Wednesday, September 29, 2004

For seekers after the truth...

[112:1] In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. [112:2] Say 'He is Allah, the One! [112:3] Allah the Independent and Besought of all. [112:4] 'He begets not, nor, is He begotten, [112:5] And there is none like unto Him. -- Holy Qur'an

We believe that the object of man’s creation is that man should worship the One and Only God Who created him and to interact kindly with God’s creation.

We believe that God is one, Who is living today as He was living before, and Who spoke before, and hears today as He heard before. We believe it is a false notion that in this age He hears but does not speak. indeed, He both hears and speaks. All His attributes are eternal and everlasting.

None of His attributes have fallen into disuse. He is the One without a partner; He has no son and no consort. He is the peerless one Who has no equal and like Whom no individual is absolutely qualified with any quality, and Whose attributes are not shared by anyone.

None of his powers lacks anything. He is the fountainhead of all excellences and combines in Himself all powers. All graces originate from Him and everything returns to Him. He is the Master of all kingdoms and possesses every perfect quality. He is free from every defect and weakness. Nothing manifests itself without Him. He manifests Himself through His powers and His signs and we can find Him only through Him.

Hazrat Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (alaihissalaam) says:

Our Ever-living and All-Sustaining God talks to me like one person talks to another. I ask Him something and supplicate Him and He answers in words full of power. If this should happen a thousand times, He does not fail to answer. In His words He discloses wonderful hidden matters and displays scenes of extraordinary powers till He makes it clear that He alone is the One Who should be called God. He accepts prayers and intimates their acceptance. He resolves great difficulties and through repeated supplications revives those who are sick unto death. He discloses all these designs of His in advance through His words which relate to future events. He proves that He is the God of heaven and earth. (Naseem-e-Dawat, p.28)

The Holy Qur’an says “Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort” (13:29). We seek comfort. We understand in religious terms that God is One. We believe that he hears and speaks today and we have the examples of many prophets who demonstrated complete and deep faith in God.

And we believe that religion is the way of life to attain the highest spiritual, moral and physical spheres leading to a living relationship with God. But despite it all, we continue to move, sometimes in a clumsy manner dealing with our own trials and tribulations searching within ourselves to establish a relationship with God that allows us to enjoy peace and tranquility in our lives.

It’s not easy. To obtain a tranquil state, we must attain a complete realization of God which means to fight off satanic forces, evils and sin. Each and every one of us must wage a daily battle with those forces that would keep us from remembering God in our hearts. And it begins by remembering first and foremost that Almighty Allah observes all of our acts and thoughts – nothing is hidden. To understand and believe this will have his outer and inner being well disciplined to fight the forces of satan.

To understand certainty of faith is to be thoroughly convinced of the fact that you are always under God’s observation.

A certain Sheik once had a disciple whom he favored above his other disciples, thus exciting their envy. One day the Sheik gave each of them a fowl and told each to go and kill it in a place where no one could see him. Accordingly each killed his fowl in some retired spot and brought it back, with the exception of the Sheik's favorite disciple, who brought his back alive, saying that he had found no such place as God sees him everywhere. The Sheik said to the others, 'You see now this youth's real rank; he has attained to the constant t remembrance of God'. In the traditions it is written that God has said, 'Paradise is for those who intend to commit some sin and then remember that My eye is upon them, And forbear'.

A man who attains to a complete realization of God would naturally eschew immoralities and evils of all kinds. And, conversely, the more a man is involved in vice the farther away from God he drifts. The Holy Qur’an says: 'Those who sin in ignorance', (6:120), meaning that the real cause of sin is lack of true knowledge and realization of God, which is a self-evident truth.

A sensible man will not knowingly thrust his hand into fire: he will not eat food which to his knowledge contains poison: he will not enter a house which he is certain is about to fall: he will not thrust his hand into the hole of a serpent: nor will he enter the den of a lion unarmed. Men being so much afraid of fire, poison, serpents, and lions. how can it be supposed that they would rush into and revel in vices and immoralities if they had a perfect knowledge and realization of God and knew that these things were more deadly than poisons and more dangerous than serpents and lions? It is therefore clear that sin is the result of ignorance and lack of true realization of God.

The Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Commu­nity has elaborated this truth:

“Then why does a person commit sin deliberately? The reason is that he has not that certainty in this matter as he has in other matters of the kind that we have mentioned. The first duty of a person, therefore, is to acquire certainty with regard to the existence of God, and to adopt a religion through which this certainty can be acquired so that he should fear God and shun sin.

