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THE NEW YEAR – TIME FOR CHANGE

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


Welcome back to a new year which we pray will bring with it much joy, happiness, peace and goodwill to all mankind. But more importantly bring us closer to our Lord and Creator.

With the holiday break ‘over’ we now face the beginning of a new year with hopes, wishes and ambitions for a better year than the one we just left. But regrettably some will return over exhausted because they went OVER the limits in almost everything, and are left feeling over sorry for themselves. Unfortunately there is one hang ‘over’ that has followed them into 2016 because they may have ‘overindulged in food and booze, ‘over’ spent, ‘over’ exerted, went overboard in everything and now face reality.

There are some of us who will be looking forward to this New Year with positivity, excitement, renewed energy, and hope for a better life, hoping that the New Year will bring peace, happiness and most of all a change in our lives, our hearts, minds and souls. But on the other hand there will be some who will look upon it with great apprehension, anxiety and unease, filled with all sorts of negative thoughts.

It has become customary for some of us to make resolutions for the New Year that cover a whole list of lifestyle changes and other worldly issues – regrettably in a few weeks we will have forgotten most of them and relegated them to the bottom drawer.

Maybe this year we should make resolutions that will help us bring about positive changes into our style of life, our outlook and the manner in which we conduct our daily lives. This will assist us in bringing about inner changes that can lead us to a spiritual awakening.

Let us take a step back away from our “busy-ness” and take stock of our lives. I am not talking of our earthly pursuits but of reassessing, taking control of our lives so as to bring about positive changes into our style of life, our behaviour, our outlook and the manner in which we conduct our daily lives. Let’s look at a spiritual reawakening from within by learning to master our mind, body and soul so that we return to those fundamental values that are part of our upbringing, our religious beliefs, and human character. We must liberate ourselves from being slaves of this material world so that we attune ourselves to connect with our Creator.       

“Verily never will Allah change the condition of people until they change it themselves with their own souls” (Qur’an 13:11). Similarly “Allah will never change the Grace which He bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own souls” (Qur’an 8:53)

Change has to be from within, it is only when we can love ourselves will we be able to love others; we can touch the hearts of others only once we have opened our own hearts. If we can’t care for ourselves, how can we care about others? If we don’t feel good, how can we do good? If we don’t trust ourselves, how can we trust others? If we are incapable of finding peace within ourselves, it is pointless to search elsewhere. Believe it or not but a change of heart can change everything.

If we carry resentment within ourselves, it can translate into negative energy that contaminates our personalities, leading to a vicious circle unhappiness and pain. We need to break that cycle – and the only way is through Spiritual Awakening.

This reawakening cannot be an overnight change, but a conscious daily effort to make small changes so that we are not overwhelmed by it all. If we consciously follow any one of the seven suggestions below, one for each day of the week, and start all over again, we will see a definite change in our character before long. For a Muslim these resolutions are not only made for the New Year but for every day of their entire life. Come to think of it, if you look at the suggestions, they transcend all religious barriers and can be applicable to all faiths.        

This year I will seek to be closer to my Lord, remember Him with Prayer, pray in the best manner I can, seek His forgiveness, follow His way. “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest”(Quran  13:28)

This year I will be grateful and thankful to the Lord for all the Blessings that He has Bestowed upon me. “And if you count the graces of Allah never could you be able to count them” (Quran 16:18) “So hold that which I have given you and be grateful”(Quran 7.144)

This year I will strive to walk in the path of righteousness, plant goodness in my heart to get rid of pride, jealousy, hatred and hypocrisy. “Let not your hatred of others make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice” (Quran 5:8). “If any one does a righteous deed. It is to the benefit of his soul; if he does evil it works against his own soul”. (Quran 45:15)

This year I will try to control my temper, I will try to refrain from vain talk, foul language and obscenities. I will try not to backbite. “Woe to every kind of scandalmonger and backbiter (Quran 104:1) “….For Allah does not love the arrogant and vainglorious” (Quran 4:36)

This year I will treat people with respect, be kind to them, smile at them, talk to them in a respectful manner. “Then he will be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, constancy and self-restraint and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion” (Quran 90:17) “ Treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need, speak fair to  people……(Quran 2:83)

This year I will try to help others, to visit the sick, to feed a hungry person and I will be merciful to the elderly and needy. “And do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers, the wayfarer….”(Quran 4:36)

This year I will try to tone down my behaviour, and ensuring that I am moderate in my walk, talk and actions. “And swell not your cheek with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth, be moderate in your pace, and lower your voice, for the harshest sounds without doubt is the braying of an ass” (Qur’an 31: 18-19)

The New Year is set before us like an unwritten volume-all its pages blank. Let us write upon each day’s page things that at the end of the year we will look upon with rejoicing rather than regret. Life is like a Book. Some chapters are sad, some are happy and some are exciting, but if you never turn the page, you will never know what the next chapter has in store for you – so turn a page today.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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