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The great Eid debate

Posted by Yacoob on October 10, 2013

Eid is coming...

Eid is coming…

Picture courtesy of Saaleha

The days of Hajj are almost upon us, and since the moon wasn’t sighted in South Africa this past Saturday, it means that Dhul Hijjah officially started here on Monday. This contrasts with Makkah, where the month started a day earlier – on Sunday.

Every other month of the year, this difference isn’t much of a big deal (although for some, it matters in Ramadaan). However, for this time of year, it means that the South African Eid-ul-Adha will not be synced with Makkah’s Eid-ul-Adha.

Growing up in Durban, I don’t really remember there being much fuss over this. But here in Cape Town, it’s been a contentious issue for quite a while, apparently. When the local date doesn’t match Makkah’s date, we have some Muslims who celebrate with Makkah, while others celebrate a day later.

There seem to be sound arguments for both opinions, yet the tragedy in all of this is that it still divides the community. In what should be a time of unity and great blessings – given the significance of the Hajj underway in these days – there’s argument and division over which opinion is right.

For all the years I’ve lived in Cape Town, none of this really affected me. I just put it down to difference of opinion, and carried on – celebrating Eid on whatever day it was officially announced by the local authority (MJC).

Confusion

However, this time around, it’s a little more concerning. The day of wuqoof – when the hujjaaj stand on Arafah – is one of the greatest days of the year (if not the greatest). And for those not on Hajj, it’s a highly recommended sunnah to fast that day (with the reward being the fast wiping out the sins of the previous year and the year to come).

This year, wuqoof is on Monday 14th October, insha-Allah. Thus, if you want to fast on the day of wuqoof, Monday is the day. Yet the announcement from the MJC is “Those wishing to fast on the day of Arafat, fasting takes place on the 9th of Thil Hijja, according to our local calendar, coinciding with the 15th of October.”

Following that logic, those wanting to fast on the day of Arafah will actually not be fasting on the day of Arafah! (Since the 15th of October is already Eid in Makkah.)

But as I see it, those who want to fast on the actual day of Arafah should do it when the hujjaaj are actually on Arafah – i.e. Monday 14th October.

What then, of the day of Eid?

If you fast on Monday, then Eid should be the next day – Tuesday.

So you’d be in that group which takes Eid with Makkah.

But I’ve also heard very sound advice that in cases of such disputes, the correct thing to do is to follow the consensus of the ulama / authorities of your country – i.e. take your Eid with the majority – the of the community.

And that makes sense not only on a societal level, but also lower down, on a family level. You can’t really choose to have Eid on your own – the day before – while your family is taking it with the community the next day. So, even if you disagree, for the purposes of social harmony, it’s better to stick with the majority.

Thus we have a situation of fasting on the day of Arafah, having a ‘normal’ day after that, and then having Eid the next day.

Some may call that inconsistent – saying that you either go with Makkah completely or go with your local ulama completely.

But really, when you face a situation like this, there’s no way to reconcile the 2 positions. It’s a compromise that has to be made in order to preserve both personal belief and social harmony.

Or do you see things differently? What’s your view on the 2 Eids issue? Does it happen in your community, and if so, how do you handle the issue of fasting the day of Arafah when your local calendar doesn’t match Makkah?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A question for you, the reader

Posted by Yacoob on January 14, 2011

Here’s a quick question for all that read this blog: do you participate in online discussions? I’m not talking about specialised forums, but general portals – like news sites that allow you to comment on stories (for example, South Africa’s News24).

And if so, what’s your experience been like – particularly when you comment on sensitive or controversial topics?

Do you think there’s benefit in contributing to such discussions? Or, more often than not, does it just turn into one big shout-fest, where people try to argue that they’re right and others are wrong?

Post your answers in the comments, please.

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | 2 Comments »

Indulgence impulse

Posted by Yacoob on September 21, 2010

The following is a true story:

I pigged out last night – and I’m ashamed. After supper, I had a piece of Cadbury Fudge chocolate. The taste wasn’t what I was craving, so I had a marshmallow. That should have been enough – but it wasn’t.

The baby was being put to sleep, and there was still time before Esha.

A whisper came to my mind: ‘You hardly ever get time to just relax and read your book. Why don’t you do that now, and have a nice chocolate with it?’

I gave in.

I had a TV Bar while reading my book.

But still, the taste was not what I was looking for. Something was not being satisfied.

Another whisper: ‘Have something  else, and maybe you’ll get what you’re after.’

Then my wife came downstairs, and had her own TV Bar.

