I AM BECAUSE WE ARE: UBUNTU AND THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

There is a hadith (a saying) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, that talks about the global Muslim community being like one body. According to one translation of the original Arabic, the hadith states that:

“The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, and fellow-feeling is that of one body: when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” (Source)

All Muslims are therefore akin to one living person. When there is pain in one part of the body of this person, the rest of the body is aware of it and feels it, to the point where it suffers from ‘sleeplessness and fever’. This philosophy, this way of thinking and being, looks beyond borders, languages, ethnicities, genders, classes, tribes, races, nations, and wealth, so much so that any one individual Muslim should see the problems of any other Muslim as their own.

I have blogged previously about living in such a compassionate and kind way, with regards to Rachel Joy Scott and Derren Brown. I have also over the years come across many different quotes that refer to this way of thinking:

  • Have compassion for everyone you meet…you do not know what wars are going on down there, where the spirit meets the bone. – lyrics from the song ‘Compassion’ by Lucinda Williams
  • Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now. – Jack Kerouac
  • Recently, in witnessing the astounding haste with which people were lashing out against one another, without so much as a moment of pause for understanding, without so much as a basic intention to reflect and respond rather than react, I lamented that the world would be much kinder if everyone believed that everyone else is doing their best, even if they fall short sometimes. – Maria Popova
  • It is never the sinner that one should hate, but only the sin; for the essence of all humanity is a soul created in submission to its Creator. Whether that soul acknowledges this on a conscious level or not is a matter of grace, and this understanding enables us to look at others with compassion. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
  • The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy. – Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
  • No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – moral of the fable The Lion And The Mouse by Aesop

Ubuntu

I recently came across an African concept that left my theological head spinning due to its simplicity and depth, a concept that reminded me of the hadith quoted above. That concept is Ubuntu. I first came across this concept when I saw the following quote somewhere on the internet:

An anthropologist proposed a game to children of an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever got there first would win all the fruit. When he told them to run they all took each other’s hands and walked together, then they all sat down together, equally enjoying the fruits. When the anthropologist asked them why they ran like that, all as one, when instead one of them could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: “Ubuntu…how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?” Ubuntu in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.” – Anon

Another hadith that comes to mind that reflects the above is:

“He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.” (Source)

Ubuntu is something that I think all Muslims and non-Muslims alike should know of, strive for, and practice with abundance in their everyday lives. For Muslims, Ubuntu is the living manifestation of the vision heralded in the hadith above. Ubuntu is not only an indelible African philosophy (you can even get t-shirts with a corresponding logo), but it’s also something that fits in perfectly with an Islamic way of life. Here are some more definitions of Ubuntu that helped me further understand this positive attitude to living:

  • Ubuntu…speaks of the very essence of being human. We say…”Hey, so-and-so has Ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”…A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We can’t be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. Indeed, my humanity is caught up in your humanity, and when your humanity is enhanced mine is enhanced as well. Likewise, when you are dehumanized, inexorably, I am dehumanized as well. As an individual, when you have Ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more Ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God’s dream. – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • [I first became aware of Ubuntu] In 1981 and 1982, when I worked in Kwandbele. In those days during apartheid, Kwandbele was a “homeland” where the government forced blacks of the Kwandbele tribe to live. I was working as a Physician there and when I went driving into the rural areas to get to the various clinics. Even though I was a white man they didn’t know, I was never seen as a symbol of white oppression in spite of the suffering these people were undergoing because of the apartheid system. Wherever we would stop along the way, people would invite me into their homes for a meal even if they had hardly anything. Whatever they had, they would offer to share with me. – Dr Frank Lipman
  • I think we all tend to get caught up with our own “dramas” which keeps us in our heads and takes up a lot of energy. When we stop focusing on ourselves and when we are sharing or being compassionate to others, we let go of a lot of unnecessary anxiety about our own dilemmas. So we often actually receive more than we give. It is a selfish thing, but if you want to feel better, helping others will probably help you as much if not more than whoever you are helping. Giving without receiving or expecting anything in return is extremely uplifting. I believe what it does physiologically to you is the opposite of the stress response, it stimulates the parasympathetic system. But also when one sees how others are living and they are happy even when they have nothing or very little materially, it often shifts one’s perspective on life and what’s important and how you feel. And often when people learn to give or start volunteering and caring for others, they in turn learn then to care for themselves as well. For many giving to others is easier than giving love to themselves, so it can help people learn self love. – Dr Frank Lipman
  • In the earliest days of the United States, this need to respect, help, and protect each other was lived out by Native Americans, as well as by many of the settlers on the frontier. Interconnectedness was essential for survival. In today’s industrialized society, however, the bonds of community have frayed. Rugged individualism rules, and people are at risk to rise or fall on their own. In such a hyper-competitive, alienated world, it is difficult for us to see the myriad ways in which we are bound together—to imagine that there could be a common good. Some of us believe that the spiritual searching of modern times stems as much from this loss of community as it does from the desire to find God. For it is often true that the path to finding God is through finding community—just as the path to finding community is through finding God. This sense of community and obligation to others has significance not only within our national borders, but beyond, for it encompasses the global human family. By acknowledging our inherent connectedness to those around the world, we take a crucial step in pursuing the global common good. – Rev Dr Bernice Powell Jackson

In other words:

If I am in pain then it is because we are in pain.

