Black Men and Public Spaces (Brent Staples)

Black Men and Public Places

With the majority of the racial strain encompassing the rehashed executions of Black men on account of law implementation, I got to pondering a paper I composed for my english class a year ago. It was a reaction to a piece that kept running in the NY Times titled, “Simply Walk on By: Brent Staples Black Men And Public Space.” In the article, writer Brent Staples gives an itemized record of how it feels to be the objective of racial profiling. What stood out for me at the time was his way to deal with managing the partiality and prejudice he experienced day by day. He concentrated less on depicting himself as the person in question and rather, generous enabled his culprits to be the unassuming casualties of their own obliviousness and dread. It made me wonder, is this is a fundamental initial phase in incapacitating somebody of their preferences? To enable them to comprehend the defects in what they accept is sane conduct, would it be advisable for you to think about their apprehensions or is that approving their predisposition without considering them responsible?

In the article, a self-depicted 6’4, dim cleaned Staples, shares a couple of strategies he utilizes to make his “exploited people” feel progressively good in his essence, less they assault him in a misinformed endeavor at pre-emptive self-protection (or shoot him during a standard traffic stop). An eager night jogger, he nearly wills himself undetectable, and if he experiences a non-Black individual or lady on his run, he will murmur a symphonic tune, to loan a feeling of albinism to his individual. In a lift he’ll put his head down. He generally gestures his head or welcomes individuals first. His objective, seem compliant and they won’t be apprehensive. The idea of incapacitating oneself to make others feel increasingly good made my stomach turn. However, it appeared to work for Staples (and a great many black men like him who fall in line).

Each non-white individual I know has experienced some type of bias in their lifetime. I used to be scared to shop in costly stores. My skin shading makes me a high chance for burglary, and I’m normally welcomed with worry, inconvenience, and wariness. Dread of a potential claim won’t enable them to voice their worries however they guarantee I’m mindful of their supposition by pursuing me around the store, posing a reiteration of repetitive inquiries until their fulfilled I’m leaving with hardly a penny. My non-Black companions gullibly propose this is only their method for giving magnificent client administration, however long stretches of dull encounters have left me fatigued. Like Staples, I likewise conceived a system, anyway mine was more forceful. As opposed to seem undetectable I request to be taken note. I ensure my hair, make-up and garments are constantly classy, offering little question that I could bear to shop or eat in any foundation. On the off chance that I feel even the smallest trace of qualification, I’ll trump it by holding my head considerably higher. The contrast among Staples and me? Dread. The world doesn’t fear me the manner in which they dread Black men.

Preference is inborn in each one of us, in any case, yet nobody needs to discuss it. From the time we’re youthful, these ideal models are encouraged to us with a similar familiarity as a glass of milk. Contingent upon your experience, you’ve likely been characterized by a generalization that is basically false. Every White individuals are bigot, Asians can’t drive, Black men are savage, Black ladies have a chip on their shoulder, Mexicans will work for anything, Jews are parsimonious; I could continue forever. As a grown-up, I realize that none of these attributes are explicit to a specific race/culture of individuals, yet there is an intuitive pattern of depending on what I’ve been customized to accept, that now and again goes around sound judgment. Change stops by method for acknowledgment and seeing so it appears the key is getting individuals to tune in. Is the way to deal with live discreetly sneaking past the indirect access or requesting passage at the front? I truly don’t have the appropriate response. I wish I did. The initial step is conceding that there is an issue.

Who is Imam Hussain and why he matters now more than ever

Imam Hussain Holding Dead Infant

In the current Middle-Eastern climate of popular “Arab Spring” revolutions, with the people rising up against unjust, despotic and tyrannical dictatorships, understanding who Imam Hussain (AS) is and what happened to him is more important than ever.

Just like he was nearly 1300 years ago – in this day and age, Imam Hussain could be the inspiration for more than just a typical popular uprising, the seeking of democratic rights, but far beyond that to the seeking of social, judicial, economic, human and personal justice. And not just and inspiration for Muslims, but for everyone. You may have never heard of Imam Hussain, or, if you are Muslim, you may have heard of him but know next to nothing about him – please allow me to fill in some gaps in your knowledge of Islamic history.

