Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Importance Of Living Within One's Means

by S. N. Smith

This article discusses the importance of living within one's means using the Quran and sunnah as a guide. The main topics highlighted in the article include materialist ideology, spirituality, balance, debt, extravagance, showiness/ostentation, contentment, setting of priorities, and delayed gratification. The article argues that, from an Islamic perspective, it is more conducive to the advancement of one's spirituality if a person learns to live within their means.


To say that someone is living beyond their means simply refers to the practice of spending more money than they are bringing in. This is a very easy trap to fall into, especially with the ease of obtaining credit. Why people do this is because we live in a very materialist society where having more is seen as better as well as a positive statement on one's competence and even self-worth. Sadly, this kind of thinking has entered into the hearts and minds of many believers who should know better. But, if one is not careful, this practice will catch up with them and they will find themselves in debt. And debt can be a very oppressive place to be in as debtor is at the mercy of others and will cause them to lose their peace of mind.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Say in the morning and evening: ‘O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.’ Abu Umamah said: “When I did that Allah removed my distress and settled my debt.” [Source Abu Dawood]

There are many similar duas in the authentic hadeeth and it is wise to refer to them on a regular basis.

It is important that in our daily lives we maintain balance and not pursue extravagance or fall into the trap of showiness or ostentation. This is a form of pride and arrogance which has no place in the life of a believer. Instead, our lives should be one in which we traverse a middle path and we seek to we live within the means Allah has given us and not exceed that.

It is also important that we learn to cultivate a sense of contentment with what Allah has given us and not compare ourselves with others or always be wanting more. And contentment itself is a source of great wealth, especially in a world full of so much turmoil.

Let us be reminded by the words of Allah who said:

“And whatever thing you [people] have been given – it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?” [Qur’an: Chapter 28, Verse 60]

And, “Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.“[Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verse 7]

So whatever we have been given in life is only temporary and in those things there is a test which we will be asked about when we meet Allah. It is better to be thankful and content with what one has, as it is more conducive to peaceful living and drawing closer to Allah. Go back and read again Surah Al-Takathar (Quran ch 102) in which Allah criticizes humanity's preoccupation with worldly wealth and stresses that they will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection.

We, as humanity, are in a state of distraction from the true purpose and reality regarding our existence. Instead, we compete with one another in amassing wealth and other worldly benefits and think nothing of the hereafter. But we fail to remember that this all ends once we reach our respected graves. Dear reader, there is spot on the earth waiting for you right now that has been pre-destined to swallow you up. But humanity's attitude of mutual rivalry for the goods of this world is not a good one to have. We shall soon know, as death overtakes us, what the true reality is, and if we really knew and understood now we would change our course of action and thinking. Allah promises that we will most certainly see the hell-fire. When we do, we will see the vanity of what we pursued during our time on earth and we will be filled with much remorse. In addition, we will be asked about all the pleasures we enjoyed over the course of our lives. This is all a very sobering thought.

In order to avoid debt and living beyond our means, we should first and foremost ask Allah to protect us. In addition, we should take practical steps so that we don't fall into this trap. We must learn how to set priorities and know what is important and what is not. We also need to practice restraint and know the long-term value of delayed gratification, and Ramadan is a great time to put this into practice and then apply it to other aspects of our daily lives. It is even sometimes necessary to consult a financial planner who can help us get back on track.

Ultimately, the real problem is a spiritual one. We have internalized the values of this society and thus are never satisfied. We have failed to study the central message of the Quran, the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and the pious predecessors and arrive at an understanding regarding how they, in their daily practice, achieved spiritual success and inward tranquility.

Living within one's means is more conducive to the advancement of one's spirituality while materialism and debt will only oppress us a make our lives miserable. May Allah help us to make the right choices.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism

Omar Alnatour in this piece highlights 5 major reasons why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism because they are always being blamed for things they have absolutely no control over.

Source: https://www.naij.com/1087619-opinion-why-muslims-apologize-terrorism.html

Date: February 10, 2017

Picture this: You wake up in the morning to hear your wife screaming at you because it’s pouring rain outside. She hates the rain and now her day is ruined because of you. You go downstairs only to hear your children yell at you because they broke the toaster. They can’t have waffles now and it’s all your fault. On the way to work, you stop and fill up gas only to hear everyone at the gas station curse you out because gas prices have risen. You arrive at work only to see all your coworkers gathered around your desk demanding that you apologize for the printer being jammed. On the way home from work, everyone on the highway screams at you because they are upset with the rush hour traffic.

