Exit Strategies

Those who have migrated call back to those left behind: migrate! But where to? Qualified professionals will find lucrative jobs in rich Gulf States, but the poor have no easy choices. Migrate to the country of your ancestors, where you will be exploited for your perceived riches, or oppressed because your mindset no longer fits with that of your neighbours, or blown up because, well, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

We are on the brink of catastrophe, say the émigrés, warning of a fate like the fate that befell the Jews: soon we will be expelled, or locked up, or prevented from practicing our faith! It is possible. But have the émigrés seen the state of the countries those left behind are supposed to migrate to? Nigeria? Pakistan? Somalia? Egypt? Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Would you swap stability and relative freedom for anarchic lawlessness? Even those rich Gulf States are growing less accommodating of their migrant citizens, making life difficult for those no-longer considered economically viable.

Plan your exit strategy say the migrants. Well it is always wise to keep your options open, to make provisions for all possible eventualities. Of course it is possible that we will see pogroms on our streets. Of course it is possible that the Police force will collapse, or that a calamity will occur that will cause the law enforcers to become militia. Of course it is possible that our practices will be proscribed, that our faith will be criminalised, that it will no longer be possible to believe except in our hearts. Certainly it has happened before, in recent times and in nearby lands. But it is also pays to be pragmatic, analytic, to take a long-view. Would you cut off your nose to spite your face?

How many people before us sold everything with a dream of returning to the lands of their ancestors, only to abort the mission to return to their neat semi-detached home and comfortable job, when they discovered the reality of life in that land they never knew? How many have we heard of who tried to return to Pakistan, only to be defrauded, robbed and violated? How many have we heard of who tried to build a new life elsewhere, only to face racism, exploitation and a closed door when the going got tough. The family that settled in the UAE for years, suddenly no longer welcome. The family that moved to Pakistan, grieving a family member all of a sudden murdered. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Of course these are generalised tales of woe. Of course many who migrate make a success of it, finding comfort and ease and peace. But this tale of woe is a response to the tales of woe of the migrants, who look from afar at what they see to be the writing on the wall, at stories in the press, and see a great calamity drawing near. From where we stand, each has a vision incomprehensible. From here — viewing civil wars in Ukraine and Syria, unchecked killing in market places from the Equator to the Himalayas, and sectarian squalor everywhere — it seems like we’ve got it pretty good here. From over there — reading of political collusion with News Corp, of government witch-hunts, perverted morals, a shattered welfare state and a growing underclass of the poor and helpless — it seems like we’re on the road to hell.

Somewhere between the two extremes runs the middle way. Where the grateful utter alhamdulilah for blessings untold. Where we are thankful for another day to worship our Lord. Where we try our best to live sensibly and considerately with our neighbours, exuding kindness and patience and generous spirit. Politics is the same in every land, for power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We should be wary of the machinations of the political class wherever we find them. So make preparations — certainly — plan for the worst of outcomes. But in the meantime, plant those seeds, build those bridges and mend those relationships. It doesn’t have to end in catastrophe.

True fasting

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

— Book of Isaiah 58:6-9

Ramadan Begins

“Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest.” (Qur’an 13:28)

“Spread the salaam, feed the poor and stand up at night while people sleep.”

“The real fasting is not the fasting of the tongue and the stomach, but the fasting of the heart.”

May manufactured controversies and schisms pass us by. May we grow in mercy and compassion, and may the Most Merciful have mercy on us. May we become better people, restraining ourselves from bad traits and start to exude goodness and light. May this Month of Mercy be a source of change, and purification for our hearts and souls. Ramadan kareem.

Disintegration of manners

The disintegration of adab, which is the effect of the corruption of knowledge, creates the situation whereby false leaders in all spheres of life emerge; for it not only implies the corruption of knowledge, but it also means the loss of the capacity and ability to recognize and acknowledge true leaders. Because of the intellectual anarchy that characterizes this situation, the common people become determiners of intellectual decisions and are raised to the level of authority in matters of knowledge. Authentic definitions become undone, and in their stead we are left with platitudes and vague slogans disguised as profound concepts. The inability to define; to identify and isolate problems, and hence to provide for right solutions; the creation of pseudo-problems; the reduction of problems to mere political, socio-economic and legal factors becomes evidence. It is not surprising if such a situation provides a fertile breeding ground for the emergence of deviationists and extremists of many kinds who make ignorance their capital.

— Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Isl?m, via Musa Furber.


Beyond means

Is there a disconnect between fund raisers and ordinary folk? I accept that there are some very wealthy people in our community for whom a hefty donation is easy.

But to say to those living close to the edge, “you couldn’t buy a small car for that” or “that’s less than you’d pay for an extension to your house” is hardly a helpful analogy.

Many of these people do not even own a house, work multiple jobs or none at all and live from month to month with very little to spare in their bank account, or else are struggling to pay debts to get to a point where one day, God willing, they will be able to spend with ease.

I am a firm believer in giving of your wealth to the poor as charity; it does indeed come back to you, beyond measure. But I object to the wealthy telling the poor to dig deeper than they can afford to help those poorer still.

We all want to do more — our hearts haven’t turned to stone — but sometimes the demands are beyond our means. Ask for less and more will respond. Ask for more and more still, and many will run for the hills.

Knee jerk reactions

This week a Saudi student named Nahid Almanea was brutally murdered in a park in Colchester, Essex. We do not yet know why she was stabbed or who attacked her, but already the belief amongst a significant number of Muslim commentators is that she was killed because she was recognisably Muslim; because she was wearing hijab.

That may be so, but why can we not await due process before jumping to conclusions which fan community tensions? Her murder could just as well be linked to that of James Attfield who was also brutally stabbed to death in the same area in March.

For those lamenting alleged media apathy, his murder also passed unremarked by much of the media at the time. It is not double standards; in truth, most murders — except political murders — generally receive very little attention at all. There were over 500 murders in 2013; who can tell us anything about any of the victims of these crimes?

When the suspect is apprehended, faces trial and has been found guilty — then will be the time for reflection. Then we can ponder on motives, on crimes of hate, opportunity or insanity. Until then, let’s not make political capital out of two families’ tragic loss.

The way of truth

To me, it is remarkable that the progeny of a community which invested so heavily in the sciences of verification and authenticity to preserve the teachings of our religion will nowadays forward and repost every piece of unverified nonsense, malicious junk and political propaganda that appears before us on a slab of glass, without a second’s thought.

In the age of the internet everything and nothing is true. Whatever serves a purpose will be true for the moment. A lie become insignificant; it is all part of the push for truth.

We have forgotten, or are ignorant of, a verse of guidance: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.” –Quran 2:42.

But as we have discovered, it has always been so. Political machinations will trump even the sacred if it serves the agendas of the greedy and untruthful. Cruel and corrupt men often set us upon a path of their own design, heedless of the demands of truth, goodness and light.

We must resist. We must return to the way of truth. That is the true rebellion of our age.

Pondering reality

Tales of the past are the perfect antidote to our petty sectarian squabbles. For 135 million years, between 231.4 million and 66 million years ago, dinosaurs walked the earth. Continental drift, numerous ice ages, the rise and fall of species, great forests spanning Africa and Arabia; all of this and so much more has preceded us. And yet we think ourselves so important and our arguments so significant. It is truly preposterous when you really think about it. “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth…”

Honey Pot

New laws will follow the widespread coverage of a dangerous social media campaign suddenly unleashed. The shepherds of Irton Moor will soon come knocking, because you were foolish enough to respond to media reports with a targeted keyword search. You will be criminalised for your curiosity. Hastag: it’s going to end in tears.