The word “Imam” is a respectable title given to spiritual leaders and/or religious scholars. Imam Hussain was the second boy born to Fatima (AS), the Prophet Muhammed’s daughter, and Imam Ali (AS), the Prophet’s cousin. In many cultures, people are known by their first name and their father’s name, so Imam Hussain is known as Hussain Ibn Ali (Hussain son of Ali). This makes Hussain the grandson of Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and the Prophet used to call Hussain and his older brother Hassen “my sons” and he loved them dearly. In fact, the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) taught of their special status, a status given by God, calling them Masters of the Youth of Heaven – Sayyeda Shabab ahl-al Jannah – and he enjoined obedience and love for them and the rest of his family as an ordinance of Islam. Who would have thought that not 50 years after his death, people who identified themselves as “Muslims” would murder the Prophet’s grandsons and in the most horrific of ways.

Following the death of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW), four khalifs or successors, came to become leaders of the Muslims and were later referred to as Al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidoon – “The Rightly-Guided Successors”. During their khalifates spanning some 40 years, three of the four khalifs were assassinated by their citizens, the third of them by a violent mob that accused him of corruption. And there were political murders and civil wars during their khalifates too. One of the governors, Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, installed by the third khalif (who was his relative), decided he didn’t want to leave his position and began to wage war against the fourth rightly guided khalif, Ali, the father of Hussain. Basically, a whole political, social and religious mess occurred after the death of the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) and this laid down the tracks for what was to follow.

Following the assassination of Imam Ali (AS), his son Imam Hassen (AS), became the next khalif but his leadership was short lived as the war-weary and corrupted citizens failed to support him and he was left with no choice but to make a truce with Mu’awiyah, his father’s arch-enemy in order to keep the peace and make sure the citizens of both parties were not harmed. Part of the agreement was that after the death of Mu’awiyah, his offspring could not rule. The contract was agreed upon and signed, but Mu’awiyah failed to honour his promise. Not long after the signing of the truce Imam Hassen (AS) was assassinated, though it was not clear by whom, by being poisoned and he died a slow and agonizing death. Mu’awiyah ruled for many years and with an iron fist. He attacked and imprisoned the supporters of Imam Ali and he established a culture of hatred in the people for Ali and his family, so much so that the preachers in the mosques would send curses upon them, notwithstanding the fact that they were members of the family of the Prophet and had been given lofty titles by God! Such is the power of propaganda in a dictatorship that even religion cannot bring sense to the people and corruption and ignorance is rife even amongst religious leaders. The seeds of sectarianism in Islam were also planted in this time leading to many fractures in Islamic unity which last to this day. 

Following the death of Mu’awiyah, his son Yazid, by his father’s wishes, declared himself the next leader. Yazid was something altogether different – he was a shameless drunkard, gambler, adulterer and did not respect or keep any of the Islamic laws nor public sensibilities that the leader of an Islamic government should observe. Furthermore, he began to hunt down any potential enemies. Thousands of people including women and children were systematically imprisoned, tortured and a large number of those were murdered. He sent assassins after his enemies including Imam Hussain (AS). Imam Hussain was in the middle of the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage, when he was informed that his life was in danger and he would even be murdered in the vicinity of Islam’s holiest place of worship, the Kaaba. Imam Hussain’s followers began to send him letters to come and help them and there was an overflow of requests for him to come so he vowed to initiate a popular uprising to demand the illegitimate khalif Yazid to stand down and grant the people their rights and freedoms and set off northwards with his family and companions to Kufa, Iraq.

Arguably, the most important asset of a dictator is their intelligence apparatus and Yazid’s was very powerful. Yazid managed to find out the plans of Imam Hussain and closed down Kufa before the Imam arrived and he also assimilated the weak-willed amongst them into his army by threatening them. The tens-of-thousands-strong army of Yazid marched south and soon caught up with Imam Hussain’s family in a desert plain called Karbala and surrounded them. For three days they denied the men, women and children including babies access to food or water in the searing hot desert and they attacked them day and night until 72 of the companions, relatives both male and female and even children, including Imam Hussain’s 6 month old baby, were slaughtered brutally one after the other. Finally, after having fought his hardest, on the 10th day of the holy Islamic month of Muharram, which is known as Ashura’, Imam Hussain was martyred. The soldiers then began to desecrate the bodies with such brutality that it would make any normal person sick to their stomach. They cut off the heads of the corpses and stuck them on the ends of spears, then they slashed the bodies with their swords and rode their horses over them. And they did this in front of the womenfolk and children who had managed to survive. They beat and bound the women and children and marched them through the hot desert, parading the prisoners and the heads through towns and villages, all the way back to Yazid’s palace with the head of Imam Hussain and the other companions swinging above them on spears. It was truly a horrible and gruesome end to the grandson of the Prophet Muhammed and his companions.

