There are no coincidences in life. None whatsoever. Every single event takes place for a reason.
A few days ago, I posted about the unfortunate loss of my wife's purse, which contained, among other items, her two credit cards.
Then today, I was listening to a lecturer talking on Riba (Interest/Usury) present his argument against keeping credit cards. And I must admit, to date, his argument has been the most effective one I've heard:
When signing up for a credit card, we all agree to pay the interest fees in case the full balance is not paid off after the first month. Many Muslims (including yours truly) convince themselves that everything is halal as long as the payment is made before the end of the month.
But in essence, would we ever sign a similar contract that required us to drink a glass of beer at the end of the month if we didn't pay the credit card balance?
Worse yet, would we ever sign a contract that required us to fornicate with our neighbor's wife if we didn't pay the credit card balance?
In reality, the contract we are signing with the credit card company is much worse than the above examples. So how can any sane Muslim ever sign the dotted line on a credit card contract?
Simple, yet powerful.
And with that short lesson I am able to connect a few more dots in my life. The loss of the credit cards combined with the effect of the lecture has inspired me to be rid of these shiny plastic devils once and for all.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
There are no coincidences in life. None whatsoever. Every single event takes place for a reason.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Life is a series of dots, each one representing an event, each one representing a special moment. Memories are made up of these dots, be they blissful, heartbreaking, or both.
Special is the one capable of connecting some of these dots. Like when a child barely capable of holding a pencil accomplishes the feat, connecting two or three dots results in pure joy.
What then of the select few who are able to make complete pictures from these dots and glean true meanings of life? Ya Allah!
Here, then, is my humble tale of connecting a few dots in my life. Maybe one day I shall be able to make something from these various connections dispersed throughout my life that resemble a picture.
But for now, I simply get giddy when I connect a few lonesome dots.
It all began with a harmless donation of 200riyals (~$50).
My friend from Madina was on a quick weekend trip to Riyadh and hadn’t brought sufficient pocket money. I suggested he take the 200riyals for his immediate needs and upon his return to Madina, he could donate it to his Sheikh, who looks after the needs of over 50 destitute families in Jeddah. With that condition, he happily accepted.
Fast forward a couple hours.
My wife had gone out to a local mall where unfortunately her purse was stolen. Seems like a group of young abaya-clad girls rushed into the store where my wife was shopping, causing a commotion of sorts, and rushed back out, in the process conveniently taking her purse as it hung off the back of the stroller.
Needless to say, everything was lost.
Included in the damage was my wife’s phone, which had a pre-paid balance of 1,300riyals. While we immediately cancelled the credit cards and ATM cards, we weren’t able to cancel the phone SIM chip. The SIM card wasn’t under my name, so I was told to come in-person to the local STC (Saudi Telecom Company) office. Unfortunately it was 8pm and they would only open up the next day at 4pm.
My immediate response was to write off the 1,300riyals as, I figured, any small-time pick-pocket surely knows how to transfer the balance to another phone number. Either that, or they would use the bulk of the balance to make international calls and what not.
So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I walked into the STC office the following day and found the balance untouched. They quickly issued a new SIM chip with the 1,300riyal balance.
1,300riyals were miraculously rescued from the debris of the purse-snatching fiasco.
Or so I thought.
“Or who is there that can provide you with Sustenance if He were to withhold His provision?” (67:21)
The Prophet (saw) stated “…and the Rizq is fixed. Nothing will take place before its due time, and nothing will be deferred beyond when it is due.”
The following day, I went to my HR department to request new health insurance cards for my wife and 4 kids. 200riyals a pop they told me. Stunned, I asked why in the world is it so expensive to print some cheap plastic cards?
Fraud was the answer. Many employees report lost or stolen cards while passing them on to relatives or friends who use the cards to avail medical services they are not entitled to (most hospitals don’t ask for picture IDs – I bet they knowingly turn a blind eye, preferring the guaranteed insurance money over turning away a fraudulent patient).
So, I had to pony up 1,000riyals for the insurance cards. Oh well - you gotta do what you gotta do.
I then went to the two banks to have them re-issue the ATM cards. They told me that the charge for it would be 50riyals. A bit pricey for a small plastic card, but clearly more reasonable than the insurance card. So I didn’t argue too much.
And that’s when it struck me and a few dots seemed to connect.
With the combination of the insurance cards, ATM cards, and the donation, that 1,300riyals was simply not meant to be in my pocket. My sustenance (rizq) has been predetermined and this amount was going to leave my hands one way or another.
Just as it is said that your rizq will run after you like death (and so, the teaching goes, there is no point in running after it), it can be equally stated that it will run away from you in a similarly guaranteed fashion.
