Timeless Lessons for Humanity

“And Pharaoh send heralds until all cities, [bidding them to call out his troops and to proclaim:] “Behold, these [children of Israel] are but a contemptible band*; but they are indeed filled with hatred of us seeing that we are, verily, a nation united, fully prepared against danger…”

(Quran; Chapter 26 – “The Poets”, verse 53 to 56; translation of meaning by Muhammad Asad)

This passage struck me because of the commentary Asad gives at the the *:

“Thus the Quran illustrates the psychological truth that, as a rule, a dominant nation is unable really to understand the desire for liberty on the part of the group or groups which it oppresses, and therefore attributes their rebelliousness to no more than unreasonable hatred and blind envy of the strong.”

What came to mind – while reading – is the phrase that former U.S. president George W. Bush would use to justify his ‘war on terror’:

They hate us. They hate our freedoms and our way of life.

And in this hate, they carry out acts of terrorism against the target of their hate.

Looking at other cases in history – and even in the present day, I am certain we could find examples where the media and government demonise an oppressed people’s efforts for freedom as ‘hate’ and ‘unreasonable’. Because if an oppressed people don’t go along and humbly, silently accept and submit to the ill-treatment handed out to them by the oppressive rulers / ruling class or race, they are labelled as troublemakers and hate-mongers.

I’m not saying that all minorities or fighters are in the right all of the time – because they do sometimes go beyond the limits of acceptability – for example, killing innocents can never be justified or acceptable (even as ‘collateral damage’).

But what I am saying is that it’s so common for those in power to tell blatant lies, cover up truth, choose information selectively, and twist the story to depict the weaker side as violent and hateful – while depicting themselves as honest, noble, and just.

A lesson from this is to be wary of what you read and hear from the media and leaders of powerful nations and organisations. Remember who is giving you the information, and whose opinion is being pushed on you – whether directly or subtly. Remember the words of Brother Malcolm X:

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

Another reason I quoted this passage and commentary from the Quran is that I wish to highlight the timelessness of Allah’s final revelation: how this Book – and the history of our human race – can never be ‘archaic’ and ‘outdated’ – as some critics say. It’ll always be relevant, because though times and technologies change, human nature always remains the same.

And so, just as certain themes occurred in times of old, those themes repeat themselves nowadays – and will continue to repeat themselves in future.

Watch what you say

As a reminder to watch what we say, I thought I’d put up a collection of Islamic quotes and more with regard to backbiting. It has been covered before, but we can never get too many reminders when it comes to matters of  such importance.

I hope these serve as reminders to us all about how careful we need to be with our tongues.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed, some suspicions are sins. And spy not on each other nor backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear God, verily, God is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.

(Quran 49: 12 – Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 12)

Various ahadeeth and sayings:

  • “…Backbiting is to say something about your brother that he would dislike…If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” [Muslim]
  • “When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear God as regards us, for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked.’” [Tirmidhi]
  • It was narrated in the Hadith relating the story of Mi’raj (Ascent): “The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by people with copper fingernails – with which they scratch their own faces and chests. He asked: “Who are those, Gabriel?” It was answered: “Those are the people who eat the flesh of other people and vilify their honor.”
  • It was narrated that a man brought two fasting women to the Prophet (pbuh) – for they were dying of thirst.  The Prophet (pbuh) turned away, silently refusing to give permission for them to break their fast.  So, the man begged him again, mentioning that the women were on the verge of death.  The Prophet then said, “Bring them to me and bring along a bowl.” When they turned to him, he turned to one and told her to vomit in the bowl. She complied, spitting up a mixture of vomit, blood, pus and pieces of flesh which half filled the bowl.  He then turned to the other and had her do the same.  After the bowl was filled, the Prophet (pbuh) reportedly said, “Verily these two have fasted from what Allah has made halaal for them; and broken their fast from what Allah has made haraam.  They spent their fast eating the flesh of others.” [Ahmad]
  • “… Do not backbite Muslims, and do not search for their faults – for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault; and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in the open for everyone to see – even if he hid it in the innermost part of his house.” [Abu Dawud; Tirmidhi, others]
  • “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (or insult) his neighbour…” [Bukhari]
  • “Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i.e. his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i.e., his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise.” [Bukhari]

Scholar Hasan al-Basri reportedly said:

“I swear by Allah: backbiting is swifter in consuming the religion of a Muslim than a gangrenous infection is in consuming the human body.”

Two particular audio lectures come to mind, when I think of this topic:

  1. Guarding the tongue (30 minutes) [Stream | Download]
  2. Truthful and Straightforward Speech (18 minutes) [Stream | Download]

And, for a lighter look at the issue, watch Baba Ali’s video: “Little backbiter”.

If you’d like a printable version of the quotes, you can download the Word document below:


What they said (part 2)

Whether said in haste, or well thought out, language has the amazing ability to capture concepts succinctly: just a few words can convey so great a meaning, and teach so important a lesson.


Following on from last year’s quotes post, I thought I’d share some new snippets picked up over the last few weeks.


On self-confidence:


·     “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
– Aristotle


·     “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear you will make one.”
– Elbert Hubbard


On expression:


·     “When you exercise your freedom to express yourself at the lowest level, you ultimately condemn yourself to live at that level.”
– Zig Ziglar


·     “The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.”
– Stephen King


·     “A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.”
– Leo Rosten


·     “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
– T.S. Eliot


On simplicity of words:


·     “Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.”
– John Kotter


·     “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”
– WB Yeats


On communicating with others:


·     “The royal road to a man’s heart is to talk to him about the things he treasures most.”
– Dale Carnegie


·     “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
– Dale Carnegie


·     “If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view – as well as your own.”
– Henry Ford


·     “Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.”
– Mother Teresa


·     “Examine what is said, not who speaks”
– Arabian Proverb


·     “The time to stop talking is when the other person nods his head affirmatively, but says nothing.”
– Henry S. Haskins


·     “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”
– Jeff Daly


On conflict:


·     “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
– Ambrose Bierce

·     “If you wish to make a man your enemy, tell him simply: ‘You are wrong’. This method works every time.”
– Henry Link

·     “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”
– Mahatma Gandhi


On tolerance:


·     “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
– Malcolm X


On faith:


·     “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
– Martin Luther King


·     “Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”
– Martin Luther King


·     “Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself.”
– Martin Luther King


On character:


·     “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
– Albert Einstein


·     “If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy


·     “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
– Martin Luther King


On Teamwork:

  • “A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way.”
    – Swahili proverb

What they said

These are some quotes I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. Some are credited to the person who said it, and I don’t know about the others. If you do, let me know please:

On Love

“Love is not about looking into each other’s eyes, but about looking together in the same direction.”

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along….”

On Life

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
– Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

“Adversity has ever been considered the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself.”
– Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

“Do not commit the error, common among the young, of assuming that if you cannot save the whole of mankind, you have failed.”
-Jan de Hartog, playwright and novelist (1914-2002)

“Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.”
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
– Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

On Happy Gas

“A day without sunshine is like…Night.”

“On the other hand, you have different fingers.”

“42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.”

“I feel like I’m diagonally parked in a Parallel Universe.”

“The Early Bird may get the worm, but the Second Mouse gets the cheese.”

“If you’re being chased by a police dog, try not to go through a tunnel, then on to a little seesaw, then jump through a hoop of fire. They’re trained for that.”

PS: This will be my last post for a while, as I’ll be on holiday and back only in September, insha-Allah. Hope everyone has a happy August 🙂