Conversations for thought: Podcast review

By Maira Shahzad

With the rapid growth of online communities and learning platforms, people are carving new and creative ways of learning and accessing information. Although we are experiencing a time where online platforms and our usual learning spaces such as the school, online forums, are saturated with information, it still helps to have sources that review ideas so that we can navigate through a vast collection of information and have some clarity of what is beneficial amidst the noise. This article briefly discusses two podcasts which offer different themes for listeners to reflect on based on their identity as a Muslim. Both of these podcasts have Muslim guests who speak about their experiences as Muslims through different lenses, such as those of being a student of Islam, being an entrepreneur and so on.

Freshly grounded is a podcast by two Muslim entrepreneurs and it hosts guests who offer valuable insight into the daily experiences of being Muslim. The format of this podcast follows a conversation based on a prompt but it flows naturally and includes the listener within. One of the recurring themes in this podcast, as approached in different angles is that of the Muslim ‘self’. This is related to the genre of self-help but it adds a more nuanced spiritual dimension to it. In addition, most of the episodes discuss experiences, reflections, and ideas around relationships and business. This podcast is great for those young people who are navigating the entrepreneurial niche. The host himself speaks with transparency about his experiences as a young Muslim entrepreneur and the discipline that it takes to achieve goals.

In one episode titled “From Counting Penny’s to World’s Largest Oil Company” (If this is an online article, the link to the podcast can be hyperlinked here), the guest traces his career trajectory in detail and mentions the importance of decision making while working on your career, the small steps to take to become financially independent, and finally, the importance of networking. This is particularly relevant right now as the job market and educational landscape have changed with new avenues of working and different ways to create passive income. For the guest, a single conversation where he took someone’s opinion about career choices seriously, set the trajectory that he followed as he switched fields from retail to Information Technology. One significant dilemma which students, especially fresh graduates, face is whether to prioritize immediate financial prospects or career growth prospects of an opportunity in developing your career. This is also addressed in this episode as they reflect on what it means to have a career and what it means to have a job, all the while considering how best fulfil your potential. The podcast has a recurring theme of young Muslims going through transitionary phases in life. These phases may be career changes, lifestyle changes, or spiritual. Alternate version of previous sentence: These phases may be career, lifestyle, or spiritual changes.

The second podcast on this list is hosted by the YouTube channel titled ‘Ilmfeed’. Ilmfeed has also produced several other short videos and documentaries. However, this podcast does not shy away from reflecting on socio-political issues that are found in Muslims communities as well as communities in the West. In a recent episode, following the protests that arose as a result of police brutality and violence against African Americans, the guest delineated and simplified the issue of systemic racism and its history in a way which was easy to understand. The guest expounded upon the root cause of racism, which is arrogance and the first instance of arrogance in the Muslim historical tradition which was when Satan refused to bow down to Adam, because of his self-perceived superiority. The episode explains the differences between racism and bias and the relationship of racism, prejudice, and bias on a personal and community level. It is an incredibly important conversation to listen to as it prompts the reader to think about all those times where we mindlessly act and speak in ways in which our biases and prejudices are inherent.

One event from the guest’s life stood out and anchored his experiences of racism as a black Muslim. Many years back, while witnessing police brutality against a young black man, the guest walked to the police officer and asked to file a complaint against his aggression against the young man. Following this, the guest was also arrested and taken to a police station, facing what were not hurdles but blockades and loopholes set to dehumanize and take away from a person’s autonomy.

The guest ends on a poignant note reminding the listeners that it is our duty as Muslims to examine our own biases within ourselves and our communities. It ends on an optimistic note by reminding the listeners that Although the events mentioned are set in the West, it offers a good prompt for listeners to think about how systems of racism, bias and exclusion function within our communities.

The two podcasts are among several that can be explored during this time. They both reflect on ideas and people’s experiences as they navigate through life a Muslims in a society that is ever changing. What really stands out for these podcasts is that they are reflective and deliberative in nature instead of instructive so they are great food for thought for people who want to spend time thinking constructively about life as Muslims.

“Buy Hapiness Here”

By Faraz Mansur Ahmad

I would like to apologize to my reader for not describing the weather, the atmosphere of the bazaar, and other intricate details of that day. Was it raining? Was it sunny? Were the people around me happy or sad? Or were they busy in shopping with their families and arguing with the shopkeepers for the overpriced stuff? All of these particulars have left my mind. Or they never entered it in the first place. All the same! Maybe it is because all these details stand in such a contrast to the events in ‘that’ shop that I have unconsciously prioritized only the events of ‘the’ shop, such that I can still feel like standing there and arguing with the old man, asking him difficult and silly questions and getting a smile and a sensible reply in return.

Let me begin this story with a question for my readers: What do you when everything inside you seems to be collapsing? When everything you believe in and hold dear is snatched away and a dark crevice is placed within you? And all you can hear is ‘Jump!’ while the darkness of the crevice consumes you as you stand there, bewildered by your own thoughts? With that question in my mind, I was wandering the city streets one day. My eyes were looking and observing the physical world around me, but my mind was somewhere else. I did know I was looking for something, or hoping for something or someone to find me. In my delirium, my eyes caught an unusual sign: “Buy Hapiness Here”. I stopped walking and stared at the sign and the shop for a minute or two. “Is this the universe’s way of mocking me?”, I thought, “By making me notice this absurd sign, with the stupid word of ‘happiness’ on it, and that too with one ‘p’!”. Only once before I had seen such a bizarre shop name, a toy store called ‘Mama Love’. I used to think that it was pretty demeaning to use something as pure as a mother’s love to market and sell artificial and factitious products which satiate the transient cravings of children. That was why I refused to step into that shop and was quite delightful when it closed. But this time, the sign was not only for children as it was a gift shop. The shop owner was either naïve or derisive, as he was mocking the lives and struggles of humanity, claiming to sell the one thing so many of us craved for while others had simply stopped believing in its existence. Infuriated, I stepped into the shop. An old man was sitting behind the counter on an armchair, reading a book. He looked at me, got up, and said,” Good afternoon sir! How may I help you?”.