Another impulse came – telling me maybe her chocolate was what I was craving.

I tried to take some – but she didn’t let me have it. (She’s territorial about her chocolate – as am I.)

We talked a bit, and then she pulled out a lamington from her handbag (which doesn’t happen often). Our old neighbour had given it to her earlier that day.

Not wanting it to go to waste (or, really, not wanting her to have all of it) – I had some.

And I don’t think it satisfied me either.

Now, at that point, I’d eaten so much crap that I couldn’t possibly have more.

So then I went to the masjid for Esha, and there was a janazah. One thought that ran through my mind was:

“One day / night, that’s going to be me in that coffin. My soul will be leaving this world. And on the final Day, I’ll have to explain myself. As trivial as this indulgence seemed – how will I explain it? How can I justify having 4 different sweets in one night?”

The answer is simple: greed. I have an impulse to indulge – particularly in junk food.

Combine that with the whispers which come from those unseen (you know, the folks that have recently been released from their month-long incarceration) – and you have a solid trap to catch me.

So I resolved to be better the next day, insha-Allah.

I know not to give in to these desires. Actually, the desire for the taste – the craving – isn’t even strong at this point. (It gets stronger the further away I get from Ramadan). Yet I give in and indulge – out of habit.

And so, when I came home that night – right when I walked in – I again wanted something. My first instinct was to give in – until I remembered my intention to restrain myself.

The struggle has resumed. And I’m starting off from a point of weakness.

I really need to break this indulgence impulse. Perhaps I should brush my teeth right after supper?

Any other ideas?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering?, Life stories | 11 Comments »

Cup of disappointment

Posted by Yacoob on June 19, 2010

It was supposed to be spectacular. A football feast that drew the best in the world. One month of awesome talent on display – and all on the African continent, despite the reservations of many; and the phantom terrorist threats that others so boldly claimed.

I speak, of course, of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which is being held here in South Africa.

The tournament has, thus far, been professional and well-organised. Aside from wage disputes with stadium security, the tournament has been relatively trouble-free.

We have our shiny new stadiums; sophisticated transport systems; and upgraded roads and airports – all of which cost the country (and its taxpayers many millions). And all in all, things seem to be looking up in terms of promoting future tourism to South Africa.

But, for me, the big irony in all of this glitz and glamour is the basic premise on which the tournament is being held: the game of football.

I haven’t analysed the statistics – but so far, it seems to me that this has been a most boring tournament in terms of actual football. I think the majority of the games have ended up as draws – and low-scoring draws at that.

I haven’t watched all of the games – actually only a few, and bits and pieces here and there – but the results so far tell me that this isn’t the mega-tournament it was billed to be.

Aside from Uruguay embarrassing the hosts 3-0, and Germany’s 4-0 opening win, I haven’t been impressed with the results or the play so far.

France are a huge disappointment, and England are not far behind (although, if Rooney can hit form, that can very easily change). Many of the big teams are stuttering while less-famous countries, like Mexico and Uruguay, are thriving.

In fact, it seems the biggest star of the tournament has been the “Vuvuzela” (the horns you hear at every game) – which, in my opinion, is a cultural thing that Europeans and others just need to get used to – rather than complaining about it. After all, just because singing  - and not trumpets – are the norm in England and Europe, it doesn’t mean that everything else is some twisted perversion of how a crowd ‘should’ behave at a soccer game. (See Azra’s views on it here).

We’re only just over a week into the tournament, so there’s plenty of time for things to turn around on the football fields. But, so far, it’s just been a very average tournament – which is sad for South Africa; because we don’t want to be branded as the country that hosted the most boring World Cup ever.

What are your thoughts on the tournament so far?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering?, Can I kick it? | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Cartoons and Freedom of Expression

Posted by Yacoob on May 25, 2010

As many of you will know, there’s currently a furore around South African cartoonist Zapiro’s depiction of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The South African Muslim leadership has united in condemning the incident; as well as strongly discouraging the community from reacting violently – because we cannot defend our Prophet by acting in a way he would not sanction (for that merely perpetuates the false stereotype of Muslims as violent, extremist maniacs).

But at the root of it all is the issue of freedom of expression. The cartoonist firmly sticks to his right of this freedom, and goes further to assert his right to satirise religion. The latter point, I believe, is indicative of the Western liberal mindset which holds nothing sacred, and views everything as ‘fair game.’ Such is a consequence of the collapse of religious values in the public sphere.

