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Perfection in an Imperfect World

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

We live in a world where everyone grows up thinking that the world is a perfect place. Most of us have goodness in our hearts, and we think that goodness is in everything. In our idealism and innocence, we think that there is fairness, everybody is fair to each other, and if anyone is wronged, justice will be served. In this fairy-tale world of ours, people are happy for each other, and if someone else has more than you, you will be happy for him because Allah has Blessed him and you’re happy with His decision. It is only later we get a rude awakening and we begin to realize how wrong we are.

Look around you and you will see that there is so much deceit, envy, hatred, unfairness and evil in the world because we are overlooking a fundamental truth about this life. In our idealism, we fail to see and understand that this world is imperfect, and our goodness too, is imperfect.

‘Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves with their own souls’ (Quran 13: 11)

Humans are inherently imperfect. We are prone to mess things up, knowingly or unknowingly. Many times in those mess-ups, we inevitably hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally.

The world is seen differently by each one of us, and the goodness of one may be harm for the next. We are but human and no one is perfect, hence we should try to live a life that is in congruence with the command, guidance and teachings of our Creator that have been sent to us. But there is hope, in another verse that repeats an almost similar message to the one quoted earlier. ‘Allah will never change the Grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is their own soul.’ (Quran 8: 53)

This verse captures what we need to do in order to infuse into our lives how we should behave and how to change our behavioural patterns so that our lives are in congruence with that guidance. This is for all humanity.

‘Those who believe in the Quran, and those who follow the Jewish Scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Quran 2: 62)

We may be tempted to ask can we reach perfection when the world is in such a mess: how do you live in a world where people betray us and let us down, including our own family and friends? How do we learn to forgive when we have been wronged? How can we be the better party, even if we can take revenge? How do we become strong, without being hard; and remain soft, without being weak? How do we become compassionate, without being gullible, or cheerful, without being remorseful? When do we hold on, and when do we let go? These questions can only be answered once we have made up our minds to introduce habit change in our lives.

"He who created death and life to test you (as to) which of you is best in deed." (Quran 67/2)

Change can only begin with us because the path to paradise is most definitely uphill. It is paved with stumbling blocks and hardships.  It requires sacrifice and self-control, patience and perseverance; obedience and submission to our Creator; hard work and firm commitment. We need to learn to hone in so as to groom ourselves to perfection. It requires giving up instant satisfaction so we can get eternal satisfaction.

Muslims believe that only our Creator is perfect and it is an attribute of Allah, human beings are imperfect. This is why all humans commit mistakes and sin. Does this mean that we must stop struggling towards principled, ethical, honourable, moral and inner purity because we are inherently imperfect? No, it means that we must try our best to live by the highest values, integrity and of moral conscience.

‘Verily my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight – a religion of right – the Path trodden by Abraham, the true in faith….truly my prayer and service, my life, my death are all for Allah….and I am the first to bow to His Will.’ (Quran 6: 161-3)

We will need to start with the small teetering steps towards gaining a foothold to perfection, but we have to ensure that there is sincerity in all that we do. This includes a change of mind-set, habits, behaviour and attitudes in our actions.   Habits are usually the driving force towards any change because habits are either virtues or vices,

A virtuous character is built on the foundations of good habits and good habits flow into our actions thereby assisting us to resist negative temptations. Good habits, unfortunately for most of us seem so much easier to give up than bad habits.

There is a saying that captures that essence:" First we make our habits then our habits make us". Thinking in a particular pattern creates a mental path, the mental path affects our attitude and our behaviour, and these reflect our personality and character. In other words, our thoughts affect our attitudes, which affect our actions, which determine our habits, which reflect our character which could determine our destiny.  So our habits eventually become our character.

We should therefore try to live by the highest values of sincerity and integrity because these build moral conscience. But for that moral conscience to exist we need to be sincere in all that we do. Sincerity has many different aspects to it: we have to ensure that:

There is sincerity in our belief in and placing our trust in Allah
There is sincerity in our Intentions
Sincerity in our regular Worship
Sincerity in what we say and in our actions.
Sincerity in our character

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘the practice of faith will not be correct unless actions are correct and actions will not be considered correct unless the heart is correct.’

‘Call to mind the special favour which I bestowed unto you, and fulfil your covenant with Me…. And fear none but Me. And believe in what I reveal …and be not the first to reject my signs, nor sell my My Signs for a miserable price; and fear me and me alone. Cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when you know what it is. And be steadfast in Prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down in worship. Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget to practise it yourselves, and yet you study the Scripture?….Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer…who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him.’ (Quran 2: 40-46)

That is the starting block. On your mark……..

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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