“Business is booming nowadays?”, I asked as I ignored his question and looked around. There was no customer in the shop except me.

“Ah! Sometimes”, he said. “Not so much nowadays. But it pays the bills.”

“Hmmm. Is that so? Have you considered, like, changing your shop’s name?”

“Why no. Why would I think of that? My daughter chose this name.”

“That is very sweet. But you are running a business here. And people don’t like to be fooled around”, I said as I placed my hands on the counter and stared straight at the old man. The old man stared back, but his eyes gazed deep into mine, like they were finding their way through a maze. A few moments later, he smiled. I was taken aback. “What’s so funny?”, I exclaimed.

“What is on your mind, son?”, he replied.

“What … What do you mean?”

“You didn’t come here just to complain about my shop’s name, did you?”

“I think I did!”

“Well I don’t think so. Your eyes tell something else. And they say that eyes are the gateway to one’s soul.”

“Oh really? Why don’t you tell me what they’re telling you, old man?”

“What you’re too scared to say.”

“What?!”

“That you’re lost.”

The way he said these words, I knew right away that he was no ordinary shop keeper. He understood me, and not because he knew anything about my suffering and pain, but because he acknowledged that I was in pain. Not many people are willing to do that. They simply assume that no person can suffer more than themselves, and even if they do admit someone else’s suffering, they will reject it at the slightest trace of relief. Hence, I had decided long ago to stop sharing the trivialities of the mind. Because, as soon as you express your curiosity and confusion, people tend to crumple and mold them into something they have already experienced and understood rather than daring to venture into the unknown with you.

 “Yes”, I said in a low voice, as though whispering to myself, “but what do you know about being lost?”.

“That it happens to the best of us. And that it does not matter where you are or what you are. If it is destined for you, you will surely feel lost and abandoned, and the task of having patience and bearing it all is like pushing a knife deeper into your wound, no longer knowing whether it is your own hand or someone else’s who is doing it”, he said.

“You talk very strange”.

“Haha! Well son, you came here for something, didn’t you? Give me moment”, the old man said as he went to the back of the shop. He came back with something wrapped in a silk cloth. He dragged a chair for me and gestured me to sit, while he sat again on his armchair.

“Reading the Qur’anic verses has made it possible for me to understand my feelings. And when these feelings and emotions are clothed with words and shown to us, they make us realize that some part of us already knew them, that our eyes, ears, and all of our existence were somehow familiar with them. Hence the smile that follows after such an experience is not only of amazement at the Author’s words, but also a sign of our soul being grateful for straightening out one of its many convoluted mysteries. And how mysterious these mysteries are! For they happen before our very eyes every day, maybe even begging to be seen and recognized, chasing us with tearful eyes and crippling motions to reach out to our souls and bring the truth to light. But lies…those damned lies which we hold so dear and which stand between the universe and our innermost purpose like tall concrete walls, making us suffer every moment while laughing at our helplessness. Yes, our helplessness at letting go of our pride and our pleasure for ephemeral trivialities prevent us from ourselves to the light instead. But every wall has cracks. A weak point. And if one does not look for these cracks and shower them with the eternal light of hope, then one can be forever lost!

So son, always remember this: the very fact that you know the feeling of being lost and confused must be hope for you that you will feel belonged too. Remember, the Prophet (PBUH) was given the severest of tasks among all the prophets, among all humankind! He was abandoned by his own people, the ones he preached would often refuse to listen to him, and even caused him and his companions pain and suffering! But all of them held onto one thing when the scorching heat of violence and injustice scarred their bodies: That Allah hadn’t abandoned them. And because of that, their hearts trembled before the Most Supreme only, who then guided them in the most unfathomable of ways. But it is only mysterious for us, son. For Allah, everything is possible with the mere utterance of a word: Kun![1] If Allah could bring comfort to the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions, why would he leave us wandering? Us, who have not seen the Prophet nor seen the Qur’an being revealed but still believe in it with every fiber of our beings? Allah would never leave such people of faith to the mercy of this cruel world”.

“But…I am weak in faith”, I said.

Upon hearing this, he handed me something. I unwrapped it. It contained a framed work of calligraphy in Arabic with its translation. It seemed to be done by a novice, but somehow that made it more beautiful. It was Surah Duha from the Holy Qur’an, and the translation was as follows:

“CONSIDER the bright morning hours,

and the night when it grows still and dark.

Thy Sustainer has not forsaken thee, nor does He scorn thee:

for, indeed, the life to come will be better for thee than this earlier part [of thy life]!

And, indeed, in time will thy Sustainer grant thee [what thy heart desires], and thou shalt be well-pleased.

Has He not found thee an orphan, and given thee shelter?

And found thee lost on thy way, and guided thee?

And found thee in want, and given thee sufficiency?

Therefore, the orphan shalt thou never wrong,

and him that seeks [thy] help shalt thou never chide,

and of thy Sustainer’s blessings shalt thou [ever] speak.”[2]

As I sat there and read it, I had the strangest feelings of remorse and shame. How was I so blind to everything that Allah had bestowed me with? Though the pain I felt now was probably the greatest, but why did I lose hope in the Mightiest? In Sufism, it is said that one cannot comprehend the holy verses unless they are revealed unto him like they were revealed for the first time to the Prophet (PBUH). Maybe that was what I felt: relieved that the truth about my suffering was revealed.

