Monday, 8 February 2016

TV, Allāh’s House & the Mind’s of Allāh’s Slaves

Through the years, I have always tried to observe three principles, in my writings, all of which I fear I might overstep today:

·         Respect the right to differ of those who do not share the same view as myself, as long as there is some Islāmic basis for their view, however weak.
·         Avoid names of contemporary personalities, as we are discussing topics and issues not the persons themselves.
·         Keep topics to matters which the entire ʾUmmah can associate with. Thus I declined requests to write on UK idol-worship of leaders and stealing of shoes in South African Masājid.

Today I find it increasingly difficult to respect the differing opinion, which through various experiences lead me to doubt the sincerity of the opposing view on this issue. The specifics of the situation may lead me to refer to specific personalities; and I may confuse the bulk of my readership (which is UK and USA based) by what may be perceived as my dinosaur conservatism.

Sense of Betrayal

I am not going to touch on juristic arguments of the legality of television of Islām. My zeal for Islāmic jurisprudence was severely dampened during my student days, when the teacher said that the ʾImām of my school of jurisprudence was a “crazy, worse than a drunkard.” The fact there are those who actually do subscribe to such views, and that his students who lead entire communities today, think that there is no harm in taking such statements light-heartedly, saddens me to no end. So many of our problems lie in only rectifying deeds and being complacent as to whether our minds are in tune with the spirit of Islām. Rather than juristic frowning against images and music, my opposition to the oxymoron of “Islāmic television” is based on the long-term change it is creating in the minds and spirits of the Muslims. 

I grew up watching television. Gasp! Yes, I am not going to sanctimoniously pretend what I am not, nor do I feel that Islām commands me to remain silent simply because I have my own defects. Television as a medium is geared towards entertainment, even if it be under the name of news, documentaries and religion. Ask yourself why it is that a good sermon today is not what informs, but what is gripping, like a television programme. Why we choose speakers and venues with the same mentality as we change channels. After more than 12 years of public speaking, I can only recall three people saying that they learnt anything from me. Yet I cannot count the amount of people who say that they enjoy my talks, i.e. find my talks entertaining.  
Conversely, I recall that as a student, I was informed of a scholar who had already attained much fame in his sterling service to the ʾUmmah. I was told that never in his life had he so much as glanced as a television. Today there is no technological media in which he does not broadcast the message. He is my senior and may Allāh reward his intention.

Yet whenever the issue of “Islāmic” television arise, I remember a layman bemoaning his sense of betrayal. He had been raised by the scholars to believe in the evils and prohibition of television. As a youngster he vowed he would never allow such evil in his home. Today, as a father, he witnesses the same class of scholars participating on television.

Khālid Baig

My mind was opened to the broader issues involved in trying to marry television with religion when the esteemed writer, Khālid Beg, was asked in a gathering of scholars what his opinion on the matter was. He in no uncertain terms, and most passionately, decried the concept at length. He specifically requested the scholars to read Amusing Ourselves To Death, by Prof Neil Postman, in order to better understand his vehement opposition. It is not at all amazing that one of the TV presenters who sat by Khālid Baig in that gathering, would later in another gathering quote an isolated sentence which he attributed to Khālid Baig and then state that Khālid Baig recognises the benefits of television. If anyone was deceived, let him read the words of Khālid Baig here out of which I reproduce the following:

Can this dangerous drug be somehow converted into a medicine? Not too long ago, a young professional in the U.S. approached prominent Muslim scholar and Deputy Chairman of the Jeddah based Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Justice Taqi Usmani to inquire about his profession. He produced computer graphics for the television and motion picture industry. This is the age of the media, and the only effective way to spread Islam today is through television and movies, he argued. If we do not learn the trade how shall we be able to produce such programs and if we don't who will, he inquired. Yet, some people had told him that it was not a good profession.
"I have given a lot of anxious thought to this issue," replied Justice Usmani in his characteristic measured tone, weighing every word. "And I have reached the conclusion that the cause of Islam cannot be served through television, especially under the current circumstances. You should seek another line of work."

