Author Archives: faheemm

Science, Scientific Progress and The Religion of Islam In Today’s World

It is common these days to hear the sentiment science is progress and religion is backward. You believe in religion? You believe in fairy tales. You have been brainwashed. Clearly you are incapable of independent thought or critical analysis.

Its important as Muslims to know where this came from, where it stands today, and what the general Muslim position is, understanding that even in the Muslim viewpoint there would be some debate and variance in the positions held.

Where it came from

So, where did this come from? It is the late 1950s & early 60s, the world war is over, Europe is flattened, UK is divesting its colonies by giving them Independence – cutting them loose, in part to focus on rebuilding and in part under the terms of the Marshall Plan, as conditions to get funding for that reconstruction.

There is an ongoing ideological war between the Capitalist West and the Communist Europe, across many fronts – nuclear, military, geopolitical, economic and social. This of course is the time for the Cuban Revolution, with Fidel and Che declaring a socialist state. The Cold War period is at its peak, the nuclear arms race is underway, American technology in air and sea helped western forces repel the North Korean attack on South Korea. And communist Russia seems to be winning on the technology front. It not only launches the Sputnik 1 in 1957 – the 1st earth-orbiting satellite, and Sputnik 2 a month later carrying the dog Laika into space, but also Luna 2 in 1959 – the 1st man made object to reach the moon, and in 1961 the first human, Yuri Gagarin, to reach into space on board the Vostok 1.

These are disturbing developments, since scientific and technological superiority of the Communist Russia can shift the balance of power in the west. Not to mention the ideological impressions on the minds of the global citizen – we saw it in the shift in focus in things like the toys kids played with and the themes of focus in fiction – a shift from The Wild West – cowboys and Indians – to sci-fi and aliens. If you saw Toy Story, you would see Woody and Buzz Lightyear side-by-side as one example of this.

Advanced Islamic Studies for 21st Century Leadership: The Alim(a) Program @MAI.

< Find out more >

None of this was helpful to the capitalist/democratic west, so there was need to win this war. To this end we saw the formation not only of NASA in the late 50s but of the NIST – national institute for science and technology. What do we need to win the space race? We need more engineers and technologists – STEM, basically, and to do that we have to re-engineer the education system – syllabus, scholarships, the works. It is at this point we saw the secular movement and the separation of church and the state – in order to control the curriculum, we need the church-dominated schools to yield. So if we are funding the school, we want to inform the content to help the country achieve its goals.

It was of course from all of this we saw the grandeur of Rocket Science – aeronautical engineering – and the formative years of computer sciences in the modern context. This of course gave a voice to the agnostic and the critical skeptics – establishing a solid foundation for atheism as we know it today. So you stop teaching about God, focus on natural laws and principles, and seek justification from selections of specific authors, and the result is what we have – a materialist godless society replete with moral relativism.

Now to be clear, the problem to Muslims was not the developments in science itself, as was the objection with some other religions[1]. In fact, Islam propelled development in science, as we will see later on, but the problem was rather the removal of the religious ethic that contained development within a self-regulating ethic of morality – was is directed to the greater good.

Where are we now? But this brings us back to the sentiment science is progress and religion is backward. And that was how we got here.

[1] In The Meadows of Gold, al-Mas‘udi wrote his famous condemnation of revelation over reason: The sciences were financially supported, honoured everywhere, universally pursued; they were like tall edifices supported by strong foundations. Then the Christian religion appeared in Byzantium and the centres of learning were eliminated, their vestiges effaced and the edifice of Greek learning was obliterated. Everything the ancient Greeks had brought to light vanished, and the discoveries of the ancients were altered beyond recognition.

Have a question or comment on this content? Email us at admin@maiinstitute.com – we would love to hear from you

Crime, Poverty, Social Issues and The Muslim Mindset

We have seen the world heave under the covid restrictions, and following that, we are experiencing even more pressures from inflation and supply chain disruption. Society seems to be in upheaval, with increases in crime, poverty, more persons getting ill, less staff and more work, and more complex demands on the work that persons do.

To speak with us about this is Br. Faheem Mohammed, Director of the MAI Institute, University Faculty and Researcher. Br. Faheem Assalaamu alaikum and welcome to the program.

<response>

Q1 In the face of all that we are seeing in the community and in society, how do we make sense of all that is happening today?

Well, what we are seeing today is the symptoms at different levels, across different facets of society.

Socially crime is spiking because people need money – price increases in food, fuel and pharmacy, and school supplies etc. mean that people have to find a way, and unfortunately some choose to do that at the expense of others.

The stress of course raises the demands for narcotics, which means more money spending there, and increases in gang warfare and people fighting for turf and distribution blocks.

None of this is new. Its maybe more amplified, but its been the case for decades.

Economically, the economy is not doing well, and you might find some companies are either relocating to or focusing on countries like Guyana with cheaper resources and better opportunities, or simply cannot compete with maybe online channels with more developed AI technology, or simply better funded larger competition.