“How can such certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories, It can not be acquired through mere arguments. The only way of acquiring certainty is to experience God repeatedly through conversations with Him or through witnessing his extra­ordinary signs, or by keeping company with someone who has that experience.
(Naseem-e-Dawat, pp.81-82)

The purpose of religion is that man should obtain deliverance from his passions and should develop personal love for God Almighty through certain faith in His existence and His perfect attributes. Such love of God is the paradise which will appear in diverse shapes in the Hereafter. To be unaware of the true God and to keep away from Him and not to have any love for Him is the hell which will appear in diverse shapes in the Hereafter. Thus the true purpose is to have full faith in Him.

Religion is inherent in man; without religion in its simplest, highest sense, no man or nation can survive or prosper. A true religion is a dynamic power to lead man to real happiness which lies in the complete fulfillment of the highest ideals as already indicated in the words of the Holy Qur’an: Beware only in remembering God lies the satisfaction of the heart.

Take God as your ideal in all of your thoughts, words and actions and you will never have to be sorry in this life or the hereafter. For your character, says the Master Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alaihi wasallam) , adopt the ideal of God.

Not just an outward form of worship. Adopting the ideal of God and certainty of faith means a complete acceptance of the highest ideals of life of which man has any knowledge; it entails a genuine effort to live up to them in one's daily life.

A believer’s faith must color the whole of his life, all his contacts the domestic circle, in his business and in his pleasures. In all things and in every aspect of life a man must be heightened, deepened, warned and enlightened by the religion to which he yields obedience. One who has firm belief in God and His powers is never disturbed by anything and things that go bump in the night or day cannot fright him. By patient endurance he attains to success in his affairs.

Hence, to a world crushed with the weight of material ambition; a world blind to the significance of moral and spiritual forces as the ultimate basis of the existence of society, there can be no better antidote to sin than the message brought by the Holy Prophet of Islam, that there is an Ever­-Living and Ever-Seeing God Who still rules the actions of man, that man can acquire a connection with Him; that there is the possibility of developing a reciprocity of love between Him and man; that God reveals His Will to man, and human progress must always be bound up with the fundamental idea of the existence of a Supreme Being.

Our only recourse is to bow down before God and remember that Allah’s promise is true. That he will shelter you from Satan. You should never be deceived by Satan who creates those promptings in your heart, those thoughts that turn you against family and Jama’at.

You should seek Allah’s protection otherwise you will lose in this life and the next life. Depend on God. Trust in Him. Develop a link with God and maintain your connection with him in certitude. If so, He will bestow his favors on you.

May Allah enable every human being to have trust in God. May Allah protect us from Satan and save us from sin.


Notes: Review of Religion, p. 32, Need for Religion and Belief in God, Ata Ullah Kaleem)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

America is headed for the deep abyss: Charlie Reese

I have come to believe that one can have a successful Christian society, Jewish society, Muslim society, Hindu society or Buddhist society, but not an agnostic or atheistic society that is successful.

George Washington, as he so often did, explained it quite well in his farewell address:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. ... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Washington was not talking about contentious and doctrinaire people arguing about dogma. He always condemned that. He was referring to the basic underlying morality that all the great religions teach.
The basic thing that protects our persons, our property and our liberty is the morality that individuals possess in their own hearts. The law cannot be a substitute for that. No law can protect you from a dishonest merchant or a thug because the law is always, of necessity, applied after the fact, and then only on a selective basis. Furthermore, as we have seen, the law and the system of justice often degenerate into a tragic farce.

Experience also teaches us that a society without an underlying private morality will degenerate into a corrupt jungle. I surprised some people once by saying that I would rather live in a neighborhood of Islamic fundamentalists than in a neighborhood of atheists and agnostics. That's true.

You can count on the morality that Islam teaches; there is no morality for atheists and agnostics, except what they arbitrarily choose.

Some years ago, I inadvertently put this to the test by becoming lost late at night in the slums of Cairo, Egypt. Despite being dressed in an American business suit and far from any law enforcement, I was never accosted or threatened by anyone. I dare say there are American slums where no sensible person would wish to go late at night.

The bottom line is that if we become an immoral people, we will eventually lose both our prosperity and our liberty. A free society cannot exist without trust, and it is morality that cements that trust. We are drifting toward the abyss, and we had all better think seriously about why this is happening.

June 1, 2004

I really like writer Charley Reese who has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969–71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states.

