Where is Bangladesh heading to?

On 22 December 2012, around 30 young and innocent but visibly tortured students were produced before a lower court in Dhaka Bangladesh. Most of these students were arrested in a special operation by the elite police team called SWAT a few days back. None of them had any case filed against them prior to their arrest, nor were they ever known to have involved in any sort of criminal activities. According to news reports most of these young men had undergone inhumane and barbaric torture at the office of the detective branch (DB) of the police force for several days before being produced in court, though the law requires producing before court within 24 hours of arrest. When produced, some of them could hardly walk due to broken limbs, some had their eyes poked at and most had their fingernails uprooted. Their only crime being members of a Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir (BICS), the largest and oldest student's Islamic organization.

According to media reports, some other students have been missing since the above mentioned special operation. Neither have they been produced in court, nor have their arrest been acknowledged. Their families are fearing the worse, especially given the fact that a number of key opposition leaders/activists (Ilias ali, Chowdhury Alam) have earlier gone missing under the current regime.

Here are some excerpts of media reports describing their inhumane and barbaric treatment: "One of them had his whole body smashed and yet he was alive & made to walk. Five of them had their eyes poked into and severely injured. Most of them had their nails pulled out." (CNN ireport). "One of them had his hand crushed with a hammer, another had his whole body smashed. Most of them were given electric shock" (daily Sangram).

Worse yet, the court ordered the police to interrogate these students in the name of remand for three days, which in recent years have become a synonym of police brutality and torture. These poor student fell so ill after the three days remand period that the court was forced to accept their appeal for medical treatment, including one for psychological treatment. Shockingly however, the presiding judge did not shy away from accommodating further remand on 26 December 2012 (effective after getting medical treatment).

Such news of inhumane and brutal torture of political opponents at the hands of the government makes one ask, 'where is the country heading to?'. It is saddening, and even shocking, to see young students being arrested and tortured arbitrarily just for their political belief and activisim. Worse still is the near silence of the mainstream media, the local human rights leaders and the so called shushil shomaj (civil society). These people rush to shed their tears when an innocent by-stander (Limon) was mistaken for an opposition activist and was tortured by the police, but are totally mum over the current middle-age styled brutal persecution. I wonder where is the humanity of these so called human rights activists?

I suppose, it will not be out of place to quote the famous German poet father Martin-Niemöller:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionist,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.


Responsibility to Society

When a seed is planted, it takes its nourishment from the earth and its surrounding and slowly grows into a big tree. After it reaches its prime, the tree then starts giving back to its surrounding. First it gives fruits for man, birds and animals to eat and oxygen to breath; then some of its fruits, leaves and parts are returned to the earth through decomposition; and finally it is cut down and used as wood for people’s benefit.

But what about us, the Muslims? When we think about the blessings that we have taken from this society, we see that they are many. But when we count that which we have given back to the society we live in, there is little we have to present. This is in contrast to our forefathers, the Muslims from the beginning of Islamic civilization until some hundred years ago. Those Muslims have enormous contribution to all spheres of life and society starting from politics, economics and social justice to science, technology and medicine.

Allah Azzawajal says in the Holy Quran, what can be translated as,
“You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma`ruf (all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah.”
(Surah Ale Imran, verse 110).

The meaning of the Ayah is that the Ummah of Muhammad is the most righteous and beneficial nation for mankind, because of their bidding the good and forbidding the evil, and because of their good character and morals.

Thus, we as the Ummah of Muhammad Mustafa (saws), have to attain the best morals and characters, be true to our responsibility of the bringing the best benefit for the society; and avoid the mistakes committed by the ummah before us.

Here, in this ayah, the word NAS, or mankind is used; not just Muslims or believers. Therefore the bringing of goodness and social justice have to apply to all of mankind and should never be limited to only the Muslims.

So, how can we be the best of nation that brings goodness to the whole of mankind?

First of all, we need to understand that Islam is a Deen, a complete way of life, rather than just a religion. The word religion has a rather narrow scope limited to a set of beliefs and rituals. Deen, on the other hand, obviously means a system of life where the Almighty Allah is worshipped and obeyed, not just in the narrow religious sense, but in a manner that includes all aspects of human of life including our social life.

In order to follow this Deen of Islam, we need to develop and strengthen our relationship with Allah by reading, comprehending, and pondering over the meaning of Holy Qur’an with a genuine search for truth; and practicing its lessons in our everyday life by living a life of total obedience to the Almighty Allah.

Once we start practicing this, the Ibadah, or obedience to Allah, will begin showing its signs in our character and in our outwardly nature. Our leader, Muhammad (saws) is the perfect and best human being, and the Quran was fully reflected in his character as described by the mother of the believers Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her).