If I am happy then it is because we are happy.

I am because we are.

WORDS OF INSPIRATION FROM ROCKY BALBOA

I seem to be having a bit of a Stallone week: the Rocky movies have been on Sky Movies (again!), a few days ago I blogged about Rambo, I’ve now seen several times an advert for bread on TV starring the man himself and, finally, a close friend reminded me of some great motivational speeches from the movie Rocky Balboa (2006), the sixth and last movie in the momentous Rocky saga which began 30 years ago with the Academy Award winning Rocky (1976).
Rocky, as we all now know, is a Philadelphian who takes this miraculous one-in-a-million title shot. As a result he moves from being this down-and-out bum to being the heavyweight champ who ends up fighting wars in the ring with the likes of: Apollo Creed (twice), Clubber Lang (twice), Ivan Drago, Tommy Gunn, and finally Mason Dixon.
Rocky is not only an underdog story, but it’s also a love story. Rocky is not only a fighter, but he’s also a husband, a father, a patriot, and in Rocky IV (1985) he seems to single-handedly have brought about the demise of Communism. As one critic puts it, when talking about the first Rocky movie, “Rocky may have had a larger impact on pop culture than any other film, inspiring references in everything from movies to television, music to video games.”

Anyway, back to the speeches…there are three great speeches from the movie Rocky Balboa…

The first is Rocky talking to his brother in law Paulie about how there is a ‘beast’ still deep inside him that he needs to deal with, ‘stuff in the basement’ as he puts it. The basement/beast is mentioned on four separate occasions in the movie, all of which are transcribed below.
The second is a rousing speech he gives to the boxing commission about every person’s right to happiness.
The third is a very emotional speech he gives to his son, a kid we first saw as a baby in Rocky II in 1979, and we’ve since seen him grow up in the next four Rocky movies to be an adult who is somewhat embarrassed by his father.

Anyways, enough from me and more from the man himself. Enjoy!


Rocky: …I don’t know. There’s still some stuff in the basement.
Paulie: What basement?
Rocky: [Points to his chest] In here.
Paulie: Tell me about the stuff.
Rocky: What about it?
Paulie: Tell me about the stuff inside. Is it angry?
Rocky: Angry?
Paulie: Are you mad because Adrian left you?
Rocky: [Upset] She didn’t leave, Paulie. She died.
Paulie: [Apologetic] Okay. Okay, okay, okay.
Rocky: [Crying] You know, sometimes it’s hard to breathe. You know, I feel, like, this beast inside me.
Paulie: It’s okay, Rocko. Please, it’s okay.
Rocky: Is it okay? I just never knew it was supposed to be this hard. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Paulie. You know, it…So you wanna come by and help me train?
Paulie: I got a job here.
Rocky: I understand.
Paulie: Remember you said if you stay one place long enough…you become that place? Rocko, this is all I got.
Rocky: I understand, Paulie. I do. But if you get time and come down and see me train, I’d appreciate it.
Paulie: Of course, Rocko.
Rocky: Bye, Paulie.
Paulie: Goodbye, Rocko. Take care, Rocko.

Paulie: It takes guts climbing back in that ring, knowing you’re gonna take a beating. You’re gonna do all right, Rocko.
Rocky: How do you know that?
Paulie: The stuff in the basement.
Rocky: Thanks, Paulie.

[A few moments before the fight begins]
Paulie: Rock, I gotta talk to you. Look, I know you got a lot of stuff you gotta get out of your system. Tonight you do it. Right? Get rid of the damn beast…let it be done, once and for all. Please, I love you.

[Just after the fight has finished]
Rocky: Hey, Paulie. That beast is gone now. The beast is out.


Board: …we have to deny your request for a license at this time.
Rocky: [Starts to walk out, turns back] Yo, don’t I got some rights?
Board: What rights do you THINK you’re referring to?
Rocky: Rights, like in that official paper that they wrote down the street?
Board: That’s the Bill of Rights.
Rocky: Yeah, yeah, the Bill of Rights. Don’t it say something about going after what makes you happy?
Board: No, that’s “the pursuit of happiness.” But what’s your point?
Rocky: My point is I’m pursuing something, and nobody looks too happy about it.
Board: But we’re just looking out for YOUR interests.
Rocky: I appreciate that, but maybe you’re looking out for your interests just a little bit more. I mean you shouldn’t be asking people to come down here and pay the freight on something, they pay it, it still ain’t good enough. I mean you think that’s right? I mean maybe you’re doing your job, but why you gotta stop me from doing mine? Because if you’re willing to go through all the battling you gotta go through to get where you want to get, who’s got the right to stop you? I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really wanna do, something you never said to somebody, something! And you’re told no, even after you pay your dues. Who’s got the right to tell you that? Who? Nobody! It’s your right to listen to your gut. It ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earn the right to be what you wanna be or do what you wanna do! You know, the older I get, the more things I gotta leave behind. That’s life. The only thing I’m asking you guys to leave on the table is what’s right.


