauty or the joy of love or a moment of enjoyment. Imagine a world where joy, love, satisfaction, peace and happiness does not wither, change or end. That is what we should strive for.