What is mind-blowing about this whole ordeal is that the people who murdered Hussain called themselves Muslims. They believed in God and his messenger, they prayed, fasted, paid alms and went on pilgrimage, but yet they saw fit to murder the grandson of the Prophet and kill women and children, to attack his followers during their prayers and to desecrate their bodies after murdering them. Before the massacre, when Imam Hussain called for support in his uprising the people of the Muslim community did not rise up against the injustices of Yazid and they left him to face Yazid alone and let him die in such a horrible way. It took the killing of Imam Hussain and an attack by Yazid’s army on the holiest shrine in Islam, the Kaaba, for the people to wake up and begin resisting. While Imam Hussain had been martyred, his message and legacy lived on and inspired people to rise up and seek justice. 

Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah ruled for three years and died of illness before anyone managed to assassinate him for his crimes and his son became the next khalif and continued his dynasty for a short while. But after that, the Ummayad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty who were inspired by the plight of Imam Hussain to bring back justice and order to the Muslim empire. Peace and justice prevailed thereafter… well, until it started going sour again as history informs us.

In this day and age, the story of Imam Hussain, though very briefly mentioned in this article (and I assure you it is worthwhile to research it in depth), resonates in what is happening in the Middle-East. People are rising up against tyrants and lest we forget the meaning of Imam Hussain’s struggle, history will be doomed to repeat itself. The people in countries that have been blessed with new governments must make sure it doesn’t go down the same pathway again otherwise when the brave rise up it will be too late and no-one will stand up to support them.

Imam Hussain may have been martyred on the plains of Karbala but in the end he won because the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown and numerous dictators have found the inspiration that Imam Hussain brings to the people to be a big thorn in their side and some have even seen their own downfall because of him. Many lessons can be learnt from Imam Hussain – we learn to be brave and resilient just as Imam Hussain and his companions never backed down, and that it is better to die with dignity than to live in humiliation, and from him we also learn never to give up our rights even in the face of death, and also to keep faith in the hardest of adversities, and that sacrificing your life for a better cause is a worthwhile trade. One of the most influential peace makers in recent history, Mahatma Ghandi, said this about Imam Hussain:

“I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed”

And India’s first democratic Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, once said:

“Imam Hussain’s sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness”

In inspiring prominent non-Muslims, you can see that Imam Hussain’s message transcends religion and culture. His movement was an enlightened one – one that we all yearn for when we seek our most basic and important of rights – human rights. And, if you learn more about the man, you will find his teachings span well beyond the essentials.

Eid Al-Adha Mubarak… What is Eid Al-Adha?

Eid Mubarak to all the Muslims! And congratulations to the pilgrims who travelled to Makkah this year.

I expect the Muslims to know what Eid al-Adha is but not anyone else really, so I thought I’d write a little about this celebration to introduce it. The word “eid” means celebration or feast, so Muslims celebrate this day by dressing smartly, going to the mosque and praying the eid prayer, visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts and feasting together. Al-Adha roughly means “The sacrifice/slaughter”. So all together it means the “Celebration of the Sacrifice”. Muslims worldwide celebrate two eids annually, the other being Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month fasting, Ramadhan. Eid Al-Fitr and is the larger eid of the two.

“The Celebration of the Sacrifice”, or Eid Al-Fitr, refers to the slaughtering of a ram (sheep). The backstory goes something like this: Prophet Abraham (PBUH), having lived a long life and being married to Sarah (RA)for a long while, was without any children because his wife was barren. The family wanted to have a child so Sarah asked her servant Hagar if she would like to marry Abraham and she agreed and sure enough she became pregnant. Soon enough the little baby boy was born and they called him Ismaeel (Ishmael). After a few years, Prophet Abraham started having dreams where he was commanded to take his only son to a certain place outside the city and slaughter him with a sharp knife. Now you can probably imagine how overjoyed they were, having been childless for so long, and then they were blessed with a child – now they became especially distressed that they would lose their only child. But Abraham, being a Prophet, knew it was a command from God and went to his son and told him what he planned to do. Rather than screaming, running-away or rebelling, the young Ishmael accepted this command from God and accepted his presumed fate. So the next morning, the Prophet took a sharp knife, some rope to bind the child’s limbs together and awoke Ismaeel to guide him to an alter where he would soon carry out the slaughter. They walked a while before they got there and ishmael willingly presented his hands and legs to be bound, and they were, and he was positioned, ready for slaughter. Then Abraham raised the razor-sharp knife and uttered the name of God and was about to strike Ismaeel when God commanded an angel to stop him from killing his son and replace the child with a ram (sheep) to be slaughtered instead. Thus, both Ishmael and Abraham were tested by their Lord and succeeded and their spiritual stations were raised.