Rocky: You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here. [Taps on the inside of his hand] I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow [referring to himself]. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what, no matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life. Don’t forget to visit your mother [in the grave yard].

COMEDIAN BILL HICKS, AMERICAN SNIPER CHRIS KYLE, AND THE MOVIE RAMBO

I am a huge fan of the American stand up comedian Bill Hicks, who sadly passed away in 1994 at the insanely young age of 32. I was a teenager growing up in Glasgow in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and the raw acerbic comedy stylings of this troubled American wannabe preacher had a profoundly positive effect on my ascent into adulthood.

After seeing Hicks perform his stand up his way, I never could dream of being a movie star, a rock star, a footballer, or anything else so belittling. The dream was always to be a stand up in the same genius vein as my new idol Hicks. Even 20 years after his death, Hicks is still revered by stand ups and fans of comedy alike (see this article by fellow stand up Stewart Lee in the Guardian from last year).

Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks

In his legendary stand up show entitled Relentless (from December 1991) Hicks spoke about American soldiers in the first Gulf War (August 1990 – February 1991), how they had access to a huge arsenal of the latest military weapons, and how this gave them a colossal fighting advantage over the poorly equipped and poorly trained Iraqis. As with all great stand up comedy, there is intelligent humour entwined with basic honesty that resonates from the heart, even a heart as dark as the one that once beat in Hick’s chest. Here is the transcript of that part of the routine:


First of all, and this needs to be said, because it isn’t said enough, and in fact it was never said. There NEVER was a war. A war is when TWO armies are fighting…Right there, I think we can all agree.

Boy, Bush turned out to be a real demon, didn’t he? Remember when Bush was first President? He was the wimp President. You remember that? Cover of Newsweek: ‘WIMP President!’ Apparently, this stuck in that guy’s craw a little bit. Guy turned into a fucking demon, man.

‘We surrender!’

‘Not good enough.’

‘We run away!’

‘Too little, too late. We’re havin’ way too much fun.’

You kidding me? Those guys were in hog heaven out there, man. They had a big weapons catalogue opened up:

‘What’s G-12 do, Tommy?’

‘Says here it destroys everything but the fillings in their teeth. Helps us pay for the war effort.’

‘Well, shit, pull that one up!’

‘Pull up G-12, please…’

[Sound of a missile launching, he watches the missile heading off into the distance, several beats go by, then the sound of an explosion]

‘…Cool. What’s G-13 do?’

Yeah, everyone got boners over the technology. And it was pretty amazing, you gotta admit, watching a missile fly down an air vent. Pretty unbelievable.

– Bill Hicks


American Sniper book cover

American Sniper, the book

Fast forward to just over 20 years later and I find myself reading the book American Sniper: The Autobiography Of The Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. History by Chris Kyle (with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen). I have blogged previously about the controversy surrounding the movie American Sniper, with Bradley Cooper playing the part of Chris Kyle.

About halfway through the book (pages 238-239 of the paperback edition, to be precise) there is a passage which immediately made me think of the Hicks routine above. Whilst Hicks may have said what he said with a certain amount of jest, what Kyle says is said with nothing but brute force actuality. It made me shudder a little to think that soldiers out in the field of battle were indeed in “hog heaven”.

Rambo

Rambo (2008)

In the movie Rambo (2008) John Rambo, played so iconically by Sylvester Stallone, says “When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing”. What the passage below seems to show is that when you’re bored, killing more and more is as easy breathing. The weapons used and the manner in which they are used seem more important than the people being killed by those weapons.

Perhaps it is easy for me to say what I am saying because “You weren’t there, man, you weren’t there.” I don’t know. Anyways, here is the passage by Kyle (‘Viet Ram’ is the nick name given to the Iraqi city of Ramadi):


When you’re in a profession where your job is to kill people, you start getting creative about doing it.

You think about getting the most firepower you possibly can into the battle. And you start trying to think of new and inventive ways to eliminate your enemy.

We had so many targets out in Viet Ram we started asking ourselves, what weapons have we not used to kill them?

No pistol kill yet? You have to get at least one.

We’d use different weapons for the experience, to learn the weapon’s capabilities in combat. But at times it was a game—when you’re in a firefight every day, you start looking for a little variety. No matter what, there were plenty of insurgents, and plenty of firefights.