These of course all have political and legal implications – ease of doing business, for e.g., or the political strategy to drive economic performance of certain sectors.

At the core, what we are sure about is this is a rough patch, and whether its natural or man-made, we are at this part of the cycle and its unpleasant because of the difficulties and behaviours it leads to.

Q2 What does that mean for us as Muslims today?

Well, with everything happening over the past 3 years, I don’t think any Muslim would be surprised, to be honest. We are told in the Quran that we will face trials in this life – in Quran 29:2: Ahasiban nasu, an yut raqoo, an ya kuloo ‘a manna wa hoom, la yuf ta nun

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test?

And again in Chapter 2:155: Wa la nablu wanna kum be shay inm minal kowfee wal jew’e wa nak sinm minal amwaali wal anfosee, was samaratee

We will certainly test you with a touch of fear and famine and loss of property, life, and crops.

We understand that life happens in cycles – sometimes good, sometimes bad, and it’s a similar concept in economics, with the cycles of the economy from expansion and peak to contraction and trough, or in social change as the rise and fall of civilizations as presented by scholars like Ibn Khaldun.

In fact, we are told in the Quran “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Qur’an 94: 5–6)

So whichever frame you look at it through, these are tough times and its something that is not permanent, so we have to ride it through.

MAI addresses issues that relate to Islam and the Muslim community.

Learn more on our Resources page, or go directly to our Social Issues page for more

Q 3: How do we as Muslims approach that?

Well, as Muslims, it’s a bit easier to treat with, to be honest. In the same way Almighty Allah tells us we will be tried, He also gives us a number of assurances, a social contract, if you will, in writing, in the Quran. And these help us to frame our psychology and thoughts in facing difficulties:

  • We are told in the Quran for example we will not be given more than we can bear (2:286)
  • And we are told in a Hadith: When Allah wants to give you more, He tries you (Bukhari)
  • In another Hadith we are told: Those whose religious commitment is strong, will be tested more severely, and the trials to the Prophets were strongest (Al-Tirmidhi)
  • But as for a human, whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy a life of ease, he says, “My Sustainer has been generous towards me”; whereas, whenever He tries him by tightening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” But nay. (Quran 89:15-17)
  • “Never a believer is stricken with a discomfort, an illness, an anxiety, a grief or mental worry or even the pricking of a thorn but Allah will expiate his sins on account of his patience.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Q 4: Is there something specific that we can do to address the challenges?

            Generally we are guided in Islam to focus on a few key things:

  1. In times of difficulty, we need to be patient and contented

Allah is with those who are patient in adversity (Quran 2:153)

“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (2:153)

We are consoled it might happen to make us stronger. Allah tells us in the  Holy Quran “…it may be that you hate something when it is good for you and it may be that you love something when it is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know.” (Qur’an, 2:216)

  • Related to that, we have to make the first move to improve our lot

God does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves (Qur’an 13:11)

Let one of you ask his Lord for his needs, all of them, even for a shoestring when his breaks. (Al-Tirmidhi)

Call upon your Lord with humility and in private. Verily, He does not love transgressors. (Quran 7:55)

  • In times of abundance and ease, we need to be humble and generous.

And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth.  Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster. (Quran 31:18)

And the slaves of God are those who walk on the earth in humility and calmness, and when the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply back with mild words of gentleness. (Quran 25:63)

And We have already sent [messengers] to nations before you, [O Muhammad]; then We seized them with poverty and hardship that perhaps they might humble themselves. (Quran 6:42)

Remember your Lord in yourselves with humility and in private without announcing it in the mornings and evenings, and do not be among the heedless. (Quran 7:205)

And the servants of (Allah) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!” (Quran 25:63)

If ye are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you” (Quran 14:7)

[6:141] “Eat from their fruits, and give the due alms on the day of harvest” 

“O son of Adam, spend (in charity), and I’ll spend on you!” Hadith Qudsi

Honorable words and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury (Quran 2:263)

  • And at all times, we are commanded as Muslims to have faith in Allah.

“Whoever puts his trust in Allah; He will be enough for Him.” (Quran 65:3)

“And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out. And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine” (65:2-3).

“And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. For Allah will surely accomplish his purpose. Verily, for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion” (Quran 65:3)

“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” Quran (13:28)

“If anyone continually asks forgiveness from Allah, Allah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon.” (Hadith)

“Whoever Allah wants good for him, He puts them to the test. He puts them through difficulties; like a diamond or gold that has to be burnt after which anything bad from it is removed so that what you have is pure diamond or pure gold.” (Hadith)

Q5 When your children are hungry or you have sacrificed whatever you could, this seems like something easy to say but difficult to practice…

Yes, it’s a question of faith – of building your relationship with Allah, building your concept of Him, and your relationship with Him by understanding what He asks of you and what He promises in return.