He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

It was by the grace of God that I ventured through the Internet maze and found the musings and deep thoughts of Charlie. With little knowledge as to his background, I was intrigued about his subject choices and insightful thoughts that emanated from within the soul of this seasoned old journalist.

On this particular subject, he hit it right on the head. America is headed for the deep and dark abyss because of its insatiable appetite for power linked to a declining standard of morality, now being applied to others. There is only one problem...America fails to apply the same standard to America.

To give you a clear picture of the problem, read "Islam's Response to Contemporary Issues, by the late Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV, who has observed:

"A wind of change is blowing across societies of the world, be they Eastern or Western religious or secular. It is an evil wind which is polluting the entire world climate.

The modern world seems to be far more aware and conscious of the rising level of pollution in the material atmosphere than the rapidly rising level of pollution in our social environment.

Exploition, duplicity, hypocrisy, selfishness, oppression, greed the mad pursuit of pleasure, indiscipline, corruption, theft, robbery, violation of human rights, fraud, treachery, lack of responsiblity and want of mutual respect and trust have become the hallmark of the modern societies.

The thin veneer of civlisation can no longer hide the ugliness which is becoming more and more apparent.

Societies are beginning to crumble everywhere alike. As against the countries governed by totalitatian philosophies, the rising consciousness of individual liberty in the so called free world is in itself becoming a lopsided trend which is largely responsible for growing social misbehavior.

America, the beautiful, wake up and clean-up your act, before it's too late.

Thanks, Charlie.

peace. Hasan

Saturday, September 25, 2004

To shake, or not to shake...that is the question?

It’s taken me a long time to come to this decision but I believe it is the right thing to do as a Muslim.

I will no longer shake hands, or have any physical contact with the opposite sex, unless the person is a member of my immediate family. This decision is based on the simple fact that my faith demands that I honor the traditions and core beliefs of Islam.

As a convert to Islam, I had one time thought that it would be better to shake hands with women so as not to offend them. Hence, not only would I shake hands but I would also let close friends hug, or embrace me which is considered (haram) in Islam.

As for men and women shaking hands or touching in any other way, this is expressly forbidden. Hadith (traditional sayings based on what the Prophet said) narrated by Aisha In describing how the Holy Prophet Muhammad took the oath of fealty from women, Aisha said: "By Allah, Rasool Allah never took any vow from women except that which Allah had ordered him to take, and his palm never touched the palm of a woman. When he had taken their vow, he would tell them he had taken their oath orally."

In another Hadith the Prophet strongly warns the Believers about the seriousness of shaking hands with women. It was narrated on Malik bin Yassir that Rasool Allah said that it is better for a Believer to be struck in the head with a hot iron rod than to touch a woman who is not lawful for him.[Tabarani & Baihaqqi]

If we are not going to maintain Islamic etiquette and morals, what then will save us from Allah's Wrath? How then do we avoid failure in this life and in the Hereafter? In keeping with this a famous Arabic couplet states, "A look, then a smile, a nod of the head, then talk, a handshake, a promise, then the warmth of a bed."

Lastly, handshaking between males and females who are not married should be restricted to necessary situations such as between relatives or those whose relationships are established by marriage. It is preferable not to expand the field of permissibility in order to block the means to evil and to be far away from doubt and to take the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as a model when there is no proof that he shook hands with a woman, who wasn’t married. Also, it is preferable for the pious Muslim, male or female, not to stretch out his/her hand to shake the hand of anyone of the opposite sex who is not married.

You may wonder how I’m doing with the handshaking and hugging during my two-week period of awakening? Well, by the Grace of Almighty Allah, I’m doing just fine. It really isn’t a big deal and I probably had more issues than the women who were extending their hands for handshakes.

In fact, many women are intrigued by my not shaking their hands which leads to many of an opportunity to have dialogue on Islam. One woman, who shot her hand out at me like it was a gun, only to pull it back quickly when I refused to shake her extended hand.

She said: “Wow, that’s really cool. I can respect that and I admire you for taking such a position in your life.”

How often it is that we pay so much attention to small things like a handshake and we neglect those things that are more important in our relationships. It is more important for me to be kind and merciful to humanity and work for the good of mankind.

Today, I share with you this simple thought:
“Love For All, Hatred For None.”


Thursday, September 23, 2004

What happened to the American Dream?

Today I will address the topic of poverty and growing inequality in our nation by first taking you through the back door, to see one of its stepchildren. Many issues are the stepchildren of poverty: substandard/lack of housing, poor health care, inadequate education and destructive personal behaviors.

