Archive | May 2014

The Black Pearl & The Black Stone

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This week only I saw two photos of celebrity Muslimahs in Mecca. Both of whom wore a simple black abaya with the background of the great black Kaabah. Both looked as unremarkable as ever; no makeup, no bright bling, plain picture of purity…

Then it hit me, of how hijab is truly meant to be. I cannot deny that I for myself remain on route to such an ideal, far from there; yet is the spiritual uplift of how modesty transformed these women to match this holy place.

It is not merely just this outer layer that communicates how we interact with the sacredness of the location, yet at many times we find ourselves in an out-of-worldly experience that influences our actions and sayings ; an awaking.

Though the journey to Makkah whether for Umrah or Hajj remains a few days of mostly well set priorities, we come down back to our old deeds… much of resolutions forgone or forgotten. Let this be a reminder before a holy month of Ramadan, may Allah grant us attending and achieving this month with acceptance, for it is not the time or place that should ever change our hearts to the most gracious most merciful one God.

oh Lord, Changer of hearts, fasten our hearts to your faith

The “Egyptian” “Moderate” Islam

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When I read the newspapers spreading the “Halal scare” here in UK and how it threatened the British Way of Life; I thought it would be quite understandable how matters could be interpreted as such. Yet when the somewhat helpful vote of parliament ruled out any need for Halal labelling as demanded by the far right to monitor this “insidious slaughter”; it seemed that to Britain as a nation, multiculturalism is a great deal.

On the other hand, through the looking glass to my home country Egypt, I see all sorts of “Islamophobia” disguised. Most of the time when faith and freedom clash; it heavily involves politics. This time, the Egyptian people have chosen to believe that it was patriotic to condemn, criminalize and collaboratively kill an opposition. They made it legal to track down any form of “Islamism”, never to be allowed to be of the political party…

When belly dancing at a voting poll is “lovely moderate Islam”, and holding up four fingers is terrorism, I fear we are getting closer to the “Hunger Games” scenario, only that’s one finger short.

The whole concept of Moderate Muslims is ever so subjective, described by many of the Western world as a myth; whether that be as an objection to extremist practices, or whether it be Muslims with wider understanding of the meaning of One God, One Quran and One Religion. Islam ultimately to its believers should only branded as “the middle nation” as in Surat al-Baqarah, not that there could be an Islam at two ends of a spectrum. If we were to relate to faith we should ignore the failures of ill-practicing followers.

When it comes to these children in the photo above; “No child is born a racist”; yet the problem with this appalling picture is that I can’t even label it as “racist” or “sectarian”. It is the crisis of such collective intolerance that may doom the entire nation as the unjust biblical nations as received by us in the Quran. And it is the satire of the marks of Sunnah that shapes the divided Ummah.

While most Egyptians now are divided as if by the irrelevancy of pro or anti Morsi; it seems unlikely for the logical few to defend the very principles of human rights. Louder voices say that human rights cannot be guaranteed as a priority in the “War on Terrorism”, while other voices are shut behind bars for the very least of humanitarian demands.

I hate to dwell in the past; calling on how what goes around comes around, but I sure hate to witness such a haunted gathering so blood thirsty in the name of the Red, White and Black.

The Dark Side…

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Reading that title in my “Consumer Behavior” book in uni, I suddenly got the chills, thinking of some horror link of consumers behaving badly. Instead, the first subtitle was about the ethical controversy of marketing to children. “Too much of a good thing could be bad for you”, but what if you are an irrational kid? On whom would the responsibility of rationing your consumption fall?

In a world that is growing greedy, people have comfortably assumed that we are born intrinsically selfish and instinctively fit for survival. A parent would complain how the terrible twos tantrum to get what they want; but the truth is, by that time you’ve created a monster. As reviewed in The Guardian article referenced to below, psychotherapist Graham Music discussed the evidence to the exact opposite of said assumption.

“we’re more likely to be born big-hearted and kind but then pushed towards being selfish and cold than the other way around.” said Music

Backed by research from  Max Planck Institute in Germany, the experiments showed how toddlers as young 15 months old are willing to help an adult in need. Once a group was presented with a “reward” for their help, they lost interest in further lending a helping hand. That is not to say that administering rewards is not well proven in the field of management for positive reinforcement, yet it the balance of things in hand. Showering babies with inappropriate rewards each and every time they improve could mean developing a sense of “what’s in it for me?” early on, when in fact the very joy of helping is forgone. For example, rewarding your child for eating their vegetables with a sweet candy may backfire the whole concept of vegetables being healthy, make them greedy and even over-feed. And as for rewards, we tend to obsess too much on providing for our children “the best money can buy”.

So where does the stealthy role of marketing come in this dilemma? It is quite simple. Not only are bombarded as parents with messages of “buying the best for your babies”, “nesting in nurseries” and “baby loans”; even our little buds are exposed to all these stimuli to materialism. I remember seeing Disney’s Frozen in the cinema, with a preview of almost 30 minutes of advertisements for toys, theme parks, and CITV. The channel itself being targeted at an audience from 1 to 10 years old, CITV shows excessive commercials for an unsuspecting spectator. It is not the question of the appropriateness of ads for young viewers in terms of violence or genre, but rather the whole consumerist approach to self definition as “You are what you buy”! And Disney themselves are quite guilty with the whole franchising of merchandise to accompany the movie. Arguably, consumerism is just as unacceptable for an adult, leading to all sorts of grievances and psychological conditions, namely depression; yet it is most despicable to attack the innocence of these little ones when they are most capable of happiness with the simplest of things.

