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The Fire Within

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

We may not like to admit it but we all have a fire smouldering deep within us and it is called “jealousy”. This fire is the major cause of suspicions, malice, enmity and hatred in our lives. It often leads to gossip, slander and character assassination, breaking of friendships and in many cases even wishing bad things to happen to those we envy.

All our religious foundations and upbringing teach us not to fall into the trap of envying others. But alas we are human and we all have those feelings within us at one time or the other. ‘Do not covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others’ (Quran 4:32)

The Bible says: For we were also sometimes foolish… living in malice, and envy, hateful, and hating one another… (Titus 3:3)


Jealousy is as old as the humanity and I will highlight two stories mentioned in both the Quran and the Bible. We may remember the story of the two sons of Adam (pbuh) who are mentioned to have committed the first sin on earth when the son of Adam (pbuh), Qabil (Cain) became jealous over his brother Habil (Abel). It eventually led him to kill his brother Habil.  ‘The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones’. (Quran 5:30)

Biblical reference: ‘Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him’ (Gen 4:8)

Another is the story of Yusuf (Joseph) which is familiar to many of us; his brothers were jealous of him, because they felt that their father showed more love for him than of them. They plotted and planned against him and threw him into a well. As a result of which the whole story developed, as reported in both the Quran and the Bible, but by the end of the story, it was the brothers who were shameful of their act and had to seek forgiveness from their brother Yusuf (Joseph).

The message is clear, we should refrain from any emotions that incline towards or encourage jealousy. Both the Quran and Bible capture this hatred.


Jealousy occurs when we see another person bestowed with some blessings or bounty and we get envious of them and sometimes desire that the person should be deprived of it. For instance, at times when we see someone who is successful, has more wealth and possessions, beauty, intelligence or any other such bounty, it ignites that ‘fire’ which begins to ‘burn’ within our heart over what that person has been blessed with.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) warned against envy by comparing it to fire that completely burns the wood. He said: “Beware of Hasad (jealousy), it destroys one’s good deeds just as fire consumes wood.”

We can become so miserable through jealousy that we wish that the blessing be somehow snatched away from that person. Jealousy and envy are among the most destructive emotions which man may develop toward his fellow human being so much so that a person will wish evil on others and will be happy when misfortune befalls them.

To desire that somebody be deprived of the blessings which the Almighty Allah has bestowed upon him is almost tantamount to us objecting to or challenging the will of Allah. Our jealous nature is actually objecting against the Almighty, that the person who was granted that blessing was not deserving of it, so why was it given to him?


The Almighty Allah says in the Quran: "Allah favoured some of you over others with wealth and properties… Do they deny the favours of Allah?" (Quran 16: 71) And: "Do they envy men for what Allah has given them of His Bounty?" (Quran 4: 54). And:  ‘…It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood in this world, and We raised some of them above others in ranks… (Quran, 43:32)


The sin is thus evident, we are questioning our Lord. So who are we to challenge the wishes of our Lord and Creator?

Jealousy does not only destroy our chances for the Hereafter. The immediate effect in this world is that the jealous person is constantly ‘burning” from within. He simply cannot see the next person successful or happy, hence he is always miserable.

Happiness remains far away from him. Jealousy tends to destroy our happiness in this world and our rewards in the hereafter, yet we gain nothing in return but inner hurt. Desiring evil on others in the process only brings destruction to oneself.


Having realised that your jealousy is a serious disease, one should treat this malady with utmost urgency. Among the ways of removing jealousy from the heart are the following: When the pangs of jealousy rear their ugly head in us, we should turn to our Creator as the Quran directs: The Almighty Allah instructs: "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn… from the evil of the envious when he envies." (Quran 113: 5)

Count your Blessings; you are alive, you can see, you can walk, you can talk, you have health and many other such daily blessings that we take for granted. What about the people who do not have any one of the blessings mentioned above?

Think about the harm you are doing to yourself and the foolishness of your action. The only thing that we will achieve is misery. Our evil desires are not going to change anything except to make us burn from within and to destroy our good deeds. In order to discourage envy, the Prophet (pbuh) said:” Do not look to those above you. Look to those below you, as it will more likely remind you of Allah’s favours bestowed on you.”

By adopting a positive attitude and being thankful for our daily blessings the terrible evil of jealousy will be slowly be cleansed from one’s heart. One will also find happiness in this world and one’s good deeds will not be destroyed.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Envy is permitted only in two cases: A man whom Allah gives wealth, and he uses of it rightfully, and a man to whom Allah gives knowledge which he applies and teaches it.''

Here is a short story that carries an important message:


An old man told his grandson “My son there is a big battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy and greed, inferiority, lies and ego.


The other is Good, It is joy peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.”


The boy thought about it and asked “Grandpa, which wolf wins?”


The Grandfather quietly replied, “The one you feed”

So the message is that we should avoid feeding our hearts and minds with negativity and thoughts of jealousy as these are very mentally debilitating.
 

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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