Hunger and Starvation in Somalia?

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Are We doing Enough?

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

In this month of Ramadan, those who listen to the huffaz reciting the Quran during Taraweeh prayers and those who read the Quran on their own will come across some of the verses that perhaps might be the most relevant ones for us in the times we are living.

We would read the verse four of Sura 106 that describes Allah as the one “who has given them food against hunger, and made them safe from danger.” We will also read the verse eight of sura 76, “And they fee, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captives. And in sura 90 verse fourteen describing the most challenging task for human beings and believers specifically, we are reminded of a group of peole who feed people on a day of hunger.

Doubtless Allah has given abundant food against hunger. Yet millions are suffering from hunger all over the world. In Somalia alone, hundreds are dying each day of starvation. So where is the food that Allah has provided the people with?  In Italy alone, 1.5 million ton of food is wasted every year because farmers do not want to sell their crops at a cheaper price. Estimates of how much food we toss in the US vary, but according to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), we’re wasting around 40 percent of the total. The leading English magazine the Economist recently wrote the following:

[T]he average American wastes 1,400 kilocalories a day. That amounts to 150 trillion kilocalories a year for the country as a whole—about 40 percent of its food supply, up from 28 percent in 1974. Producing these wasted calories accounts for more than one-quarter of America’s consumption of freshwater, and also uses about 300 million barrels of oil a year. On top of that, a lot of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) emerges when all this food rots.

These figures are about just countries out of 200 plus countries in the world. Obviously, when the food is not brought in the market due to cheap prices and some 40 per cent of what is cooked is wasted, one cannot blame God for failing in his promise.

The blame can certainly be placed on those who speak in the name of God. Why are they not raising the awareness about hunger and disproportionate distribution and known wastage of resources. More specifically the Muslim religious leadership can be questioned for failing to transmit the divine message to its followers and others. There is hardly anyone talking about the unjust distribution system that exists in our world. No one ever brings up the issue of wastage of food in our homes and religious institutions. How much food the Muslim community is wasting? All you need to do is look at the dumpster at a mosque that is serving iftar and dinner to the community. You will not be surprised to find the similarity between the national and Muslim pattern of wastage.

Hardly anyone is talking about sacrifice for the betterment of the world.

Economists describes the situation in terms of world food prices and its impact on future economy. Politicians, depending on whose money they are using to get re elected, would talk about the poverty without ever doing anything to change the situation and the religious leadership is talking about issues that are totally irrelevant to the life of people. They are still talking about the differences in fajr and isha times whether the time of fajr arrives when the sun is at a 15 degree angle or 18 degree angle.

Hardly anyone is acting on the Divine message that those who prefer the needs of others over their own comfort are indeed the one successful in the life and the life hereafter. It is the quality of sacrificing for others that is the foundation for a better world and better commitment to Allah.

For a rich man who does not know the limit of his wealth, spending a few hundred thousands is nothing. For the filthy rich Muslim leaders, feeding the poor and needy from Somalia and other starving country for an entire month is almost nothing. However, when the responsibilities are limited to only two and a half percent of one’s savings regardless of the savings and regardless of the means of earning, the results would not different. How come we rarely question those dictators who have usurped the national wealth of people about their fiscal policies. How come we do not talk in our masajid about those issues?

The crisis in Somalia can be resolved in a month if even a quarter of all the money that has been looted by leaders in the Muslim world is spent on developing projects to eliminate hunger.

But that is not going to happen. Within the religious framework even the biggest cheat would offer two and a half percent of his savings to qualify for Divine blessings.

It is now left to us, the people to do sacrifice even more for the sake of humanity. We are capable of doing that. But we need to get organized which often we are not.

We need to do the following to help improve the situation in Somalia and other places.

1. On an emergency basis our relief organizations survey the availability of food at a low prices in a world market.

2. On a longer term basis, a proper survey of putting an irrigation system with the possibility of growing new high yielding crops can be made to plan for the future.

3. Our entrepreneurs work in coordination with these agencies to produce and prepare cooked nutritious food to serve those who are in need.

4. Our masses demonstrate the quality of sacrifice in their life style. Every time we eat a meal, we make it a habit of donating amount at least half or one quarter of the amount of the meal we eat and give it to an organization that knows how to do the job right.

If the 4 plus million US Muslim community saves a quarter each meal, it alone can generate resources to do everything that is mentioned above. But this would happen only when we are willing to sacrifice and willing to heed to the divine call beyond the call of our duty.