This story and many others related to the stories of Abraham, considered the grandfather of the Prophets, are commemorated by the Muslims during the pilgrimage rites. One of the rituals of the pilgrimage is the slaughter of an animal like a sheep, cow, camel or goat, and they cook and eat some of it and give the rest to friends, family and the poor. Eid al-Adha is also know as Eid al-Hujjaj – Eid of the Pilgrims – and Eid al-Adha marks the completion of the pilgrimage event. The day of completion is on the 10th day of the last month of the Muslim Calender, the month of Dhul-Hijjah. To read more about the pilgrimage, or hajj, please check out the About Islam section of the website – The Five pillars of Islam: Hajj (Pilgrimage).

Aim for the skies and keep your feet on the ground

In my life I have been exposed to amazing opportunities and moments which most people rarely get to see. But with the good, you must allow yourself to witness moments which will conversely not be as enjoyable. Last week whilst volunteering for a local MP, I was able to come face to face with situations which were foreign to me. What I didn’t know was that it was this next two weeks would have a profound effect on me as a person. Throughout the placement, I dealt which serious health issues, human rights issues, to simple squabbles between neighbours. Towards the end of my time at the office, I was able to shadow some home visits of local constituents in my area. As I entered the first house in an Asian estate, there was a sombre atmosphere where a young Asian man led us into a small little room. In that room, I met a frail middle-aged woman lying on a broken bed moaning from her pain.

We were told she had suffered a stroke 6 months ago, and she was unable to move, and subsequently she was living in what would be her dining room/kitchen area. Honestly, the scene itself brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was her physical state or the living conditions they were in. There was Quran playing in the background, and religious symbols draping the walls around the home. It was humbling to see a family which had been hit with such a personal tragedy, yet their closeness with God was unaffected. As we went on from house to house, the circumstances were similar if not worse. However, it was the patience and the friendliness of the people that shone through. Being an Asian neighbourhood, they were pleased to see a local young Muslim woman partaking in local politics, and so I felt this instantaneous connection which put us on a shared level of understanding regardless of the language barrier. When I finished the visits, I sat in the car feeling upset and remained quiet. I was shocked that this level of local poverty existed in such close proximity to my own home. Coming from a comfortable upbringing, I was always told I was sheltered and unaware of the “real world”. It hit me right then that this was the real world. I looked at my problems, and I felt ashamed to call them problems in comparison to those which others were experiencing.

I felt a sense of disgust at Politicians at the top of the hierarchy who were unaware of the disastrous effect on the people they were supposed to be looking out for. What was more aggravating was that it is the same elite, who come from a specific section of society, who have never come into contact with people such as these in order to truly see the effect of their own political decisions from the roots. There are politicians who work in their field in order to create their own personal brand of superiority and power. On the other hand there are real politicians who carry their people’s interests in their heart, and give a voice to the neglected. They strive to make life better for every section of society. It is so easy for people to become unheard and meaningless. At the same time, it is so easy for those in better standards of living to put our fingers in our ears and brush away the harsh realities those below us are experiencing. I left my work experience coming out with more than just a career benefit. Those two weeks gave me a feeling of thankfulness for everything I had, and a sense of urgency to pursue my career in the political arena in order to do what I can to help people just like the ones I had come across.

What attracts me to politics? Is it the power, the corruption, the salary or the other appealing benefits? No, I grew up believing politics is the where decisions were made to improve people, your area, your nation, and the world. In order to improve in life, you need to aim for the top, yet keep an eye on the bottom. Whether you’re interested in politics, science, or the arts, take yourself out of your comfort zone and take as much out of life as you can, be it good or bad. It is moments like these which will shape who you become as a person.