– Chris Kyle

FROM THE SUBLIME LADY KHADIJA TO A RIDICULOUS JINN CALLED HABIBI

Since there are some 2 billion Muslims on this rock we call earth, you can no doubt expect to come across all sorts of weird and wonderful stories about Islam and Muslims. I came across two such rather contrasting articles recently that say a-plenty about the current state of Muslims.

One article is about ‘jinn’, other-worldly creatures which we Muslims seem to be obsessed about. Ask any Muslim about jinn, and they will regale you with their many jinn related anecdotes, most of which are at best exaggerated misunderstandings, and at worst downright lies told in order to make the tale teller seem more interesting and knowledgeable about their religion.

This article is an indication of the sometimes ridiculous nature of Muslim life, where we believe (or perhaps want to believe) in stories that are clearly nonsensical. Yes, the story may be true, but let’s face it, it probably very likely is not. Stories like these quite honestly make us Muslims look backward and rather medieval.

Jinn do exist, but not to the extent that many Muslims would have you believe (a point made by the Islamic scholar Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq in his talk entitled ‘Horror And Superstition’).

The other article sits at the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum. This one is about Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The article is written by a brilliant writer called Yasmina Blackburn, whose writings I highly recommend (for example, please read her article about how we define ourselves and others using labels).

Both articles are presented below. Enjoy!


7 Remarkable Things About Khadija, Wife of the Prophet of Islam

21 Apr 2015 – Yasmina BlackburnHuffington Post

I often get into debates with people about women in Islam. How we dress. How we don’t dress. What we think or don’t think or should-be-thinking. I get into debates about feminism. What it is and what it isn’t. I think I’ve spawned permanent foes because I don’t care to apply the label, feminist, to describe myself. (I’m not one for labels, sorry. But if it’s even required of me, “Muslim woman” suits me just fine.) But if we could agree for a moment that there exists a pure definition of the word feminist to mean: awesomely fierce to the millionth degree, then I’d like to introduce you to Islam’s first feminist.

Her name is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. She was the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him.) And she is one of the people that I think about when I face or debate issues surrounding women today. Khadija’s existence precedes mine by more than 1,400 years; and, if I can at the very least, continuously strive to emulate her character, I will consider myself a success in life.

7 things you might not know about the awesomely fierce, Khadija (may God be pleased with her):

1. She was a successful and esteemed business woman.

I would give anything to do an on-the-job, ride-along with Khadija. Gladly swipe my car for a camel- my laptop for a government-issued glass weight to measure goods in trade. What could I learn in one day of shadowing this highly-respected business leader, trading furniture, pottery and silks? Khadija was born to a father who was a successful merchant in their Quraysh tribe of Mecca. She inherited her father’s skills in a time in history where society was male-dominated and dangerous. Upon her father’s death, she took over the business and traded goods through the primary commerce centers at that time, from Mecca to Syria and to Yemen, hiring the most trustworthy men of character to brave the dangerous trade routes. Her business was larger than all of the Quraysh trades combined and the most acclaimed with a reputation of fair-dealing and high-quality goods. She had a keen eye and was highly intuitive, earning the monikers, Ameerat-Quraysh (“Princess of Quraysh”) and al-Tahira (“The Pure One”) due to her stellar reputation. Khadija knew what she was doing business-wise, never compromising her modesty or integrity to succeed in the male-dominated trades- hiring only those that could meet these standards. Glass ceiling? Hah! 1,400 years ago, yes, Khadija shattered it.

2. She turned down many marriage proposals.

Being the most successful woman around, rich in worldly attainment as well as character, it seems Khadija faced a consistent campaign of men seeking her hand in marriage. She was married twice before her wedlock to the Prophet; both of these marriages produced children and both left her widowed. Her keen sense of character left her picky; and, she was less than eager to suffer another painful loss of a husband. She resigned herself to being a widowed woman taking care of herself and her family. Until …

3. She asked the Prophet to marry her.

Love comes when you aren’t looking, or so I have heard. (And experienced.) Khadija learned of the stellar character of Muhammad as well as his experience managing caravans on the trade routes accompanying his uncle, Abu Talib. She hired him into her conglomerate. Marriages at this time were typically necessary for survival and not always about love as we know it in today’s world. Khadija didn’t need a husband to take care of her financially. And Muhammad did not have the means to seek a wife. She fell in love with him, and through a friend, asked him to marry her. (He said yes.)

4. She was 15 years older than Muhammad.

If Khadija’s story hasn’t broken stereotypes about Islam yet, it might intrigue you to know that she was 40 years old when she married Muhammad. He was 25.

5. She was an ideal wife; theirs was a true love story.

“Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187)

Taking multiple wives was a common practice, yet Khadija and Muhammad’s marriage was monogamous until her death 25 years later. Muhammad’s prophethood began during his marriage to Khadija, when he received the first of God’s revelations through the Angel Gabriel that left him frightened, strained and feeling alone when no one believed in him. Khadija comforted her husband and encouraged him during the most difficult days of his life. She bore him 6 children. He loved no one more than Khadija during his lifetime.

