Thursday, 20 October 2011

Death = Death

So I’ve just been scrolling through an endless list of facebook and twitter statuses rejoicing in Gaddafi’s death. People have taken to the streets, waving flags, singing songs, dancing...as if somehow true triumph and victory has finally been achieved because blood has equalled blood. The lack of humanity never ceases to amaze me.

The Quran teaches reverence for every life, even the most repugnant ones and Islam stresses that the death of a person should be observed in a respectful and solemn way for all people, not just Muslims.

Gaddafi was a monster. But do we really think that violence, even a ‘justified’ act of violence, has the capacity to heal the wounds inflicted by violence - or to end the cycle of violence? No! Returning hate for hate multiplies hate and we only end up in a vicious cycle. Through his death, through violence, we may have murdered the monster, but we haven’t murdered the ‘mentality’ and Libyan vengeance is far from served.

Its one thing to be relieved and glad that a threat is no longer, but its another thing to dance on someone's grave. There is a huge difference between holding someone accountable for their actions and being joyous in revenge. How can we tell people to stop taking lives, when we are celebrating deaths? Like an old Chinese saying goes: ‘In order to have power in an argument, you must first not violate any laws yourself.’ The way we react to the death of our enemy, says a lot about ourselves and what we stand for.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Resume!

It's been quite a while since I last posted and I will write a new post describing the changes in my life and resume my weekly (or in some cases monthly!) ramblings of events occuring in the world, the news, people, culture and anything that I hold dear and close to my heart. I also plan to include a few of my photography in my upcoming posts!

So to start off I thought I'd post my writings on current events which to some may be a little old but in my opinion still relevant :) So here we go:

Britain’s youth must not be underest─▒mated - The wrath of the tuition fee proposal

Contrary to the biggest upheaval in higher education in this country in a generation, I’ve been tentative and uncertain in gathering my own thoughts on the tuition fee proposals. In any situation seeking compromise, talking with other people about a conflict is usually an unpleasant and difficult experience. You have to be ever so careful in order to not offend and work hard to understand the other side. Observers representing all shades of opinion have filled the airwaves and column inches with warnings of disaster for UK universities and students. We’ve heard about “distressed” parents and “devastating blows” to higher education. We watched while Nick Clegg and his party wrestled with their consciences. And then, we witnessed the ‘cyber’ generation, the ‘apathetic’ ones rekindle the ancient spirit of youth activism, protesting in their thousands and leading the fight for free education. More importantly, we were then faced with demonstrations in the streets that occasionally bordered on the dangerous and damaging – the now infamous ‘Millbank Riots’ - and the debate over the limits of acceptable protest.

To put it into perspective, what we did see in the previous months was a return to early Nineteenth Century society – an embattled working class, and a middle class attempting to exert its control. While any sort of violence should not be condoned, it is easy to empathise with the students frustrations. It is all very well complaining about people protesting and getting angry, but it appears from the outset that the only way to be heard by politicians is to make a scene and this just seems like a failing in a ‘democratic’ country. The question that we should be asking ourselves instead is WHY they are protesting and WHY they are angry? It is important to consider that perhaps those committing the outrages are not ‘a few bad apples’ but decent, principled people driven to fury by the failure of our democracy?

One particular concern of mine was the introduction of a market in higher education in which students base their course choice on cost price alone – and where public funding for most subjects is removed. This would mean that while the arts and humanities face extinction, subjects with a self-evident ‘market value’ will be placed on a pedestal, in the understandable hope of a certain return for investment. After all, why should anyone promote the study of Shakespeare, Austen, the history of conflict and resolution or the philosophical meaning of life when there are more important issues that need our attention and require our money?

It is exactly this sort of thinking which will inevitably harm our education system as a whole and the ways in which we interact as a society. While humanities neither bring an end to war nor prevent disease and hunger, it can teach society WHY these miseries persist and WHY society continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. Hamlet isn’t an antidote or a recipe for how we should live our lives, but it can allow us to critically reflect on the relationship between justice and revenge. And while Jane Austen novels mainly revolve around the Byzantine machinations of suitors and hungry brides, even the briefest act or dialogue or the mere description of a character’s manner of dress is freighted with moral content.