In fact, when it comes to sacredness, it seems that the only thing some people hold sacred is their secular constitutions – which, in many cases, they hold as more important than any Divinely-revealed code of life.

With regard to freedom of expression – and indeed any freedom – the point that many people miss is that there can be no freedom without a related responsibility. With each freedom comes a responsibility to exercise that freedom responsibly – i.e. without harming others.

With some cartoons, like the Danish ones and some which have recently come out on the Facebook group which called for “Draw Muhammad day” – this responsibility is forgotten.

Anyway, one of my favourite writers, Khalid Baig, very nicely summarises the issue of this freedom in the piece below.

After reading it, feel free to leave your comments on the whole situation and debate.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Freedom of Expression?

Source: http://albalagh.net/food_for_thought/0096.shtml
By: Khalid Baig (Posted 20 May 2010)

With the latest in-your-face act of the Facebook, the issue is once again attracting headlines. Should Muslims react? How should they react? Where do they stand on the philosophical issue underlying all this?

In the media the issue has been framed as a clash between two camps. One camp stands for freedom of expression. The other wants to curtail it.  Needless to say the first camp is enlightened and virtuous. The other is a relic of the dark ages. The clash, in other words, is between a civilized and civilizing West – and Islam, that just refuses to be civilized.

Once you accept this framing of the whole issue, the outcome is already decided. “Are you for freedom of expression or not?” It is a loaded question, and just like the yes/no question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” – no matter how you answer it, you remain guilty.

Look at the typical Muslim response which begins, “We also believe in freedom of expression, but…” It matters little what you say after that. It is obvious that you are trying to add exclusions and limitations to a basic moral value while the other side is asking for no such limits. It is not difficult to see which side will come out ahead.

But this predicament is a result of uncritically accepting a false statement about the nature of the clash. For the real clash is not between those who are for and those who are against a freedom. Rather it is between two different freedoms. On the one hand is the freedom to insult. On the other is freedom from insult. Whether it was the Satanic Verses of the 1980s or the Cartoons of 2005 and their endless reproduction since then, if they stand for any freedom, it is freedom to insult. Pure and simple. Muslims, on the other hand, have stood for and demanded freedom from insult. Nothing more. Nothing less.

These are certainly opposing values. You can be for one or the other. And the question does arise, which one is a better value.

To see that let us imagine a society that truly believes in the first as a cherished moral value. It celebrates freedom to insult and guards it at all costs. Every member of it enjoys this freedom and practices it regularly. In a business everyone insults everyone else. The boss is insulting the employees, the employees are insulting the bosses. The salesmen are insulting the customers. The accountants are insulting the creditors. Everyone is enjoying the great freedom to insult. The same is true of the home. The parents are always insulting the children. The children are constantly insulting the parents. The spouses are incessantly insulting each other. And in doing so they all stand on the high moral ground because freedom to insult is such a fundamental freedom on which the society is built.

Actually, contrary to the claims of the pundits, if the Western society was truly built on this “cherished moral value,” it would have perished a long time ago — consumed by the fires of hatred and negativity generated by this freedom. No home, no neighborhood, no village, no business, no organization and no society can survive for long if it makes freedom to insult as a cornerstone of its freedoms. Clearly, most who advocate this freedom do not practice it in their daily lives. But they are making an exception in the case of Islam and Muslims. The driving force behind this is not any great moral principle but a deep rooted hatred born of ignorance.

Software professionals sometimes use a term called beature. It stands for a bug turned into a feature. A bug is a defect in the software. A feature, on the other hand, is a desirable attribute. A beature is a defect that is presented (thanks to slick marketing) as a feature. Freedom to insult is also a beature. It is the growing sickness of Islamophobia in the West which is being presented as a high moral value, packaged by the slick marketing departments as freedom of expression.

Well, whether or not freedom to insult is a Western value, Islam has nothing to do with it. It lays emphasis on its exact opposite: the freedom from insult. It values human dignity, decency, and harmony in the society. The freedom of religion it ensures includes freedom from insults. While it does not shy away from academic discussion of its beliefs and showing the falsehood of non-Islamic beliefs, it makes sure that the discussion remains civil. In those discussions it wants to engage the intellect of its opponents; in contrast those who itch to insult their opponents – who are interested in satisfying their vulgar emotions. Thus while Islam’s most important battle is against false gods, it asks its followers to refrain from reviling them. (Qur’an, Al-anam, 6:108). It also reminds its followers to stay away from harsh speech. “Allah loves not the utterance of harsh speech save by one who has been wronged.” (Qur’an, Al-Nisa, 4:148). Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, who is being reviled by the scum of the world, taught Muslims to never let the low moral standards of their adversaries dictate their own moral standards.