6. She was the first Muslim.

Khadija, the mother of Islam, was the first person on earth to accept Muhammad as the final prophet of God and accept the revelations that culminated into the Holy Qur’an. She was greeted with “Salam” (peace) by God himself as well as the Angel Gabriel. She bequeathed her worldly goods and put herself in the face of danger to stand by the Prophet Muhammad as Islam became established in the land.

7. She spent her worldly riches on the poor.

In Islam, whether rich or poor, one’s financial condition is a test. Khadija gave her earnings to the poor and to the orphans, to the widows and the sick. She helped poor girls get married and provided their dowry.

Khadija was one of history’s most remarkable women. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said that the four greatest women of mankind were: Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad (his youngest daughter,) Mary bint Emran (the Virgin Mary) and Asiya bint Muzahim (the wife of Pharaoh.) Khadija continues to inspire people to this day who revere her for taking great care of the Prophet of Islam and for showing the world, through her behavior, what a pious, modest and courageous woman can accomplish. The example she left for mankind remains timeless.


Jinn Computer

‘Jinn converts to Islam on Twitter’

22 Apr 2015 – Arab News

A man claiming to be a spiritual healer has announced that he converted a jinn to Islam on Twitter, according to a report in a local newspaper recently.

The man who uses ruqya, the reciting of Qur’anic verses to heal people, published the supposed conversation he had with the jinn on his Twitter account, which has 16,000 followers.

Jinns are creatures with free will created from smokeless fire by God alongside humans and angels, according to Islamic belief.

According to the post, the jinn said: “I am the jinn Habibi. I announce my conversion to Islam at the hands of the sheikh. I testify that there is only one God and Muhammad is the messenger of God. The sheikh was good and helped me to convert.”

Several people on Twitter have accused the man of fabricating the conversation. It was more like a joke because he wanted people to believe that jinns can have Twitter accounts, one person said.

Some experts in Islamic law said that these self-proclaimed healers are using a noble practice to make money, and that they do not realize the magnitude of their responsibility to society.

A researcher in Islamic law said that these so-called healers often diagnose people incorrectly because they have little knowledge of their complaints and background.

Recently Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has slammed people for using the practice to exploit people and make money. He said the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice plans to set up a committee to regulate the work of these healers.

BARNABY ROGERSON ON THE WET NURSE OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb (more commonly known as Halimah Saadia) was an Arabic Bedouin woman who became a wet nurse for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for the first two years of his life, as was custom at the time in the deserts of Arabia. Because of her, the name Halimah is now very popular in the Muslim world.

Below is an extract from the book The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography by Barnaby Rogerson (Chapter 3 – From Boy Shepherd To The Caravans Of Old Arabia) that describes the time Halimah went to Mecca to find a child to foster.

PS I have quoted previously from this book, in a blog post entitled ‘Hero of heroes‘.

Arabs Desert


It is market day in Mecca in AD 570. A party of Bedouin from the Beni Saad (literally, ‘the sons of Saad’) clan of the Hawazin tribe have come into the city from their customary grazing lands, a nine-day ride away. The women have left their husbands at the stock market and are enjoying themselves as they work their way around the streets of Mecca; they form a noisy, boisterous train, all mounted on donkeys, part heckling, part charming their way around the doorways of the noble households of the Quraysh. They are asking the women of the house if there are any newborn children who require a wet nurse, for fostering the children of the comparatively wealthy Quraysh is one of the ways in which these women can earn a little extra. No money changes hands, though it is acknowledged that they will receive a handsome gift when they deliver the child back to his Meccan home, which thereafter will also be obliged to provide hospitality to old foster mothers passing through Mecca for the market. One by one the Bedouin wives pick up an extra charge, until only one of them, Halimah, is left without a foster child. On the grapevine they have already heard that there is a young Quraysh wife who needs a wet nurse for her newborn son, Muhammad. But that same grapevine also warns the Bedouin that the father of the child is dead. They fear that the reward from a young widow may not be worth the extra work involved. Halimah hesitates. Should she approach the widow or should she not? She returns to the marketplace and asks her husband for advice. He is in a good mood and gives his approval, saying: ‘Perhaps he will be a blessing to us.’

Thus was the young Muhammad passed from his mother to the care of a Bedouin woman. Halimah and her husband rejoin their kinsfolk in time to pick up with the long cavalcade of the Beni Saad as they trot out of Mecca on the north-eastern road.

THE BRILLIANT DYLAN MORAN ON BELIEF, SCIENCE, POLITICS, AND FRUIT CAMERAS

I am always interested in what others have to say about religion and belief, or the lack thereof. Some of the more interesting thoughts on this subject come from stand-up comedians such as Dylan Moran.

Dylan Moran is an Irish stand-up who is regarded as one of the best in his field and, in my opinion, he definitely is. His stand-up style is laid back, sharp satire, with sprinklings of surrealism.