I say that I am not amazed because this same presenter can hardly (mis)quote a adīth in the Masjid without bending it to his agenda. What value then does Khālid Baig have as compared to adīth? I was recently pleasantly surprised to hear a talk of this presenter, to which I had no objection. It then struck me that that was because he had not directly quoted a adīth on that occasion. There were no distortions. When such is state of the honesty of the vanguard of televisionists, is it fair to demand that I consider this to be another sincere difference of opinion? Furthermore, by them now filming our senior scholars in the Masjid, without their consent, the televisionists have crossed the line. There is no difference of opinion when one side unilaterally imposes their opinion upon all and sundry.

Do you use Tech, or does it use you?

I am not opposed to using technology. How then do I write this blog? What I am opposed to is simply jumping and using something without fully understanding the implications. I have previously written on this topic. You may read what I wrote here. Servility to western ideas without pausing to ponder, is really pathetic, even if supposedly done in the name of Islām.
I oppose television as a medium of religion for it is a medium which changes one’s mind-set by its very nature, and not in a positive manner. I must admit that what little I have seen amounts to a less than an hour combined. Yet I am not impressed. Even when the Qurʾān is recited, it has to be with a beautiful nature background playing to titillate the visual senses. I ask the truly unbiased – if you sit for a duration in front of that instrument whose primary function is visual stimulation, can you honestly say that the recitation affected your heart or was it the constant staring at the images? Did you ever feel an inclination to recite the Qurʾān yourself, or did a subconscious desire to tour the Maldives perhaps embed itself in your heart? If you were truly listening to the Qurʾān, what need is there to stare at waterfalls and beaches? Could you not cover the screen and concentrate on the words?

Television calls to perfection of imagery, not a message to the heart. The Qurʾān and Ḥadīth even seem less glamorous if not accompanied by the perfect picture. Really, really question your heart if that is the level of our Islām. If you really believe that you indeed look past the physical appearance of the Shaykh and Molvi (apparently they do not use makeup as yet) and sincerely listen to his words, then you are truly unique. Reality shows that the handsomeness, appearance and glamour of the TV personality play more of a role than the substance. History has been changed and elections won and lost by the physical appearance of political candidates as shown on TV. This is not necessarily the fault of the viewer, it is the intrinsic function of TV to emphasise image over substance, the very antithesis of Islām. Even if the message you watch is 100% correct, your medium is from a world-view directly contradicting the teachings of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, and even the west acknowledges the subliminal effects of TV on the sub-consciousness.

Please ponder why the Qurʾān links education to the sense of hearing and speech. It refers to kalām, bayān and lisān. Imagery demands constant embellishment and adornment. Is your Islām a beauty pageant? Can you honestly reconcile such materialism with the spirit and words of the teachings of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ?

How this medium changes people! A decade ago one of the current presenters told me that he did  not want to speak on radio, but his teachers advised him to speak, lest someone less learned spoke something wrong. This same person/presenter has been transformed into a man who publicly denounced scholars who disagreed with him on the television issue.

A well-wisher had suggested that he could arrange for me to appear on television. All other considerations aside, I have to ponder over the satanic glee I feel in my heart when someone praises my talks, and the immense effort it takes for me to focus my attention to speak purely for Allāh the next time round. Me on television?  As I stand now, I doubt my sincerity would survive.

Imagery of TV is the Servant of Materialism

My greatest fear of using television is that we shall be giving a permanent and official stamp of approval to matters which were previously personal weaknesses. There will be a permanent change in mentality, from which I see no return in this dark age. Despite my reputation as one who speaks his mind, there are facets of Islām which I have not touched on. They are so unheard of today, that they would simply be brushed aside as my personal ravings.