Today, I stand before you as living proof of that.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
It's all about rebranding.
According to this excellent piece by Naomi Klein, the American corporatocracy, after taking a major global PR beating during the Bush years, rebranded itself with Obama.
Just like Blackwater renamed itself Xe after the numerous scandals in Iraq, the sole imperial power in the world decided it too needed a major face lift. And Obama was exactly what the plastic surgeon ordered.
"When Obama was sworn in as president, the American brand could scarcely have been more battered - Bush was to his country what New Coke was to Coca-Cola, what cyanide in the bottles had been to Tylenol. Yet Obama, in what was perhaps the most successful rebranding campaign of all time, managed to turn things around."
"So, it seemed that the United States government could solve its reputation problems with branding - it's just that it needed a branding campaign and product spokesperson sufficiently hip, young and exciting to compete in today's tough market. The nation found that in Obama, a man who clearly has a natural feel for branding and who has surrounded himself with a team of top-flight marketers. His social networking guru, for instance, is Chris Hughes, one of the young founders of Facebook. His social secretary is Desirée Rogers, a glamorous Harvard MBA and former marketing executive. And David Axelrod, Obama's top adviser, was formerly a partner in ASK Public Strategies, a PR firm which, according to Business Week, "has quarterbacked campaigns" for everyone from Cablevision to AT&T. Together, the team has marshalled every tool in the modem marketing arsenal to create and sustain the Obama brand: the perfectly calibrated logo (sunrise over stars and stripes); expert viral marketing (Obama ringtones); product placement (Obama ads in sports video games); a 30-minute infomercial (which could have been cheesy but was universally heralded as "authentic"); and the choice of strategic brand alliances (Oprah for maximum reach, the Kennedy family for gravitas, and no end of hip-hop stars for street cred)."
So with a few minor cosmetic touch-ups (announcing the closure of GitMo, assigning first female Latina to Supreme Court, ceasing usage of 'war on terror' terminology), the Obama administration has seemingly undone all the damage of the Bush years.
The reality is "that Obama played the anti-war, anti-Wall Street party crasher to his grassroots base, which imagined itself leading an insurgency against the two-party monopoly through dogged organisation and donations gathered from lemonade stands and loose change found in the crevices of the couch. Meanwhile, he took more money from Wall Street than any other presidential candidate, swallowed the Democratic party establishment in one gulp after defeating Hillary Clinton, then pursued "bipartisanship" with crazed Republicans once in the White House."
Who was it who said that as much as things change, they stay the same?
Monday, January 18, 2010
I recorded this short clip as I was walking out of the Haram this past weekend. I couldn't pass up the shot of these workers washing the floor of the Haram with the Ka'aba in the background.
(I tried embedding the video directly here, but no go. Will keep trying. In the meanwhile, sorry for that extra click.)
Monday, January 11, 2010
My father never really beat me. When upset with me, he would either grab my ear and squeeze really hard or force me into the murghi (chicken) position.
(What’s that? You’ve never heard of the murghi? Oh you poor, deprived non-Desi soul. This quaint punishment imported from the Indian subcontinent requires the trouble child to squat down, loop arms under the knees, and grab hold of the ears - Hold position until father finishes eating dinner, wakes up from nap, or just forgets about you.)
So, I’ve never really considered any type of corporal punishment on my children. I would normally yell at them until they obeyed and if that didn’t work, I would resort to taking away some privilege (ie. grounding). For the most part, that worked with my older 11yr old daughter and my 9yr old son.
However, in the past year or so, Humza’s been getting a bit rebellious and isn’t too bothered with losing his privileges. He’s quite strong willed and if need be, he’s willing to sacrifice playing video games or going out in order to get his way. He’s slowly lost respect for our authority and has even had the gall to talk back a few times.
This had to stop. Immediately.
So, in the midst of one of these spats, he went too far and I decided enough was enough. I took him into the bathroom, laid him over my laps, and smacked him on his behind. His reaction? He let out an is-that-all-you-got? chuckle. I got even more upset and hit him as hard as I could. Nothing. His butt was simply too thick. I ended up stinging my hand with no effect whatsoever on the chubby offender.
After that mishap, I decided to simply start hitting him on the back of his hand whenever he would upset me or his mother.
But, his attitude wasn’t changing. In fact, I noticed him getting worse.
So I did what I should have done from the get-go and starting researching the matter. I quickly learned that Muslims have no real thought-out plan on raising a well-disciplined child. Most scholars and teachers provide generic advice on how to cultivate a righteous child, but nothing exists (that I could find) that details how to specifically deal with a problem child.