Q6 Let me interrupt you there, what really does that entail?

            Well, its not really as complicated as some make it out to be. You need to know:

  1. The principles of authentic Sunni Islam. And I say authentic because there are some extremist groups that claim to be Sunni, but their practices are anything but Sunni. In fact, globally, mainstream Muslims more and more are speaking out against those fanatical extremists who have misrepresented Islam for the past decades.
  2. But anyway, an understanding of the principles of authentic Sunni Islam, the practices and bahavioural requirements or guidelines of Islam – beyond the 5 pillars, but going into how to act with parents, children, neighbours, in the workplace, etc., and thirdly
  3. It is helpful to know the culture and history of Islam and Muslims, beyond the Seerah, which everyone has  access to and hears. But there is soo much similarity of Mulims today and the time of Andalus, or with the invasion of the Monguls, or the clashes of Muslim society with colonial powers in the industrialization era, for example – a lot that we can learn from and understand to guide how we deal with issues we face today.

Learn Islam to live the best life… for both worlds.

Find out more about the Islamiyat Program @ MAI

Q7 I recall you were mentioning some aspect of this in introducing the Islamiyat Program…

            Yes, that mindset was… (interrupted)

Q8 I had interrupted you to speak about building the faith in Allah. I was asking about how to build faith…

Yes. I was saying building faith in Allah is one thing. And some would say that is enough, but that requires a certain understanding. For those not there, I would add building that faith requires a certain independent mindset on one part. You think that you are alone in this world as a slave to Allah, and He will look after your affairs. With that mindset, you find that you don’t rely on anyone – your boss, social worker, your in-laws or others; you depend only on Allah and He will show you the way; and He will never let you down. He tells us that in the Quran:

I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me (Qur’an 2:186)

Indeed Allah provides to whom He wills with no limit! (Quran 3:37)

and on another part, what proves helpful is immersing yourself in a community of like-minded persons who would cheer each other on, not try to fight them down or take what they can. But, even if you are alone and everyone is against you. We are told in a Hadith Qudsi

Whoever comes to Me walking, I will come to him running. Whoever meets Me with enough sins to fill the earth, not associating any partners with Me, I will meet him with as much forgiveness. (Muslim)

Q6 That might be a difficult thing to achieve

Well, yes and no. It depends on the life that you live and the circles that you immerse yourself in. We see that camaraderie and reminders of faith in the MAI classrooms, for e.g., more than we might in the mosque, or the family circle. In fact, that is something Maulana Waffie emphasized from day 1 – we are a family striving to do good. So its there, you have to find out where it is, and then make the move to get into that environment. Its probably not going to come to you.

Patience and contentment when facing difficulties… faith in Allah only, and being part of a community that supports your development, as key ingredients to help us through what is no doubt a difficult time in our country’s history.

We remind you we are accepting registrants for our Islamiyat program starting September 10th, find out more or register at MAI Institute.com, and we look forward to having you there. We hope you enjoyed this feature, and hope to see you on the next one, where we unpack and explore current issues from a Muslim perspective. This is Muslim Matters brought to you by the MAI Institute; I am Ahmed Rahamut, see you next time.

Register for the Islamiyat Program

For more information please email us at: admin@maiinstitute.com – we would love to hear from you.

Refining your intention

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّ حِيْمِ

If you go to a market you will see a lot of people and each one of them will concerned with his or her own business. Each of them would have gone with a purpose that concerns their own affairs.

Like this is the human family. We were all created by Allah and are placed on this earth for a purpose. And that is to represent Allah and prepare ourselves to return to, and Him.

Throughout the history of man you will see tribes and nations that deviated. And when they deviated, Allah sent Messengers to remind them and bring them back. Bring them back to what? This is what we need to understand. To bring them back to the common thread that binds all human beings together. This common thread has one important strand and that is to believe that Allah is the Creator of the Universe.


View the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1j3fEXYwBYn&feature=youtu.be


The Messengers came to remind the people of this and in spite of their efforts the people remained divided and disunited; each looking after his own material affairs and not thinking of the return to the Lord. Islam came to remove that kind of thinking and Allah testifies to this is Surah Imran;and ye were on the brink of the pit of fire, and He saved you from it. (3:103)

Muslims are supposed to have one common denominator and that is La Ilaha Illallah; this unites all believers together. There are, however unfortunately some who attest to this but their hearts have not yet joined that human family. For example in our zikir sessions we are joined by one motive and one intention that makes us all part of this family. But in society even amongst the believers you don’t have that common purpose and focus. The reason is because Satan is able to get into the chest of us and is able to effectively whisper in a few to get them to have some sort of selfish motive. And in spite of the fact that they are believers and they harbour love of the religion of Islam, some of them may have ulterior motives. A perfect example is the story of Adam (as) and Satan in the Garden of Eden.

