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What is Islam?

Iqbal Ebrahim

I have been regularly asked by people to explain what the basic tenets or code of beliefs are in Islam. This is because as some see it, as a ‘difficult’ and ‘unusual’ religion to follow.

The word “Islam” is an Arabic one meaning peace and submission. A practicing Muslim strives to submit whole-heartedly to (Allah) God, thereby achieving peace in this life as well as in the afterlife. Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions together with Judaism and Christianity. As such, it is a religion based on revelation that believes in the One God and the guidance revealed by God to the prophets.  

“We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and in the Books given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets, from their Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam” (Quran 3: 84) Islam is a simple religion based on five pillars. And what are those Five Pillars?

1. The first is Shahadah – Testimony and a declaration of faith.

This declaration of faith is called the shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce: “To bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger to all human beings until the Day of Judgment.” These words are to be uttered with sincere conviction and under no coercion. The significance of this testimony is the belief that our only purpose in life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through following the example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

2. Salat / Namaaz (The Daily Prayers)

Daily prayers are offered five times a day as a duty towards Allah. They strengthen and enliven the belief in Allah and inspire us to a higher morality. They are meant to purify the heart and prevent temptation towards wrong doings and evils. Muslims are encouraged where possible to perform their five daily prayers in the mosque in congregation or individually where it is most convenient. .

Many people are taken aback when they hear that we have to offer prayers five times a day. These prayers are offered at and interspaced at the following times: just before sunrise, at lunch time, late afternoon, at sunset, and in the early evening about 2 hours after sunset.
These times are there to remind us that even during our ‘busy’ lifestyle we have to set aside time to remember and thank our Lord and Creator. Most of these congregational prayers last at the most ten to fifteen minutes at a time.

3. Sawm (Fasting)

Muslims keep the fast during the fasting month of Ramadan, not only abstaining from food, drink, and intimate marital relations from dawn to sunset, but also from evil thoughts, intentions and desires. The fasting teaches love, sincerity, and devotion. It develops a sound social conscience, patience, unselfishness, and will power. It also helps those of us who are privileged to live a comfortable life to understand the difficulties of those who suffer from hunger.

4. Zakat (Purification of Wealth)

Islamic worship is not limited to the spiritual side only. This is an obligation that applies to all those who can afford it. Zakat is a compulsory annual payment of 2.5% of one’s net savings and commercial assets held for a year as a religious duty and a purification of one’s wealth. The sum is to be spent directly on the poorer sections of the community. Muslims are required to help the poor, orphans, and the needy by providing them with this money in order to assist them in an attempt to get rid of inequality. Over and above this, Islam encourages Muslims to also voluntarily give additional assistance (sadaqah) to those who are less fortunate. However, the compulsory minimum of this is to give zakat.

5. Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

This duty is to be performed once in a lifetime if one can afford it financially and physically. Over the last 1,400 years, the Islamic miracle of real brotherhood of all races and nations has been seen in action as Muslims gather for pilgrimage, Hajj, annually in the sacred city of Mecca where the House of Allah, the Kaabah, is located. This is the direction that one faces in our five daily prayers wherever one may be in the world. The Kaabah, is an ancient cubic shaped building dating from Prophet Abraham’s time, where about three million Muslims in white gowns during the Hajj each year move around it in prayer.

What do Muslims Believe?

1. One God: Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God, the Sole Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of the Universe. Muslims prefer to use the Arabic name for God, “Allah”, because it has no plural, feminine or diminutive that could be associated with idolatry (i.e. gods, goddesses or demi-gods).

2. The Angels: Muslims believe that Allah created the Heavenly bodies called the Angels who serve Him and do commit sins and have no gender.

3. The Prophets: With the belief that Allah sent His messengers and prophets to all people, Muslims faithfully accept Biblical prophets mentioned in the Qur’an including Adam, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, David, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). All prophets were human beings like us who, as chosen examples for their people, committed no grave sin. Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, believe in his virgin birth, and respect him very much. His name is mentioned in the Qur’an almost a hundred times.

4. The Books: To believe in the Holy Books of Allah that were sent before and in the Qur’an as the final words from Allah is a pillar of the Muslim’s faith. The Qur’an was revealed to the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Gabriel. It confirmed and finalized all previous revelations that were sent to humankind through Allah’s messengers. The Qur’an is a miracle in many senses including that its meanings still apply in modern times and the verses of the Qur’an are never found to contradict modern science.

5. Fate and Divine Decree: A Muslim believes in Divine Decree, which relates to the ultimate power of Allah. It means Allah is the Omniscience, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. He has knowledge and power to execute His plans. Allah is not indifferent to this world. Allah is the Wise, Just, and Loving, and whatever He does has wisdom though we may sometimes fail to fully understand it.

6. Day of Resurrection:

In Islam, each person is responsible for his own acts,It is therefore our responsibility to seek the guidance of God and keep our hearts pure from sin and corruption. On that Day Allah will be the judge of all, and based on our life on earth He will grant us salvation or the punishment of Hell. The following verse encapsulates it for us: the Last Day:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (Qur’an 2: 177)

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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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