I tried to give the artwork back to the old man, but he refused saying that his daughter made it, and that she would be happy if someone like me who needed it kept it.

“Thank you. I’ll be leaving now. I do pray for happiness for you and your daughter but is there any of that in this life?”, I asked.

“I cannot say much about that. But where my daughter is now, there is nothing but happiness”, the old man replied. It took a moment for me to realize. I could not believe that someone as hopeful as him could be holding such a tragedy in his heart. I wanted to hug him, but I could not find the courage to do so.

“I’ll be visiting again soon. May Allah be with you”, I said as I left the shop. I could not find a word for what I felt at that moment. A lot had to be done to make matters better for myself and the responsibility of doing so was burdensome. But at the same time, I felt grateful that at least I had my faith in Allah restored. “I will call this feeling… ‘hapiness’”, I thought as I started walking towards my home.


[1] “Be”

[2] Muhammad Asad’s translation. https://www.alim.org/quran/translation/asad/surah/93/

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت؟

از اقراء فاطمہ

کبھی دیکھا ہے تم نے لفظوں کی گردانوں سے

آنسوؤں کی گردان تک کا سفر

لفظوں کو ادا کرنے سے پہلے

آنکھوں کی نمی دل کے غم بھینچ جانا

لفظوں کا ساتھ چھوڑ جانا, آنسوؤں کا رواں ہو جانا

دل کے سارے غم چھپا کر مسکرا دینا

آنسوؤں کے سبب آنکھیں جھکا دینا

لفظوں کا سسکیوں سے ٹوٹ جانا

دل کے آئینے سے ہر حرف مٹ جانا

بے بسی میں بس چپ! لفظوں کے بغیر باتیں کرنا

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت؟

اپنے آنسو چھپا کر , زبردستی مسکرا کر

شدید غم میں بھی کوئی تمسخر اڑا کر

اپنوں کے چہروں پر جھوٹی ہنسی بسا کر

اندر کے سارے طوفان سنبھال کر

پر وقار سا خطاب دینا

کبھی خوشی کا درس دیتے دیتے جو آنسو سے جل تھل ہونا

دل کا ڈوب جانا اور یوں ٹوٹ جانا کہ بس

لفظ ہار جائیں

سارے تجربے بے کار جائیں

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت

زندگی کا اداکار بن جانا

ہر غم پر مسکرا جانا

بڑی ہمت چاہئے آخر ,ہر آخری ٹیس پر بھی

, زندگی کی ہر کاری ضرب پر

قسمت کے لکھے اصول پر, سزاۓ بے قصور پر

زندگی کے ہر پل، زمانے کے ہر دستور پر

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت ؟

شکستہ حال سے کسی سفر پر

جہاں ہر پل ہارنے کا ڈر ہو

پاؤں بھی شل ہوں اور منزل بھی دور ہو

جسم کا آخری عضو تک جواب دے جاۓ اور آگے چلنا ہو

تاریک سی راہوں پر انجان لوگوں سے

بڑے پر تپاک انداز میں ملنا ہو

خاموش دل سے, آہوں کے بغیر

بس چلتے جانا ہو , کیوں کہ یہی دستور دنیا ہے

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت ؟

لال آنکھوں, شل پاؤں اور روٹھے دل سے

کبھی بیچ آنسوؤں کے مسکرا دینا اور یہ کہہ دینا

چل زندگی ایسے خوش, ایسے ہی جی دیتے ہیں

کبھی دیکھی ہے تم نے یہ دہری اذیت ؟

اقبال کی خودی کا مفہوم

تحریر : نورالہدیٰ اسلم

اقبال کی خودی کیا ہے, اس کا مطلب کیا ہے, اس کا مقصد کیا ہے, اس کے پیچھے کا فلسفہ کیا ہے, کیا یہ واقعی ذاتِ عرفان کا دوسرا نام ہے ؟

خودی کا مطلب تو اپنی ذات کی اونچائی ہے لیکن کیسی اونچائی؟ وہ اونچائی جو انسان کو تکبر کے زمرے میں لا کھڑا کرے یا وہ کہ وہ خود کو اور چھوٹا محسوس کرے …

خودی! یعنی اپنے آپ کو بلند سمجھنا. سمجھنا کہ میں بھی سب کچھ کر سکتا ہوں . میں جو سوچتا ہوں وہ ممکن ہے. میں نے جو دماغ میں فرض کر لیا ہے اگر اس پر پختہ یقین رکھوں تو اس کو عملی جامہ بھی پہنایا جا سکتا ہے لیکن جب اس چیز کو عملی زندگی میں لائیں تو پتہ چلتا ہے کہ یہ کتنا مشکل ہے