One of the steps that American Muslim relief organizations should have taken is to organize a summit to discuss this humanitarian crisis so that all could coordinate their resources and direct them to appropriate actions. But then that would require sacrifice on the part of the leadership. If they want people to sacrifice their monetary , they have to show they are willing to tame their egos and willing to sacrifice their organizational popularity for a goal much bigger than that: serving the creation of God on a day when some of it may be hungry. (90:13)

A worrying alarm arrives now from the Italian Farmers Association (CIA): mass amounts of food is sitting and rotting in their fields because sale prices don’t cover all of the costs of production. The result is a 1.5 million of tons wasted every year and 4 billion of Euro frittered away. All this with rising costs for Italian consumers and farmers. (Source: EcoLocalizer (http://s.tt/12uez))

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Ramadan: the Month of the Quran, the Last and the Lasting Divine Guidance

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

Before it came to be known as the month of Fasting, the companions of the Prophet (s) knew Ramadan as a month of the Quran, the last and lasting Divine guidance to humanity.

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong) So, whoever of you sights the month, he/she must observe fasts that month and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. (2:184).

The revelation began in the month of Ramadan. The night in which the Quran began to be revealed is referred to in the Quran the blessed night: We sent it (the Quran) down on a blessed night, (44:2) or the night of Decree, Verily, we have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Al-Qadr. (97:1). It was the strength, clarity, simplicity and universality of the message that the night was described an extraordinary night.

With its 6332 ayas (verses) spread in 114 suras (chapters) divided in seven stages and 30 parts, the Quran was finalized and compiled in the life time of the Prophet (s) who alone among human beings knew what it was. Only the Prophet (s) could testify, verify and approve what the Quran consisted of as no other human being in his time shared that experience. He put his seal of approval on the finality of the divine message and gave his instructions on its arrangement.  The Prophet (s) ensured that every verse revealed to him was recorded and written at the time of its revelation.

In one of the several ahadith mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, one of the companions, Bara’a narrates that “when the verse “not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame),  and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives, Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with  their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home0 to each Allah has promised good, but has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home by a huge reward.” (4:95) was revealed, the Prophet (s) immediately called one of the scribes of the Quran to bring in the ink, pen and the tablet so that it could be written down. 

It is also mentioned in Masnad Ahmed, Sunan Abi Dawood, Sunan Nasai, Jami Tirmdhi, Ibn Habban, and Musdark Hakim that Usman bin Affan, the third Caliph, narrated that whenever a verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) used to call scribes immediately and instruct them to write it in the sura whose part is was meant to be.

Zaid bin Thabit is reported as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, that in the life time of the Prophet (s) there were at least four from Ansar of Medina, Abi binKaab, Maadh ibn Jabal, Zaid, and Abu Zaid who had the entire Quran written with them.

It is also reported that in Medina Abdullah bin Saeed bin al-As, who was a calligrapher was specially instructed to teach the art of writing the Quran to the citizens of Medina.

Besides other material, paper was also used to write the Quran. The scriptures refers to the word paper twice:  But even if we had sent down unto thee [O Prophet] a writing on paper, and they had touched it with their own hands – those who are bent on denying the truth would indeed have said, “This is clearly nothing but a deception!” (6:7), “For, no true understanding of God have they when they say, “Never has God revealed anything unto man.” Say: “Who has bestowed from on high the divine writ which Moses brought unto men as a light and a guidance, [and] which you treat as [mere] leaves of paper, making a show of them the while you conceal [so] much – although you have been taught [by it] what neither you nor your forefathers had ever known?” Say: “God [has revealed that divine writ]!” – and then leave them to play at their vain talk. (6:92) The Quran also uses the word Riq, “In a Scroll unfolded; (52:3), a kind of paper made from the skins of animals.

In the books of ahadith, we come across the names of at least 45 more companions who knew how to read and write the Quran. They are (in alphabetical order):