We have been taught since childhood that every American who believes in the American Dream will be a part of it, if you work hard and do the right thing. If you work hard, you should be able to earn a decent income and provide the basics for your family, so goes the American Dream.

The reality is something quite different. An astonishing 30 million American men and women--one in four workers--work in jobs that pay poverty wages, provide minimal or no benefits, and allow little flexibility and time for quality child care.

Workers on the edge – stuck in impoverishment. We need to change our views on what really is poverty in America. The poor will always be with us, but what about the promise that all you have to do is work your brains out and you will be rewarded? If you work hard, you will have basic self-sufficiency, but that promise has been broken. It is a myth for most Americans.

Now we have created a new class of workers, mostly white, female and heads of families who can no longer take care of families because they are stuck. The manufacturing jobs are no longer there and we are in a service oriented economy that is growing.

Americans didn’t worry about poverty because of the notion that hard work would be compensated and lead to upward mobility, but today the service sector doesn’t lead to so-called “good jobs.”

What should we do about the new face of poverty in this land of opportunity? Why haven’t we not done anything about those who need affordable healthcare and where is the fairness and sensitivity for folks who work hard in society?

It’s difficult to do anything about this problem, if you have the wrong picture of poverty in America. It is not simply the homeless or children with big eyes penetrating your soul and begging for food. A more focused analysis of poverty would reveal an important cause is low wages. Even high school graduates working full time may not be able to support a family. If the American Dream is to become a reality for all Americans, then there is a role for government in helping working families meet their basic needs.

America is a country that now sits atop the precarious latticework of myth. It is the myth that work provides rewards, that working people can support their families. It’s a myth that has become so divorced from reality that it might as well begin with the words “Once upon a time."

In America we console ourselves with the bootstrap myth, that anyone can rise, even those who work two jobs and still have to visit food pantries to feed their families. It is a beloved myth now more than ever, because the working poor have become ever more unsympathetic.

Friday marks the 40th anniversary when President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. It was a declaration by President Johnson at a time when most Americans were enjoying the middle class life having a car and a cute home in the suburbs felt prosperous and, in the face of the president’s call to action, magnanimous.

Back in the day, poverty seemed far away, in the shanties of the South or the worst pockets of urban blight. Today those very same families that once basked in the comfortable bosom of America may well feel impoverished, overwhelmed by credit-card debt, a second mortgage and the cost of the stuff that has become the backbone of American life. When the middle class feels poor, the poor have little chance for change, or even recognition.

While it's true Americans are carrying more debt than ever - about $9 trillion worth - most households are able to handle the load so far. On the other hand, rising interest rates and high oil prices cloud the horizon. Much depends on the economy's recovery.

What is clear is that high debts have made consumers less likely to serve as the engine that drives the economy and more vulnerable to an external shock. The most vulnerable are the poor.

But debt also can be overwhelming, especially for the poor. Of those households in the lowest income bracket, 27 percent have to devote $4 of every $10 in take-home pay to debt payments. In the general population, only 11 percent of households have to devote so much income to debt, according to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Board.

We are not attempting to be prophetic but today the compassion that some lack for the poor, tomorrow that same person who turned his back at the dire straits of the poor may be next in line for bankruptcy – Remember, personal bankruptcy filings hit a record 1.6 million in 2003, compared with 300,000 a year in the early 1980s.

President Johnson would likely be proud of the steps his country has taken in the last four decades to improve the lot of the poor. But it would be unwise to believe that a few steps in the right direction will obscure the reality of persistent American poverty.

Even though the working poor in this country avoid the misery of poverty as seen in developing third world countries, it nevertheless remains difficult to escape from the cycle of poverty. Incomes of less than $10,000 a year won't get the poor very far in the U.S. Many spend almost 100 percent of their income on rent alone."

Thus, if this country is serious about further reducing the differences between the working poor and the middle class, more structural projects, like solving the housing crisis in urban areas or encouraging education, would seem essential.

Now, what do you and I do about poverty? Unfortunately, with some notable exceptions, poverty receives incredibly scant attention in mainstream politics. The United States is no social democracy, and thus there is no presumption in favor of even indirect government assistance to the poor.

The Supreme Court has even held that, because the Constitution does not guarantee material subsistence, the poor are not entitled to heightened judicial protection. Yet since poor persons are less likely to vote-never mind contribute to campaigns-there is no guarantee that elected representatives will look out for them, either.