In endorsing the Brown review, the government has also agreed to transferring the whole cost of tuition through a loan system that will lead to massive levels of debts. This would mean young students from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to participate in higher education than their working class peers. It would mean returning to the time when only the rich, the privileged and the powerful were able to attend university, to maintain their elite status. Surely it is only right to assume that education should be right at all levels, a right which is earned by ability and not by the size of one’s wallet. No one should be a victim of their Post Code.

While it is important to discuss the shortcomings of the tuition fee proposal, any arguments are considered cyclical and pointless without a credible alternative. If no one puts forward a worthy counter strategy, then UK may be forced to accept these changes and the potential social stratification they entail. But no amount of misfortune should be allowed to obscure one fundamental truth: that the protest at Millbank is only the beginning of the seething discontent that has accumulated as a result of the cuts. The movement of the students marks the initial steps in the class struggle, a prelude to the awakening of the British working class and proof that Britain’s youth must not be underestimated.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Changes


I’ve always struggled when it came to using a ton of will-power to make changes in my life. I hated taking risks. I hated the unexpected; the not knowing what came next – the ‘not planning’.

Yet here I am, in a different country, miles and miles away from home - as an intern at a well established newspaper agency. Having taken the risk to travel alone, to meet people I’ve NEVER met, to accustom myself to a culture I am not VERY familiar with and for the first time to depend on myself at its entirety.

At this precise moment, the only word that comes to mind is self-efficacy, a term invented in the 1970s by Albert Bandura as part of his theory that ‘the beliefs we have about our abilities affect our actual outcomes. In other words, ‘if you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right,’ emphasising the fact that your belief system determines what you can accomplish in life if you BELIEVE in it.

I was never more reminded of this fact till I watched a YouTube video of an inspirational speaker, Nick Vujicic, who despite being born without any limbs was able to motivate and inspire people from all walks of life. It would be very easy to understand how a person like this could spend his entire life in a wheelchair, being taken care of, and not having a very productive life. But what he lacked in his limbs, he compensated for in unbelievable spirit and belief in himself. He went on to pursuing his education, obtaining a double Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Accounting and Financial Planning. Now at 27, he has accomplished more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. He has his own motivational speaking company, is the president of a non profit organisation and has travelled the world, sharing his story with millions of people.

It’s shocking how easy and quick we are able to undermine our abilities and take this life for granted. Life has interesting twists and turns sometimes – and we often allow our dreams to shrink to fill in the small corners around the ‘big uglies’ in our lives, rather than giving them center stage and allowing them to bloom.

So whenever I catch myself complaining about life, about my abilities, about the petty injustices of an average day, I think of Nick Vujicic. Whenever I think of something I want to do in life is out of my reach, I think of ‘the man without limbs’.


If Nick Vujicic can accomplish what he has accomplished with no arms and no legs, we don’t deserve to have any excuses about why we can’t do something.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Part time Muslims or Full time Muslims?

In the absence of better words for the occasion, a late Eid Mubarak!

Wow what a month! So yet another Ramadan has past us by, yet another Ramadan we find ourselves bidding farewell to. Farewell to the month of good manners, farewell to the month of kindness, farewell to the month of generosity, farewell to the month of mercy, farewell to the month of discipline.

When we actually contemplate on the good we have achieved in this month and the spiritual calmness we felt within ourselves, do we really understand the purpose of ramadan. The reality is, ramadan to us was nothing but a school and a teacher. We all attended this school whether we wanted to or not. Some of us achieved great marks during it, some accomplished average marks, and some unfortunately failed.

Sadly, I am finding myself realising a disturbing trend amongst us Muslims where we take astonishing steps forward during Ramadan.
Our manners improve without borders; our worship is both increased in amount and in sincerity and our generosity is unsurpassed. But as we take these great steps forward during the month, we seem to end up taking far more steps backwards as the year progresses. I find it particularly interesting how people immediately go back to their old ways once ramadan is over with facebook being filled with status's saying 'back to shisha' or 'back to my non hijabi days' and so on. Why must there be going 'back' to our old ways, when instead we should be moving 'forward'. Why is it that for every positive step forward during Ramadan, we’ll take two negative steps backwards during the rest of the year. We become the ramadan Muslims! Yes, even THEY have labels!

