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Iqbal Ebrahim

‘O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self -restraint- Fasting for a fixed number of days; But if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up from days later, for those who can do it with hardship, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will- It is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast if you only knew.’ (Quran 2: 183-184)

Fasting is the Third Pillar of Islam – Muslims look forward to the arrival of this Holy month. Fasting has already begun and many are getting used to the initial discomfort of from having no food, not even a sip of water, tea or coffee. When fasting, it means that from dawn until sunset, eating, drinking and sexual lusts are forbidden. It is also the month of building patience, a person who is ready not to eat while he is hungry, not to drink while he is thirsty, does not give in to his lusts, such a person is a noble individual indeed.

Fasting builds the strength to bear difficulties and hardship and instils in us the character of perseverance and discipline. The fasting person by depriving himself from food and drink, and other necessities of life becomes capable of controlling his everyday desires, whims, and temptations. The purpose of fasting is to enable a Muslim to control his passions, so that he becomes a person of good deeds and intentions.

Fasting builds Islamic values, such as compassion, discipline, cooperation, diligence, firmness, affection, fear of Allah, devotion and trust in Allah, and other such qualities. One may ask what does restraining ourselves from eating food have to do with our devotion to Allah. Simple, it means that we prefer Allah over our food. It is a demonstration that we prefer to obey and put into practice the commands of Allah over our need for food.

Therefore the purpose of fasting is not a mere physical training to endure hunger, thirst and exhaustion; rather, it is disciplining the ego to abandon the loved for the sake of the Beloved. The loved being our earthly desires of eating, drinking, and other activities, while the Beloved is Allah.

On another level fasting creates the sense of ‘equality’ amongst the rich and the poor. For those in poverty, it is compulsory to experience and feel the pangs of hunger, but for the better off these hunger pangs rarely exist; in that manner it makes us share the same feelings so we can relate to one another through the collective sense of ‘hunger’. The fasting person gets a first-hand experience of hunger and thirst and this instils a feeling of sympathy towards the less-fortunate and less-privileged members of community and society. Muslims learn to sympathize with the starving people anywhere in the world and experience the hardship that they go through every day of their lives. This in turn softens the heart of the fasting person making them more charitable in the cause of The Almighty.  

Besides the feeling of hunger and thirst, fasting helps us to build and nourish the soul. The fasting person further enriches his fasting by acts of worship which include, the remembrance of Allah, the recitation of the Qur'an, the additional nightly prayers, the distribution of our compulsory charity (Zakaat) , and the additional charity of Sadaqah, and also by refraining from sins and obscenity. The fasting person is also expected to supresses his desires, guard his tongue from vain talk and obscenities. Anger is a common human weakness it can also be brought under control by fasting. A Muslim should keep away from all bad actions during his fast. He should not lie, break a promise or do any deceitful act. Fasting in Ramadan helps one to develop good habits and suppress or eliminate bad habits

Take for example one of our basic normal everyday habits that we have become accustomed to; talking. Our tongues are constantly busy, from sweet talking, saying nice things, idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing, controversy and other gibberish. A fast in which the spirit of fasting is not observed is only an exercise in starvation but not really a fast at all. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explained that " Whoever does not give up false speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)"

This means that Allah does not want us to abstain only from eating and drinking, rather, He wants us to refrain from evil deeds and vileness too. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) instructed that even if a fasting person is offended or abused by others, rather than argue or retaliate, he should say: “I am fasting”.  The message given is: "It is because I am fasting I do not return your abuses."

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "O people! The month of Ramadan has come with His mercy, blessing and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. Its days are the best among days, its nights the best among nights, and its hours the best among hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him to fast and pray. Allah has honoured you in it. Every breath you take in this month has the reward of praise of Allah. Your good deeds are accepted and your invocations answered.”

Therefore we must invoke our Lord in earnest, with hearts that are free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah helps us fast, recite the Qur'an, give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to our elders, have sympathy for our youngsters and be kind toward our relatives and kinsfolk. Guard our tongue against unworthy words, and protect our eyes and our ears from the evils that should not be seen or heard.

Ramadan is also the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. The moral and spiritual climate of Ramadan helps the Qur'anic message of goodness, humility, righteousness the love for good and aversion for evil to flourish within us. Thus fasting elevates us towards a higher spiritual level.

Fasting is not only limited to Muslims, the Bible also refers to fasting in the following verses:

“Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered” Psalm (35:13)

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth”. (Daniel 9:3)

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)

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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

… 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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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    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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