God as your new best friend

Having a relationship with God is one of the strongest bonds anyone can create. The unique thing about this rapport is that you are the sole conductor of it, and therefore it is ultimately in your hands to determine the strength of this connection. When things go wrong and you feel detached from God, you must ask yourself: who moved? From my own personal experience, Allah (God) to me is with me wherever I go. He is entwined into my conscience which subsequently helps me to decide upon my actions what is right and what is wrong. Many people look to faith as a moral guide, setting the boundaries of life, and obeisance of this will enable you to be rewarded eternally. Being in the UK, there has recently been a shift in the levels of religious involvement. This is down to many factors such as the pursuit of Liberalism, and generally as human beings we are becoming more self inclined, leading us to not want to have to be held accountable for our actions. Personally, I feel disappointed that so many are missing out on such a close relationship with God, and I feel that this is because of the misunderstanding of His role. You often find particularly in the Muslim faith, Allah’s functions are viewed in a punitive manner rather than a loving one. This will be partly due to the way parents have brought up their children with the idea that if you do X wrong, God will punish you in Y way. As representatives of faith, we should be concentrating on God as a support mechanism, and a constant source of love and affection. Yes, without a doubt there are certain actions which may have consequences, yet we do not express as strongly the ability of God to forgive. His mercy extends beyond belief, and the root of that is His love for us. Seeing God as a Judge who hands out a punishment takes away from His capacity to love and to respect the human beings whom He has created.
 You often find when things get serious, and your belief in the human race expires, you inherently look towards a higher being to support you. When desperation seeps in, even the ones who have actively rejected God seek solace and comfort in the expectation that there is something out there which holds more power than them. As the saying goes, when the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray. In the same way, whenever things do go wrong, it is natural to look up into the sky to search for an answer or a glimmer of hope. Actions such as this are not coincidental in my view, nor have they just been duplicated from generation to generation. As humans we are flawed, and thus we need a perfect being to depend on in order to solve our own misfortunes.

 My thoughts on this matter were triggered by recent events when the mother of a friend of mine fell ill. She isn’t a strong believer in Islam yet she told me the first thing she did was reach for the Quran and do a special Duaa (prayer). In many ways this made me think why is it that people only look to God as a last resort when things get bad? But at the same time, I rebutted this thought by concluding that it is the ability for their mind to come to terms with having a superior force that is the most important factor. It is this connection, however thin which we should embrace, because at the end of the day, as long as the link is there, you can always build upon it. 

See God in a different light, look to Him as a friend who can guarantee you he will never let you down. Work on your relationship with Him in the same way you would work to improve your other personal relationships, if not harder. Even when you think he has failed you; remember there is a purpose for every action in life. Bad things carry elements of good, and through patience comes reward. Ask for forgiveness on a regular basis and keep your feet on the ground. Focus on what you do have, and God will give you more.

Depression

To commemorate world mental health day, 10/10/2011, I thought I’d write a post about the most common mental health problem people suffer from depression.

Depression is more than just feeling down or temporarily unhappy, and depression doesn’t come in just one form. Many things can affect our mood and increase our risk of falling into depression. Some risk factors include traumatic childhood experiences, conflict, unemployment, genetic predisposition, stress, boredom, bullying, childbirth and many other things and if you’re a woman, you’re more than twice as likely to seek treatment for it. Current numbers indicate that depression is on the increase and the current statistics state that between 8-12% of the population experience depression in any year with half them getting better after 18 months. (source)

The French philosopher Descartes once said “I think, therefore I am”, and when it comes to depression this is key to our susceptibility and prognosis because the contents of our thoughts have a major influence on our emotions. Our outlook on life, our attitude to our own situation, how we interact with our environment all have a major impact on how we perceive the world. If, for example, you feel unloved, the world will appear unloving, and if you continue to have this kind of outlook and continue to tell yourself that you will never be loved then it will lead you on a trip to the darkest recesses of your soul, a downward spiral into a deep depression.

So, a lot of the potential for treatment lies in our own selves and how we think about things. Where possible and permitted, a person should identify and tackle the root cause of their ailment. Be proactive, try solving the problem or speaking with people who can help, like your family, friends, employer and doctor. If you can’t solve the problem nor make a massive change in your life then you have to find a way to deal with it. Talking with friends and family is a starting point, but from hereon, your aim is not to deal with the root cause of the problem as you cannot change the past, your aim is to change your future, to handle the symptoms or secondary problems and reduce their influence. Your aim is to create a more positive outlook on your life and a better future.