I am not an idealist, and enjoy a shopping spree every once and a while. Nonetheless, I must remind myself how I’d hate to fall in such a vicious circle with a description matching “siblings to the devils”. And I try to shower my child with love, as money cannot and should not buy happiness; unless of course it’s money for charity, Sadaqah and Zakat; then giving for the sake of Allah SWT is most definitely the pursuit of happiness in this life and the hereafter.

 

References:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/04/how-babies-turn-into-selfish-monsters

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/07/how-materialism-makes-us-sad-empathy-charity

Consumer BehaviorBuying, Having, and Being

Michael R. SolomonPearson/Prentice Hall, 2004 The Dark Side of Consumer Behavior p.30

Trending: Her Stealthy Freedom

 

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Coming across the new BBC Trending for the day, I found the trend most intriguing. http:// http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-27373368 The title of “Women taking off their hijab in Iran” just did not sound right. Though the efforts of a somewhat Islamic state bans women from walking in the streets uncovered, Iranian women have only grown ever more defiant of what they see as an oppressive rule. As outspoken as social media calls can get; the hashtag #MyStealthyFreedom spread quite quickly despite the controversial billboard campaigns otherwise encouraging hijab across Tehran. Yet a question comes to mind, who are we defying? And what is freedom in Islam?

 

Never seeking to target these individual acts with any sort of hate messages; it only seems fair to wonder under that hijabi head of mine. A Muslimah is ordered, not by state, nor by male guardian, but by Allah SWT to cover-up; where many benefits would be sought as piety and modesty as well as striking a divine order to balance the role of both men lowering their gaze and women wearing hijab.  The Ayah in Surat al-Noor as translated by Pickthal; “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.”

However, the debate of obeying the command is a century old,  as multiculturalism somehow introduced an alternative to the veil; be it a full-face cover or a head cover. Associations with feminism were bound to “liberate” women from these oppressive coverings. Or did they? For as long as perhaps thirteen centuries, the dress code of a free Muslimah was respected, adorned and woven into culture. This does not mean that history might not hold stories of an opposite; yet it was an entire clash of civilizations that brought more commands of Islam to a debatable table. As an era of Golden Islamic Empire lost its glimmer and glow; a Westernized version of civilization seemed to grow as reference.

From a marketing perspective, it is quite evident how fashion covers less and less. Though a market gap proved profitable for designers to “halalify” attire and brands to be more “Hijab-friendly”, an ever growing trend of secular state calls slip the scarf off. Personally, I have seen my country through waves of tide, back and forth to the conservative commands of Islam. While I might recall my hijab as an awakening, others viewed it as a “fad”. Many a time when campaigns for hijab only backfired, as they prove too insensitive, controversial or just short-sighted. As a hijabi myself, I remember first seeing the poster above. Though the marketing message attempts to build on the strong reasoning as to “control” any forms of sexual harassment; the offensive representation of both sexes was the only thing that came across. And in a country where sexual harassment targets victims both hijabi and niqabi, this picture was worth a thousand words of imbalance. Yet if we are less obsessed with the “why” we obey and focus on “who” we obey, we would better fight our inner demons.

A true believer gives in to the undeniable faith that Allah SWT is most gracious most merciful, his orders us for what’s best for this life and the hereafter. This very belief stands against “freedom”. And where a dress code may not be enforced by a law of court, you are truly choosing to obey a law of Allah. In conclusion, I declare I am not oppressed, and only pray to be a more modest hijabi for the sake of my Creator.

World’s Toughest Job

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Though I had anticipated that twist end half way through the video interviews;  it gas left me both tearful and thoughtful.  Perhaps if we take -not just motherhood, but parenting- as a serious job, we would be all the more willing to sort out our priorities.

True; not all mums are a fit example, yet ideally the very meaning of selflessness sinks in with this arrival of a little one. It is that moment that you realise that your success is in their footsteps. Early days are probably the toughest; sleep deprivation,  communication frustration and for those milk making, physical pain. Yet never has a career been as rewarding to go on and on through the entire age of humanity.

As much as I loved the video, I hate for such a role to be marketed for business gains in March while ignoring mothers all year long. I am humbled by how Allah -SWT- has reminded us of parents’ sacrifices in the Quran, and of how we would be forever indebted to this with gratitude and respect. It is a reciprocal link of family bonds that cannot and will not be commercially message on a single day annually.

From a Muslim viewpoint,  intention or “neyah” could be pivotal into turning those agonising routines into good deeds. “Raising a good Muslim” can be an all too deep goal, yet as effective management goes;  you just try to break it down to mini-tasks. Teaching, discipline,  feeding and clothing are practical practices to parenting;  yet more importantly love, confidence and treating those little people as independent individuals is what seperates parenting from pet keeping! Funny I should say that, but that’s what I believe where we sometimes go wrong with our children,  assuming that they “ours” to play with -as toys-  or as possessive love might entitle.

There will be days, hours and moments when I doubt and ask “who am I?”, or “what do I do for a living?”. Maintaining prayer, purpose and passion to be -not perfect- but just a doing okay mum.
Allah-ulmusta’an

http://youtu.be/HB3xM93rXbY