Of course, there is great disagreement about what causes poverty, who it affects most, and what policies work best to alleviate it. The point of this column is not to condemn, chastise or embarrass anyone, but we as individuals in our community need to raise our level of awareness regarding poverty issues and simply to get us all started thinking about what can be done, and how best to forge a consensus that does something to break the cycle of impoverishment.


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A Muslim Sermon

Allah (SWT) says in Al-Qur'an, Sura Kahf, V 24-25:

“And say not of anything, I shall do that tomorrow, Unless Allah should will. And remember thy Lord when thou forgetest and say, “I hope my Lord will guide me to what is even nearer than this to the right path.”

How many times do we, without the slightest sincere intention in our hearts to comply, respond to someone’s request for a commitment or some kind of action on our part by saying, "In sha' Allah?"And chances are in those instances that nothing, or perhaps quite the opposite of what we are asked to do, gets done.

We answer, "In sha' Allah," instead of being honest and straightforward with people, or instead of making a real effort to honor their requests.If we know when we are asked to do something or to give something that we are not inclined to do so, isn’t it so much more honorable, and hence pleasing to Allah, to simply say that we are unable or do not wish to comply?

It is so helpful to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes in such instances: how do we feel when people do not honor their commitments to us?

A Muslim's word should be his bond. Truly it is in Allah's hands that anything happens, and truly we should not commit to anything without remembering and uttering that it is only by the decree of Allah that a thing happens.

But “In sha’ Allah” should not be an easy way out of and “Ma sha’ Allah” the excuse for what we don’t have the slightest intention to even try to do.The Believer is faithful, reliable, and trustworthy, and honors his/her covenants. In Surat ul Maida (5), Ayat 1, Allah says, “O ye who believe! Fulfill your obligations and covenants.” Again, in Surat ul Mu’minoon (23), Ayat 9, we find one of the characteristics of the Believers: “And who are watchful of their trusts and covenants.”

Employing the use of a dictionary, we find to be faithful is to be true to ones word, loyal.

450.Hadhrat Sufyaan Ibn As'ad Khadrami (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that he heard Muhammad (peace be upon him) say: "Indeed it is an act of the greatest abuse of trust if you tell a Muslim brother something which is false while he believes that you are telling him the truth." (Abu Dawud).

Everything man has is given to him in trust by God or by man. In this way everyone is bound by certain promises and obligations. Some obligations are entered into by written or spoken agreement, while others are a matter of tacit understanding. Whatever the form of agreement, man has to fulfill all these trusts and obligations.

If he fails to do so, he does not come up to the highest standards of humanity. He is proving himself guilty in the eyes of God. Man’s body, heart and mind, are all like trusts from God. It is, therefore, incumbent upon man to make the best use of these endowments within the limits decreed by God.

That is, his hands and feet should move only for the cause of justice, and not for tyranny. His mind should be full only of well-wishing and not of ill-will. Similarly all the trusts by which he is bound should be discharged to the trustees, whether these trusts are in written or in verbal form. He should never regard another’s possessions as his own.

Everyone is bound by obligations, in relation on the one hand to man and on the other to God. According to the Qur’an, trust of two kinds stems from God; one is the inherent sense of responsibility man is born with; this form of trust is binding upon all human beings born on this earth. Another form of trust is that which arises from faith in God.

Only those are bound by this sense of commitment who have embraced God’s religion as brought to them by God’s messenger; in this sense, these believers are consciously bound in trust. Let’s now take the matter of trust as regards man. Some obligations are incurred from time to time as they arise in particular and are set down in contracts, while others automatically devolve upon individuals either as family members, or as citizens of the state, living in society.

Discharging all these trusts and obligations is man’s duty, in obedience both to his own nature and to the Shariah.

The Promised Messiah (alaihissalaam) says: “The spiritual duty of man is to walk along all the ways of righteousness. They are the attractive features of spiritual beauty. It is obvious that to be mindful of the trusts of God Almighty, and to fulfill all the covenants of faith, and to employ all faculties and limbs both overt, like eyes and ears and hands and feet and others like them, and those that are covert, like the mind and other faculties and qualities, on their proper occasions and to restrain them from coming into action on improper occasions, and to be warned against the subtle attacks of vice and to be mindful of the rights of one's fellow beings is the way of perfecting one's spiritual beauty.

“God Almighty has in the Holy Quran designated righteousness as a garment. The garment of righteousness is an expression of the Holy Quran (7:27). This is an indication that spiritual beauty and spiritual ornament are achieved through righteousness. This means that one must be mindful even of the smallest details of the Divine trusts and covenants and also of all the trusts and covenants of one's fellow beings, as far as it may be possible.” ( Zameema Braheen Ahmadiyyah, pp. 51-52 ) .