جب آہستہ آہستہ ہم پر کائنات کے رازغوروفکرکی سعی کر کے اپنی ذات کو بلند کرنے سے  افشا ہوتے جاتے ہیں  تو ہم خود کو چھوٹا محسوس کرنے لگتے ہیں کہ میں اس کائنات کے علم کے مقابلے میں تو کچھ بھی نہیں! اسکی وسعت کا تصور بھی مشکل ہے اور جو علم مجھے ملا ہے وہ اس کا ایک قطرہ بھی نہیں, کہ جیسے اک بچہ جب کبھی کوئی نیا لفظ سیکھتا ہے  تو وہ اسکو کتنا دلچسپ لگتا ہے کہ اس نے بہت کچھ سیکھ لیا ہے لیکن جوں جوں وہ بڑا ہوتا جاتا ہے اور اس کا واسطہ ہزاروں الفاظ سے پڑتا ہے تب اسے احساس ہوتا ہے کہ وہ جو ایک لفظ اس نے سیکھا تھا وہ ان ہزاروں الفاظ کے سامنے تو کچھ بھی نہیں، تب انسان کو اپنی اوقات کا اندازہ ہوتا ہے اور پھر وہ صحیح معنوں میں شکِر الہی بجا لاتا ہے اور پھر اس کا یہ “جاننے کا سفر” مستقل ہو جاتا ہے۔ تو اس طرح وہ دوسرے انسانوں سے افضل ہو جاتا ہے لیکن پھر بھی وہ اپنی ذات کو کم تر ہی سمجھتا ہے, عاجزی اختیار کرتا ہے اور جستجو میں ہی رہتا ہے اور اس کی اسی جستجو کی وجہ سے وہ دوسروں کے مقابلے میں عظیم ہو جاتا ہے اور دوسرے اس کی ذات کو بلند سمجھتے ہیں۔

یہی اقبال نے اپنے ساتھ کیا تو وہ دنیا پر چھا گئے. لوگ ان کو عظیم فلسفی کہتے ہیں۔ وہ شاعرِ مشرق ہیں لیکن وہ اس مقام پر کیسے پہنچے یہ بات انہوں نے خود ہی اپنے فلسفۂِ خودی میں بتا دی ہے، یعنی ‘پہلے اپنی ذات کو بلند کیا، جب قدرت نے خود کو ان پر افشا کیا تو ان کا جہد مسلسل شروع ہوا اور نتیجتاً وہ عظیم بن گئے .’

یہ عظیم ہونا کیا ہوا پھر؟

جو عظیم ہوتا ہے وہ خود کو عظیم نہیں کہتا دنیا اس کو عظیم کہتی ہے کیونکہ عظیم بننے کے سفر کو طے کرتے ہوئے اسے اتنی مشکلات کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے کہ وہ اس مرحلے پر آ جاتا ہے کہ پھر خود کو عظیم نہیں کہہ پاتا (کیونکہ اسے معلوم ہوتا ہے کہ اس کی یہ کوششیں کامل علم کے آگے کچھ بھی نہیں) تب دنیا اس کو بڑا کہنا شروع کر دیتی ہے۔

Jacob’s advice

By Abdul Moeez

There was a time up till my early teenage years when I used to look at Islam as something that my parents had instilled in me because their parents had instilled them with it. Similarly, I used to look at Islamic teachings from quite a common and somewhat narrow point of view. For example, I used to believe that modesty is a concept associated with women only because they have to dress up in a certain way. It was in my  late teens, when I started to re-evaluate my beliefs with my conscience.
     One day, while I was attending my Qur’an classes, my teacher asked me that if you have a muscular body and you wear tight shirts so that people could know how muscular you are, can you be called modest? Or if you own a new iPhone and you want to show it off to everyone, is that a modest attitude? I was stunned by these questions. I had never imagined modesty as something more than a tool to prevent sexual perversion in society. But it was now that I could see another very important aspect of it, which is, to eliminate narcissism and through it, eliminate feelings of envy in society. I still could not quite understand it until I came to know that the Qur’an itself testifies to this aspect of modesty. In Surah Yusuf, at one point in the story, Prophet Yusuf’s brothers take permission from their father, Prophet Ya’qub (Jacob), for leaving for Egypt. They were a group of eleven young, good looking, and sturdy men. Obviously, on entering the city, they would have gained people’s attention because of their youth and strength. Prophet Ya’qub’s advice to them at that moment is quoted in Surah Yusuf in this way:

“He also said,  ́O my sons, enter not by one door; enter by separate doors. Yet I cannot avail you anything against God; judgment belongs not to any but God. In Him I have put my trust; and in Him let all put their trust who put their trust.’”

This Ayah shows that Prophet Ya’qub (A.S.) wanted them to enter in small numbers from different doors of the city rather than entering together from the main gate. The purpose behind this advise was to protect themselves from jealousy of the people as they were a band of young and attractive men. This advice of Prophet Ya’qub should serve as a principle in our lives if we want to avoid unwanted envy. Yes of course, modesty does not, like all other things, come for free. It comes at the expense of our worldly pleasure from attention seeking behavior. We have to restrict our urge to show off our fancy things and beautiful bodies if we want to protect ourselves from the evil of envy. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Modesty does not bring anything but goodness” (Sahih Bukhari). Once a companion asked The Prophet (peace be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah, is modesty part of faith?” In reply, our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Rather, it is the entire religion” (al-Sunan al-Kubrá).
     Hence did I conclude that if we want to follow the creed of Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him), we should strive to be modest and humble in our lifestyle and conduct. This was the point where I understood the true meaning of modesty too, which was indeed not just something about sexual perversion; rather a constant rule for life in order to prevent ourselves and others from the inherent evil of jealousy. It is also an acknowledgment of how insignificant our lives are on Earth in the face of this vast universe, to boast and brag about our miniscule existences. 

