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Pilgrimage – The Jouney Of A Lifetime

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

The time for “Hajj” has arrived. This is one of the five pillars of faith and for all Muslims it is the obligation to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. The Hajj is the pilgrimage is to the Holy City of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia and is compulsory upon those who are physically, financially and mentally capable of carrying it out –  must do so at least once in their life time.

Currently millions of Muslims from across the globe are converging there in order to fulfil their obligation. During Hajj a believer journeys to the place where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was born, grew up, received Divine revelation and began calling others to Islam. Therein is the Holy Ka’ba, the first house of worship that the great prophet Abraham (pbuh) was instructed by Allah to rebuild the structure in the valley of Bakkah (now known as Mecca). The Ka’ba is a small rectangular stone structure which stands in the compound of the Sacred Mosque is the first house dedicated to the worship of Allah.

‘We gave the site of the Sacred House to Abraham, saying: do not associate anything with Me in worship and sanctify My House for those who encompass it, or stand up or bow, or prostrate themselves in prayer. And, proclaim the Pilgrimage to humankind’ (Quran 22:26-27)

When Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had fulfilled the command and completed building, Allah told him to invite mankind to observe pilgrimage to it. Abraham (pbuh) pleaded “O Allah! How shall my voice reach all the people (all over the world)? Allah told him that his duty was to make the call and it was Allah Almighty who would make it reach the people. “And proclaim the Hajj among mankind. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean mount (or some mode of transport) through deep and distant mountain high-ways…” (Quran 22: 28)

To this very day, each year, millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of The Almighty made through His Great Messengers Prophets Muhammed and Abraham (peace and blessings be upon them). “Pilgrimage to the House (of Allah) is a duty which men owe to Allah, (that is) those who can afford the journey; but if they deny faith, Allah stands not in need (of the services) of any of His creatures”. (Quran 3: 97).

The pilgrimage is the religious duty in a Muslim’s life and an event that every Muslim dreams of undertaking as it the spiritual high point of the Muslims life, one that provides builds a strong relationship with our Creator –Allah Almighty. Over the centuries countless millions of Muslims have fulfilled this obligation and currently it is the largest human assembly on earth. This year over three million believers from across the globe will have visited the Holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia where they performed the age old rites of the Hajj. It is, most definitely, the largest single gathering of people in one place, at one time, for one purpose – to show their allegiance to Allah.

Many people may have wondered why Muslims the world over face a ‘certain’ direction when they offer their five times daily prayers. The reason is that because of its unique significance as the first house of worship of Allah, hence, Muslims in every corner of the world will face the direction of the Ka’ba (also known as the Qibla). This represents the focal point and also a symbol of their unity as one community submitting to and in the worship of One Allah. ‘Turn then your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque. Wherever you are, turn your faces in that direction’. (Quran 2:144)    

The occasion of Hajj is also a demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. During performing the Hajj we shed our normal dress and all pilgrims wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth; these are two white seamless pieces of cloth wrapped around the body. This is a physical and practical demonstration of equality, brotherhood and unity.  The message is that there is no superiority on the basis of wealth, race, gender or social status. The only preference in the eyes of Allah is piety as stated in the Quran: "The best amongst you in the eyes of Allah is most righteous."
 

The white cloth is also symbolic of innocence, piety and cleanliness of body and soul. But it also reminds us of the burial shroud that Muslims are wrapped and buried in. This is also a reminder that there is no distinction whatsoever between royalty and aristocracy or any other human divisions such as the poor and the rich, the young and the old, regardless of colour, race, nationality and language they gather together at the same place and at the same time, for the same purpose: everyone is equal, no differences can be seen between rich and poor, everyone prays side by side, all equal before God.
 

Haj becomes a turning point in the spiritual development of a believer because it is full of universal submission and prayer. During the Hajj pilgrims leave all their worldly concerns and comforts behind, visiting holy places and performing age-old observances and rites. Pilgrims earnestly pray for forgiveness for all their past sins and to pray to their Lord for their heartfelt and innermost desires. They observe the same rituals say the same prayers, show the same humility and devotion at the same time in the same manner, for the same end.
 

Apart from the daily five times a day prayers, the rites of Hajj include circling the Ka’ba seven times, offering their prayers and supplications, chanting prayers and asking Allah for forgiveness. ‘Our Lord give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the fire ……..  celebrate the praises of Allah during the appointed days’ (Quran: 2: 201 – 203)

Another high point of the Hajj is when the vast crowd of Muslims gather at the plains of Mount Arafat. This is the place where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his Farewell Sermon – which announced the completion of his mission and the proclamation of Allah: "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam (submission to Allah) as your religion" (Quran 5:3). Standing and praying on the plains of Arafat is said to be a life changing experience because despite the masses of people around us all, these act as a stark reminder and make us realize our many regular sins and mistakes, which are the results of weakness of faith, lack of consciousness of God Almighty and our neglect of His commands and the way of life of His Great Messengers.

At the Plain of Arafat one will standing shoulder to shoulder surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people each one reciting prayers pleading and sincerely asking for forgiveness; It also serves as a stark reminder of that Grand Assembly of The Day of Judgement when we all will stand equal gathered before our Creator to be called to account for our actions in this world, waiting for our final destiny.

To be continued

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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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