ISLAM, KINDNESS, AND A VERY LONG QUOTE FROM DERREN BROWN

Kindness. Compassion. Sympathy. Benevolence. Humanity. Charity. Consideration. A sign of weakness. Call it what you will, but I think there is a distinct lack of it in today’s society (a point I have touched on before).

And it seems I’m not the only one. Here are a few other voices concerned about the same thing:


  • Here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder. – George Saunders
  • We bewail the loss of our values, whether we call them civilised, British, western or Christian. We turn to a minority of migrants and blame them for ostensibly diluting them. But it is simply not true. The reason we are losing our values is that we are failing to nourish them, cherish them and hold on to them. It is a collective meanness of spirit. The reason we are becoming less and less like the Britain we recognise is not the presence of Polish plumbers; it is the putting up of spikes to shoo away the homeless instead of offering them a cup of tea. The reason this is no longer a civilised country is not the presence of a smattering of mosques; it is the decision to let people drown in the sea to save a measly amount which will not make even the smallest dent in our budget. The reason we are turning uncivilised, un-British, unchristian, un-western – however you define it – is the lack of tangible kindness. We are simply turning into the worst version of ourselves. Fight back. Be the best version of yourself. Be kind to someone today. Be a good egg. You will almost certainly feel lifted by it. – Alex Andreou
  • As a society, we appear to have lost the instinct for kindness and the willingness to extend the hand of friendship. Our responses to children, to older people, to strangers, are all conditioned by a concern not to offend and a fear of getting involved. – Julia Unwin, from an article entitled ‘Our society has lost the instinct for kindness
  • I would like to put into Room 101 EastEnders. There is one thing that I loathe and abhor about EastEnders and it’s the aggression and the violence that seems to be threaded through every episode. And that violence over the years has drifted and leeched into the British consciousness, so that today I think this country is worse for it, because I think there is a vein, a seam, of aggression in this country that I would attribute in no small measure to this little lot here. And let me tell you, as a sort of an example, I’m not blaming this particularly on EastEnders, but it’s the sort of attitude. I was queuing for the security check at an airport recently, and there was a bloke in front of me, he was reading the paper and the queue had moved on and created a sort of a space. And the bloke behind me said, “Oi, you, doughnut!” And the bloke reading the paper looked up and said, “You talking to me?!” And suddenly I thought, “I’m going to be in the middle of an EastEnders brawl here.” Why can’t we be kinder to each other and more patient? And I think that EastEnders, God bless them, great actors, great stories, all the rest of it, just less of the violence, please, you’re doing us harm. – Nick Hewer, on the BBC TV program Room 101

From an Islamic perspective, kindness is regarded as a very high test of faith, as witnessed by the following ahadith (sayings) of the prophet Muhammad (SAW):

  • Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith. (reported by Muslim)
  • Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people. (reported by Bukhari).
  • Whoever is kind, Allah will be kind to him; therefore be kind to man on the earth. He Who is in heaven will show mercy on you. (reported by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

However, this theological theory currently bears no resemblance to the disappointing practical reality. One does not have to look far in the Muslim world to see how little kindness there is, be it Boko Haram kidnapping young girls, the Taliban massacring school children in Peshawar, Shia Muslims being suicide bombed in Pakistan, ISIS beheading and burning people in acts of self-righteous retribution, and all the unfortunate rest.

In light of all this, below is a short quote from the atheist Derren Brown who, in my opinion, understands the concept of kindness better than most religious people. And here is a link to a longer version of that quote, in the form of a PDF document: Derren Brown – Be kind.pdf.


The single most valuable human trait, the one quality every schoolchild and adult should be taught to nurture, is, quite simply, kindness. Kindness. If you prefer, compassion. Even benevolence. It is the quality that makes people lovely

Be kind. It is a richer project than may at first be obvious. For example, it can involve stepping out of what is emotionally immediate, and realising in moments of everyday conflict that those with whom we’re arguing are most likely taking a standpoint equally as justifiable (to themselves) as ours. Kindness may involve preferring to understand the other’s one–sided view in such situations rather than blindly pushing our own. If we are prepared not to concern ourselves with the immediate blow to our pride that comes from conceding in this way, we can enjoy the warm glow later when we feel like the greater man or woman, rather than lying awake in bed fuming with rage, replaying arguments and running imaginary conversations with ourselves that make us even more livid. Ideally, this ability to detach emotionally when approaching conflict, and to look for connections rather than stand aghast at someone else’s apparent bloody–mindedness, is to be combined with an otherwise emotionally open and empathising personality. That is where the perfect balance is struck, where we would be best positioned to have a pleasant effect on others…

Kindness makes us all happier…

Each of us is leading a difficult life, and when we meet people we are seeing only a tiny part of the thinnest veneer of their complex, troubled existences. To practise anything other than kindness towards them, to treat them in any way save generously, is to quietly deny their humanity.