A sure sign of hypocrisy is breaking a promise. Thus whoever promised another of good thing and did not fulfill it, then he would have a quality of hypocrisy.

We have to be very watchful over our trusts, especially those that have been proclaimed in the name of Almighty Allah. It is Allah who is witness to everything we do.

Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, "A man form the children of Israel, asked someone to lend him a thousand dinars until a set date. Someone lent him the money, and when the time came that man wanted to pay it off. He went out to the sea to go to the lender, but could not find a ship; thus, he took a piece of wood and drilled a hole through it, then he put in it a thousand dinar and threw it in the sea.

The lender came out in another sea shore to find the log before him, and he took it as a fire wood to his family and when he sawed it, he found his money in it". Because of his eagerness to payoff the debt on time, Allah (S.W.T.) has helped him in directing the money to its owner.

Another sign of hypocrisy is the betrayal when entrusted, and not returning this trust to which it belongs to or using it without permission given from the owner. Allah (S.W.T.) has commanded us in surat An-Nisa’, (Verse 59), “Verily, Allah commands yo to ‘give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice.”

Trusts are of many types. It may be in the form of money and in the form of rights. There are some Muslims who are conscious about money trusts, but are not conscious about the rights and duties that Allah trust every one of us with. Thus, yourself is a trust given to you by Allah. Your wealth, which you gather is a trust, entrusted to you by Allah, the time that you made use of is also a trust, again your health, your youth, your mind, your hearing, and your vision, are all trusts to you from Allah.

Also your wife and children are a trust entrusted to you by Allah. Also your community is a trust entrusted to you by Allah. And the most important trust is the deen of Allah that entrusted you with. So let us be ware from the betraying all of these trusts or the loss of them, surely Allah will question us, on that, on the day of Judgment.

The preservation of covenants and trusts lies in observing Allah’s rights in them. And to follow the commands of Allah in all of them. Allah (S.W.T.) has praised the believers in surat Al-Mu’minoun, “And who are watchful of their trusts and covenants.”

And if you say you are believers then you must honor the commands of the Holy Qur’an which clearly states: O ye who believe! Obesy Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.” (Surah Al-Nisa v. 60)

462.Hadhrat Abu Ayyub Ansaari (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "It is not lawful for a Muslim to sever his ties with another Muslim for more than three days, in such a way that when they meet, the one who turns his face one way and the one other turns his face the other way.The better of these two is the one who makes Salaam first." (Bukhari, Muslim).

May Allah, the Almighty, enable us to act upon our covenants and may Allah help us to fulfil and discharge our obligations and trusts. Ameen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I hate the Pig

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I hate the Pig!

In my small community, Zion, IL, the local supermarket, Piggly Wiggly, was taken over by new management this week. The first act of the new manager was to fire all of his employees.

It was a brutal act that hit hard for senior employees who have given more than 15-20 years of service to Piggly Wiggly. What made this store unique were its employees who worked hard to make life easier for its customers. They were friendly folks.

Despite my love for good beef bacon – the “Pig” has the best brand of beef bacon – I will no longer shop at the Pig. It’s over. My love affair with the Pig has come to an abrupt and painful end. The quality of my life has just been diminished by a cold act of management that would cause the founder of Zion, Dr. John Alexander Dowie to flip in his grave.

Zion is a city founded on Christian principles. Dowie sought to build a society where people lived and worked together as Christians. Where they could trust God, live clean lives, have healthy habits and work together for the honor and glory of God.

Dowie and his followers weren’t a bunch of crazy religious zealots. The City of Zion is remarkable if you study its history and how it was carefully planned with wisdom, compassion and love for the followers of the Christian Catholic Church, now known as the Community Church of Christ.

Dowie’s economic scheme to support the city was absolutely brilliant. Social scientist today would do well to study some of the early economic concepts that led to the creation of Zion City.

Zion had its own institutions and industries – printing and publishing; apron and handkerchief and curtain industry; beef meat market (Zionites would not eat pork); a baking industry and more.

In the Zion Leaves of Healing, 1922 it states: “We have established, large and small, more than 20 institutions and industries, and have devoted to them whatever abilities God has given to us; and this we have done keeping in mind the good of all the people concerned, ever seeking to cooperate with our brothers and sisters in Christ along with strict Christian guidelines.”