Islām teaches hygiene and permits the appreciation of beauty. Yet the principle of moderation in Islām should not be forgotten. Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ bathed when necessary or on special days, such as Friday. In our society we tend to bath daily or even more. That is your prerogative. What you do not have a right to do, is to pretend something is Sunnah when it is not. To go beyond the hygiene habits of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and label your habit as Sunnah, is to lie against Allāh and His Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ! Instead of admitting something is a personal habit or a culture and leave it at that, we have a filthy tendency to repaint Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ in our own image. This is similar to the Christians who portray Jesus as a blue eyed blonde.
As for beauty, Islām commands grooming, but again with moderation. Over-grooming is an element of materialism. If you do so, that is your weakness between you and your Creator, but if you over-step the line, and justify your weakness as Sunnah, then most disgusting is the creature who wishes to portray Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ as a modern “metrosexual”.

In the distant past scholars such as ʾal-Ghazzālī, could detail these discussions in their writings. In the recent past these issues were no longer discussed, but at least the principle remained. Now when a slight crease on a turban cannot be permitted because of the TV phenomenon, when a scholar spends as much effort on his appearance as does a teenager in love, rank materialism in the guise of supposed Sunnah beautification has been given scholarly approval. It is no longer a personal weakness, but viewed as the official face of Islām.  This is just one point on how TV changes the mentality of Muslims. I shall narrate two adīth on this topic. You decide if the spirit of your religion can ever be conveyed on TV. Ponder over these sacred words and ponder if the blessings and spirit of the one from whom they originate can ever be transmitted over TV.

عن عبد الله بن مغفل قال نهى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عن الترجل إلا غبا
 ʿAbdullāh bin Mughaffal narrated that Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ forbade males from combing their hair except every second day. [at-Tirmiẓī]

Note the phrasing. Combing is granted as a concession from a prohibition, not the other way around. Islām does command balance, but TV commands crass worldly and image obsessions.

عَنْ أَبِي أُمَامَةَ ، قَالَ : ذَكَرَ أَصْحَابُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَوْمًا عِنْدَهُ الدُّنْيَا ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " أَلَا تَسْمَعُونَ أَلَا تَسْمَعُونَ إِنَّ الْبَذَاذَةَ مِنَ الْإِيمَانِ ، إِنَّ الْبَذَاذَةَ مِنَ الْإِيمَانِ
ʾAbū ʾUmāmah narrates that the Companions of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ were discussing the world. Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ  then said, “Will you not listen? Will you not listen? Verily untidiness is also part of faith. Verily untidiness is also part of faith.” [ʾAbū Dāwūd]

In other words obsession with the world and one’s appearance is prohibited. One should be neat, but not to the degree that nothing is ever out of place in your beauty, grooming and appearance, which are basic requirements of TV and unfortunate and false messages to Muslims.

Prof Postman

I know Neil Postman was not a Muslim. I know that what he wrote was decades ago. Yet it is my opinion that the views and warnings he expresses are definitely in line with what should have been Muslim thinking. That only isolated figures such as Khālid Baig and myself agree, do not necessarily make us wrong.
If Postman as non-Muslim could point out the debilitating effects of television on the mind how much more should Muslims be aware of these assaults on mind and soul.
I normally keep my posts short due to the short attention span of Muslim readers. I blame TV for this as well. I have far exceeded my normal length, and although there is much more to say, I have to cut off at this point…… assuming you reached until here :)

سليمان الكندي
Twitter: @sulayman_Kindi  

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Jābir bin ʿAbdillāh ʾal-ʾAnṣārī

عن عبد الله بن مغفل المزني قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم الله الله في أصحابي لا تتخذوهم غرضا بعدي فمن أحبهم فبحبي أحبهم ومن أبغضهم فببغضي أبغضهم ومن آذاهم فقد آذاني ومن آذاني فقد آذى الله عز وجل ومن آذى الله يوشك أن يأخذه
ʿAbdullāh bin Mughaffal ʾal-Muzanī narrates that Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said, “[Fear Allāh! [Fear] Allāh in regards my Companions! Do not make them a target after me. He who loves them, loves them due to loving me. He who hates them, hates them due to hating me. He who harms them has harmed me. He who harms me [aims] harm at Allāh, Most Mighty and Majestic. And Allāh will soon seize he who [intends to] harm Him. [ʾAmad]

Another reminder that I have not written in a while, and this reminder specifically mentioning Syria. Yesterday I met someone who returned from his third welfare trip to Syria. He told me that each trip only adds to his confusion on the situation there, rather than clear up the facts. How then do I comment at this stage on Syria? As for other matters requiring exercise of the intellect, my mind does not focus on any topic right now. So perhaps if for nobody’s benefit other than my own, I shall put pen to paper on matters of the heart, not the mind.