As Muslims, we find strength from our faith and our belief and trust in Allah. Sometimes we feel all alone and with no one to seek help from when in fact we have God there to seek help and support from. If we seek treatment, Allah will help us on our way to getting better. We need to form a better understanding of life. We have to understand that we will all have some adversity in our life but we need to be patient:

[2.155] And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient.

[2.156] Who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: Surely we are Allah’s and to Him we shall surely return.

[2.157] Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course.

On the face of it, the reality of life is that we will all get diseases, suffer, grow old and die, but our attitude towards this reality makes all the difference. This is the human condition and there is nothing you can do about it apart from change your attitude towards it. In Islam, life isn’t viewed as the be all and end all of existence. Our life is a gift from Allah and He uses it to test us to see if we are patient and obedient before He takes us into the afterlife where we will discover our fate. We need to understand the value of our own soul and this is why we need to form a better relationship with God. When we feel lonely and unloved, we must always remember that God is with us and that He loves and cares about us and He is never far from us. We can talk to Him and seek help from Him and He can help us get better and He has the power to improve our situation. Allah asks us to call on Him for support:

[2.186] And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.

Humans have an unmatched ability to make their own lives miserable and ruin the lives of others with them. Isn’t it strange how we commit sins against our very own souls and against the people we love and our neighbours and wonder why we feel bad and ashamed or ask why we get punished in this life? The first step to becoming a better person and a better believer who Allah is more likely to help, is to reduce your sinning, right your wrongs and seek repentance from those you wronged and from Allah. Never lose hope in the forgiveness of Allah and pray to Him. It is said that one of the worst sin a person can do, aside from the obvious ascribing partners to Allah (shirk), or disbelieving in Him, is despondence and despair, or losing all hope in God and in His mercy and forgiveness. If we are depressed we may feel hopeless and powerless, but if we lose our trust and faith in Allah then we have committed a great injustice against our very own souls.

The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) has related:

“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that” [Sahih Bukhari]

We might suffer in this life, but if we are patient and obedient to Allah then He will remove our sins and bless us manifold in the hereafter. If we go through a hard time, and we fight a good fight and we remain patient in adversity, we may come out better people, mentally and spiritually stronger at the end of it. Let us not forget, that there is something good in the bad things that happen to us and we are in far less dire a condition than other people in the world. Other people are dying of terrible diseases, people are watching their friends and family getting hacked to death and others are being tortured while we here are worrying about ourselves. And let us not forget that the most beloved people to Allah suffered some terrible fates � one has only to remember the fate of Imam Hussain ibn Ali (AS) and his family members, including his children, close friends and companions getting slaughtered one after the other, but he never lost trust in Allah and he prayed to Him throughout the massacre. And also of the Prophets of God, like Nuh (Noah), Ayub (Job) and Muhammed (PBUT). All of these holy and most beloved people to God were physically harmed by their enemies, belittled, called liars, became ill and suffered the loss of their own children.

Brothers and sisters, you are not alone and you have people who care about you. There is no shame is seeking help. You have Allah, your family and friends and if you need further help then please speak with your doctor. There are also books, help lines you can telephone (Muslim Youth Helpline 0808 808 2008) and websites you can visit to help you overcome depression inshallah.

I should state that I’m not a therapist of any sort, nor can I give any professional advice, and the aim of this article is to help guide you to seeking professional help if you require it. The statistics and non-religious advice mentioned in the article have been paraphrased from the books I read in researching the subject: Overcoming Depression by Dr Windy Dryden and Sarah Opie, and Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert.

Be the change you want to see in the world…

In light of recent events, we have seen ourselves often questioning our duties to fellow human beings around the world. Living in the UK, in comparison to people from other countries, we live a very lavish lifestyle – food, shelter, and our basic rights are all protected. As clich as it may sound, we really DO take it for granted. This semester studying about international justice really took me by surprise. Here I was, a political philosophy student, studying about whether people around the world deserve the same access to basic commodities as we do here. Truth be told, I felt uncomfortable that this issue actually needed to be debated about. In those moments, all I found myself thinking about was dying, starving children in the third world who are being punished literally because of where they were born. I felt like I had the power to juggle their life chances in my hands, yet at the same time, I felt so powerless to actually actively help them. Our birthplace is a luxury, therefore anything we do have, isn’t really “ours”. We see poverty on the television, we hear the news, and we know the statistics…the fact of the matter is, we have become numb to it. But why should we dismiss the deaths and the poor qualities of living standards? As human beings, we have to neglect our superiority, and break down the barriers which have dictated our standards of living. We are all equal, we share the same air, and we see the same sky, therefore we all have a duty to respect everyone’s minimum of basic human rights. Being a moral agent involves you having compassion, and the ability to feel other people’s pain and instinctively want to help. As a global unit, we are moving closer together and exchanging our goods, values and cultures. Within this process, we should also transfer our duties and our helping hands to others. The biggest threat to war and conflict is the peaceful existence of people side by side. So stand in the way of these obstacles and pursue the rights of everyone, because together we’re stronger. In this temporary life, we have one chance to make a change to the world, and ultimately this will determine your future in the hereafter.