Aban,
Abdur Rehman,
Abdu Rehman bin Hur bin Umr bin Zaid,
Abdulla Saeed bin al As,
Abdullah bin Arqam Zahri,
Abdullah bin Rawah,
Abdullah bin Saad bin Ab Sarh
Abdullah bin Zaid
Abdullah in Abdullah bin Abi Salool,
Abu Abas,
Abu Bakr,
Abu Yunis Maula Ayesha,
Ala bin Hadhrami,
Ali ibn Talib,
Aseed bin hadheer
Aus bin Khauli
Ayesha bint Abi bakr,
Fatima bin Muhammad,
Hafsa bint Umar
Handhala bin Rabi
Hundhala al-Asadi,
Jaheem binal Salt,
Khalid bin Saeed bin al-As,
Khalid bin Walid,
Muaqaib bin Fatima,
Muawiya bin Abi Safiyan,
Mughaira bin Shaaba,
Muhammad bin Salma,
Munzr bin Umr
Nafe bin Tareeb bin Umr bin Naufal,
Najiatu Tafawi,
Rafe binMalik
Sad bin al Rabee,
Sad bin al-As,
Sad bin Ibadah
Shahar bin Saad
Sharjeel bin Hasna,
Ubi ibn Kaab,
Umar bin al-Khattab,
Umme Habiba bint Abi Safiyan
Umr bin Al-As,
Umr bin Rafe
Usman bin Affan,
Zaid bin Thabit,
Zubair bin Awwam,

He was so particular about preserving the Quran in writing that even at the time of his migration from Makkah to Median, he had a scribe with him with ink and pen.

The Quran described itself as a book, a word that appears in 230 times in various contexts.

Even though there are narrations in many books that suggest that the Quran in the form that we have it today was compiled during  the Caliphate of Abu Bakr at the insistence of Second Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab and later finalized at the time of third Caliph, Usman bin Affan, the verdict of the Quran about its finalization, preservation, authenticity and compilation is overriding. “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (15:17) “And (moreover) We have guarded them from every evil spirit accursed.” (15:17). Or “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3).

It is obvious that the efforts of the Caliphs were to make copies of the Quran from the original for wider distribution in the Muslim world. It is evident from the writings of Ibn Hazm in his book Kitab ul Fisl that over 100,000 copies of the Quran were present in the entire world at the time of Umar bin Al-Khattab

The Quran describes itself as a book that proves the commonality of the Divine messages previously revealed to earlier prophets that were not preserved in the original form by their followers. It also asserts that the Divine message has essentially been the same revolving around three main principles;

a); monotheism in the sense that the source of all divine messages is Allah, the initiator and the creator of the universe,

b); the guidance from a higher and neutral source is needed by human beings to lead a simple and disciplined life. It is only through following the divine guidance human beings can discipline their lives the same way as every thing else in the universe runs in a perfect order.

c); the life is in constant evolution and the death would not end the life but move in a difference stage of existence where individuals and groups would be held accountable for every thing that they do and say in their limited life in this world.

The greatest miracle of the Quran is the consistency of this message throughout evident in all its suras and ayas.

The linguistic beauty and style are evident to only those who understand the language but the clarity and consistency of the message is for everyone regardless of their linguistic skills and they relevant for all times.

In other words every sura of the Quran is connected with its overall message with variations in emphasis and every aya is related with a particular aspect of the message within the context of the total guidance.

Thus the month of Ramadan offers the believers a unique opportunity to refresh their understanding of the guidance and live it for an entire month so that the life in coming months could be disciplined around that. Thus, the first task for every believer is to get connected with the divine guidance in a disciplined, consistent and regular basis.

The fasting enables a person to live the principle of self control and self discipline, which is essential to realize the strength and relevance of the Divine message.

Seemingly, a large number of Muslims do not know the Arabic language and hence find it hard to understand when the Quran is recited to them. Moreover, we also have the traditions informing us that the reading of the Quran gives us the reward of reading one letter to the equivalent to the 30 letter reward. The mercy and the divine measurement for good deeds are limitless and this narration should be read in that context.

Besides earning reward for reading the Quran without understanding, we can also make efforts in the month of Ramadan to read it with understanding. This may even double or triple the reward. It is no harm to read the Quran with translation. Non-Arabic speaking believers can recite the Quran in Arabic and listen to its pronunciation during the taraweeh prayers besides, reading the translation in their own languages to understand the essence of the divine message. This understanding will enable us to get closer to the guidance of Allah.

Often it is argued that it is difficult to understand the Quran in any other language. The Quran, on the other hand repeats the following verse four times: “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition? (54:17) Besides, the Quran also says: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” (30:22)

The reading of the Quran with meaning would give us an opportunity to understand the Divine message as is and inspire us to appreciate its relevance for us in our times. Thus in addition to reading the Quran, we can also make efforts to live it.

We spend much of our efforts in correcting our pronunciation of the Quran. This is good and the proper sound of every letter and word must be perfected authentically. However, the main purpose of perfecting the pronunciation must never be ignored: I, e, to understand so that we could live the Quran, the way our Prophet (s) lived it.