As a result of these teachings, Muslims can never even imagine insulting any Prophet — from Adam to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Even when they ruled the world, Muslims treated the religious leaders of non-Muslim with respect – even during battles. In the Baghdad court, Jewish and Christian scholars engaged in open discussions with the Muslim savants. Needless to say, they had not been attracted by the freedom to insult – but its exact opposite. Freedom from insult is a fundamental value that assures peace and harmony. It leads to healthy societies. And Muslims are very proud of their impeccable record here.

What is true of a home or a village is also true of the world – as it has become a global village. Now, more than ever before, the world needs the harmony and tolerance that can only be assured by the freedom from insults.

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering?, What's going on | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Is it just me?

Posted by Yacoob on March 31, 2010

Or has the month of March dragged on and on and on….?

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | 3 Comments »

The Beg Issue

Posted by Yacoob on March 11, 2010

Most – probably all of us – have seen them. Hanging out at the traffic lights; waiting near the shops; collapsed in despair in some shoddy, makeshift home of cardboard and paper.

They ask you for small change – a few cents, sometimes a bigger amount. Sometimes they want food. Sometimes a job.

And many times, without thinking, our reaction is in the negative: “Sorry, can’t help you”; “No”; “I don’t have anything for you.”

Or worse: we don’t even look at them. No acknowledgement of their presence. As if this lesser being is not worthy of a moment of our attention.

You know who I’m talking about: beggars.

And the question on my mind today, and for a long time, is how to deal with them.

Everyone has an opinion on the issue; and everyone has their own approach. Which is why I wanted to write about this. I’m seeking a broader view, and hoping to find a solution that I can implement and be satisfied with.

My introduction paints a picture of cruelty: a person that doesn’t care for the less fortunate, and brushes them aside so easily to continue with other matters. This heartless individual may justify the position by saying: “I work hard for a living – while this person just lazes around on the street, doing nothing and expecting people to support him / her.”

But I’d like to think that most of us are not that heartless. And we do have sympathy for beggars; and we do give to them – even if it’s small tokens.

But is this the right thing to do?

THAT, dear readers, is my question.

As Muslims – and perhaps people of any other religion (except satanism and other weird cults) – are we not encouraged to care for those less fortunate? Is it not a duty upon us – those who “have,” to help those who don’t have?

It’s called basic human compassion – and it’s something that every human being is born with (even those in the aforementioned ‘cult’ category above).

But when is giving to a beggar right; and when is it wrong?

Well, the reasons for NOT giving to beggars include:

  • Begging should be discouraged. By giving, it encourages begging, because the beggars know they’ll get money and they’ll just come back for more – rather than trying to find a legitimate source of income.
  • Some beggars are just plain lazy. They’d rather beg than go out to genuinely try to find work. (And I’ve heard first hand of people who prove this, by going to welfare organisations and then being picky about what they’ll take. Sometimes they don’t want anything except money).
  • It encourages beggars to become dependent on other people. Following on from that, this dependency can become a serious problem in some cases – where the person who gives develops a kind of friendship/relationship with the begging person; and then that begging person takes advantage. (Which has personally happened to me).
  • Some street kids would rather be on the street, because they love the freedom.
  • Many who beg use the money for alcohol or drugs. In many cases, you can’t tell who is a drug user and who is sincerely in need.

But the arguments FOR giving to beggars include:

  • Helping the poor and needy is our duty not only as Muslims, but as humans.
  • If we can afford to give something, and they seem to genuinely need it, why not give?
  • The verse in Surah Al-Ma’un (Small kindness), which talks about those who “refuse small kindness”. Fasting and prayer are supposed to soften our hearts – and aren’t those in need, those who beg, an opportunity for us to give to others?

You can probably add more to these lists – so please do.

But my main question is: what is your approach to beggars; and how do  you justify that approach?

It’s not a clear-cut issue; and as far as I can tell, even in Islam, it’s not so clearly discussed. I’ve yet to hear a talk, or read an article, that discusses the issue in detail and realistically in the South African context.

We know that begging is discouraged in Islam. But what about people who try to find work but can’t?

I mean, South Africa has a very high unemployment rate (as do other places in the world) – and there just aren’t jobs for everyone. (Or, jobs that pay a decent enough wage).

What then?

How do you know if a person genuinely went to look for work or not?