Satan, Adam (as), the Angels, the Jinns all lived together in the Garden. There Satan posed to be a good and trusted friend of Adam and look what he did. He harboured an ulterior motive although he was in the Garden.This is what Islam came to guard us against. Be careful with your intention. Some people profess to be Muslims and in so doing are supposed to submit in totality to Allah and His Rasool (pboh), but they have their own agendas. Perhaps this is why today we have such turmoil in the Muslim world; because we are not living for the sake of Allah.We have to try our best to live for the sake of Allah.

Sometimes we may think ‘if I do something like this I can get personal benefit’. It’s a natural thinking but in so doing we are sacrificing some of the blessings Allah can shower upon us. Then I am not truly living for the sake of Allah. This is a little lower category than a truly righteous believer about whom Prophet Muhammad (pboh) said ‘a Muslim in the Hands of Allah is like a dead in the hands of those who wash him’.True faith is to live for the sake of Allah and understand that whatever is happening to you is coming with Allah’s Permission and Knowledge and He knows why He is doing it. That is why we recite in our duas; ‘We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, Our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys’. (2:285)

This is applicable to us all, none of us are perfect. We will at times think of ourselves, however let us all try to grow our Iman and try to think about Allah and His Rasool (pboh) and hope for the best from our Lord.Moses (as) prayed to Allah: “Our Lord! Thou hast indeed bestowed on Pharaoh and His Chiefs splendour and wealth in the life of the present, and so, Our Lord, they mislead (men) from Thy path. Deface, Our Lord, the features of their wealth, and send hardness to their hearts, so they will not believe until they see the grievous penalty”.On the other hand Allah says of Prophet Muhammad (pboh)Thou wouldst only, perchance, fret thyself to death, after them, in grief, if they believe not in this Message. (18:6)

He was so loving and compassionate that he felt sorrow for the nonbelievers who didn’t listen and were using their God giving gifts to destroy themselves and others.Let us try to do our little bit for ourselves and for others and let Allah take care of the rest. This earth belongs to Him, not us. We can do a little and if you do He will take care of you and whatever you are doing. Try to make your intentions more and more refined because we are all humans and it is very possible to get carried away and tempted at times. However when times like these occur hasten to ask your Lord for forgiveness and turn back to Him in the hope for His blessings and forgiveness. May Allah always bless us and take care of our affairs.

Transcript of discourse delivered by Maulana Dr. Waffie Mohammed

The video presentation of this discourse can be accessed at https://youtu.be/h1j3fEXYwBYn

Overcoming Hardship: Lessons from the Prophets of Islam

The world has undergone a period of struggle with Covid restrictions. Emotional difficulties, physical health concerns and loss of loved ones, economic hardship and relationship challenges have all featured, and everyone has been affected in some way or the other. Some more than others, and some in multiple ways.

We are taught in Islam that the Prophets of Allah faced the most difficulties that persons would face, followed by others in different grades. Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, which people are tested most severely?” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is put to trial according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, he is put to trial according to his strength in religion. The servant will continue to be put to trial until he is left walking upon the earth without any sin.” [al-Tirmidhī 2398]

From this, we recognize there is much that can be learned about facing and overcoming hardships by examining the lives of the Prophets of Islam. To this end, MAI Institute is pleased to invite persons to access its free course – Overcoming Hardships – Lessons from the Prophets of Islam.

This 12-week online course is scheduled to commence on Monday June 6th, from 7.10 pm – 8.30 pm, and will be done via Zoom.

MAI Students can simply notify Admin to get registered. Any others wishing to register can do so via the following link: https://maiinstitute.com/register-here/ (Note – classes have limited spaces so please register early).

Learn of the various challenges of key different Prophets in Islam, and how that can help you today and in the future.

We hope to see you there.

The Triumph of Evil? Moral Identity and Involvement in the Muslim Community

By Faheem Mohammed

History will no doubt look back at this period of human development with a sense of awe and bewilderment. There is a lot going on. Soo much transition and turmoil abound, in fact, that not only is it hard to keep track of changes, but harder still to synthesize these into a coherent response.

We are witnessing the global transformation of societies through the diffusion of technology and its disruption of life as we know it – in our interaction, commerce, entertainment, exposure to the sheer volume of information of varying pedigree, and of course the impacts of all of these on our values, beliefs and behaviors.

We have seen the sudden and severe worldwide effects of the Covid pandemic that seemed to be the culmination of a steady progression of epidemics that rapidly appeared, evolved and diffused globally in the past decades. SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, Avian, MERS, Zika have all taken their toll in wreaking havoc on populations, transport, travel and mobility, economic and physical welfare, only to be outdone multiple times over by Covid and its responses globally. Many of the social and economic effects we are only beginning to understand, and would take a long time to unravel.