I know that on the Day of Reckoning I do not have any deed worthy of presentation. I do not recall observing even a single prayer in my entire life, with my thoughts solely focussed on my Creator. My only hope lies in the intercession of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and Allāh forgiving me without taking me to account for my deeds. Yet both these are dependent on the recipient having faith. Am I truly a believer? Faith lies between hope and fear. What gives me hope, that I do indeed have faith, is the love for the Companions of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ which overcomes me. I thank Allāh for granting me such joy when thinking of them, which no soccer, cricket, Hollywood or Bollywood fanatic can match in his/her love of those idols. I just cannot get my mind across why a Muslim would adore such people, when a single adith or story of the Companions should be enough to make one an ardent admirer of that Companion and all Companions in general. I am especially irked when these fanatics include scholars and people otherwise ostensibly linked to religion. I may even be accused of being too informal when speaking of the Companions, but I am convinced that if I do have the honour of meeting them, they will fully understand that I was motivated by love, unlike the judgemental Muslim ʾUmmah who will not understand anything out of the straight and narrow.  

I spend days pondering over a particular Companion. Currently it is Jābir bin ʿAbdillāh ʾal-ʾAnṣārī (may Allāh be pleased with him) who fills my thoughts. As a student of Ḥadīth, it struck me how often Jābir (may Allāh be pleased with him) was associated with miracles. It would be bold of me to say that most miracles of the Prophetic era were associated with him. It may even be possible. However, such a statement cannot be made, even if I had the capacity to actually research and record each such event, for there may be miracles which have not been recorded. However, what I can confidently state, is that the number of miracles mentioned in the Ḥadīth, are out of proportion associated with Jābir (may Allāh be pleased with him) as compared to the general body of the Companions. Of these, I shall mention two:

1.    The Continuously Increasing Dates

عَنْ الشَّعْبِيِّ ، قَالَ : حَدَّثَنِي جَابِرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ، أَنَّ أَبَاهُ اسْتُشْهِدَ يَوْمَ أُحُدٍ ، وَتَرَكَ سِتَّ بَنَاتٍ ، وَتَرَكَ عَلَيْهِ دَيْنًا ، فَلَمَّا حَضَرَ جِدَادُ النَّخْلِ ، أَتَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَقُلْتُ : " قَدْ عَلِمْتَ أَنَّ وَالِدِي اسْتُشْهِدَ يَوْمَ أُحُدٍ ، وَتَرَكَ دَيْنًا كَثِيرًا ، وَإِنِّي أُحِبُّ أَنْ يَرَاكَ الْغُرَمَاءُ ، قَالَ : " اذْهَبْ ، فَبَيْدِرْ كُلَّ تَمْرٍ عَلَى نَاحِيَةٍ ، فَفَعَلْتُ ، ثُمَّ دَعَوْتُهُ ، فَلَمَّا نَظَرُوا إِلَيْهِ كَأَنَّمَا أُغْرُوا بِي تِلْكَ السَّاعَةَ ، فَلَمَّا رَأَى مَا يَصْنَعُونَ أَطَافَ حَوْلَ أَعْظَمِهَا بَيْدَرًا ثَلَاثَ مَرَّاتٍ ، ثُمَّ جَلَسَ عَلَيْهِ ، ثُمَّ قَالَ : ادْعُ أَصْحَابَكَ ، فَمَا زَالَ يَكِيلُ لَهُمْ حَتَّى أَدَّى اللَّهُ أَمَانَةَ وَالِدِي ، وَأَنَا رَاضٍ أَنْ يُؤَدِّيَ اللَّهُ أَمَانَةَ وَالِدِي لَمْ تَنْقُصْ تَمْرَةً وَاحِدَةً "
Jābir bin ʿAbdillāh ʾal-ʾAnṣārī narrated that his father was martyred at the Battle of Uḥud. He left behind 6 daughters and debts. When the season for harvesting the date-trees arrived I went to Allah's Messenger and said, "O Allah's Messenger! You know that my father was martyred on the Day of Uhud and owed much debt, and I wish that the creditors would see you.” [and thus accept the small harvest as full payment, as per Bukhārī]. He said, "Go and collect the various kinds of dates and place them separately in heaps." I did that and called him. On seeing him, the creditors started demanding [full payment] against me immediately. When he saw how they behaved, he went round the biggest heap three times and sat over it. He then said, "Call your companions [i.e. the creditors]." Then he kept on measuring and giving them, till Allah fulfilled my father's obligations. It would have pleased me if Allah had only cleared the debts of my father but in fact [the harvest] had not decreased by a single date [after the full payment]. [ʾAbū Dāwūd]