How do you trust someone who genuinely appears to be sincere? (I’ve heard that we should trust a fellow Muslim and not be suspicious, because if that person is really in need and we deny them, the wrong is on us.)

What if that person keeps coming to the same place, always with a different reason? Do we ‘give once, and not again after that’? How does that solve the problem?

Do we send them to relief organisations? Even though we know that the organisations, sometimes, just give a little bit of food / clothes, and can’t do much to help them in a sustainable way.

Please give your views on the issue, and if you have any good resources to share, please add the link.

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | 21 Comments »

(Don’t) Forward this to as many people as you can!

Posted by Yacoob on June 17, 2009

Warning: This article may take a while to read, so if you don’t have time, skip to the end: Act 6.

Act 1: The bar that wasn’t
The other day, I received an email about an alleged bar – being built in New York – which should offend Muslims. The building resembles the Holy Ka’bah (the holiest site in Islam) – in that it’s a big, black cube. The English text of the mail reads:

In the business area of MID TOWN MANHATTAN in New York a new BAR is opened in the name of APPLE MECCA which is familiar to KAABA MAKKA This bar will be used supply of WINE and Drinks. The Muslims of New York are pressurizing Govt of USA to not open this BAR. 

The mail then goes on to show comparative pictures, side by side, of this ‘bar’ and the Ka’bah; along with one final message:

Please do Forward this mail to as many peoples as you can. we need 2 wake up and 2 stand for the dignity of our RELIGION ISLAM!!

Now, obviously, a story like this could be offensive: that someone would imitate the design of such a Holy place, in building a bar.

The problem is, it’s not a true story. Just one Google search revealed that this isn’t actually a bar. It’s supposedly an Apple store (i.e. iPods, Apple computers, etc) – as stated in this article.

Whether the building is still offensive, given that it’s probably just a computer store, is debatable. But the point it, the email contained misinformation – and instruction to spread that misinformation.

I’m glad I didn’t forward that mail.

Act 2: The shoe that insulted us

A few weeks back (some time around April 2009), I received an email about a Nike Air shoe. The way the word “Air” was written – in a calligraphy type script – supposedly looked like the Arabic script of Allah’s name.

This, obviously, was to be taken as an insult to Islam and Muslims: that God’s name was used on the sole and back of a shoe.

If I remember correctly, the email urged the reader to boycott Nike – because of their insult to our religion.

Of course, the email asked the reader to forward the mail to others; to ‘spread the word’ about what this show company had done – so that Muslims all over could take offence over it.

Now, this story did seem to have some substance – but another quick Google search revealed that this incident, and the surrounding protests and apology and PR make-up by Nike, happened about 10 years ago.

While this email contained valid information – albeit with a sensational tone – it was severely outdated. What a fool I would be, had I sent that to others.

I’m glad I didn’t forward that mail.

Act 3: It’s HARAAM!!!

In recent years, many mails have gone around claiming that certain foods we Muslims enjoy here, in South Africa, are actually haraam (forbidden to consume).  For example:

  1. The cheese flavourants in Doritos and Cheetos (chips) are a derivative from pork and beef enzymes.
  2. Nando’s chicken is Haraam (I think there was a visit paid to the farm they get their chickens from)
  3. The following Kellogg’s products contain type gelatin derived from pork sources: Kellogg’s(R) Frosted Mini-Wheats(R) and Kellogg’s(R) Rice Krispies Treats(R) cereals, Krave(TM) Snack Bars.
  4. Coca Cola contains alcohol and is haraam.

At the end, the emails ask the reader to forward the mail to others – in the interest of spreading this important information about the products we so willingly consume.

Common sense, as well as further, very basic investigation, into these emails revealed the following:

  • The emails in points 1, 2 and 3 are actually true. BUT, they emanate from other countries, where the ingredients/sources are actually Haraam. Here in SA, however, these products are certified Halaal by our Halaal bodies. (Note: The Nando’s one was from the UK – it’s nothing to do with the ongoing Majlis-SANHA chicken wars).
  • Point 4 was a huge story a few years back, but the final result – after investigations by the Muslim Judicial Council – is that “all Coca-Cola contains alcohol, but not nearly enough for it to be declared haraam, or prohibited, in terms of Islamic belief.” The actual amount is “equivalent to five sugar granules in a pot of a million and not enough to intoxicate a consumer.”
I’m glad I didn’t forward those mails.
 

 

Act 4: Shock of a lifetime!!!