So I can’t help but take it as a personal obligation to remind my brothers and sisters to use the good we have gained during Ramadan as a training month for the upcoming year. Being a Muslim doesn't stop here, it continues amidst all the trials and tribulations we face throughout the year. So regardless of the month, regardless of where you are, who you are and your situation...don't let the end of Ramadan stop you from continuing to practice your religion as it SHOULD be practised. Rise
in the night and pray like you prayed in Ramadan. Fill the Masjids like you did during Ramadan. Read the Quran the same strong-willed conscious effort as you did during Ramadan. Let your heart be filled with serenity and calmness like it did during Ramadan. And always, always, remember that you may not live to see the next Ramadan.

Ramadan came to us as a school, as a teacher - one to renew and recharge our Emaan. Now that it has completed its objective and given us a graceful and beautiful uplifting of spiritual awareness, it is now upon you and I to remain constant upon what it has given us. There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

So start and go all the way! ;)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A reminder


There were times in my life, especially moments when I was wowed by the beauty of a mountain view or a sunset over the ocean, that I genuinely felt grateful for being alive. But I never really thought about it until I heard about the flood in Pakistan, over 2 million people left homeless and at least 1,600 killed. The floods have severely affected ALL of the provinces of the country and even worse, the MAGNITUDE of the devastation cannot be compared to the other recent natural disasters. And despite the funds collection, only a fraction of the SIX MILLION Pakistanis desperate for food, water and medicine were receiving help!

I realised that despite our constant reminders, it has become very easy to see in life only what is broken and needs fixing and ignore the good in our lives and the things we are blessed with. To truly be grateful takes some reflection. By paying attention to the ‘small stuff’ in life and by seeing the beauty, wonder and goodness available to us in each moment, we often find the 'small stuff' is really the ‘big stuff’, and in fact the ‘only stuff’. If you get my drift....

In doing this, we might begin to remember the beauty that surrounds us everyday, the awe inspiring universe, the majestic mountains and the wild sea. We might begin to appreciate and enjoy the moment of hearing a bird sing or watch a golden leaf float gently to the ground in the breeze. We might be grateful for being able to experience the gift of life with its joys and adversities. For having realized the full capacity of the mind, body and soul and understanding that happiness lies within. We might realise that there's someone somewhere in exactly the same situation as us but without any arms, legs or in the middle of a war zone or famine. And the greatest fruits will come when you begin to feel grateful, even on days that are more difficult and challenging, reminding ourselves that our ‘negative’ experiences often bring to us the greatest teachings of our lifetime. Sometimes the challenges of our lives help to build character and I strongly agree with the phrase: ‘whatever doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger.’ These are our initiations just like the doctor slapping the newborn so it will take its first breath. Maybe sometimes life needs to slap us awake so that we could go in a new direction or travel a new path. Our tough experiences and the hardships we face are invaluable lessons which make us the person we are today and appreciate all the ‘good’ things we have in our life.

Thus, I began a daily meditation practice focused on gratitude. Every night, before I went to sleep, I tried to come up with a few specific events that occurred that day for which I felt grateful for. Some days, it was easy. Other days, it was more of a challenge and over time, I began to notice that I felt happier, in general. I observed a sense of calm within myself and the ‘little annoyances’ that would have bothered me in the past, no longer disturbed me. I realised that in life there were no ordinary moments and gradually I began to see the magic of everyday life.

Our lives are truly only lived moment to moment and how present and aware we are in each of those moments is often a great measure of the joy we experience. Constantly reminding ourselves for the good in our lives and being grateful for what God has given us would not only make us happier people, but it would be a step towards us using our physical and mental faculties for doing good. It means learning to live our life as if everything were a miracle and being aware on a continuous basis of HOW MUCH we’ve been given. It means to appreciate simple pleasures and constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. It means shifting the focus from what our life lacks to the abundance that is already present. And it means ‘knowing’ that a struggle today may be a gift tomorrow.

The main purpose of this reminder is to strongly urge everyone to unite and show their support to the victims in Pakistan by raising money, however we can, to purchase much- needed medication, food and clean water to drink! It is extremely difficult to truly appreciate what God has blessed us and our families with until we come face to face with the reality of what so many people are experiencing. And with the presence of Ramadan, I would urge everyone to make the most of this opportunity and hasten to increase your good deeds Inshallah.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Butterflies


The much-anticipated Graduation day has finally come. Tomorrow I will be walking on stage, most likely tripping and tumbling on my gown, making an embarrassment of myself, and finally receiving my long awaited certificate.