The more we are able to learn and put to practice the lessons of the Quran, the more will the Quran be reflected through our character, biiznillahi Taala.

Secondly: bidding of the good and forbidding the evil is not just a matter of words. It is not something which we say only. Rather it is something which should be reflected in our everyday life. We can see a beautiful example of this from the life of Sayyidul Mursalin Mustafa (saws).

One old woman made used to throw rubbish on Prophet Muhammad whenever he passed in front of her house on the way to the mosque. Even when the old woman threw rubbish on him, he (saws) would pass silently without showing any anger or annoyance. This was a regular, daily event.

One day when the Prophet was passing by, the woman was not there to throw the rubbish. He stopped and asked the neighbor about her well-being. The neighbor informed the Prophet that the woman was sick on bed. The Prophet politely asked permission to visit the woman. When allowed he entered the house, the woman thought that he had come there to take his revenge when she was unable to defend herself because of sickness. But the Prophet assured her that he had come to her, not to take any revenge, but to see her and to look after her needs, as it was the command of Allah that if any one is sick, a Muslim should visit him and should help him if his help is needed.

The old woman was greatly moved by this kindness and love of the Prophet. By the example of greatness of Muhammad, she understood that he was truly the Prophet of God and Islam was the true religion. She accepted Islam at once

Such kindness is repeated many times in the history of Islam. Justice, honesty, integrity, kindness, sincerity, and truthfulness are the qualities of the Muslims that opened the hearts of millions of people in Asia and Africa to the truth of Islam. People knew the tree of Islam by the fruits of the good conduct it produced in its followers.

Similarly, we also engage regularly with the wider society in todays age too. People know and understand Islam through personal experience of Muslims. The early Muslims spread throughout the world through doing business with the others; and their nobility and integrity of conduct won them over. This very model should be followed by us Muslims today, and we have to interact with larger society in our places of work and other spheres of life; and we need to portray a good example of ourselves and represent Islam as it really is.

Guiding society by spreading the call of righteousness, fighting atrocities and detestful things, encouraging virtue, enjoining all that is good, helping the people, trying to win the public opinion to the side of Islam, and observing the Islamic principles in all aspects of public life: these are the duty of individual Muslims as well as the community working as a unit. The society we live in has many problems to which we Muslims can contribute and work together with others to solve.

Thirdly: Our life, individually and within the Muslim community, should be an ideal one which may draw the attention of others. It should make people think and compare their own lives with ours. That is one of the ways that will make them curious for gaining sound information about Islam. However, if we slavishly imitate the parts of the Western lifestyle that do not agree with Islam, and thus degrade ourselves, there will not be and cannot be any distinction between us and others. In this case, they will not feel any attraction towards us or our Deen. Nor will it make them reflect on the Muslim behavior or hold us and Islam in esteem.

We must also remember and understand that if we commit a crime in our home country, we are less likely to be stereotyped, compared to doing the same in this society. This is because we are not just an individual here, rather we are representatives of our countries and of our Deen Islam. So, it is much much more important to set a good example and be a good role model in this society.

This also applies to the community within ourselves. We need to be united, have strong brotherhood and set good example as a group. One of the greatest blessings of Islam is it's admirable success in creating strong, warm and rich bond of love and brotherhood among the Muslims. It is this blessing of love and brotherhood which is the greatest source of sustenance and nourishment for man, but few of us can honestly say that we have experienced true brotherhood. True Muslim brotherhood implies that we should pray for our brother and want for him what we want for ourselves.

The importance of brotherhood is highlighted by the saying of the Prophet (saws). He has described it by saying:
"You find the Muslims in their mutual love and compassion, like one body, should any organ of it fall ill, the rest of the body will share in the fever and sleeplessness that ensues". (al-Bukhari)

Let us all pray and work towards being the best of Mankind, being a member of the Ummah of Sayyidul Mursaleen Muhammad (saws).


Hijrah 1433: Lessons from Hijra Nabawiyyah

The migration of the Prophet illustrates the principle that no matter how something is desired by us, we should never hesitate to sacrifice it for the sake of our faith or ideal. Worldly material and things of value can never and should never take the place of our faith; nor can the faith be exchanged away for the entire world.

Makkah was the birthplace of the Prophet (saws) and his companions. It was also the city of Holy kaaba. Yet, nothing stood in the way of bidding farewell to their hearts and homes, families and kinsmen just for the the freedom of conscience and liberty to practice Islam.