A few years ago, I received a conspiracy theory mail about September the 11th. The mail listed various ‘coincidences’ about September the 11th, such as:

  • New York City, Afghanistan, and George W Bush all consist of 11 letters each
  • New York is the 11th state
  • The first plane crashing against the Twin Towers was flight number 11
  • Flight 11 was carrying 92 passengers. 9 + 2 = 11

You get the picture.

So after all of that, according to the mail:

“Now this is where things get totally eerie:
The most recognized symbol for the US, after the Stars & Stripes, is the Eagle. The following verse is taken from the Quran, the Islamic holy book:

 

“For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle. The wrath of the Eagle would be felt throughout the lands of Allah while some of the people trembled in despair still more rejoiced: for the wrath of the Eagle cleansed the lands of Allah and there was peace.”

That verse is number 9.11 of the Quran. unconvinced about all of this Still ..?!”

The mail then concludes by saying: “Send this to as many people as you know and in 11 minutes you will get a nice surprise, if you don’t you will get the shock of Your life in 11 min.”

Now, while the number correlations are interesting, I didn’t read too much into them. Whatever happened, happened. And, whoever was truly responsible will be held to account on the Day of Judgment. We never need to worry about the real truth being revealed, about true justice being served – because on that Day, which we’ll all face, no one will be able to hide what they did; and no one can escape true justice.

The email was outright sensationalist – obviously designed to fuel conspiracies and myths. And you know the red flag which 100% proves it’s source is not to be trusted?

The verse quoted from the Quran.

I have never, ever heard anything like that in the Quran. And anyone – Muslim or not – who takes 2 minutes to find and read a translation of Chapter 9, verse 11, would see that the quote they’ve got in this email is not in the Quran. It’s not even in Chapter 11, verse 9 (if some might claim the numbers are confused).

This kind of thing is just outrageous, and for Muslims to forward such obvious misinformation about the Quran – even if the email has lots of other possibly ‘attractive’ conspiracy qualities – is just a big, big mistake.

I’m glad I didn’t forward that mail.

Act 5: Bits and pieces

To add to the examples already listed, there’s a few others which warrant mentioning in this article.

a.) Microsoft is giving away $1, $3 or $5 to each person that forwards an email.

This kind of email can be about companies, or other ‘good’ causes – like a sick child who needs an operation. The common thread is that all these emails claim that, for every person you forward this email to, money will either come to you, or be donated to the good cause. For example:

“For each person you send this email to, you will be given $5. For every person they give it to, you will be given an additional $3. For every person they send it to you will receive $1.”

The email then asserts how authentic the message is (e.g. “I got a check in the mail for $800. It really works.”), then asks you to forward it.

Unfortunately, some people do believe it and send it on to others. You can see why it’s a scam in this article.

b.) Please help me transfer millions of dollars…I’ll give you 15%

These are called 419 Emails – or Advance-fee fraud. It’s a scam where the reader is persuaded to advance sums of money, in the hope of getting a lot of money in return. Among others, the angle could be related to Nigerian oil companies, Coups in war-torn countries, or just massive sums of inheritance that someone wants you to help them with – using your bank account.

It’s pretty easy to recognise this as a scam, but some have fallen for it, resulting in loss of money, violence, kidnapping, murder, and more. You can read more at Wikipedia.

c.) Beware: anti-Islamic Site

Then there’s warnings about websites which are spreading false information about Islam. These emails give the website address, and ask the reader to forward the email – so that we can spread the message about the misinformation being spread.

The problem is, forwarding these emails is actually counter-productive: it helps those lying websites to get more visitors, and a better listing on search engines.

As Khalid Baig explains in this article, it’s better NOT to forward these emails.


Act 6: Stop, think, think again, then act

As you can see, all of these emails either contain incorrect information, outright lies, or misdirected instructions. Further, most of the mails take on a tone of urgency, and ask the reader to forward it to their contacts.

And if the readers do, it just spreads the faulty message to more and more people.

If you’re still reading this, chances are you’ve received at least one of these kinds of mails before. But my question is: what did you do? Did you believe it? Did you check up on it? Did you forward it? Did you just delete it?

Were you suspicious? Did all the exclamation marks tip you off to the fact that something wasn’t quite right with this mail?

Surah Al-Hujarat (49), verse 6 clearly tells us to verify information when it’s from questionable sources. The verse is talking about an “evil” person who gives us news – but our family member or friend who sent us this email, are they “evil”? Probably not – but most of the time, they aren’t the one who started the email. We never know where these mails originate from – so we can never be sure that it comes from a trustworthy source.