Understandably, I am quite anxious. This is a very big step to take. Throughout the next year, everything around me or what I’ve been USED to, will be radically changing. People, lifestyle, routine and responsibilities. I'm saying goodbye to student hood, farewell to full-time education for the very last time (or not). ;)

Tomorrow, I'll have left Queen Mary. The past three years here have been very good to me. They've shaped me into someone yearning to get the most out of life: motivated, optimistic, and enthusiastic and I couldn't be more thankful for this. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my deen and what I aspire to do in the future. I have made friends with wonderful people who I will keep in contact with and met the most amazing sisters who have taught me a lot and who have shaped me into who I am today. My two close friends who have made my university life all the worthwhile, with the jokes we shared and the moments we cringed at. And then there’s the blue shop…the famous PFC! WHO could forget PFC? Or meds? Come to think of it, I probably have a record for being the customer who orders the same meal every time!

And then there are the memories of my final year and living out with the girls. My sisters. Sure we can call each other on the phone and talk, but it's definitely not the same thing. No more late night watching movies on our laptops (half the time spent trying to find the correct movie and the other half trying to upload it), and laughing at the stupid things that seem funny at two in the morning. No more last minute rush in the mornings, queuing for the bathroom and shouting at each other for being late to class. No more waking up for fajr altogether and praying. It was real sobering to walk into our house and see all the boxes lined up against the wall. There's no going back now, we're all ‘grown up’ and shouldering true responsibility - unemployment. :p

Being a student really wasn't all that bad. Sure, sometimes it got to be annoying and tedious and hard work, but with friends by your side it was a real good time that left us with a lot of memories Alhamdulillah.

So, now with all that off my mind, here's to a suspenseful summer full of anticipation and uncertainty. I embrace the butterflies.



Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Zombie land!

Unlike many football fans (including my brothers), I can’t get on board with this utopian vision of the FIFA world cup evoking ‘a collective sense of English identity and unity, infused with positive energy’ – in fact I despise it! Flags everywhere, nationalism left, right, and centre, people screaming for their players to score that most important goal whilst they stay glued to the couch for an entire season! I refuse to get excited about some wealthy misogynists tossing a ball around in the name of patriotism and product endorsement. As I walk contentedly along a quiet street, I refuse to see the point of cars jam packed with oversized people thrusting themselves out of the windows and roofs, waving scarves and yelling triumphantly….as if…..as if…..something huge and significant had been accomplished. Would I see these very same people screaming with joy if a child had been saved from starvation in Darfur or if the convoy ships full of aid had reached successfully to Gaza? They wouldn’t even notice let alone be happy about it!

Everything about the world cup is exaggerated. It’s cry baby million dollar worth players, joyless managers, its blokish supporters, its whistle-peeping referees and excitable commentators and - perhaps most of all - its unpluggable ‘analysts’ who seem to find satisfaction in sitting and examining a players every move. Argh! And what’s even more depressing, all this excitement, this glory and support, ends with a MASSIVE crash as England fails to beat Germany with an embarrassing score of 4:1.

It is hard being a world cup loather, an unfan. I sometimes feel as lonely as the sole survivor in the last reel of a Zombie movie, as, one by one, old friends reveal themselves, with their blank lifeless stares and outstretched arms, to have succumbed to the lure. They too are infected with the world cup disease!! People I had always assumed were strict anti world cup football supporters suddenly start jabbering incoherently about how Rooney should have shot that goal or writing up ‘viva la Algeria’ status’s on facebook. And then one look at them as they utter those words, I suddenly realise that it’s too late, that all is lost! They too have caught the deadly world cup virus! It’s crazy how the most unexpected person pops out to be a football fan!

The fact remains, however, that there are more pressing things to worry about over the World Cup season than the state of Beckham’s unexpected injury and consequent withdrawal from the World Cup. This country is in crisis! The world is in crisis! The reality is, there’s a lot of money expended in constructions for the World Cup – A LOT of money. How can we support the notion that people may invest more in 'fun' of a ball game then things like misery, hunger and many other things? No wonder the world is in this state.

Inspired quotes

'If a man like Muhammad were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems that would bring it the much needed peach and happiness.'

- George Bernard Shaw