Finally, Hijrah is not only a physical migration, but more importantly it is a spiritual migration. To attain true Hijrah, we have to work on our Faith, our knowledge and our actions, so that we are able to worship Allah and pull away from Haram; make our Faith strong, and face the trials and tests of staying on the straight path; and migrate away from what Allah has forbidden to worshipping as Allah has ordered.

Let us pray that we can all be a true immigrant, and migrate away from leading a life of desire and vanities to a life of humbleness and thankfulness. Allahumma Ameen.

Hijrah 1433

It is appropriate for us to reflect a while on the significance of the important event of Hijra in the history of Islam.

The Islamic calendar was first introduced by the close companion of the Prophet, 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (R). During his Khilfah, the need to introduce a new Islamic calendar raised. After consultation with other prominent companions, it was agreed that the most appropriate reference point for the Islamic calendar was the Hijrah, since it was an important turning point for the Muslim community, the history of Islam and infact the history of this world. It was only after the migration to Madinah that the Muslims were able to organize and establish the first real Muslim "community," with social, political, and economic independence.

Let us briefly look at some points related to the beautiful story of Hijrah, the blessed journey of the Prophet (saws) and his companion Abu Bakr (r) through the lonely desert from Makkah to Madina.

As the Muslims started migrating to Madina, the Quraysh decided to end the Prophet (s) blessed life by assasinating him jointly. They chose to do it one night, and waited outside his house waiting to kill him the moment he left his house early in the morning. Allâh, the All-Mighty, however, had other plans. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) came out of the house and cast some dust at them and managed to work his way through them reciting verses from the Noble Qur’ân: which can be translated as
· “And We have put a barrier before them, and a barrier behind them, and We have covered them up, so that they cannot see.” [36:9] (surah Yasin)

The unbelieving Quraysh of Mecca were bitterly set against the Prophet (saws). Yet they were absolutely convinced of his truthfulness and trustworthiness, and chose to trust him with their valuable belongings. When Allah’s orders for the Prophet (saws) to migrate to Madina was revealed, He had a number of their things committed to his trust. He, therefore, charged ‘Ali to return these to their owners before leaving Mecca.

Instead of taking the direct road to Madinah Prophet (saws) and Abu Bakr (r) walked for 5 miles in the opposite direction and took refuge for three nights in a cave in rough rocky mountain called Thawr. ‘Abdullah, the son of Abu Bakr would go to see them after dusk, stay the night there, inform them of the latest situation in Makkah. ‘Amir bin Fuhairah, the slave of Abu Bakr (r) used to supply them with milk at night and Asma (r), Abu Bakrs daughter brought them food by walking this long distance, although she was pregnant at than time.

‘Abdullah bin Uraiquit, a guide hired by Abu Bakr (r) who was not yet Muslim then, reached the cave after three nights, bringing with him Abu Bakr’s two camels which he had arranged especially for this journey. During the long journey to Madina, they took the hardly ever used ways along the coastal route, instead of the short and straight path that was commonly used then.

We have hightlighted these brief points to show that The Hijrah was not a random flight but a carefully planned migration. What lessons can we draw from these incidents?

First of all, we learn that if something is not working out as planned, we should look for alternatives just like the Prophet looked for alternative land to establishing the deen when efforts at Makkah failed, and the Quraysh of Makkah opposed Islam with strong force.

We also see that the Prophet (saws) did not forget his duties and his trust to the Makkans, people who wanted to kill him, even at this dangerous and difficult moment. So, we should also learn to be trustworthy and honest in all circumstances, and with all people, Muslims and non Muslims alike. We must be trustworthy in our job, in our studies, in our businesses, in all our affairs of this life and hereafter.

Further, although this migration was in the way of Islam and by the orders of Allah, both the Prophet (saws) and Abu bakr (r) left no stones unturned to prepare for this journey in the best possible way. They knew that Allah will help them, yet Abu bakr (r) bought and prepared camels for their journey, they took the help of a non-Muslim bedouin guide, they hid in the cave. Instead of taking direct path, they took long and dangerous routes. Similarly in our worldly affairs and more importantly in the matters of the deen, and working for the deen, we also need to be well prepared and do things in the best possible way. We know that we must rely on Allah, but only after careful planning. Also we learn from this incident that there is no fault in taking help from non-Muslim experts.

Finally, we also see the dedication, hard work and sacrifice of those around the Prophet (saws) and his blessed companion. For example, Ali (r) had to have a lot of courage to lie in Prophets bed knowing that there are angry men waiting outside to kill the Prophet (saws) and they could have killed Ali (r) in the place of Prophet (saws). Also we see the dedication of Asma (r) who walked all the way from Makkah in pregnant condition to serve food for the beloved prophet (saws) and her father.

