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DID WE LEARN ANYTHING FROM RAMADAN?

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Muslims see the month of Ramadan as a school of strengthening our Imaan (faith) and as a 'pit stop to recharge one's spiritual batteries' – in order to fully charge and to acquire our spiritual provisions for the rest of the year. There is no better time than the month of Ramadan to take lessons from and change for the better.

It is a month for transformation, unleashing the potential within by taking control of yourself, your thoughts and our actions so that we strive to achieve the goal of ensuring a place in the Heavenly Abode that we have been promised in the Hereafter.

As the month comes to a close, we must look back we need to honestly ask ourselves; have we fulfilled the requirements of God consciousness and graduated from the intensive training of the School of Ramadan with the ‘diploma of closeness to Allah’: and, have we renewed our commitment and re-established our relationship and drawn closer to our Lord? Have we fought our earthly wants and desires and put them to rest or even defeated them, or will we succumb to our love for our worldly pleasures, desires, passions, and ready to return to them immediately the month is over?

Change is possible, but for it to happen, it must come from deep within us: "Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (Quran 13:  11)

The period of fasting has many opportunities for a lifestyle change that brings us closer to our Lord and Creator. But almost immediately after Ramadhan we seem to run short of steam in our dedication and commitment that we showed during that month; when fasting we were very committed but now we may run out of that steam and start going downhill in many ways, including: neglecting the five daily prayers, after having diligently observed them during the entire month; returning to vain and immoral past times, forbidden and indecent behaviour; returning to the old ways of lying, backbiting, vulgar speech and crude behaviour; living with jealousy and hatred towards fellow community members; etc. Yup, you know all the usual human frailties and traits that are so much part of our lives.

As Muslims we need to ask, will we continue to worship Almighty Allah with the same enthusiasm they have been doing in Ramadan? We leave the month that was filled with the regular reading of the Qur'an, God consciousness / piety, patience, inner struggle, mercy, forgiveness and a release from the slippery road to Hell. But we need to interrogate ourselves: Many questions and thoughts come to mind but can we answer them truthfully and sincerely? Have we observed all our actions in a way that fulfil the conditions for receiving mercy, forgiveness and salvation from the Divine punishment? For those of us who are unable to answer will have missed the golden opportunity for soul cleansing in this month.

We must remember that righteous actions and good deeds are for all times and all places, and not only reserved for Ramadan, so we must continue to strive. As they say ‘let the battle continue’ – Aluta Continua. So let us be wary of laziness and remember that as tempting as it may be, we should not fall behind in our religious obligations nor delay them. Neither should we fall into those forbidden and sinful actions and behaviour that we avoided for the whole month.

If we have been steadfast during this month we should be grateful to the Almighty for having given us this life changing opportunity to cleanse our spirit and our hearts, and we should continue to with all the righteous deeds and actions that were our daily companions throughout the month of fasting. 'If you are grateful, I will surely add more favours to you. But if you show ingratitude My punishment is terrible indeed’. (Quran 14: 7). If we return to our old ways it will be a sign that we are ungrateful and thankless to our Lord for our favours, so we must continue on the right path: ‘And serve your Lord until there comes to you the Hour that is certain (death).’ (Quran 15:99).

With end of Ramadan the message is clear, a Muslim must be in a constant state of obedience to Allah, firm upon following His Law, steadfast upon His belief, so that we are not of those who worship Allah only during this one month. Rather, the believer knows that the Lord of Ramadhan is also the Lord of other months, and that He is the Lord of all times and places, and that He is forever watchful.   

We need to ask ourselves the question: did we learn anything from the month of Ramadan?

Many of us may be feeling physically tired from getting up earlier every morning to eat sehri (the meal before the fast), spending more time in the evening at the Mosque, but inside our heart, we should be happy for there is an oasis of peace refreshing our soul. But as the month draws to a close many Muslims will not only look forward to it returning next year but I know of some a lot stronger in faith than I am, that have taken it upon themselves to undergo random voluntary fasting during the rest of the year, some of them once or twice a week.

Depending on the sighting of the crescent of the new moon – which marks the end of the month long fasting, Muslims will celebrate the occasion of Eid. On this day we start with a congregational prayer, visit the cemetery to pray for the departed souls, by so doing, acts as a constant reminder that, some day, we too will undoubtedly follow them.

Thereafter it is a day of family and friends celebrating and thanking the Lord for helping us complete the fasting.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters a joyous and peaceful day, and I pray that Almighty Allah accept all our efforts to sincerely fast and to forgive us if we may have erred in any way. I pray too that may we all live with the revived spiritual awareness that this Holy month brought to us. Eid Mubarak!

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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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