The “Arab Spring” uprisings – the stream of blood continues to flow

Arab Spring 3

There were no indications that the subservient people of the Arab nations would ever request a change to the system and rise up against it even when they were denied the most basic of human rights, but to our pleasant surprise they rose up against dictators, against bureaucracy, against the corrupt officials, against murderous villains whose offices had stood unperturbed for 40 years in some cases, and they sacrificed their lives for the sake of their fellow countrymen.  

Arab Spring 3

God has said in the Quran that:

“… Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition…” [13.11]

And indeed the youth in particular, having seen the poverty, humiliation and fear their parents and fellow countrymen lived in, decided to take up the reigns of social responsibility and demand change and better treatment and social justice, their innate human rights and basic respect. And they had the courage and sense to fight for what they believed in and Allah provided them with His support and blessed them with a grand success because they placed their trust in Him.

The dictators, the enemies of God, had they read the words of God, the Quran, would have come upon the story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) and learnt the fate of Pharaoh, and then perhaps they would have considered that they might meet an evil fate as well. They also had the example of Saddam Hussain before that and the other nations as they fell one by one but yet they remained heedless.

“We recite to you from the account of Moses and Pharaoh with truth for people who believe. Surely Pharaoh exalted himself in the land (as their lord) and made its people into groups, weakening one group from among them (in particular); he slaughtered their sons and spared their women; surely he was one of the mischiefmakers. And We desired to bestow a favour upon those who were deemed weak in the land, and to make them the leaders, and to make them the heirs, and to grant them power in the land, and to make Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts see from them what they feared.” [28.3 – 6]

Alhamdullilah, the dictators of the Middle East are falling one by one. Let us hope that they come to their senses and stand down of their own accord to stop any unnecessary bloodshed, otherwise their end will be a wretched one and Allah’s punishment more so severe. 

But the battle continues in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria and the blood continues to flow in the streets. In the case of Bahrain, we see that an outside state, Saudi Arabia, has interfered and sent thousands of its troops to support the current rulers to kill any protesters. Young unarmed men posing no physical threat have been being shot in cold blood, possibly by Saudi troops, while the Western countries watch and remain silent. Isn’t it strange to see how they support one uprising, like in Libya, and not another, and they take an ally in Saudi Arabia knowing of their crimes and opposition to “freedom and democracy”. The politicians and newspapers may be silent but let us, the people, do our part and raise awareness of the plight of the people of Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. Use Facebook, Twitter, email and other means to inform your friends of the news and please contact your local MP and have them raise the issue in parliament and then you can say you did your part.

To the rebels: We wish you the best of success in toppling these dictators and bringing freedom, peace and harmony to your lands Inshallah. We salute you for your efforts, and for those of you who have succeeded, we congratulate you for your success. And we pray for all the fallen martyrs who risked everything they hold dear to bring freedom to your nations. Jazakumullah Khair.

Ten years on since 9/11

Ten years on since 9/11

Ten years have passed since those fateful attacks on the twin towers in New York, America. The world is a very different place now from what it may have been had the attacks not happened. The US has led two costly wars since the attacks and we, the citizens of all the countries involved, have had to pay the price with our children, our money, and for the losers of those wars, their sovereignty.

Everyone can remember where they were when the attacks occured. I was in Iraq at the time and my cousin pointed at the TV and told me that planes had crashed into the twin towers. At first I didn’t believe it and thought it was like a clip from some Hollywood movie but the reality was much more horrifying and the consequences of the attacks would be far more resounding than I or anyone else could have ever imagined.

It was only when this incident had occurred that the ugly head of terrorism and islamaphobia became apparent to me and to the 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world. With one swift action, 1.5 Billion Muslims were painted with the same brush and labelled terrorists. The American media machine didn’t pause to breathe and continually spewed out hatred for Islam and the Muslims. Muslims became pariahs wherever they were, whoever they were, be they young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not and school and work colleagues, people who we met every day, were friends with, knew us very well, met us with distrust having suddenly associated us with the murderers who flew those planes into the towers. Terrorism and all things associated with it was alien to us and our religion but somehow we were now made associates of a crime we had nothing to do with.