Snap Streak

By Muhammad Waseem

Excerpt from Book-Ad Duha

” او شِٹ “

بائیولوجی لیب میں کام کرتے ہوئے، اچانک اسکی دوست نے افسردگی سے کہا۔ اس کا ری ایکشن دیکھتے ہی وہ چونک گیا۔ اسے لگا شاید اس کی دوست نے ایکسپیریمنٹ کرتے ہوئے کوئی غلطی کر دی ہے ” کیا ہوا تم ٹھیک ہو ؟؟؟

” یار سارہ نے سٹرِیک توڑ دی ہے “

اس کی آواز میں تلخی تھی۔ مجھے شدید غصّہ آرہا ہے اس پے وہ ہمیشہ ایسے کرتی ہے۔ عبدالہادی نے اس کی لہجے کی کرواہٹ دیکھتے ہوئے اس کونارمل کرنے کی کوشش کی “چلو کوئی بات نہیں ایک سنیپ چیٹ سٹرِیک ہی تو تھی تم دوبارہ شروع کر دینا ” “

 عبدالہادی! تمہیں پتا نہیں ہے کتنا دکھ ہوتا ہے جب کسی سے سٹریک ٹوٹ جاتی ہے۔ تم سنیپ چیٹ استعمال نہیں کرتے لہذا میرا دکھ نہیں سمجھ سکتے ” عبدالہادی نے مسکراتے ہوئے جواب دیا ” سہی کہتی ہو تم  “بلکہ مجھے تو ان سٹرِیکس کے بارے میں علی نے بتایا تھا ورنہ اس سے پہلے میں ان سے بھی بے خبر تھا ” اس نے بات کو جاری رکھا۔

اسی لئے تم سٹریک ٹوٹنے کا درد نہیں سمجھو گے، اسکی دوست نے ایکسپیریمنٹ مکمل کرتے ہوئے جواب دیا۔

شام ہو چکی تھی اور تقریباً تمام کلاسسز اپنے اختتام کو پہنچ چکی تھیں اور شائد اسی لئے اس وقت یونیورسٹی میں لوگوں کی چہل پہل قدرے زیادہ تھی۔ اسکے ساتھ معمول سے زیادہ بڑھتی ہوئی سردی اور ٹھنڈی ہوا نے لوگوں میں ایک پھرتی پیدا کردی تھی ۔ ہر شخص تیزی کے ساتھ اپنی منزل کی طرف رواں دواں تھا۔ عبدالہادی نے پارکنگ سے اپنی بائیک نکالی اور گھر کا رخ کیا۔ اس کا گھر یونیورسٹی سےکوئی 30 منٹ کی دوری پر تھا۔ جب وہ گھر پہنچا تو دن ڈھل چکاتھا۔ اس کے برف سے جمے سرخ ہاتھ اور ناک باہر کی سردی کی سختی کی خبر دے رہی تھی۔ دِن بھر کی تھکن کے باعث وہ گھر آتے ہی سو گیا۔

” حیّ علی الصّلاة ” ” حیّ علی الصّلاة “

کمرے کی ونڈو سے آذان کے الفاظ اسکے کانوں میں پڑ رہے تھے۔ عبدالہادی نیم بیداری میں اپنے بستر پے پڑا ان الفاظ پے غور کرنے لگا۔ اس سے پہلے اس نے اتنی توجہ آذان کے معانی پر نہیں دی تھی لیکن نہ جانے کیوں آج اس کے ذہین میں یہ بات آئی اور وہ کافی دیر اسی سوچ کے ساتھ بستر پر لیٹا رہا۔

وہ عشاء کی نماز کی ادائیگی کے بعد اپنے کمرے کی بالکنی میں کھڑا، سڑک پر تیزی سے گزرتی گاڑیوں کو دیکھ رہا تھا۔ یخ بستہ ہوا اسکی آنکھوں میں چمک پیدا کر رہی تھی۔ ” کتنا دکھ ہوتا ہے جب کسی سے سٹرِیک ٹوٹ جاتی ہے” اسکی دوست کے الفاظ غیرارادی طور پراسکی سوچوں کے سمندر میں ٹھاٹھیں مارنے لگے۔

“!سنیپ سٹریک”

کتنی اہم ہو چکی ہے لوگوں کے لیے؟ اسے اپنی دوست کے ایکسپریشن یاد آرہے تھے ۔ ہم کتنا دکھی ہوتے ہیں جب کوئی ہماری سنیپس دیکھ رہا ہو اور ان کا کوئی رسپانڈ نہ کررہا ہو۔ ہم ان اسٹریکس کو کتنا سیریس لیتے ہیں اور جب کوئی جان بوجھ کےسٹریک توڑ دے تو اس سے ناراض ہو جاتے ہیں۔ یہ سب سوال وہ خود سے کرہا تھا۔ اسی اثناء میں اسے اذان کے وہ الفاظ یاد آئے جو نیم بیداری میں آج اسکے کانوں میں پڑے تھے

” حیّ علی الصّلاة ”

وہ کافی دیر تک ان کو سوچتا رہا۔ ” یہ بھی ایک سٹریک ہی تو ہے جو اللّہ اپنے ہر بندے کو ہر روز بھیجتا ہے ” اس نے خود سے کہا.

 ہماری سٹریک توڑ دی جائے تو ہم اپنے دوستوں سے ناراض ہوتے ہیں اور ان سے دوبارہ سٹریک شروع نہیں کرتے جو سٹریک توڑ دیتے ہیں۔ لیکن اللّہ اپنی سٹریک نہیں توڑتا۔ وہ اس بات سے خفا نہ ہو کر بھی کہ ہم اسکی سٹریکس کا کوئی جواب نہیں دیتے، ہمیں لگاتار سٹریکس بھیجتارہتا ہے۔ لیکن اس وقت کیا ہوگا جب وہ اپنی سٹریکس روک دے گا؟ اس وقت ہم اس سے طلب کریں گے کہ شاید وہ سٹریک دوبارہ شروع ہولیکن وہ اب ایک حسرت بن چکی ہوگی۔ اسکی آنکھیں خوف و دکھ سے بھری تھیں۔

Locating Allah’s Promise of Mercy During a Global Pandemic

By Haadia Mumtaz

With almost 10 months into a global pandemic, just recently, I found myself thinking: Allah Himself says, “My mercy encompasses all things” (Surah Al-A’raf 56). But where is He now that we are a year into this global crisis? Why can’t I see His mercy encompassing the world like He said it would? Why are their losses of every sort surrounding us? When will God engulf everyone in His promised mercy and set it all right?