When it comes to this kind of thing, there’s a simple, three step process to handle it:

  1. On the first read (or part thereof), if it strikes you as being sensationalist, suspicious, or outright false – either delete it, or do some research (step 2). Even if it’s not suspicious, go to step 2.
  2. Check the authenticity of the information. A quick Google (or other search engine) search usually brings up articles, forum posts, or other discussions about the email. The simple way to get information on the exact email you received is to copy a few words from the mail (maybe a full sentence), then paste that in the search engine (with quote marks – so it searches the exact phrase).If you don’t have time to do this, DON’T forward it. Do your research it later, when you have time.And, if you can’t find any matches on the Internet, ask someone who has knowledge about the issue.
  3. Now that you’ve done your research, you can respond:
    1. If the email is authentic, and worth being forwarded, then forward it to those you think would appreciate it. But, keep in mind that not everyone will like every email you want to pass on. So, use your discretion: look at the content, and be careful not to send it to people who would be offended or annoyed.
    2. If the email is misinformation, reply to the person who sent it, explaining what’s wrong with the message, and asking them to be careful about this kind of thing in future. Then delete the message – without sending it to anyone else.

Let’s remember that email – and other communication technology – does not take away our duty to be responsible about what we say to others.

Just as we should be careful of what our tongue says, we should also be careful what we say by email (or any other non-verbal form).

And this includes forwarded emails.

Emails contain information. If you can’t stand up for that information – saying you truly believe it and trust it – then don’t send it to others.

So, next time you get a forward, stop before you send it to others; think; think again; then take action.

Now…send this article to everyone you know. Only if you trust it, of course ;)

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | 4 Comments »

Let’s eat…

Posted by Yacoob on March 9, 2009

Earlier this year, I picked up a newspaper by Port Elizabeth-based group Mujlisul Ulama (a.k.a. The Majlis), which went into some depth about the problems with the Halaal certification of certain meats in South Africa and internationally. While I grossly disagree with the manner in which this group attack those who they feel are in the wrong (i.e. calling SANHA a “despicably satanic organization”, among other extremely insulting terms) – it did bring into my mind the issue of the commercial food industry, which, I’ve since discovered, seems to be rotten to the core.

 

Recently, I found an article by Al-Jumuah writer Shireen Pishdadi, which details the dark side of our modern food industry (article link: “Unwholesome Harvest”). The contents not only shocked and disturbed me, but reminded me of the words of the angels, when Allah told them that He was to put mankind on Earth (Surah Al-Baqara, verse 30). They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee?”

 

Reading what’s happened to agriculture and food production over the last century, the words “harm” and “shed blood” are most appropriate – but I would add “rape” and “plunder” to the list, too. Multinational corporations have monopolised the production of food and agriculture, running farmers out of business and even taking ownership of the very natural plants and seeds that Allah has placed in the Earth. Apparently, farmers – whose income is being squeezed dry by these multinationals who have taken over agriculture – are committing suicide and selling their kidneys.

 

And the way livestock are treated just brings dismay to my heart. Allah gave us these animals, made them subservient to us, so that we may eat of them and use them for our own benefit. Yet some modern practices of commercial farming are just sickening, and display such ungratefulness for a bounty which mankind could not survive without.

 

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because we know that mankind is not all bad. Allah’s reply to the angels’ question was: “Surely I know that which ye know not.”

 

In Surah At-Tin (Surah 95), Allah says: “Surely We created man of the best stature, Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, Save those who believe and do good works, and theirs is a reward unfailing.”

 

It’s the basic nature of man: we have the potential to be higher than the angels; yet we also have the capability to drop to below the level of animals – “lowest of the low”.

 

What we’re seeing – in those who control the food industry these days – is that the lowest of the low is winning out; plundering this planet and its treasures just out of greed and lust for material wealth.

 

But there are ways forward, and in my view, it’s a revolution that has to start from the ground – because those in power will never give up their own interests while their hearts are so consumed with greed.

 

I’d recommend everyone reads the article mentioned earlier, which goes on to suggest solutions and things we should put in place.

 

Locally, I’d love to see some of our people – post-graduate students or other – undertake a serious study of the local Halaal food industry. To bring a well-researched, academic investigation of the claims regarding commercial chickens – but expand that to other meats and foods. From there, it should be the responsibility of our local scholars to look at the results and decide on the way forward.

 

They’re already meeting to decide on a unified strategy with regard to the anti-Zionist boycotts, and while that is very important – I think issues around our food are just as important.