 – Derren Brown, from his book Confessions Of A Conjuror

Derren Confessions cover

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A FEW BASIC POINTS ON ISLAM, ALCOHOL, AND FRIENDSHIP

A friend of mine that I worked closely with for over 3 years recently left for another job. This friend (let’s call him Robin, mainly because that’s his name) is a really good guy, and he will be sorely missed. Just how sore is yet to be determined, but the office was definitely better with him around.

On his last day of work there was the customary trip to the local pub after working hours for a few drinks to celebrate his getting a new job and to commiserate his leaving his old job.

I was asked if I was going to the pub, to which I replied no. I was then asked why ever not, since Robin and I have sat next to each other for over 3 years, working closely on the same project during that time.

My reason for not going to the pub was that as a practising Muslim I can’t really go to a place that openly serves alcohol. By now there were several people in the office listening in to this conversation, and someone asked me (totally in jest) if I go to Pizza Hut, as they serve alcohol. Then someone else asked if I shop at Tesco, as they also sell alcohol.

Afterwards these questions that were asked during light hearted banter got me thinking seriously, as they raise some interesting points, but when you get down to it there are subtle differences in all three cases, and here’s a few of these off the top of my noggin:

  • Pizza Hut: the main point of going to a restaurant like Pizza Hut is to buy and eat food, not to drink alcohol, and not to get drunk whilst you are there. Their main source of income is food, not alcohol. Also, if you are drunk in Pizza Hut, they may ask you to leave. Likewise, if Pizza Hut stopped selling alcohol (as it does in many Muslim countries) then it would still be considered to be a restaurant.
  • Tesco: the main point of going to a supermarket like Tesco is to buy groceries, not alcohol, and as above not to get drunk whilst you are there. Again, their main source of income will be through the sale of non-alcohol related items. Likewise, you cannot openly consume alcohol in Tesco, and if you were drunk they’d probably ask you to leave. Similar to the point above, if Tesco stopped selling alcohol then they would still be considered to be a supermarket.
  • Pubs: a pub, short for ‘public house’, is defined as ‘an establishment for the sale of beer and other drinks, and sometimes also food, to be consumed on the premises’. In other words, their main source of income is alcohol. This means you have to be really drunk in a pub in order to be asked to leave. If a pub stopped selling alcohol, it would no longer be a pub.

Day to day, it is so difficult for Muslims to completely avoid alcohol in a country such as the UK, but we must try to do our best. Every little helps, as Tesco would say. This means if we can get our groceries from somewhere that doesn’t sell alcohol, then we should go there. It also means that if we can go to a restaurant that doesn’t allow alcohol, then we should eat there instead of ever feeling the need to hit the Hut. Both of these are easy to do in a place like Birmingham.

I guess I would have liked to have gone to the pub to say goodbye to my friend properly, but I am a Muslim and I do try to follow Islam as much as I can, and this is more important to me in the end. Being the decent guy that he is, this is a point that I know Robin sincerely understood.

So there you have it, a few basic points to note regarding Islam, alcohol, and friendships.

SOME QUOTES AND SOME VERY INTERESTING LINKS

Please find below the usual mix of quotes and some links to four articles that I think are very interesting in the subject matters they cover. Enjoy!


Quotes…

  • The streets are a poor kid’s PlayStation. – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
  • If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face. – Anon
  • Don’t let success go to your head, or failure go to your heart. – Anon
  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop, from the fable The Lion And The Mouse
  • A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl, from the book The Twits
  • The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others. – Dalai Lama
  • I used to wonder why God was testing me. When I understood why, I felt sorry for the people that God never tested. – Anon

Links…

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE ON HOW TO LEAD THE JUMMA PRAYER

Like many Muslims living in the UK, I work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, in an office. This makes it difficult to pray my Jumma prayer. Because of this, I have spent a lot of time developing a step-by-step guide on how to lead the Jumma prayer.

