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Charity – The Upper Hand

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM


A long while back this column carried an article with a similar title, but I feel it is necessary to repeat the message that the article had conveyed. The reason being that nowadays when we talk of the ‘upper’ hand the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a position of advantage in a given situation or simply put you are ‘in charge’. But in Islam the upper hand is seen as the one that is helpful and charitable.

 

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said, "The upper hand is better than the lower hand. The upper hand is the one that gives, and the lower hand is the one that receives". The Quran encourages the Believer to spend of his wealth for the sake of The Almighty whenever possible and it stresses the great virtues of giving in charity. 'The likeness of those who spend their money for Allah's sake is as the likeness of a grain (of corn), it grows seven ears, every single ear has a hundred grains, and Allah multiplies (increases the reward) for whom He wills, and Allah cares for all and is All Knowing' (Qur’an 2: 261).


Therefore Believers have this great opportunity and must strive to do as much good as they can. However in doing so they must be aware that Islam has etiquettes and manners in the giving of charity and stresses on the importance and the virtues of giving that charity and encourages us to do so. Hence it is important to know of those etiquettes and manners of giving so that we do so in the proper spirit.


To be charitable does not necessarily mean giving money; look around you, there are so many people who need assistance, this could not necessarily be in monetary terms but it could be doing things like giving assistance to an invalid person to cross the road, a friendly smile, lending an ear to a stressed person, visiting the sick and the elderly who need company, there are so many orphans in society, how about paying them a visit and other such works.  


Money does not decrease by giving it in charity: charity enlarges the blessing in one's fortune. In the Hereafter, the charity no matter how small may just help in protecting oneself from Hell-Fire. For those who spend in charity Allah has promised multiplied rewards for their charity.  'Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply it many times?' (2: 245). What we now spend as a charity for Allah's sake is what remains with us after death.


However, for the charity to be accepted and to achieve its goals it is essential that whatever is spent, must be given from money that is earned in a lawful manner. 'O ye who believe, spend from what you (lawfully) earned' (Qur’an 2: 267).  It is also important that when giving a charity, we must have purity of intention and it must be for the sole purpose of gaining Allah's pleasure and not for worldly benefits or fame. The Prophet (PBUH) said, 'All deeds are based on the intention and everyone will be rewarded according to what he intended (from his action)'


The Almighty praised those who give for His sake without expecting any benefit from the people who receive the charity: 'And they feed for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive. Saying; we feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you. We only fear a Day of distressful wrath from the side of our Lord'. (Qur’an 76: 8 – 9). Any of the things we do daily could be turned into an act of worship if it is done purely for Allah's sake, and, vice versa, any such activity could be rejected by Allah if it is done for any ulterior motive other than to pleasing Him.


Due to life’s uncertainty it is much better for the Muslim to give away in charity during his lifetime before death overcomes him. Believers are urged to hurry with giving the charity and should not delay it unnecessarily. The Prophet (PBUH) was once asked about the best of all charities, so he said; 'The best charity is what you give during your life while you are in need of it.'


It is also fitting to give the charity from our ‘better’ possessions that we like rather than giving away not our old rusty possessions as if we are trying to get rid of them. This is not to say that we should not give away old things, because what I don’t need might be a welcome possession for another person.

 

It is the intention behind the gesture. 'By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely as a charity) from that which you love; and whatever you spend Allah knows it well.' (Qur’an 3: 92).  'Whoever does an atom weight of good he shall see it (in his book), and whoever does an atom weight of evil he shall see it' (Qur’an 99: 7 – 8).


It is better for the believer do his best not to let anyone know about it so as to avoid doing so for the sake of showing up one's good deeds other than for Allah's Sake. ‘If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you give it to the poor secretly, it is better for you’ (Qur’an 2 : 271) The Prophet (PBUH) said: '……….a man who gives a charity, hiding it, so that even his left hand does not know what his right hand has spent'. This saying is a form of expression that indicates how careful you should be when giving a charity where possible not letting anyone notice what you're doing.


The believer also should not follow up his charity by hurting the feelings of the one who receives it, for example by reminding him of the generosity. Doing so would only nullify the reward of the charity. 'O you who believe, cancel not your charities by reminders of your generosity, or by harm' (Qur’an 2: 264).


When one is unable to or may for some reason, not want to give charity to a person who is asking for it, he should kindly tell him without hurting his feelings. 'Kind words and forgiveness are better than a charity followed by injury' (Qur’an 2: 263). In this life, charity enlarges the blessings in one's fortune. Unlike what most people think, the reality is that wealth increases as long as the person is giving in charity. This is as the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) stated, ‘Charity does not lessen one's wealth’. Muslims believe that charity gives rise to multiple increases both in this world and in the Hereafter.


These are some of the Islamic etiquettes of giving charity, in the final analysis anyone who gives charity with a good intention always feels the inner peace and pleasure of having helped someone less fortunate. It is also a reminder that we should be thankful to our Creator for being blessed for being more fortunate than others.  


In the Quran The Almighty has promised those who believe and observe righteous deeds, to multiply the rewards of their good deeds.  ‘Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.’  (Quran 16: 97).

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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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