I think it is just human nature to try and justify why any suffering exists. We realize that if we do not have the big ‘why’ behind everything, there is something lacking. We are in a rush to map out all the intricacies of God’s marvellous plan that goes beyond our comprehension. But perhaps, faith does not operate in figuring out all the ‘whys’; rather, it must operate in relying on God for His plans behind the ‘why’.

If anything, this year has been a reminder of how fragile our lives are. We are living on the brink of uncertainty – navigating through a world of fluctuations. However, it is crucial to remember that we are not the first in history to face such circumstances. My favorite narrative of all times is the story of Prophet Yunus. It is not just a story of a man stuck in a whale’s belly, it is a lesson of patience and a fight against despair. It is an account of Prophet Yunus listening to Allah’s mercy through his circumstances.

The story has become more relevant that ever today – we are not stuck in a whale’s belly, but we are surely stuck within a pandemic. Like Prophet Yunus, we are also struggling with despair, questioning why the world stopped like this. Whatever we are facing today leaves us with two courses of action: submitting to the crisis we are facing today? Or submitting to the power of Allah?

A lesson to take away from Prophet Yunus’ story is to hold on to the idea of leaning on a Being much greater than our own circumstances. Who can imagine being caught up in a Whale’s belly amidst a sea? Yet, Prophet Yunus chose to call onto God from a place of fear and isolation. Even in the depths of despair, God heard him: “So We answered his call and delivered him from the distress.” [21:88]

Today, in 2020, aren’t we facing a similar human condition? A condition of fear, isolation, and loss of so many kinds? But prophet Yunus’ story does lend a tool to counter this condition – the tool of a heart felt prayer, the tool of faith and reliance; the sort of reliance that begins anew every day.

We can spend just so much time questioning the shape of world today, but it is more important to question what we can do while we navigate the uncertainty.

A belief in God and a surrender to His purpose means participating in the purpose too. It is important to introspect our place in a world that is constantly shifting. If we have the resources to live a stable life amidst this crisis, share it with those who do not. If we have not faced a grave loss in times like these, it is crucial to make a conscious effort of sharing the pain of those who are struggling to configure their place after a loss. We have to constantly check what God might be trying to do through us.

Yes, it is tough to come to terms with the fluctuations when we had been so accustomed to our routine drills. We are manoeuvring through one of the global crises in history. But we are also handed reminders to lead a life of meaning, and a life that is submitted to a Presence beyond ourselves. I did not find an answer to when God will set it all right. When will life take a normal course again and we will get back to dozing off on our daily commute, meeting friends or sharing a box of fries together. Yet, I did realize that His mercy does not always come in evident shapes. Within a kind neighbour, within two friends sharing a loss, within every penny that goes out to help another soul, there are glimpse of His mercy. Surely, His mercy does encompass everything – He knows how to keep His promise even if we cannot see it at work.

Crisis of the Modern World

Part 2

By Atayab Naeem

Chapter 5: Individualism

The author describes individualism as: “denial of any principle superior to the individuality and, as a consequence, the reduction of civilization in all its departments to purely human elements”. This naturally means a rejection of any spiritual authority or faculty of knowledge higher than the individual; a path severed from tradition. It reflects the secular viewpoint present today and is fundamentally the idea of humanism which was present at the time of Renaissance. It is a core aspect of modern tendencies. This tendency has always existed in history but was never so widespread. It reflects absence of principles and is a cause of the modern crisis.

“The state of mind we are alluding to consists primarily in “minimizing” religion, so to speak, in turning it into something to be kept on one side and to which one is satisfied to allot as limited and narrow a field as possible, something devoid of any real influence upon the rest of existence which is isolated from it as by a sort of water-tight partition”.

Even religious people today have internalized modern values to the point that their thoughts and actions are not much different to their irreligious contemporaries. Religion has been reduced to performing rituals rather than understanding its deeper meanings.

“Modern man instead of raising himself to the truth, claims to bring it down to his own level”.

Intellectual intuition is a supra-individual faculty and thus cannot be incorporated into Individualism. As modern secular philosophy which originated with Descartes himself dismissed intellectual intuition, it consequently started to treat reason, a purely human and relative faculty, as the highest part of intelligence. This was what was formalized in Descartes Rationalism. This limiting of intelligence led to reason only being used to fulfill practical functions. Individualism inevitably leads to naturalism as everything that lies beyond nature is beyond the reach of the individual. Hence, Metaphysics is no longer possible. Moreover, since naturalism implies things constantly change, reason itself becomes relative and only capable of valid application in certain spheres which as a natural consequence leads to relativism e.g. in “criticism” of Kant or “positivism” of Auguste Comte.

Individualism’s influence on modern philosophers is evident. As its better for each philosopher’s reputation to invent a new system rather than present a truth already observed, they make great effort to create their own systems and attach their own names to it. Here it becomes more important to present problems, however artificial or illusory, than to solve them and the whole process shows a pointless agitation. The desire to be original is prioritized even if the truth has to be sacrificed to it. Traditional civilizations thought it inconceivable for man to claim possession of an idea. If he did, he was in a way undermining authority of it by conceding it to be an individual fantasy. A true idea belongs to everyone capable of understanding it, it cannot be “new” since truth exists independently of ourselves, not as a product of the human mind.  

“The significant thing is that at this stage there is no longer even any question of truth, but only of “reality”, limited exclusively to the sensible order and looked upon as something essentially mobile and unstable; intelligence, for such theories, is definitely reduced to its most inferior part and reason itself is no longer admitted, except in so far as it can be made to serve in the fashioning of matter for industrial uses”.