Insha-Allah, the guide is simple and quick, so that people can hopefully get back to work, which like me you are no doubt eager to do. In fact, the guide is so simple that I use it to lead the Jumma prayer at my place of work most weeks.

I have asked several people more learned than myself to look at the guide and offer their constructive criticisms, and all relevant changes have been subsequently made.

Please let me know of any changes you feel that can be made to the document to make it better. Likewise, any text in red means I am yet to find the Arabic equivalent for that text, so again your help would be appreciated, thanks in advance.

If you require info about the etiquettes of Jumma and detailed points about Jumma, then I would recommend the book ‘The Essentials Of Jumu’a’ by Ibrahim Madani, which is available in all good Islamic bookshops, as well as online.

Here is a link to the guide: Jumma Guide.pdf

10 INTERESTING QUOTES RELATED TO ISLAM

If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back. – Anon

A man once asked his father “How will I ever find the right woman?” The father replied “Forget finding the right woman, focus on being the right man.” – Anon

Gaddafi was an idiot. The man was a dictator and he only made himself a colonel. What does that tell you? In America if you put chicken in a bucket you’re a colonel. – Rich Hall, American comedian, 2011

Be grateful for the wound that pushes you towards God. – Yasmin Mogahed

If you can’t start with “Bismillah” when opening Facebook, then know that it means you should not be on Facebook, as your intentions are wrong, and that is what we will be judged by. – Dr Bilal Philips

‘Practice makes perfect…’ No it doesn’t, it makes permanent. If you practice wrong, it doesn’t make perfect. This is why you need a teacher (a shaykh). – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from Rihla 2011 in Bursa, Turkey

A man said to Wahb bin Munabah, ‘So and so spoke ill of you’, whereupon Wahb replied, ‘Did Shaytaan not find anyone better than you to deliver this news?’ – from Minhaaj Al–Qaasideen

Everything out there is becoming so specific to the nafs. For example, you don’t just have coffee anymore, where we just go out and have a cup of coffee. Now there are hundreds of types of coffee…Every nafs has to get exactly what it wants. All the nafs are turning into these individualised desire machines, where all the desires become individualised. How can people survive that?…The nafs of people are completely being bombarded…The way we are going is the diversification of the nafs, with more and more ways of fulfilling the individual desires of each nafs…There used to be a homogeneity in culture that enabled people to be together as humans. There used to be a homogeneity that enabled people to feel what Ibn Khaldun called the asabiya, the thing that holds things together, and this is one reason why we are so fragmented as people, we are becoming more and more fragmented, and people are withdrawing into their own artistic experience of life…So you now have the iPod culture, people walking around in a completely different reality to what you are in, literally, because of what they are hearing…The iPod commercial is of a shadow, the person is not even there anymore, it’s just a shadow of a person…What you are doing is you are allowing somebody to put everything into you, your thoughts are being dictated by someone else, because what you are thinking about is what’s being plugged into you, the song or whatever it is. And then there is no silence, people are losing the ability just to be silent, just to sit in silence. – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

People eat junk food that nourishes their junk minds, that results from their junk TV programs, and what is being created is a society of junk people, people who buy junk goods to fill their junk lives. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

People have become very superficial, how they view other people. So they judge you not upon your actions. They do not judge you upon what kind of character you are. Instead they judge you upon materialistic means: what car you drive, where you live, how good looking you are…A guy buys a big car and all of a sudden he has friends he never knew about. What does that say about human beings? Are you going to suck up to a person because of a piece of metal? Is this what Muslims have come down to? There was a time when people were judged upon their character. If Abu Bakr (a rich man) had judged Bilal (a slave) upon the colour of his skin and his status in society, then Abu Bakr would have never freed him. But he judged him by his khair (goodness), he judged him by his taqwa (God consciousness). And this is why when Abu Bakr saw Bilal being persecuted he went to Bilal’s owner Omaya, and he said “Oh Omaya, sell me Bilal”, and Omaya said “I will sell him to you because you corrupted him” (i.e. you influenced him to become a Muslim). And Abu Bakr asked how much, and Omaya said 10 gold coins. So Abu Bakr went home and came back with 10 gold coins and he gave them to Omaya, and Omaya began to laugh, and Abu Bakr said “Oh Omaya what is making you laugh?” and he said “I am laughing because if you had haggled with me, I would have sold Bilal to you for 1 gold coin”, and Abu Bakr replied “I swear by Allah, if you had haggled with me I would have paid 100 gold coins for Bilal”…Today we judge people by the clothes they wear. Prada shoes, Cartier watches. Is this what Muslims have come down to? If you want to judge people by their looks or by their clothes, then let me tell you that when the Prophet (SAW) left this dunya he had 11 patches on his clothes. When Abu Bakr left this dunya he had 14 patches on his clothes. – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Zahir Mahmood