Economically, we are faced with the dual reality of mass unemployment across sections of society alongside the significant concentration of wealth into the hands of a select few – technology entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors and investors leading the pack. Talk of a global minimum wage abound, as do efforts and advocacy against both the jobless growth that technology drives and the socio-economic systems that perpetuate such inequalities.

Political focus and military shifts away from the Muslim world towards Russia and former Soviet states are a welcome respite, even if temporary, and would give time for the dust to settle. At least we hope so. We see, in the attempts by MBS to transition Arabia into a modern (secular) society, he introduce events of morally questionable nature in the Najd region, even as his actions affect Islam – only recently we have seen some extremist groups being ostracized from its borders, and the dominant theological influences shift from hardline extremism to a more moderate interpretation of Islam. We have also seen a change in the way Hajj is being conducted – with a much more open system being rolled out to accommodate higher volumes of pilgrims.

In our sphere, the society seems to demonstrate trends that are most concerning when we consider the future of society and the wellbeing of our children. The ever-increasing materialistic propensity and hedonistic self-gratification paradigm have given us some truly bizarre manifestations under the banner of freedom and rights, be it for GLB, transgender, cancel culture or just blind liberalism. What you identify as (be creative here), what are your preferred pronouns (in English, please), and what brand of lab-grown foods you prefer (authentic inorganic, of course), are not normal existentialist dilemmas to have in the context of the annals of history, and many would argue neither should they be. Of course, distractions abound courtesy the perceived product obsolescence a la brand loyalty, the calming effects of outdoor environmentalist activism (and a stellar yoga sequence, to top it off), alongside the next TikTok fad.

Even in the Muslim community globally, we see the rise of the British-influenced and derivative fringe sects, who have meticulously studied the means of dividing the community (based on minor differences), all to build a following and access more and more resources. Yet in the face of all of these aforementioned, the mainstream, moderate Sunni Muslim community has endured, and even progressed in some spheres of society.

What does the future hold for our children? Would they be victims to this strange, incoherent, materialistic-albeit-resource-deficient world? Is there another path that can help our children grow into functional human beings, and not mindless -detergent-consuming sheep?

The answer would have to come from a source that is not infected by the strains and influences of what brought us to this point. The move towards enlightenment is questioning the future relevance of capitalism and socialism, even as there emerges varying strains of non-material cultures. With these come an array of attempts to reconfigure the rights and responsibilities of individuals and society, along with the balance of access to and allocation of resources for the betterment of society.

For us Muslims, this is an easy solution to identify. In Islam, we have a revealed code that not only guides us in these matters, but which has been proven time and again to work in ways that benefit all sections of society. Islam gives us a system that has not only endured the evolution of society throughout the passage of time, but has contributed to the foundation of those advances we enjoy in modern society – from optics to healthcare to algorithms. The Islamic Golden Age was a sterling example of science and religion working towards the development of human life and the attainment of harmony across physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

The Islamic way of life stands as a self-regulating, knowledge-driven, justice-based moral approach to life and livelihood that proves even more relevant to today’s operating context than ever before. Anchoring ourselves and our families to the principles, practices and culture of Islam gives us an avenue to stay focused on what really matters in life, and keep it real (even if that reality is virtual). And isn’t that what we want for ourselves and the future generations?

What is required to keep the evils at bay is – as Edmund Burke reminds us – good men to do something. There is a critical need for those who are competent to get involved in building the community in its welfare, its knowledge, and its unification, so that we become one body, and that body becomes one force, and that force is directed to upholding good and avoiding evil.

In this season of Ramadan and its afterglow, as we struggle to direct our Nafs and build our willpower, even as we strengthen our relationship with our Lord, it may be useful for us to reflect on what we see the needs of the community are, how these needs align with our potential contributions, and the best way to channel our strengths, our time, resources and efforts towards addressing those needs.

This is, after all, an obligation binding on every one of us individually, and an obligation for which we will have to account on the Day of Judgement.

May Almighty Allah be pleased with our accounts, and may He reward us richly for them (Ameen Ya Rabb).

Islam, Science and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Two decades into the 21st century, and throughout most of the world the influence of technology is on the rise. AI, Cryptocurrency and the Metaverse seem to be the future of our interactions, our commerce, our employment and our entertainment… the list is not exhaustive. Of course, through these, we hope to be able to salvage if not remedy our climate and environment, our integrity in governance, trade and justice, and opportunities for the economic well-being for all in our societies.

What is clear at the moment is that the developments in science leave little room for religious doctrine. The certainty of the material world gives us hard data that can inform root causes, symptoms and solutions, which itself can be critiqued and disproved as we research and understand more. This is a far cry from the blind belief – without evidence – in metaphysical constructs that everyday religion purports. The evidence points to aliens, after all, and if there really was a God, how could He allow all this strife and discrimination in society?

