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Towards Contentment

Iqbal Ebrahim
Understanding Islam

 

Last week’s article covered the first teetering steps towards finding that very elusive thing called contentment, in our lives. It focussed on the need to first turn to our Lord and Creator in order to bring peace and contentment into our lives.


Contentment is not ‘easy’ to achieve, given, the challenging times and the circumstances that we live in. But in order to do so, we need to become more positive in our outlook so that we can gear up ourselves, our mind, thoughts and outlook to become aligned to feeding us with positivity. This in turn brings about a level of contentment of the heart and mind. It is all about patience and perseverance in times of challenge.  


"Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves……… But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil, then that will be of great resolution." (Quran 3:186)


"Seek (God's) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who are humble, who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him." (Quran 2:45-46)


From all of Allah’s creation, mankind has been blessed with something that distinguishes us from the rest of the creation on earth, that is, the power of thought and the mind.  So let us grab hold of that blessing and use it as an opportunity and a tool to transform and liberate that hidden potential of our mind, body and soul. It is all about getting our mind thinking positive thoughts because that is how positive energy flows into our lives.  


Negative thoughts have a tendency to contaminate and fill our hearts and minds with unhappiness, distress and foreboding. We have to learn how to feed our minds with more positive thoughts so that they in turn begin to heal the heart and give us the opportunity to learn forbearance, the ability to bear the challenges that life throws at us.


Allah Almighty says in the Quran: ‘On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (Qur’an 2:286). Also: ‘Be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are the patient.’ (Qur’an 8: 46).


Even the Bible says: ‘In your patience possess ye your souls.’ (Luke 21: 19) And: ‘….and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us’. (Heb. 12:1)


The journey through life is filled with ‘storms’: difficulties, challenges, trials and tribulations. These things happen to each and every one of us, but if we are to tackle these things calmly, we should use them as stepping stones towards easing them and others and to learn wisdom. With the right frame of mind we can come out of each dark tunnel better, stronger and wiser.


We have a choice as to how we respond to life’s storms. Either we can moan and groan and cast blame unto others, in the process become resentful and bitter, and lock ourselves into a downward spiral or we can be positive and turn to the Almighty Allah, our Creator.


Yes there are times in our lives when everything seems to go wrong and we go into a flap and start wondering; why me? What have I done to deserve this? Every hurdle we face in life has a meaning, we are all tested with adversity, hardship and pain, but these tribulations are the Almighty’s way of transforming us and helping us to develop spiritually. ‘Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere’ (Qur’an 2:155).


Sometimes we need heat and warmth to ripen fruit and sometimes cold is needed in certain fruit to complete their ripening process.  So exactly is the same with life sometimes we may have to undergo various conditions that may appear to be unfavourable so that we “ripen” and are ready for the onward journey. Even the best perfume is extracted from flowers, the flowers have to be crushed and the perfume extracted therefrom. Likewise we should take life’s knocks and let it bring out the best from within us.


The main ingredients for happiness in our lives; take control of your life and it will open the windows of your mind; turn to your Lord and Creator; endure with courage and never lose hope; be patient; be positive; persevere. Trust in the Lord; those who walk with God always reach their destination.    


 ‘And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions’. (Quran 16: 96). And, ‘…for Allah is with those who patiently persevere’ (Quran 2: 153).


There is a saying: ‘patience is a virtue’, how very true. It is only when problems strike that we begin to see the mettle in some of us. We become rich in experience after facing the challenges, knocks and the obstacles that life throws at us. We have to use those experiences as a learning tool so that we are able to face other challenges.


Some may remember that I have quoted this poem in an earlier article, it is called ‘Desiderata’, but I wish to repeat it because it beautifully captures the essence and the guiding principles of life that we should strive to achieve.


“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be;
and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with you soul.


With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy”.  (Max Ehrmann 1927)
 

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Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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