But wow! There's a plethora of documentation on the Christian side. I mean, these folks have it down to a science. They offer multiple approaches in great detail with alternative steps for varying situations. Amazing stuff!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Muslims know what they’re doing - they just haven’t institutionalized it. We don’t write about it in our books or teach it in lectures.
Muslims just aren’t into counseling as an institution. We’re simply told to deal with the problem (whether it’s a rocky marriage or a tantrum toddler or a pubescent teen or an in-family squabble) according to the Quran and Sunnah. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that just doesn’t cut it.
And so, I found much enlightenment on how to deal with a child from the vast collection of Christian books and websites on the topic.
1. The most important lesson I learned was consistency. Establish a rule and stick to it. Initially, I would yell out some random rule (“No more eating in the family room”) and never follow through with it. This led to the kids losing respect for my rules or simply unable to keep track of the latest rule. I now have fewer rules, but am unswerving in enforcing them.
2. Another essential concept is called First Time Obedience (FTO), which stresses that the child should obey the parent the first time they hear a command. The parent should never repeat him/herself. In repeating , the parent is implicitly stating that it’s ok NOT to obey the first few times – and that obedience is required only upon repetition or when an ultimate threat is given (“If you don’t listen, I’m going to ground you!”).
3. One should never raise their voice when asking the child to obey them. Again, the child is learning that the first few times when the request was made in a normal voice, he isn’t required to act – and obedience is only required when the parent begins to yell.
4. Drop the stupid counting to three tactic. When you ask the child something, your request should be serious enough to warrant immediate attention. By counting to three, you’re telling them that the initial request wasn’t to be taken seriously.
5. Stop with the crazy threats (“I will ground you for one year if you hit your sister again”). Say you what you mean and mean what you say. Follow-through is most critical.
6. Be ready to outlast them. Children are very keen on testing the parents to find their breaking point. If the child puts his foot down, be ready for a long staring match. If you give in, all what you’ve worked for will go down the drain.
7. In carrying out an order, the child must do so with a proper attitude. Grumbling and pouting while doing so is unacceptable and must be repeated, but with a better attitude.
When it comes to punishment, timeouts and groundings may be effective in some cases, but the stick must always be kept as an option. There’s so much negativity out there against physically disciplining one’s child. Clearly there is a difference between beating a child to a pulp and smacking them as a means of discipline. But all too often, both get thrown around as being forms of child abuse. That’s too bad because a properly placed smack can go a long way in dealing with a problem child.
Personally, I’ve begun to use a small stick with a quick smack to the back of the calf as their punishment.
And here is what I learned about the stick:
1. Never hit the child in a state of anger. Always be in control of your emotions. If you’re upset, walk away and come back when you’ve cooled down.
2. Let them understand that the punishment is a direct result of their action. No need to lecture. Just be clear that they understand how they broke the rules.
3. Never hit the child to hurt. The smack should be a deterrent from which they learn, not a scar that causes humiliation or hatred.
4. Never hit in front of others. The punishment is not intended to embarrass the child.
5. Never make play of the punishment or the stick. Nothing to do with it is a joke and the children must realize that it’s very serious.
6. Never hit with your hand. The hand should be seen as a part of the parent and should symbolize care and love. Using a small stick is ideal.
7. Fight the urge to hug or caress them after the punishment. Don’t tell them that this hurts you more than it will hurt them. The parent needs to be strong in establishing the importance of his/her order.
8. Of course, there are appropriate ages for implementing these punishments. You can't hit a 2-yr old toddler and if you're hitting a 16-yr old, it's probably too late.
All that being said, I can’t emphasize enough the need for a loving environment in which the child sees the parents smiling and playing with them more often than punishing them.
Finally, I like how the Christian perspective links the parent-child obedience to the God-man obedience. God doesn’t repeat or count to three or yell - He simply states a command and expects it to be followed. We try to constantly remind them that following our orders is but a subset of following the orders of Allah (swt).
Monday, January 4, 2010
For you news junkies out there, here's a nice list of top 10 stories that snuck under the radar this past year.
Personally, I'm trying to cut down on the amount of news I absorb each day, as so much junk is out there.
Yay for me for ditching HuffPo from my list of daily reads! That site has gone down the tubes in the past year, resembling more a tabloid than a viable alternative to MSM. Even with Google News, I focus only on the World news as other useless sections clutter up their front page (Entertainment, Sports).
I'm finding this gluttony of information that the Internet has afforded us to be very unhealthy for my spiritual state. Is that a poor reflection on me or on the dismal value of the news?
Probably a bit of both.