What is not well-known is that not only is the foundation of many of today’s scientific developments and technologies were established by Muslim scholars centuries ago, but its development was driven to support religious compliance. In fact, the Quran instructs us, “Only a party from each group should march forth, leaving the rest to gain religious knowledge then enlighten their people when they return…” (Quran 9:122). In compliance with the Quran injunctions, a group stayed in the lands through which they travelled, and established schools through which to learn local language and culture. This led to several important contributions to science. On one part, there emerged dedicated researchers. On another, as Muslims travelled to other civilizations throughout the world, their learnings were all translated into Arabic, copies of which were sent back to centers of learning in Madinah, Baghdad or Egypt. This resulted in a compilation of world knowledge at the time – which fed further progress.

As Islam expanded beyond the borders of the Arabian peninsula in every direction – east towards Asia, north into Europe, west and south into Africa, they faced a problem. A Muslim is required to pray 5 times per day, facing the Kaaba in Makkah, regardless of where in the world he/she is. As the Muslims moved into foreign territory, they needed to geo-locate the Kaaba so that they can fulfill their prayer obligations. Hence the need to develop on existing and available knowledge of astronomy. That had embedded its own problem. We can’t track what we cannot see. Enter ibn Haytham with his developments – first in the scientific method, then in optics, and further in astronomy, to propel increased and ongoing accuracy in ensuring proper worship is established.

In similar ways, many of the discoveries bore its own problems, and required its own supporting body of knowledge. A frequently studied example is that of Muhammad Al-Khawarizmi (of the Darul Hikma in Baghdad in 820 AD), the man who developed not only the concept of algorithms, but relatedly in his work is credited with the invention of Algebra (hisab al-jabr wal muqtabala or calculations of completion and reduction). Or Jabir Ibn Hayyan Al-Azdi in his pioneering works in chemistry and modern pharmacy. Or Ibn Khaldun in the formalization of Sociology and History… the Islamic Golden Era was characterized by revolutionary scientific developments that positively impacted human quality of life.

That era yielded to the emergence of the industrialized west, and in that transition was lost a unifying religious ethic that steered the direction of development. Quality of life for the population was reduced over time to quality of life for the owners of capital, the manipulation of natural resources for profit, and the rise of the materialist, then secular paradigms. Today, we see development for its own sake, and the absence of a central guiding ethic. In fact, very unlike Islamic paradigm, it seems as if religion is seen as the preceding stage to a progressive scientific society. Beliefs in myths and legends, superstitions are all explained by physiological labels that we don’t understand well but are aggressively researching. To not accept this is to be holding back progress. But religion and science are not zero-sum, and both can co-exist and even synergize to unlock human progress far beyond what we might think possible.

Which brings us to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an age where different new technologies are “fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” We don’t exactly know the extent of change in our everyday lives that technology will usher. We know much of the transformation would be gradual (although occurring in faster cycles) across different areas, amplifying the need for continuous learning of developments that matter to us, and result in lifestyles that are driven by commitment to causes, alongside loyalty to our favorite brands.

Ultimately, the post-modern society that unfolds bears the potential to bring quality of life more closely aligned with Islamic values and belief systems. A knowledge-driven society powered by critical-thinking, self-regulating actors, focused on the naturally occurring renewable or bio-friendly resources even as we strive as a society to balance what is more equitable with equity and rewards – echoes hauntingly of the Islamic Golden Era and the civilization of that time. A focus on justice as the happy medium between equity and equality would find significant calibration already defined in an Islamic way of life.

But there is a difference. Past iterations had a unifying, central ethic that was ultimately the responsibility of the Caliph – himself accountable for his every action to an All-Knowing, and thankfully All-Merciful God on a Day of Judgement. Today’s fragmentation of ethical perspectives, however, and the perpetuation of relativist morality can steer developments into very different directions – maybe beyond just this planet.

The future is poised to look very different from the present, and maybe unrecognizable from the past. Whatever the resulting lifestyles and ethical codes that emerge to regulate our action and our interaction, as Muslims we are reminded in the Quran of a reward for “Those who believe, and do good, and establish regular prayer, and regular charity…” (Quran 2:277). And this conduct would transcend any industrial revolution.

ISTIGHFAR – SEEKING FORGIVENESS IN RAMADAN

Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

I wish to take this opportunity to wish everyone Ramadan Mubarak and remind us it is a special occasion for us to focus on self-reflection and improving our relationship with Almighty Allah. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said, ‘’When the month of Ramadan begins, the Gates of Heaven are opened and the Gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained.’’ Which of us is void of sins and errors? We are all prone as we are human, but this is a special opportunity for us Muslims in Ramadan to do some powerful supplication and strengthen one’s relationship with Almighty Allah through abundant prayer, reciting Quran, fasting, and seeking Allah’s forgiveness.