Quite a ridiculous scenario, right? Can you imagine always being blamed for things that you have absolutely no control over? Can you imagine always being asked to apologize for these things? Can you imagine being hated whether or not you do apologize? This is what being a Muslim in America today feels like.

I am a proud American, raised in Texas. I’m a college student. I’m a humanitarian. I’m an aspiring physician. I’m someone who hopes to revolutionize access to medicine and healthcare in the United States and in war-torn countries across the world. I also am a M-u-s-l-i-m, one of over 1.6 billion who are blamed whenever an act of terrorism occurs as if we are nothing more than this 6-letter word hijacked by those who wrongly use our religion to justify their heinous crimes.

As a Muslim American who continually strives to do everything I can for the betterment of my community and this nation, I am tired of being asked to apologize and condemn terrorism that I have absolutely nothing to do with.

Here are five reasons why Muslims should never have to apologize for terrorism:

1) It’s ridiculous to ask us to apologize.

As a practicing Muslim, I know that my religion teaches peace. I am so certain of this fact that I will award anyone $10,000 if they can find me a verse in the Quran that says it’s ok to kill innocent people or to commit acts of terror. This is an open offer that will never expire.

I also know that Muslims, as a religious group, are not terrorists. I have factually proved this. I also have factually proved that you are more likely to be struck by lightening, crushed to death by a couch, or killed by a toddler, than to be killed by a Muslim.

This being said, why should I have to apologize for a violence that I have no connection to? A violence my religion blatantly stands against.

Ask yourself: Should car manufacturers have to apologize when drunk drivers kill people using their vehicles? Should you be required to apologize to the police if your sibling gets a speeding ticket because you share the same last name? Should every single gun owner in America have to apologize whenever someone is killed by a firearm? Should weathermen have to apologize for cloudy days? Should pharmacists have to apologize for your allergies? Should I have to apologize for the typos of another writer?

Unless you can find that $10,000 verse or unless you blatantly hear a Muslim explicitly supporting terrorism, please understand that asking us, both individually and collectively, to apologize for terrorism would be just as ridiculous as the questions above.

2) It should be obvious by now that Muslims condemn terrorism.

By now, it should be very clear that Muslims condemn terrorism. All it takes is a simple Google search of any terrorist attack to find the plethora of Muslims publicly condemning it. Try it out. For example, here are over 40 examples of Muslims condemning the Charlie Hebdo attacks. And here is an example of how Muslims all across the world condemned the Paris attacks.

Muslims condemn terrorism, we always have. This is a fact. And just as I shouldn’t have to reassure you each morning that the sky is still blue, Muslims should not have to reassure you that we still condemn terrorism every single time a terrorist attack occurs.

And frankly, if you don’t already believe that Muslims condemn terrorism by now, then no apology or repeated broken-record condemnation from any Muslim or Muslim organization will help cure your intolerant hatred.

3) Muslims are at the very forefront of combating terrorism.

The only thing more ridiculous than asking people to apologize for something they have no connection to is to make people apologize for something they are working so hard to combat.

Muslims want to defeat terrorism just as much as any other American, if not more. This is why we have Muslim women like Niloofar Rahmani and Kubra Khademi who are at the very frontlines fighting terrorists. This is why millions of Muslim youth are taking a stand against ISIS. This is why tons of Muslim groups and scholars repeatedly issue statements condemning ISIS, many even being killed by ISIS for doing so.

This is why more than 120 Muslim scholars from around the world joined together to write an open letter to ISIS, denouncing them as un-Islamic by using Islamic terms. This is why Muslims are being killed by ISIS for publicly opposing this terrorist group’s persecution of Christians.

For the same reasons that firemen don’t apologize for fires and doctors don’t apologize for heart disease, Muslims should not be expected or asked to apologize for something they are working so hard to combat.

4) Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism.

According to the Counter Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Al-Qaeda kills over seven times more Muslims than non-Muslims. According to the UN, Muslims are the largest victims of ISIS. According to the State Department, Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism in general. No matter where you look, you will find that the strongest association between Muslims and terrorism is one in which Muslims are victims of it.

There is a sad irony in how Muslims are the largest victims of terrorism yet also receive the most hatred for it. Just as it would be wrong to blame African Americans for slavery, starving children for world hunger, and toddlers for school shootings, it is equally wrong to blame Muslims for terrorism when we are always the victims of it.