It’s too early to say “…Zion is a dead city.” It is not! Zion is undergoing a quiet economic revival that would certainly have the approval of its founder, except for the City Council’s decision to allow liquor to be sold in the city. In his wildest dreams, Dowie could have never expected the unexpected being sold in Zion.

But business is business and who cares about history these days. Who cares about people being thrown out of work? Today the concerns seem to be what is good for the greater good, even if it only benefits the greed of a company located in Dallas, Texas?

The company has benefited with economic incentives to construct a brand new grocery store in Zion. The city worked out a cozy little package for the Pig that included the clever rewriting of city statutes permitting the sale of alcohol in the store. The corporate boys completely disregarded the rich history of Zion and did a slam dunk on the community.

And don’t blame leadership in Zion for this mess. The City Council did the right thing (although I disagree with the liquor thing) A progressive thinking city should reward businesses that provide their employees a living wage and basic benefits by offering taxpayer subsidies, contracts or grants that will help to promote long-term economic growth.
The new face of American corporations is to negate corporate responsibility to its loyal employees with designed plants to deny access to health insurance for it’s employees by hiring part-time employees, who do not qualify for benefits. Workers in the growing low-wage service sector are the least likely to get health insurance from their employers.
It was a cold-blooded act firing those employees, who now join the ranks of the unemployed in Lake County. They all have families and its going to be a tough road for them as frustration begins to mount and they begin to feel the pain as they struggle to make ends meet in the future.

People who lose their jobs, if they find work, often have to take pay cuts to get new work; the latest Labor Department study finds a typical wage loss of about 7 percent. In a weak labor market, companies can also hire for a little less. What really irks me and makes my skin crawl is that this pathetic act by “the Pig” undermines our most fundamental ideal in America: that if you work hard, you can support yourself and your family.

The folks who gave years of servitude to “the Pig” worked hard, but who cares about them? I will never, ever, set foot in a Piggly Wiggly store for this unjust act against good people who served me for years at that store. I will remember them in my prayers and I ask that you do the same.

I’m sure Dr. John Alexander Dowie is praying for his beloved Zion.


Monday, September 20, 2004

A man for all seasons

He is a wonderful man for all seasons. A CEO who is a living, walking and talking template and example for corporate leadership during these trying economic times in America.

Wayne Leonard has been CEO of Entergy Corporation, based in New Orleans, since 1999. Entergy serves the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Nearly 25 percent of Entergy's 2.6 million customers qualify for federal assistance to the poor.

At the recently held Community Action Partnership Annual Meeting, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty in America, Leonard was honored with its first-ever Corporate Champion Award. The award recognized Leonard for his corporate leadership in addressing the multiple causes of poverty and the forces that keep people in its clutches.

In 1999, Leonard launched Entergy's Low Income Initiative. The Initiative includes: empowering a group of Entergy employees as Low Income Champions; holding Entergy's annual Low-Income Customer Assistance Summit; improving the utility's fuel funds that collect charitable contributions to assist low income customers with bill payments; establishing the Entergy Charitable Foundation to fund regional anti-poverty programs; and advocating for programs that benefit people with low income, like the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and state funds.

Entergy's Low-Income Customer Assistance Summit convenes consumer advocates, Entergy leaders and representatives of social service organizations to forge out collaborative approaches to assisting the energy needs of low-income families. Weatherization services, community outreach and energy efficiency education have resulted.

Leonard has spoken out widely and effectively on the need for further government and business engagement in energy assistance. Entergy has fought for more equitable LIHEAP funding for Southern states and has led the effort to fight two attempts by Congress to require state matching funds for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

In November of 2001, at the Third Annual Low-Income Customer Assistance Summit, he was scheduled to make a keynote speech, but instead his speech, much to the surprise of everyone including his Entergy corporate staff, took the form of an open letter to President George Bush on the need to develop permanent funding solutions to the energy needs of poor Americans.

Leonard simply explained that he really didn’t have much to say because everything had been said by those working on the front lines to resolve problems for the poor. He said it was time to take the problem to the next level and in Leonard’s mind the next level was the Office of the President.

His letter was profound, expansive in covering poverty related issues and called on the president to abandon partisan politics for the good of the people.

“Mr. President,” Leonard wrote, “you can send a strong message that partisan politics have no place in your administration, and, in particular, no place when the country is in crisis.”

At the end of his letter, Leonard urged the president to take a stand for the sake of the nation. He spoke politely of the president’s destiny invoking the name of another great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

“Numerous times I have heard you end speeches with ‘May God Bless America.” God has blessed America. We are not only blessed with great economic riches, but He has blessed us with a history of great leaders who stood up against all criticisms and adversities in their own defining moments. From the Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson during the Revolutionary War, to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, to Franklin Roosevelt during World War II.