A simple dua we must make a habit of saying is ‘Astagfirullah’, which means ‘I seek forgiveness in Allah.’ Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) used to say this dua at least 100 times a day, and we should strive to do the same as it is a Sunnah or practice of our Prophet (peace be on him). By doing so, especially in Ramadan, Almighty Allah answers our duas, He relieves us from stress and anxiety, we gain a closer bond with Our Lord and we are given an opportunity for Almighty Allah to erase our sins, once we are sincere in repenting from our hearts. It is said that acts of worship and kindness in Ramadan are multiplied up to 700 times in rewards from Almighty Allah!

So my dear friends, do not waste this opportunity to seek forgiveness, whatever sins we have committed.  If we make it a habit of saying ‘Astaghfirullah’ on a daily basis, it will help us to refrain from further committing sins and guide us to make better decisions, knowing that Almighty Allah is everywhere, He knows everything, so we will be more mindful of our actions and strive to do good deeds to earn His rewards.

In a Hadith narrated by Abu Dawd, Ibn Abbas said: The Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘’If anyone constantly seeks pardon (from Allah), Allah will appoint for him a way out from every distress and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide sustenance for him where he expect not.’’

Another reminder is that we must forgive ourselves as part of the process of healing, because we all make mistakes, but Almighty Allah loves us so much He is ready to forgive us and accept our repentance once we turn to Him with sincerity. Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) said ‘’ Whosoever Glorifies Allah and Praises Him 100 times a day by saying ‘Subhan Allahi wa bihamdihi’, his sins will be obliterated even if they were equal to the foam of the sea.’’

So perform the Tasbih of Astaghfaar now! In one minute, you can say ‘Astaghfirullah’ 100 times! The doors of Repentance are open my friends so do not delay! Tomorrow is uncertain so act today!

Maulana Dr. Waffie Eid Message

Praises are for Allah, the Originator of the skies and the earth. Peace and salutations on His beloved servant – the Final Messenger that was sent to mankind. We thank the Lord for blessing us to witness another month of Ramadan. We pray to Allah to bless our fasting, prayers and sacrifices we make during the Holy Month.

Today, we join with our brothers and sisters from all over the world by celebrating Eid.

As every single human is a representative of the Lord here on earth, everyone is required to develop certain moral and spiritual discipline. Everyone is required to show restraint. Because it is sometimes difficult to restrain ourselves, Allah, out of love and mercy for us, gave us an institution designed to help us resist material distractions through fasting. He tells us in the Holy Qur’an, “Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before, in order that you will be able to establish restraint.”

Every individual is required to culture and cultivate some of the qualities contained in the Divine Attributes. Each person must always keep in mind the important fact that he or she is living on earth just for a span of time and before we can imagine we can die and leave all the material things behind. Ramadan teaches us to become conscious of

  1. Our use of our material blessings to help us become better representatives of the Lord here on earth
  2. Control of our desires and passions
  3. Be conscious of the fact that we are living amongst other human beings, and we are required to interact with them in a special way

All human beings are required to keep in mind the important fact that Allah says, “If He were to take mankind to task for all the wrong they do, there will not be a single one left.”

Our mission on earth is to behave like the Lord as best we can. And knowing that we can have a lot of short comings, we benefit ourselves by fasting in Ramadan, observing extra acts of worship and giving charity.

Ramadan teaches us to humble ourselves before our Lord and develop righteousness as much as possible. Because Fasting in Ramadan is for one month, we will be able to cultivate some of the righteous deeds through restraints. Therefore, we feel happy when Eid comes, as we are able to restrain ourselves.

Let us thank our Lord for His blessings and let us continue to try to uphold the permissible and avoid the prohibited.

Swimming Against the Tide (MAI Eid Message)

The occasion of Eid is a good opportunity to take stock.

We have undergone a spiritual and physiological ‘disruption’ for the past month, and mentally we have been careful to guard our conduct, our words and thoughts to make sure we don’t ‘spoil the fast’. On a day like today, we can reflect on the past month – the highs and lows – and see how we can respond differently in the future. That is to say, we can use our experiences of the past month to guide us through the next Ramadan.

It is also a good time to take stock in looking at the community as a whole. That we are coming out of pandemic restrictions, we have a rare opportunity to reflect on the past few years, and redefine what we would like the future to look like, as we rebuild, restart and redirect our efforts and those in our charge. Going back to how things were might be comfortable, but it certainly won’t be ideal.

As we position for the years to come, at an individual and community level, it is our hope that we can become a stronger force, more united and more directed towards lifting each other up. This cannot only be lip-service, however. Efforts to tear down barriers and old habits must be undertaken. For some, it may be a new way of thinking. For others, it may be sharing resources or the spotlight. Or climbing off a pedestal and getting back in touch with the troops on the ground.

Whatever the resulting decisions and required actions may be, now is the perfect time to take charge of the future and redefine what direction our efforts would take, to what intended outcomes. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to the future and upcoming generations, who themselves have very little to look forward to.