This led to the substitution of “utility” to truth (pragmatism). When philosophy recognized higher truths, this was not able to occur; when it disappeared, this negation was manifested in these new theories of modern philosophy.

Whereas before, knowledge and traditional wisdoms were preserved by being passed down to students often through dedicated schools, this allowed the original orthodox teachings of religion to be passed down in their pure forms. With individualism there also came tendencies to make uninformed individual judgements on religion by untrained people which opened the door to various deviations in the form of numerous sects and divisions among the people. (While open discussions and independent reasoning is important for a critical thinker, individualistic outlook opened the door to untrained private judgements in the masses on issues they could not understand without proper training in special educational institutions). This made it almost impossible to reach agreement upon core doctrine which led to it being pushed aside and discussions shifted to moralism.

Chapter 6: Social Chaos

The solution to the crisis begins with revisiting principles. The social and political realm are but consequences of this instability and show the general mentality. Misunderstanding of human nature and its negation even is represented in the modern principle of “equality”. Two beings who are distinct cannot also be alike at the same time. Each individual has a nature and special aptitude which predispose each person to the fulfillment of a particular function. Imposition of uniformity in every sphere has led to imparting identical education to everyone as if we are all equally fitted to understand the same things by the same method. It is more about rote learning and memory than developing actual understanding and intelligence. Thus, the quality is sacrificed to quantity. This is one of the many negative aspects of standardized compulsory education.

Buzzwords like “progress” and “equality” are blindly accepted today which were ideas that originated in the 18th century. These hypnotizing suggestions from such narratives contribute greatly to maintaining and even aggravating the modern disorder of things. For if they were to be suspended, people would start realizing the error of the current system and move away from it to how things should be according to the traditional understanding. Therefore, even though everything is supposedly open to discussion, foundational or principal errors like these are not, and often suppressed.

It is important to note that often the front-line propagators of such ideas of “progress” and “equality”  are themselves deluded and duped by them and do not truly grasp the true nature of things which is why they are able to bring a strong and contagious conviction to the task which would otherwise be hard to simulate and fake. Nonetheless, for these ideas to have been put into circulation, there would have had to be people who understood the true nature of such ideas and consciously spread them. This is backed by sentimentalism which is essential to control the masses. Identifying these suggestions and critically examining them dispels their hold on one’s mind which they had when we blindly accepted them.

If democracy is government of the people by the people, that is by its nature, a contradiction. The ruler and the ruled are in a complimentary relationship; one cannot exist without the other nor can they be one and the same thing. Modern rulers take special effort to make people believe the lie that they are self-governing. It is supposed that the opinion of the majority determines the law which makes the people feel empowered. However, it is important to note this can be easily manipulated and molded. Movements can be started to manufacture opinion. This also allows “collective psychology” to come into play in the sense that generally people in crowds react or act in the way not on the average level of its elements but the lowest. Emotional impulses hinder reflection, and this is used to sway public opinion to the point that people who in normal circumstances would have realized the error of a certain thing are unable to do so when part of a group of people.

Moreover, it is not always those officially in power who engage in such things. This is another reason why incompetent politicians make their way to public office as it makes little difference; they are in some sense just the emanation of the majority. Opinion of the majority is by default composed of incompetence due to ignorance of the people. It is always the case that the experts of any subject are limited in number (minority) and thus this leads to the tyranny of the majority. All of this is based on the law of greater number and brute force and this is how democratic ideas relate to materialism. Both of which emphasize superiority of the multiplicity of material which only exists in the material world. Even the elite of today are considered to be those of excess material wealth and not of spiritual power.

Democracy has also been tried to be incorporated in the intellectual realm in the sense that it is used as a criterion of truth (universal consent) as individuals are only accounted for numerically. The spiritual order of things on the other hand recognize the inherent quality of something and truth of universal principles where it is not the law of number that counts.

Discussions of these issues on secular grounds puts anyone against it at a disadvantage and shows the hold it has over them. The discussion needs to begin on principles since that is where the difference lies.

Chapter 7: A Material Civilization

Materialism referred here is not about the philosophical term but the general mental outlook prioritizing the material order and its preoccupations above other things whether of speculative or practical nature. Secular science and its methods are confined to the study of the sensible world but with it prevails the attitude which proclaims these methods as “scientific” to the exclusion of all others, as if implying science cannot exist unless it deals with material things. Although generally, religious people engage in these sciences too, it cannot be said it is particularly atheistic. However, it does have a de facto materialism (practical) in effect which makes it all the more subtle. This is why, for the modern human, nothing exists apart from what can be seen, touched, measured, counted or weighed. With such a material science widespread in practice, how can humans in such environment be anything but materialists?

Moreover, even when the possibility of something existing beyond the material is acknowledged, it is quickly dismissed as “unknowable” and this attitude of negation and indifference prevents them from giving it further thought. This is more dangerous than simply negating it as negating something does still require it to be given thought. Even when the possibility of other dimensions/worlds is speculated about today, it is done with the likeness of space and time and corporeality of our terrestrial world. The transgression of imagination in this aspect which should otherwise remain alien to it as this can’t be known through imagination alone goes to show how deep rooted this mentality is.

Another claim of modern science is the attempt to reduce quality to quantity, with its obsession with quantitative point of view and measurement. To the point that it is supposed that there can be no science or scientific laws except through quantitative measurement. Even in a field like psychology which by nature is beyond it. What the modern human fails to understand is that property of measurement is inherent only in matter i.e. its indefinite divisibility unless it is assumed this property is present in everything else that exists which amounts to basically materializing everything.