Quotes and links (including an article about Mike Tyson and Islam…)

Please find below the usual collection of interesting quotes and links. Enjoy!


Quotes…

  • Lead your life so that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip. – Will Rogers
  • Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference. – Mark Twain
  • If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story. – Terry Pratchett
  • Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken? – Terry Pratchett
  • What motivates you? What makes you tick? This is what our Prophet (SAW) called niyah (intention). What is your intention? What is your niyah? What do you want when you’re doing something? What’s your intention for fasting? What is your intention for giving money? Once you begin to address the essence of your own being, you can begin to understand who you are, and that’s why self-knowledge is foundational in our religion. If you don’t know who you are, you’re certainly not going to know whose you are. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
  • If you have Allah, you have everything you desire. If you don’t have Allah, nothing you desire will make you happy. Nothing…It’ll all in the end bring you misery. Wallahi, and that’s the truth. It’s not a lie. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
  • The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it. – Terry Pratchett
  • I commend my soul to any God that can find it. – Terry Pratchett

Links…

3 VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING QUOTES ABOUT ISLAM

When the Prophet (SAW) came with this deen, one of the central components of the religion was try to humanise people, to make the already difficult circumstances of the world more tolerable. One of the central ways of doing that was to help people get outside of their egocentricity. Because not only is there a benefit for yourself when you’re less egocentric, but it is making life a lot easier for other people. So the more people do that, the better life becomes.

That’s what is so ironic about egocentricity, that it makes life miserable for everybody. And when you begin to get out of yourself and actually start thinking about other people and you get a critical mass of people doing that, then you really begin to create Paradise on earth. It’s not saying, “double shot” or “triple shot cappuccino”, it’s saying: “Can I get YOU something? Can I help you?” That’s what makes life a much more enjoyable experience, it’s not the satisfaction of the self.

The illusion of happiness is saying that if I just satisfy myself, I’ll be happy. Real happiness is actually in serving others, what in philosophy is called the Hedonistic principle. The way we are designed is that we feel good about helping other people but the nafs is there to prevent that. The nafs, shaytaan, desire and dunya are the enemies of humans and are there to prevent that.

– from a lecture by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (taken from http://habeeba-asghar.tumblr.com/)


A lesson which may be of value is a warning to Muslims against being sucked into the culture of victimhood which we often seem to revel in. I’m not a big fan of screaming ‘Islamophobia’ whenever we are criticised or attacked. I don’t find it very dignified, nor do I see much evidence of it in the example of the Prophet sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam who bore suffering with patience and fortitude, rather than burning flags, protesting and shouting slogans. We seem happy to be suckered into liberal ideas when they stick up for us minorities, only to get snookered by having to edit out the bits of our religion that they don’t like. The Qur’an is not going to change for anyone, like it or not, the Qur’an is the starkest reality facing mankind.

– from an email from a good friend of mine


One thing you will notice about all the arkān (pillars) is that they are meant to be publicly displayed or otherwise known among the believers.

The shahada must be witnessed; the fard salah ought to be performed in congregation if possible; zakat must be collected from all those of whom it is required and given to those to who are eligible for it; Ramadan is a month where the believers abstain from food while going about their lives as they otherwise would in front of everyone; the hajj is done very publicly with millions of others at the same time.

In essence, the collective performance of the pillars of Islam is what gives shape to the Muslim community. It is what truly marks the establishment of Islam in a given area amongst a certain population of Muslims.

– an Islamic scholar, as quoted in the article ‘Muslims, Muggles, and Musallahs’ by Rashid Dar