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | 1 Comment »

The right to choose

Posted by Yacoob on November 10, 2008


With the recent American elections, it seems politics is at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment. Locally, we’ve got our own political hype over the split of the ruling party. And with voter registration happening this weekend, it brings into question the political involvement of Muslims locally – whether political candidates or ordinary citizens as voters.

 

So, the question has been asked: in these times of trials and afflictions, who do Muslims vote for in South Africa?

 

While some may look to the opinions and fatwas issued over the American elections, there are bound to be differing views over Muslim political participation in South Africa.

 

Do we vote for the currently-ruling party, if we think they’ve done a reasonable job since 1994? Or do we vote for the strongest opposition, in an attempt to show the ruling party that they shouldn’t take their power for granted – something especially important if we look at what happened in Zimbabwe, with one party dominating politics for so long, and ultimately driving the country into the ground.

 

Generally, politics do not interest me; and I do not aspire to be a commentator on things political.

 

But a few thoughts come to mind with regard to voting in the 2009 general election, which I’d like to put forward in this post.

 

If we think that the ruling party – and its current president – is not the best choice to lead this country over the next few years, we certainly cannot vote for them. But then, who do we vote for?
  

  1. Firstly, you could choose the option of not voting at all, in protest of not having anyone you actually want to vote for. I disagree with this action – because while it is justified – in that you don’t have someone you really want to vote for – it also doesn’t make any impact at all in the election. You basically forfeit your right to vote– which means you have no say in who runs your country.As I outline below, there are other options – even if you don’t like any of the parties. 

     

  2. You could vote for the strongest opposition party, and hope that the final results reflect a strong threat to ANC dominance. And while this may seem logical, it’s not so black and white, in my view: any party has their own policies and ideas on issues that affect us all, including controversial issues that Islam has a definite stance on.For example: abortion, gay marriage, and prostitution.You may want the opposition to threaten the political stranglehold that the ruling party has – but if the opposition is overly-liberal, finding no problems with allowing and promoting such things – labelling these things as ‘freedoms of our democratic nation’ – then are you not supporting those very sins? Are you not saying that: ‘I agree that these things are ok’ – simply because you’re voting for a party that sees no problem with it?

     

     

  3. In light of this, one other way to weaken the dominant party in the mathematical sense is to vote – but to spoil your vote. That way, you don’t support the ruling party, but because you don’t like what the opposition stands for either, you don’t vote for them.So, instead of just not voting at all – which means you have no say in who runs your country, you make a calculated move to ruin your vote.Mathematically, this doesn’t strengthen the opposition – but it does weaken the margin by which the ruling party wins (if indeed they do win). So your vote does impact the result, even though it’s in a small way. (However, the more people choose this route, the bigger the impact this strategy can have).

     

     

  4. Voting for a Muslim party: there’s 2 Muslim parties who hope to run. On the surface, that seems the best option for getting Islamic morals into government.But there’s a big condition to that:We should know the policies and character of these Muslim parties – the people in them, and the party as a whole.

    Political power is not something to be given lightly – and definitely not to be given to a person just because they fall into the same religious or ethnic group as you.

    Just because a person is Muslim, it doesn’t mean they genuinely want to run their party Islamically. We must examine the policies of these parties, who their leaders and members are, how they conduct themselves, and what strategies they use in attracting voters.

    Do they build their campaign on Islamic ideals? Or do they simply attack the unIslamic values of other, non-Muslim parties? (e.g. Saying that the other party supports abortion – but we do not. So if you vote for the other party, you are supporting abortion. But if you vote for us, you are standing up against abortion).

     

 

My point is that we should select leaders on their character and values – not their colour or religion or any other characteristic that matches ours.
After all, the noblest of people in the eyes of Allah are those who are best in conduct (Surah Al-Hujarat, verse 13).

A true Muslim brings real Islamic values, conduct and knowledge to their position of power. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is one of the greatest examples of a Muslim ruler who ruled by Islam; whose values and morals were rooted in this deen. His political success was a result of his righteousness and accountability – and this is something that all leaders today can learn from  - whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

 

 

May Allah raise great leaders from among us.

 

But we should know that we have to strive first to better ourselves – we can’t wait for a saviour to come and fix this world, while we do nothing. Remember that Allah doesn’t change the condition of a people until they change themselves.

 

Feel free to add your thoughts on the issue. After all, whether you care about politics or not, next year’s elections affect every single person in this country.

Posted in Are you pondering what I'm pondering? | Leave a Comment »

 
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