These are not mere stories for us to listen and then forget. These stories and incidents are there for us to learn and take lessons for our daily life and our activities. We need to contemplate on these beautiful stories of sacrifice and struggle and try to implement their lessons in our everyday life.

Can you imagine walking in the desert sun of Arabia for around two weeks. The temperature is about 50 degrees? For whom did the Prophet (saws) and his companions suffer this hardship? Could they not have decided to stay in Makkah in the comfort of their houses and among their people? Did not the Quraiysh offer Prophet (saws) to give wealth and power and whatever he may want?

Do you know why the Prophet (saws) left Makkah, his birthplace, although it was the dearest place to him? He (saws) did this so that the message of Islam survive beyond their life. It is because of all the sufferings and hardship of the Prophet (saws) and all his companions that you and I and all of us are blessed to get the message of Islam. It is because of their Hijrah that day, that Islam got established and reached all the corners of this world today.

This migration of the Prophet (saws) also has relevance in our own lives: If we live in a place where our faith and our very life is in danger, we should move away; as many of us here have done. We are told in the Holy Quran, that when the angels of death question those who sinned, they will accept no excuses. The angels will ask: Was Allah’s earth not wide enough for you to move away from a sinful environment?

At a deeper level, the Hijrah is also a spiritual migration. If our lives are too much concerned with material things, with our own personal vanities, our likes and dislikes, our comfort and amusement, then we need a to make a spiritual Hijra, spiritual migration. We need to re-organise our priorities in life. We need to re-focus our heart, our emotions and our desires on something higher and nobler than ourselves. Material things should never be the main goal in life. Our main concern should be, to seek the good pleasure of Allah in everything we do.

If, in the process, wealth and good fortune comes our way, we should consider it as a by-product of serving Allah. We should hold onto these things lightly, at arms’ length, not close to the heart. It should be a bonus, not the main agenda. We must not dedicate our life for this purpose alone. There are very beautiful verses in Sura Ale Imran that reminds us, which can be translated as:

“14. Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they desire: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to).

15. Say: Shall I give you glad tidings of things far better than those? For the righteous are Gardens in nearness to their Lord, with rivers flowing beneath; therein is their eternal home; with companions pure (and holy); and the good pleasure of Allah. For in Allah.s sight are (all) His servants,-

16. (Namely), those who say: “Our Lord! we have indeed believed: forgive us, then, our sins, and save us from the agony of the Fire;”-

17. Those who show patience, Firmness and self-control; who are true (in word and deed); who worship devoutly; who spend (in the way of Allah.; and who pray for forgiveness in the early hours of the morning.

The migration of the Prophet illustrates the principle that no matter how something is desired by us, we should never hesitate to sacrifice it for the sake of our faith or ideal. Worldly material and things of value can never and should never take the place of our faith; nor can the faith be exchanged away for the entire world.

Let us mark this Islamic New Year with personal thinking, reflection and re-dedication. Let us refocus our attention on pleasing our Maker, our Lord, and achieving that noble status that He has assigned for us, that is the status of the best of Creation. Let us make a fresh start, to steer our lives from where we are, to where Allah wants us to be. There cannot be a more important journey in our lives than this spiritual Hijrah, the true Hijrah.

Let us pray that we can all be a true immigrant, and migrate away from forbidden things to the way of serving Allah, from doing thing which displeases Allah to that which pleases Him, from leading a life of desire and vanities to a life of humbleness and thankfulness. Allahumma Ameen.


first ten days of Dhul Hijja

We are in the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Many Muslims are gathered in the holy city of Makka to perform Hajj during this time. Unfortunately, many of us are not among the Hujjaj. Yet Allah SWT in His infinite mercy, has given us an opportunity to share some of their rewards by making the first ten days of this month, more virtuous than other days. This is so that we can increase our good deeds and try to wipe away our sins. According to the scholars, these ten days are the ten best days of the year and the 9th Dhul Hijja, the day of Arafat is one of the best day of the year.

We should all try to exploit those golden days. Some of the recommended actions for these days are:
1. Praying Tahajjud Prayer
2. Fasting, especially in the ninth, the day of Arafat.
3. Saying Takbeer, Tahlil, Tasbeeh and Tahmid.
4. Making a sacrifice following the tradition of our father Ibrahim (a) seeking Allah's pleasure.
5. Repenting from our sins
6. Doing other good deeds, such as reading Qur'an, remembering Allah, honoring parents, and others.
7. Last but not least, making doa; especially on the day of Arafat, which is one of the best days to make doa.

May Allah give us all Tawfique to take advantage of these blessed days.