This Eid, let us resolve that the renewed habits and new thinking can steer us towards a brighter future, as a more united body. Let us commit to be the representative of Almighty Allah, and be a brighter light in a growing flood of darkness; a beacon that calls others towards safer ground. And hopefully, when we take stock at the next year’s Eid, we can look back with satisfaction, and look forward with greater hope.

At the MAI, we are happy that we were able to do our small part towards demonstrating a commitment to development for everyone – at the individual and community levels. We look forward to even more in the coming year, working alongside you, so that we all can ‘Live the best life. For both worlds.’

May this day of Eid give you peace, solace, comfort, opportunity and drive to define and realise a brighter tomorrow.

Eid Mubarak

MAI Institute

10 Days of Upheaval: Entering the Homestretch of the Month of Ramadan

The following was submitted to the Guardian newspapers by Director and Faculty, Faheem Mohammed, for Ramadan 2022.

We are into the last ten days of Ramadan, and we have entered into the home stretch towards Eid ul Fitr. This last third of the month is a significant one, where extra worship tends to intensify. In one hadith we are told that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) used to exert himself in extra devotion during the last 10 nights – to a greater extent than any other time.

In this last 10-day period is the Laylatul Qadr – the Night of Power – a special night in the Islamic calendar, and one which holds significance for a number of events. In particular, it is the night in which Almighty Allah showers worshippers with an abundance of blessings and mercy, sins are forgiven and du’as (supplications) are accepted. The Holy Qur’an tells us the blessings of this night are worth more than 1000 months – that’s 83 years’ worth of blessings in 1 night.  What night is it? While most agree and observe it on the 27th night, we are told in one hadith to seek it on the odd nights in the last ten nights. That’s a lot of blessings.

The night of Laylatul Qadr for blessings is akin to being told there is one day of one month wherein, should you try to withdraw cash from the ATM, you would have unlimited sums to withdraw from. There’s no one I can think of who would miss such an event. And the withdrawals done on that night can set one up nicely for the rest of the year, until that day rolls around in 1 years’ time.

When considered as one such night each year, the result is that over an average lifetime the blessings would be exponentially accrued. Needless to say this is a profound institution for the Muslim mind. An All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving God who promises a lifetime of blessings and benefits in one night – individually – based on that person’s intentions and efforts, can prove quite the motivation. It means that despite your mistakes and your shortfalls, despite you yourself not being merciful or patient consistently – there is a chance to wipe the slate clean, seek forgiveness from the Almighty, and establish a better basis for the year to come.

In this last 10-day period there is also the practice of Itikaf or spiritual retreat. This involves isolation in a mosque or home for the purpose of dedicated worship of Almighty Allah for the last 10 days of Ramadan. Typically done in the mosques throughout the world, persons would enter the mosque on the 10th night, and stay for the remainder of the month engaged in worship, when not attending to their daily needs. There are some rules to follow, and some acts that nullify the efforts, so it is something those pursuing take seriously and are careful about.

Here we find yet another institution that is designed to bring a person closer to Almighty Allah. Concerns for people and matters of the world are sidelined in favor of worship and self-reflection, and perhaps this is why it is reported in one hadith that the person who observes itikaf will obtain the reward of two Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) and two Umrah (circumambulation around the Kaaba) (Bayhaqi). In addition, we find recurring themes of detachment from the world, training or re-training oneself to proper conduct and mannerisms in accordance with Islamic instructions, and a stronger relationship with, and trust in Almighty Allah to look after our affairs. While the outcomes of this retreat tend to be very individual and personal (different people would come out of the exercise with different takeways and impressions) it is hoped that all enjoy purification of their intentions and a renewed vigor in the practice of their faith.

The last 10 days represent the essence of the month of Ramadan. The submission to God’s command through individual self-sacrifice of fasting continues. The need to guard one’s conduct and behavior while undertaking the fast stays top-of-mind. The recognition of the struggles routinely endured by those who are less fortunate keeps one grounded, and is accompanied by increase in the dispensation of charity – itself an ability that persons tend to be more thankful for. The seeking of the night of Laylatul Qadr, and the efforts of even extra worship on this night and in itikaf hold the promise of rewards to be enjoyed either in this life, or the next, if not both. And accompanying all of these, a reminder to not be too attached to the life of this world, or not be a slave to our indulgences and cravings, helps us to temper our materialistic outlook and reinforce the accountability that we believe will occur on the day of Judgement – a day when we will be taken to task for our behaviors and stewardship of our resources in this life, based on our intentions. To state it differently, what people think about you on social media matters very little when you are hungry or ‘dying of thirst’.

Through this annual exercise and adherence to the will and command of Almighty Allah, we are able to not only refine our behaviors but also reestablish our priorities, so that we can continue to strive for the increased welfare of ourselves, our families and our communities, and realise benefit in this world, and the world that is to come.

We pray that Almighty Allah allows us to participate in, and benefit fully from, the last 10 days of Ramadan, and guide us through this period to emerge as stronger and better individuals and communities, for the benefit of our society.