In his stand-up shows he has spoken on occasions about the concept of belief in modern society: in his show Yeah, Yeah he talks about the decline of belief in relation to science, whilst in another show, What It Is, he talks about religion and politics. As always with Dylan Moran, he talks about these topics with intelligence and a slightly dark sense of humour. Both routines are transcribed below.

I particularly agree with the premise that “everything’s a camera nowadays”, something that I have blogged about previously.

Anyways, enjoy!


[This particular routine starts at 44 minutes and 45 seconds]

What does anyone think or believe any more? Belief itself is treated with disgust. Belief is now regarded as a kind of fat marbling the brain. Who here believes in organised religion?

[MAN FROM AUDINECE SHOUTS “NO!” A FEW AUDIENCE MEMBERS CLAP]

Who doesn’t?

[AUDIENCE CHEERS LOUDLY]

You see? People in the West don’t believe in anything! And we’re proud of it!

“What do you believe in?…NOTHING! NOTHING!…What did you have for lunch?…I don’t fucking believe you!”

We don’t believe in anything. We treat religion with contempt. Faith, all that rubbish! What are you, a child? Believing in this, you do good and then, you know, you die and then you get a biscuit?! What are you, a fucking idiot?…What’s wrong with you?

We don’t believe in anything, because we know about science! Believe in science! That’s the only thing we know about! The atoms and quarks and things. We don’t understand it! Any of it! But…But that’s the case. So, that’s totally different to having a faith, isn’t it?

You know, they’ve mapped out 5% of the universe? 5%! I mean, in any other job description that would be pretty poor, wouldn’t it?

“Have you built that wall in my garden?”

“Oh, I’ve done 5%.”

“You can fuck off!” [AUDIENCE LAUGHING]

…I don’t believe in God! Of course I don’t. Or religion. I go along with science like everybody else. But I don’t understand any of it. So I have to rely on television programmes to explain it to me. You know, things like Brian Cox, Dr Good-looking. A lot of women became very interested in the universe recently, I noticed. People will be talking and they’ll go, “Shut up! The Universe is on! Shut the fuck up! It’s the Universe! Very important. You need to know this stuff.” Because he would come on and go [MOCKING BRIAN COX IN FALSETTO]:

“Hello, um…”

…He’s from one of those places…

“…Look! Look at the nebula! Look, isn’t it beautiful? It’s made up of millions and millions of years of things you don’t understand. The white light comes out of the dark matter and goes into the green lounge area. It’s beautiful!”

And all the women who are watching this are going “It is, yeah, it’s lovely! Walk around some more, pretty boy. Go on! Go back up the mountain. I like that bit. [WOMAN SPEAKING TO HER PARTNER] Why can’t you be back-lit like him?”

And he talks in metaphors, which is no use to you if you don’t understand the thing in the first place! [MOCKING BRIAN COX IN FLASETTO AGAIN]:

“Imagine your head is frozen sodium phapibibate. And your feet are planets. When you sit down, you are going to see a lot of moons in your armpits!”

What the fuck are you talking about now?! Anybody who has totally given up on the idea of God and the Devil has never been properly kissed or flown on Ryanair with a hangover. [AUDIENCE CHEERING] You can have God, but you’ve got to leave the Devil to explain a few things.

 – Dylan Moran, from his stand-up show Yeah Yeah


It’s absolutely true about, you know, people needing to believe in things. And it’s a scary thing when you start to believe in politicians. You can’t trust them, you see, but we need to believe something, and you’re not allowed to believe in religion…Well, you can, but people will laugh at you and throw things.

Because it was just sort of decided in the 20th century that religion is basically a formalized panic about death. That’s all…I mean, look at the Catholic church, the campest organization on the planet with the purple robes, gold bits on the side, jewellery so big if they let it fall it would kill people…What else can it be, but this sort of ritual of panic about death?

“DEATH IS COMING! Quick, put on the gold hat!”

You see, people never really grow up. I don’t mind most religious people, I talk to them, you know. I listen to them, you know, banging on.

“I prayed very hard and then the fairy came.”

“Did he? Good. Have a biscuit.”

I only get annoyed when they try and make me see the fairy.

“You have to let the fairy into your heart.”

Look, I wouldn’t let him into my garden, okay? I’d shoot him on sight, if he existed, which he doesn’t. Now have another biccie and be quiet, will you please?

But you can absolutely understand the desire to believe in something, to support you, you know. I mean, children like to be supervised by adults, you know. That’s why children go “Look, no hands” or “Look, I can do this” or “Look, I’m really good at this…”, whatever it is. Because it validates them, it shows them that they are there, that somebody else is watching over them. Grown-ups are the same, not that there is any such thing as a grown-up, really. They liked to be watched by something. You know…Because the planet’s not going to miss us, when we’ve finished fucking it up and killing each other. So we needed the idea of God to have somebody to miss us, or at least notice that we weren’t there anymore, because we’ve all died out because we’ve fucked it up. And God will go “Look, they’re not there. The lizards are doing quite well though, good on them.”