As language expresses the mentality of the people, it can be noted that the word “reality” is generally used with the connotation of the physical world alone and nothing beyond it exists or is treated as illusory. As mentioned before, this is also present in religious circles where understanding has been reduced to a superficial level. Practical materialism is therefore now present in both religious and irreligious people.

“Prestige of modern science in the eyes of the general public rests solely on upon the practical results it makes”.

This ingrained attitude of pragmatism and materialism is also present in the “common sense” of today. Under such a mindset, it can be considered that industry is no longer an application of science but rather the object of science even though science is ought to remain completely independent. Humans beings have thus restricted their intellectual ambitions to invention and construction of machines and domination and manipulation of matter and humans have thus become, as Bergson put it: “a tool for making tools”. Effectively becoming a slave intellectually by specializing and working in a particular way to maximize quantity and minimize time loss.

There is tremendous influence of economic factors on people’s lives today such as industry, commerce, finance. Politics is dominated by this too. So much so that a theory which explains everything through economic factors (Marxism) alone also shows this mindset. Material development has had its advantages but at what cost? Many things of great worth have been sacrificed for this one type of development. All the intellectual higher forms of knowledge and spirituality are lost. If these are weighed, its advantages don’t outweigh the disadvantages. Inventions are done at such a momentum today that we don’t fully understand their effects. This is leading to climate change and environmental damage which may bring our own destruction.

“the modern West cannot tolerate the idea that men should prefer to work less and be content to live on little; …it is taken for granted that anyone not producing material thing must be an “idler””…. “There is only room for outward action including those most completely devoid of meaning.”

Can we really be sure the modern human is happy because machines have made their life easy or are they more agitated now that life has become complicated? By creating countless more artificial needs, there is now greater likelihood of lacking something, and so this course leads to more and more needs than can ever be satisfied. This leads to the never-ending pursuit of making money as that is needed to maintain this façade. In such an environment, it logically follows that only strongest materially have the right to exist. There then comes envy and hatred of those who possess more wealth. The irony is that there is so much material inequality despite the equalitarian theories chanted so frequently.

There is also the case of how the West deeming itself superior to all other civilizations is forcefully imposing its conception of “progress” and “welfare” onto other civilizations, ignoring the fact that not all peoples are the same and not all even want the modern restlessness and mania which seems to end up happening rather than the welfare which was supposed to be achieved. This cloak of progress and ambition is used to mask their ambition of conquest and economic expansion. They subjugate the other people, rob them of their own civilization and culture, impose their own institutions and customs upon them which were meant for another race. All in the name of welfare so they too can indulge in the meaningless chase for material.

Chapter 8: Western Encroachment

Whereas before the Western influence over the East was that of political and economic domination (colonialism), only through the material sphere i.e. violence, commerce and controlling their resources. Western urge to proselytize is now poisoning minds and killing spirituality in the East. The mental subjugation was only possible after physical subjugation and hence it can be said that the West was only able to assert its influence everywhere by brute force.

Now even Orientals can be found who have westernized themselves completely via their exposure to European and American universities, forsaking their tradition for the modern outlook. They are ignorant of their own tradition. While the West often thinks this vocal minority represents the actual orient, their influence among the locals is not as widespread or deep in fact. Nonetheless, this westernization in eastern lands is gaining ground and hence the true spirit of the eastern tradition retreats further into more closed off circles. Sometimes these people are politically against the West, however, care is to be taken as that is based on nationalism, a concept entirely based on the western outlook itself. Moreover, their methods of resisting the West are often the same as the West. In a way it can be said that the ideas spread by the Western domination are rebounding back on them. It seems that either the world would end by these resulting disputes between nations as has happened in recent World Wars or the self-destructive course taken by the current progress of science will result in some other catastrophe. Though necessary at this point, this adoption of Western methods to defend against the west unfortunately puts the East at the risk of also being overtaken by the modern outlook which would be the end of the traditional outlook altogether.

This subjugation has obviously led to a general dislike of the Western nations in the East. And in their sheer hypocrisy, sometimes the West can be seen acting like victims when receiving this hostility.

“When a Western people resists a foreign invasion this is called “patriotism” and merits the highest praise, but when an Eastern people does the same thing it is called “fanaticism” or “xenophobia” and deserves nothing but hatred and contempt. Moreover, is it not in the name of “Right” and “Liberty”, “Justice” and “Civilization”, that the Europeans have claimed to impose their dominion everywhere and to prevent others from living and thinking differently from themselves?”

Chapter 9: Some Conclusions

The purpose of the book was to provide the reader a starting point to understand the issues that plague the modern civilization based upon the application of traditional data. Something which is based on the higher truths rather than sentiments or current conventions and to protect them from “idle canvassing of individual opinions”. If people really understand the basis of the modern world, it would eventually cease to exist, since it is based on negation of universal truths and ignorance itself. Although not everyone has to realize these truths fully, it would be enough for a small intellectual elite to take up this task and become guides for the masses to prevent the impending doom. In this case a change may be able to take place without a catastrophe uprooting mankind. Even if that is not possible, this work nonetheless needs to be done as that would act in preserving this tradition from perishing and work done in this sphere is never in vain due to its very nature.

The current time is that of confusion where it’s difficult to even separate “the grain from the chaff” and where false “prophets” preach of numerous ideologies which are ironically often manifestations of the modern error itself in different forms. There is no need to be disheartened as confusion and error can only enjoy temporary triumph due to their very nature. A partial disequilibrium is essentially part of a greater equilibrium. Therefore, the truth must not be abandoned, and the work needed to be done must not be ignored.

Link to part 1: Crisis of the Modern World – LUMS RELIGIOUS SOCIETY