2.    Ever Increasing Mutton and Bread

فقد جاء في الحديث المتفق عليه أن جابر بن عبد الله رضي الله عنهما رأى جوعاً شديداً بالنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فانطلق إلى بيته، وأخرج جراباً فيه صاع من شعير، وذبح شاة، وجهز هو وزوجته طعاماً، ثم دعا رسولَ الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم - إليه، فلما رأى جابرٌ النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم – وبصحبته أهل الخندق فزع من ذلك المشهد ، وذهبت به الظنون كل مذهب ، وقال في نفسه : كيف يمكن لهذا الطعام أن يكفي كل هذا الحشد ، فعلم النبي - صلى الله عليه وسلم – ما يدور في نفس جابر رضي الله عنه فأخبره بألا ينزل القدر، وألا يخبز الخبز، حتى يأتيه ويبارك فيه، ثم أكلوا جميعاً وشبعوا، والطعام كما هو.
Jābir bin ʿAbdillāh (may Allāh be pleaded with father and son) saw the Prophet Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, suffering from intense hunger. He went home and took out a jar of containing a Ṣāʿ measure of barley and slaughtered an ewe. He and his wife prepared food. He then invited Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ. When Jābir saw the Prophet bringing the army of the Trench with him, the scenario made him anxious and various thoughts played out in his mind. He said to himself, “How can this food suffice this mass of people?” The Prophet  صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ knew what was going through Jābir’s mind and commanded him not to bring down the pot, nor finish bake the bread until he arrived and blessed it. The army ate to its fill, yet the food remained to the amount it originally was. [Meaning found in Muslim and Bukhārī]

The Supplication of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

I would ask, “Why so many miraculous events and blessings in the life of Jābir (may Allāh be pleased with him)?” I would venture that it is the result of the following incident, wherein the teenaged boy, Jābir, sacrifices his personal desires for the sake of others and thereby gains the Duʿāʿ of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, which surely profited him for the rest of his life. May Allāh imbue us with such qualities and fill our hearts and lives with love for Allāh, His Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and the pious. 

فقال النبي ‏ ‏صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏تزوجت يا ‏ ‏جابر ‏ ‏قلت نعم قال بكرا أم ثيبا قلت ثيبا قال ‏ ‏هلا جارية تلاعبها وتلاعبك أو تضاحكها وتضاحكك قلت هلك أبي فترك سبع أو تسع بنات فكرهت أن أجيئهن بمثلهن فتزوجت امرأة تقوم عليهن قال فبارك الله عليك
“O Jābir,” the Prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ asked, “Have you married?”
“Yes,” I replied. “A virgin or not?” he asked.
“An elder woman,” I replied.
He said, “Why not a young girl? You could play with her and she play with you!”
I said, “My father is dead and left behind seven or nine daughters [the narrator is in doubt]. I disliked that I bring to them someone the same like them, so I instead married a woman who can raise them.”
He said, “Then may Allāh bless you!”

سليمان الكندي
Twitter: @sulayman_Kindi