During the month of Ramadan we arrange lavish functions for the breaking of fast, a good practice to bring people together. However, if in these functions, we make it a habit to focus on understanding one of the passages of the Quran, probably we can make better use of these gatherings. It would not take us more than 5 to 10 minutes to reflect on the message of the Quran in these functions, but it would help us understand the divine guidance, the main reason for decreeing fasting in this month.

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong) So, whoever of you sights the month, he/she must observe fasts that month and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having to guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. (2:184)

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Letter to Editor re. Azher Quader

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Muslim Observer is to be highly commended and praised for serving it’s constituency by printing a highly inspiring and freshly-composed essay on “Love of Divine” by Azher Quader (Muslim Observer Feb. 20, 2010).  “True Love for Divine is a state of being.  A life of doing.  Doing things for others.”  Azher Quader’s poetry is inspiring.  I thank Muslim Observer for publishing them.

Thank you,
Sher Mohammed Rajput
Chicago, Illinois

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True Love for the Divine

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Azher Quader

i-love-allah As Americans go about serenading their sweethearts on Valentines Day each year in the middle of February, love often arrives gift wrapped as a box of chocolates or shows up as a vase filled with roses. Sometimes for the more adventurous ones it may announce itself through pajama grams or for some imaginative ones through cuddly teddy bears. Clearly this money-making commerce of love is good for the industry. How much good it does to strengthen commitments, affirm affections or even heal some hurts is of little consequence to our society which thrives on the make believe, where the outer is more important than the inner, where the image is more compelling than the reality and where the transient is more attractive than the enduring.

Indeed the joy of true love is far more elusive than what the commercials tell us or what the romantic creations of Hollywood depict, where the plays of passion as shown on the silver screen dominate our imagination and describe the way to live and love.

For true love is not so common, is very special, a lot more demanding and indeed life changing. It empowers the week, enriches the poor and transforms the ordinary to become the extraordinary.

True love for a spouse is in the exercise of unconditional love that gives without asking, that seeks no strings, that provides much while receiving little.

It is sitting near a bed holding hands when speech is lost to the silence of stroke. It is a commitment to nursing when sickness overtakes, when Alzheimer devastates, when cancer strikes and yes to caring even when cure is said to be not possible.

It is to do the chores that come at the end of a tiring day, with a smile. To do the dishes, to make the meals, to change the diapers and so much more without raising a brow, without voicing a complaint. It is to make time when there is little time. To listen when arguing is easier, to practice patience when tempers are hot, to forgive when the moment has passed.

It is the love built on trust. It is the love that is not threatened by the embrace of other affections. It is the love that triumphs over the tragedies of life. It is the love that lingers through good times and bad times. It is the love that never dies.

True love for country is in the willingness to fight for its freedoms, to bear arms against its enemies, to make the ultimate sacrifice if need be, in the defense of its borders.

It is to speak truth to power, to abide by the law, to preserve the peace. It is to demand representation, to practice civic engagement, to look for the common good. It is in the willingness to dialogue and seek common ground. It is in the ability to see the big picture, let go of personal agendas and promote the national interest. It is to recognize that whether we live in the north or the south, in the east coast or in the west coast, whether we are black, white, brown or yellow, whether we are new immigrants from distant shores or old natives, inhabitants of the soil, whether we came here in chains or we came here by choice, our lives are now inseparable, we now share a common destiny.

True love for country is not the special claim of one ideological group or another, whether they be on the right or on the left or anywhere in between. True love for country is found in those patriot souls whose loyalty is not divided, who march to a single drummer and who carry a single flag.

True love for the Divine expresses itself through submission to His Will in all aspects of our living. It is a love that transcends our love for family and country. It frees us from our tribal allegiances, it liberates us from our national bondages. It makes us citizens of a global village. It is a love that connects man to fellow man, indeed to all creation. It is a love that unites mankind by reminding us of our essential humanity.

True love for the Divine is engaging not reclusive. It is best manifest in society amidst people and problems, not in the mountains amidst solitude and tranquility.
True love for the Divine is more than the pursuit of devotional practices that lead us into a life of self-absorption. It is to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others. It is to feed the hungry, care for the ailing, and speak for the silent. It is to spend for the welfare of the poor and needy, to teach and educate, to be good neighbors. It is to build trust among the distrusting, show compassion to the hateful.

True love for the Divine is a lot more than singing His praises or twirling in His remembrance. It is much more than memorizing His Words and reciting them every day. True love for the Divine is a state of being, a life of doing. True love for the Divine is tremendously empowering and life changing.

This Valentine Day let us find true love.

Azher Quader, Executive Director, Community Builders Chicago (CBC), www.mycommunitybuilders.com

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