Want me to call the leader of ISIS and tell him to stop committing terror? Give me his contact information; I’d be happy to. Any Muslim would. But just know that the conversation would begin with us, ISIS’s largest victims, telling him to stop hijacking our religion to justify killing Muslims who actually follow it.

5) If we have to apologize for terrorism, then so should everyone else.

This last point is especially important. Why are Muslims the only group that are required to apologize for and condemn the actions of criminals that associate with their group?

To put things into perspective, ask yourself: Why aren’t all white males asked to apologize for the slavery that white males endorsed less than two centuries ago? The slavery in which one third of slaves were Muslims. Why aren’t all Buddhists asked to apologize for the radical Buddhist monks in Mynammar that are violently attacking Muslims? Why aren’t all policemen asked to apologize for the racist cops that are dropping the bodies of unarmed blacks like leaves in the autumn?

You must understand that just as you are detached from the heinous crimes mentioned above, I am just as detached from the terrorism that so many keep trying to link me with for no other reason than me being a Muslim.

You must understand that by asking me whether I condemn terrorism, you are questioning my humanity.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review of Monia Mazigh's "Hope Has Two Daughters"

Novel written by Monia Mazigh
Translated by Fred A. Reed
Published by House of Anansi Press, 2017
Sold in Ottawa at Octopus Books

Reviewed by S N Smith -- Feb 9, 2017


I am a big believer in the power of fiction to convey important messages and even compel people into positive action. Fiction can communicate things that non-fiction lacks the ability to. The inward passions, motivations, fears, hopes, sorrow, disillusionment, joy, and a host of other human emotions, can be painted on the pages of a well written novel. And those emotions are experienced within a particular context, and when we understand that context we then understand where these emotions are coming from and that they don't exist in a vacuum. Not everyone, of course, reacts the same way to the events around them, and many people are riddled with a host of contradictions and shortcomings which are not always easy to decipher. Fiction, I believe, has the power to highlight this in a more effective way than non-fiction can. For non-fiction tends to stick to the facts of what we know or, if the historical imagination is exercised, it is still done so within limits, and thus we don't always get a full picture of the impact of events on the lives of people, especially individuals.

And this brings me to Monia Mazigh's latest novel, Hope has Two Daughters, a line which comes from Augustine of Hippo, also a North African, which says, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

And this sentence, I feel, captures what Mazigh seeks to achieve in her novel. 

This is a story of the awakening of a political consciousness and how when it is brought to the fore of one's thinking or world view there is no going back. The world, as we thought is was, no longer exists and it is impossible to live with the delusion despite how others seek to dissuade or discourage us. The wall -- the wall of delusion -- that has protected us, comes tumbling down and now we see what we failed to see before and are forced to move out of the safe space we have carved for ourselves. Even the fear that previously held us firmly in its grip has to let go or we become stripped of our very humanity and can not longer live with ourselves. This does not mean that the fear does not exist, only that it no longer has power over us. You will see this process taking place in the lives of the characters in Mazigh's novel. 

Two main characters -- mother and daughter -- and two major political events in Tunisia, 26 years apart, shape their respective political destinies. The scales fall from their eyes and it is as if they have emerged from Plato's cave for the very first time and now they see the light of the sun and thus can no longer re-enter that cave. It is almost like they experience some kind of release, as when Nadia, the mother, says: "But the couscous revolt had transformed me, had made me had made me a new person." (pg 200) 

This novel is also about the price that people sometimes have to pay when they speak truth to power, and that price can be very heavy and painful, and sometimes even deadly. In this novel Nadia is forced into exile from her native country while Mounir is imprisoned for 7 years. But in the backdrop of all this we know many people in Tunisia perished for speaking truth to power. 

This book will move you to tears in places. But this is not the purpose of Mazigh's writings. She wants to inform her readers of the painful choices people are forced to make and that despite the many hardships that accompany the political activist, the price is worth it because a life lived in the cause of struggle for the rights of others is a life well lived and places one on the right side of history.

Mazigh possesses the moral authority to write this novel, as anyone who knows her personal biography can attest, and thus her words are not just empty rhetoric or arm-chair sociology, but born out of personal struggle -- her own anger and courage -- and yet emerging from that suffering as a voice of freedom and passion for those who will follow after her.