But we’re sort of gradually growing out of that now, you know. I passed a church a couple of days ago and I saw one of those signs you see outside of churches and it said “Jesus said: I am the light of the world”. Which is a very male view, you know, if Jesus had been Jesusina it would’ve been more modest. You know because it’s a women, traditionally she would’ve have to be more modest. Jesusina would’ve gone: “Well I’m quite bright”.

And because, you know, you have dreams, and they need to go somewhere, so they go into belief. And thus we get very extreme people, obviously, in any religion. But with suicide bombers, one of the things I don’t understand is what’s in it for the women suicide bombers? With the men, you know, there is a very male kind of promise at the end of it, there’s 72 virgins. A man I think thought of that. But I bet you what the women are offered is much more modest, probably you know, flexible working hours and decent child care at the end, or something like that.

But, anyway, look, so people don’t believe in religion anymore. What do they believe in? You can’t go into politics, you can’t…look at them…look at Vladimir Putin, he cultivates the idea of being a gangster, he just loves it. How can you trust anybody who looks like they’ve been cloned from a dead shark?

Or Berlusconi, in Italy, right; the envy of the world, Italy, in terms of history, art and culture, 98 different political parties, and they still managed to elect him! He’s so fucking crooked he sleeps on a spiral staircase! So thoroughly corrupt, every time he smiles an angel gets gonorrhoea! He’s had so many face-lifts, his face has moved to the top of his head, you have to get on a step-ladder to watch him lie! You can’t trust any of them.

And we all think that we’re very rational and very secular, but we make gods all the time. Everybody went ape shit when Barack Obama got elected. I was delighted. Everybody was thrilled: a sane, rational, intelligent human being in an important office. Great! But his biggest problem is everybody else! Is us! Because everybody’s in love with him! He stands up there, he’s very convincing and commanding and makes sense, he says: “It’s a difficult time, everyone needs to work together and be realistic about what we need to do…”, and all that stuff, and everybody’s looking at him going: “NO! You do it! You are SUPER JESUS. You’re so handsome when you’re serious. Do you work out?”

And, er…where else can you go? I mean, you know, people talk about technology and science all the time, but that’s bollocks. You know, people come in here with their fucking camera phones, everything’s a camera nowadays; you pick up a piece of fruit it takes a picture of you. Or the computers, which are everywhere, which is proof that we like to be watched. That’s what we’ve replaced God with, technology! We’re fucking afraid to be alone, in a lift, in a taxi cab, we need cameras everywhere recording us unless we realise we’re alone, we might do something scary…like whimper. I don’t know!

The laptop I have, all it does is tell me to fuck off in 400 different ways. I don’t understand it. You open it up and it goes “Bazing! What’s the magic word?” I don’t know, that’s why I got you, I have no memory. Don’t go fucking “Bazing!” anyway, why can’t you be more like me when I open you up, you should go “Bleurgh! What?!”

And science…is a joke. Look at the scientific explanation for the origin of life as we know it. There is a major flaw, I mean there’s no wonder we have creationists, you know, those people, God love them, who tell their children that, you know, originally we all went to school with dinosaurs, or whatever it is that they tell them. But no wonder they exist, because listen to the explanation for the origin of life itself, it doesn’t sound very scientific:

“There was a big BANG! And then we all came from monkeys.”

“What? That’s it?”

“Yeah, shop’s closed, fuck off!”

I need more than that! There must be more than:

BANG!

[MAKES MONEKY SOUNDS] “Ah-hah-ha”

“Honey, I’m home!”

Come on! It’s such a boring theory, anyway! It’s much more interesting if you reverse the order.

 – Dylan Moran, from his stand-up show What It Is

QUOTES FROM ‘THE GREATEST OF ALL TIMES’ MUHAMMAD ALI

Ali Superman

The Louisville Lip. The Greatest. The People’s Champion. Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior. Cassius X. Call him what you may, Muhammad Ali is arguably the most recognised human being on planet earth, which is not bad considering the current world population is over 7.3 billion.

Much has been said about the great man, and much has indeed been said by the man himself. Whilst previously I have posted a quote from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf about Muhammad Ali, below are some of my favourite quotes from the mouth of the Louisville Lip himself. Enjoy!

PS For true fans, you may also be interested in an article called 10 Things You May Not Know About Muhammad Ali.