“But history does not remember any of these people for winning wars, though they fought against far more worthy adversaries than we face today. Their place in history is defined by their character in the face of great adversity – a conviction, regardless of the polls and the self-interest, that we are a nation of the people, by the people and for the people.

“Abraham Lincoln defined his sincerity by selecting a diverse cabinet of disappointed antagonists as strong or stronger than himself. As heinous as the deliberate, calculated actions of the terrorist were, acts of omission – of letting people starve to death, freeze in the cold or die in the heat because they cannot afford the basic necessities in the richest nation in the world, where we have more money that we can possibly spend and more food than we can ever eat – are just as senseless, in that they don’t have to happen. These people are innocent victims – victims of a failed system that has not provided the true equal opportunity all Americans are promised.

“And if not history, most certainly our Maker will judge us by exactly that standard. Slavery was the great moral outrage of the 19th. Genocide and neglect of the world’s poor defined the 20th Century. The moral imperative of the 21st Century is to feed and educate the world’s poor and solve the looming energy and environmental problems before they become crisis.

“God has blessed America, Mr. President. He has given us everything we need to solve every problem we face. Now it is up to us. But, most certainly, God will be watching.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

A soundrel and prayer

There is something to be said about waking up early in the morning before the sun rises to make prayer.

I look forward to prayer with the thought that it will enhance my spiritual self and give me the daily opportunity of seeking forgiveness from Allah. It is me and Almighty God. No one steps between us, nor do I have to ask anyone for permission to speak to Him.

Prayer is and becomes an evolving process in my life that provides me with great relief from an anxiety, stress and seemingly having the weight of the world on my back.

Lisa Simpson (of The Simpson Family ) once said of prayer, after seeing her brother, Bart, on his knees begging for something that prayer was “…the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Sometimes I feel like a scoundrel who has one leg deep in a grave and the second is struggling to drag my body to prayer.

It hasn’t been easy because I’ve never understood prayer as a Christian. Perhaps, because I was too young and a little too dumb to understand the mechanics of prayer as a Christian, I probably squandered away some real good prayer opportunities.

They told me prayer in your life would make mighty, mighty wonders and I believe it did that for some folks, but for me it did little, or nothing that I could see or feel in my life. In my youth, I don’t ever remember getting on my knees and praying, nor do I remember standing and praying.

Yikes…I guess I was leading the life of scoundrel. Praying, the church, the priest and all of the other stuff found in religion didn’t mean a thing to me. My parents weren’t Bible thumpers (thank God) and I wasn’t forced with a leather belt to get down on my rusty little knees and pray for forgiveness or to beg God for toys. What does a kid know about prayer?

My mother and father were cool in the sense that they taught us about God through family acts that always let me know there was a supreme being out there somewhere watching over us. We didn’t have hanging crosses, or sad pictures of Jesus hanging around the house.

As I think back to those days, all I can only recall to hardworking parents who sacrificed anything and everything for eight children. We were a poor family but my mother never told us about it. She never told us to pray and ask Jesus for a car, or a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

So, prayer for me was what those folks did at the black church on the Southside and the little gray church, with the black cyclone fence that was only for whites. No, there weren’t any signs saying: “If you’re black, stay back.” It was just known in the neighborhood that the Jesus of that church was for white folk.

I never knew anything about prayer.

Today, as I move closer to death everyday, I’ve become a lover of prayer. It has meaning in my life because of the teachings of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad ( I’m learning what it means to understand the rules of prayer – yes, there are rules in Islam.

Not only are there rules for prayers, but for successful prayers one must understand the necessary conditions of successful prayers.

So, today I’m not going to get anyone whipped up into prayer frenzy because it is Sunday. It is a wonderful day for collective prayer in the Christian world. As they prepare to go to their separate but equal churches in America, I vie with them in righteousness, goodness and prayer.

It’s nice knowing that this scoundrel has already made his prayers before the sun comes up today.


Saturday, September 18, 2004

My first blog entry

This is my first blog entry after having read many different blogs at various sites. Some of the thoughts shared have been provocative, informative but what really impresses me is the freedom to write whatever one wants to write about.

As a struggling intrepid writer, who has never been schooled in the art of writing formally, I now want to share thoughts with anyone who seeks the truth through the written word. I'm interested in the truth about many things that impact on my life.

So there it is...may Almighty God guide me in my quest for the truth.