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Coping with Personal Problems

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


Who does not have problems? Problems are a part and parcel of our lives. We all have stresses and burdens in our daily existence. Whether it is at school or at work or just the daily trials and tribulations of life, we carry much on our shoulders. Some of us carry our own loads and some of us carry loads that we share with others – health problems, personal family issues, financial dilemmas, marital discord, employment troubles, and the list could go on.

These burdens that we bear can be heavy. In fact, most of us may say that at one time or another, they feel too great to bear. ‘Be patient (in adversity); for, verily, Allah will not let the reward of the righteous be wasted’. Quran 11: 115.

Every home has its own problems, as does every office, corporation, and country. Daily we can expect to meet problems that arise from our social interactions, whether they occur within a family setting, or among neighbours, or between colleagues and business partners, or even with those we meet on the street.


There are countless other daily problems that we encounter but the ones that bring about greater stress are the inner and personal problems. The worst thing about some of these problems is that they are ‘personal’ ones and we cannot share them with others.  Each of our souls is afflicted with its own inner problems. They could be as result of problems between loved ones / partners, the family and of course our own that we dare not share with others.

These unfortunately can wear us down mentally because we are unable to share them with others. This adds to our burden as we carry that load within ourselves. Often we besiege ourselves with problems and difficulties, the problem could actually come from the deep within us and cannot be simply shrugged off.


This is not to say that those problems are not real. They definitely are. So we need to find good ways of getting around them. We do not have to dwell on them. We need to seek the help of Allah and cling hard to the firm handhold that He provides, repeating the words: "You alone do we worship and You alone we ask for help. (Quran 1:5)  


Think about it, if it were not for poverty, people would not know wealth. And if it were not for sorrow, people would not know joy. If it were not for distance and separation, people would never know the joy of meeting and being reunited with our loved ones. In this manner, this world is just like a passage with a light at the end of it, where pleasure is accompanied by pain and laughter by tears, a world where the degree and severity of suffering has a corresponding degree of happiness a person feels when that suffering goes away.


There is not a day that goes by that a believer is not tested by his Lord. In some of these tests it may seem impossible for one to pass, yet with patience comes prosperity. But remember that Allah says: ‘And if Allah touches you with affliction, none can remove it but He: But if He bestows upon you a favor, remember that He is the Possessor of every power to do all that He wills’. (Quran 6: 17). But remember that Allah also says to us: ‘On no soul do We place a burden greater than it can bear: before Us is a record which clearly shows the truth: they will never be wronged’. (Quran 23: 62)


How do we face these adversities? For a believer, when faced with the challenges of life we need only to turn to our Lord in Prayer asking for patience, guidance and the strength to overcome those challenges. We can solve many of our problems with Allah's help, and we can minimize others. As for those problems for which we cannot find a solution, we need to learn patience, where possible we can try our best to accommodate them. ‘O, you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy; vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; fear Allah that ye may prosper’. (Quran 3: 200)


Thus patience is a necessary ingredient in all cases. Therefore, we have been encouraged – actually commanded – to be patient. The word patience appears many times in the Quran. There can be no doubt that expecting relief from Allah is a form of worship, since it is part of being patient. Without patience we will become rudderless and our efforts can come to nothing. This is because when problems strike we feel completely besieged by them and we are likely to react with a knee jerk reaction that can be in a spontaneous and emotional manner that clouds our judgement without actually identifying the source of the problem.


Sometimes we wonder why our problems keep coming back and why they are never solved. If we analyse ourselves we will realize we were the people Allah mentions in the Quran: ‘And as for man, when his Lord tries him, then treats him with honour and makes him lead an easy life, he says (puffed up): My Lord honours me. But when He tries him, restricting his subsistence for him, then he says (in despair): My Lord has humiliated me’. (Quran 89: 15 – 16).


This can be a reason for our constant problems and suffering with no happiness to relieve us. As already mentioned in the verse above that, Allah promises us to give us good after affliction if we are patient, steadfast and importantly appreciative. This also means if we are not, then we should not even expect any lenience from Allah when it comes to his trials.


When we are stressed and tormented we fail to see that these trials may be or are a blessing, something to bring us closer to our Lord. This is how we should look at these challenges; Allah is testing us in order for us to become closer and more beloved to him. So we should be happy with our tests and work through them, thanking Allah and asking for his forgiveness throughout those challenging times. And those who are patient will have the best rewards, that of eternal happiness and glory.


When we turn to our Lord by way of supplication, devotion in prayer, and humility, we will find Allah's help and support, and Allah will bless us with the strength of will that we need. We will also find help and support from his believing brethren who follow the same path.
When stressed we should pray: Oh Lord, Grant us the good in this life and the good in the hereafter and save us from the hellfire. Teach us to be humble and help us in the trials you put on us. Keep us away from that which will harm us and unite us with those who will help us.


We should constantly pray: 'Our Lord! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord! Do not place on us a burden as You placed on those before us. Our Lord! Lay not on us the kind of burden that we have no strength to bear. Pardon us, Forgive us, Have mercy upon us. You are our Protector……..'  (Quran 2; 286) These are the teetering steps to our personal problem solving.    
 

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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