The 9/11 attacks were a wakeup call to Muslims across the world we had had our eyes closed to the enemies in our midst. Somehow, a disease had spread within our social fabric and we had not noticed it till now, and when we did take notice, we did not understand it until we began to pay the price for our ignorance. These “terrorists” began to kill Muslims. It started off with individual suicide bombings and car bombings in public places in Afghanistan, but they were attacking Afghani citizens, including women and children, not the occupier. Then when the Americans manufactured a case for war on Iraq, they grew more dastardly, and the terrorists started to kidnap, rape, torture, steal from and massacre anyone they could lay their hands on. Tribal leaders who had initially welcomed these terrorists in because they saw them as freedom fighters against the American occupation soon realised their grave mistake when they themselves and their people became the targets and were being killed off in droves as the power-mad terrorists clambered for the authority and governance of their hosts. They eventually realised that terrorists are not just the enemies of America, or the West in general, but they were enemies of Islam and the Muslims and anybody who didn’t believe in what they believed.

It seems like a blink of an eye but ten years has now passed. Millions have lost their lives most of them innocent Muslims, no thanks to the callous acts of a few who thought themselves devout Muslims and the ensuing American war machine and its associates. Let us never forget that we are in this situation because of a few people who claimed to be devout Muslims yet broke all the rules and murdered innocent people, including innocent Muslims. Today they will be commemorating and paying tribute to the 3000 innocent men and women who lost their lives at the towers in America, but who will be holding a memorial for the hundreds of thousands of non-American victims of global terrorism and American wars after that? Let us never forget the innocent victims of their crimes, the 3000 who died at the towers, the Afghani and Iraqi civilians, and the people who have been attacked around the world in such places as Pakistan, India, Spain and the UK. Please recite a prayer for our fellow deceased brethren, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Choose Your Friends

Perhaps the most important thing, the thing we hold dear to us after God and our family are our friends, and the influence our friends have on us is not something negligible. There is a lot to consider when we choose our friends as this article will briefly convey.

Humans are naturally social creatures and we tend to try and find other people, groups to belong to – usually people who we share some interests, have things in common or can communicate easily with. This is why lasting friendships tend to lie within racial, cultural, social and religious boundaries, though it is not rare for people to have really good friends who don’t belong to their own community.

When we hear about peer pressure we don’t like to admit that we have been affected because we believe we are not so easily influenced, but our friends have a great impact on how we turn out as we get older. Sometimes it’s a bad influence and sometimes it’s very good but do we pay attention to these things growing up?

If you remember back to your days in school, the people who were friends with “the smokers”, for example, and hung around with them, more than likely ended up becoming smokers themselves. As young people, we yearn for acceptance and being liked so we end up doing things that aren’t right or good – the feeling of belonging is sometimes stronger than knowing that something is wrong and we tend to forget our stances if all our friends’ hold different opinions to us.

This is why, when choosing a friend, it is important to gauge the values of that person before you get sucked into their circle of friends and get negatively influenced and/or hurt. There a number of things to remember when first choosing a friend – what are their values? Are they trustworthy and truthful? do they flaunt the rules, lie, cheat, commit many sins, disrespect their parents, bully or mock other people, backbite, have bad manners  and use foul language? Do they respect you and your beliefs and values?

It might seem strange but a lot of people are friends with people who do not respect them or their values and mistreat them. You cannot be true friends with someone who treats you badly and disrespects you so you must break off the friendship. Choose friends who like you for who you are and don’t cause you trouble.

More than just being normal friends, a good friend can make you a better person and inspire you to do good things. You can tell a good person had good friends growing up because they do good things and are well mannered. Choose friends who are not only kind to you, but who inspire you to do good things like getting involved with charity, improving your community, increasing your knowledge, remind you of God and pray, and improve your future prospects in this life and the next.

The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) defines a good friend in these words: 

“He is the one whose very sight makes you remember God, whose conversation increases your knowledge and whose deeds remind you of the world in the Hereafter.” (Behar al-Anwar, v15 p51)

A good friend can enter you into the kingdom of heaven and a bad friend can lead you into the fires of hell, so choose your friends wisely.