Ali News

  • Everything I do now, I do to please Allah. I conquered the world, and it didn’t bring me happiness. The only true satisfaction comes from honouring and worshipping God. Time passes quick; this life is short. I see my daughter Maryum. Yesterday she was a baby. Now she’s grown and ready to get married. My hair is grey…God doesn’t allow you to go back and live your life over again. But the older you get, the wiser you get; and in the time I got left, I’m living right. Every day is a judgement for me. Every night when I go to bed, I ask myself, ‘If God were to judge me just on what I did today, would I go to heaven or hell?’ Being a true Muslim is the most important thing in the world to me. It means more to me than being black or being American. I can’t save other people’s souls; only God can do that. But I can try to save mine.
  • I am a Muslim. I am an American. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam does not promote terrorism or the killing of people. I cannot sit by and let the world think that Islam is a killing religion. It hurts me to see what radical people are doing in the name of Islam. These radicals are doing things that God is against. Muslims do not believe in violence. If the culprits are Muslim, they have twisted the teachings of Islam…God is not behind assassins. – Sep 2002, The Louisville Courier Journal
  • I don’t smoke but I keep a match box in my pocket. When my heart slips towards sin, I burn a match stick and heat my palm with it. Then I say to myself: “Ali, you can’t bear this heat, then how would you bear the unbearable heat of hell?”
  • I have found that most people get pleasure out of knowing that they have something that other people don’t. When we follow the rule of God and religion, it teaches that we should want for our brother what we want for ourselves. I’m not happy driving a Rolls-Royce and living up on a hill when I know that my brothers and sisters are hungry in a soup line. I’m the world champion, but I don’t feel I’m any different from a fan. I’ll still walk in the ghettos, answer questions, and kiss babies. I’ll never forget my people.
  • I repeat, ‘My prayers, my sacrifices, my life, and my death are all for Allah.’ So this is what I sincerely believe. I’ve held my faith over the years…I’ve turned down 8 million dollars in movie contracts, recordings, promotions and advertisements because of my faith. – as quoted on a WKCRFM Radio Broadcast
  • I was a very devout Catholic until my freshman year. But then I began to question my religion. I started to study Islam…The main thing was the fact that in Islam there is only one God and there are no other Gods. And once I’d started thinking about it, I realised that God is too powerful to have had a son and been here in human form. Jesus was a great prophet, but there’s only one God. He is worthy of our worship, and no other God is worthy of that. – Lonnie Ali, wife of Muhammad Ali
  • I’m a Muslim. I’ve been a Muslim for 20 years…You know me. I’m a boxer. I’ve been called the greatest. People recognize me for being a boxer and a man of truth. I wouldn’t be here representing Islam if it were terrorist…I think all people should know the truth, come to recognize the truth. Islam is peace. – speaking on September 21, 2001 at a fundraiser for victims of the WTC and Pentagon attacks.
  • If you got one ounce of pride, you can’t enter the hereafter. So I got to be careful, because it’s easy for me to be proud being who I am.
  • It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
  • It’s hard not to be tempted by women, unless you got somethin’ like I got, somethin’ holy. Haven’t messed around with women in almost five years…The last time, a brother in Saudi Arabia caught me with a woman. Asked, ‘Would you do that in front of your mother?’ I told him, ‘No.’ He pointed at me and said, ‘You’re doin’ it in front of Allah.’ Maaann, that’s heavy. Powerful. He scared me. That’s when I really began to get serious about livin’ for God. – as quoted in the book The Tao Of Muhammad Ali by Davis Miller
  • Most people don’t pray until they’re in trouble. When people need help they pray a lot. But after they get what they want, they slow down. If a man takes five showers a day, his body will be clean. Praying five times a day helps me clean my mind.
  • My father taught me not to idolise the material aspects of this world, but rather to appreciate the more essential qualities that life has to offer. He taught me that physical beauty and wealth were not among these aspects. He taught me to put my heart and soul into what was important and never to praise or rely on anything that could fade, be lost, or taken away…He showed me that wise words spoken hold little weight in comparison to those portrayed through action. He lived in dedication to his beliefs, and through the roughest of times, they never faded, wavered, or perished. – Hana Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali
  • My health is in the hands of Allah, who has ways of testing us. Whatever happens, happens. I ain’t the greatest, it’s Allah. I gave myself a job. I work for God. – as quoted in Time magazine
  • Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.
  • Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
  • Sometimes I think too many people put me on a pedestal before and made me into an idol. And that’s against Islam; there are no idols in Islam. So maybe this problem that I have [Parkinson’s Syndrome] is God’s way of reminding me and everybody else about what’s important. I accept it as God’s will. And I know that God never gives anyone a burden that’s too heavy for them to carry.
  • The day I met Islam, I found a power within myself that no man could destroy or take away. When I first walked into the mosque, I didn’t find Islam…it found me.
  • To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way you will be truly rich.

Ali Praying

THE RECIPE FOR LIFE

Take a few cups of love,

One teaspoon of patience,

One tablespoon of generosity,

One pint of laughter,

One quart of intelligence,

One sprinkle of concern,

And then mix willingness, and add lots of faith.

Mix it all up.

Spread it over the span of a lifetime,

And serve it to each and every deserving person you meet.

Muhammad Ali