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Ramadan – The Month of Fasting

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

‘O you who believe, Fasting is prescribed to you as it was for those before you, that you may learn self-restraint. Fasting for a fixed number of days……. and it is better for you that you fast, if you only knew’. (Quran 2: 183-184)

Within the next few days depending on the sighting of the new moon that heralds new month of Ramadan, over one billion Muslims throughout the world will begin their fasting from dawn to sunset, and in addition the will offer extra prayers at during the night. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built – fasting during the month of Ramadan is Third Pillar of Islam. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The month of Ramadan can best be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer self and character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.

Also for a Muslim this month is a very auspicious in that they are given the opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint. As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, all this from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity for a serious believer to remould, reshape, reform, and renew his/her physical and spiritual nature and behaviour.

Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a full service. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.  

As the Qur’an says: ‘0 you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was a prescribed to those before you that you may (learn) self-restraint and piety (Taqwa).” (2:183). Further Allah says: "…..that He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and so that – perchance – you may be thankful" (2: 185).

Taqwa (God consciousness, self-restraint and piety) can be generated and realized through the opportunities provided for us by the fast because what it does is:  The disciplining of the will; the purification of the self; the purification of the soul; Further Ramadan is the month of instilling patience. A person who is ready to be patient, not to eat  while he is hungry, not to drink while he is thirsty, not to lean to his lusts, such a person is a noble individual.  Such a person will be given paradise by Allah (SWT) as a gift, as a merit of award.

Fasting is also part of Christianity I recall when many of my Christian colleagues fasted during Lent. The Bible says:  ‘As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted ……………and when they had fasted and prayed….’ (Acts 13: 2-3). ‘And they said unto him. Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers….’ (Luke 5: 33). ‘Then was Jesus was led up of the Spirit…..and when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights…. (Matthew 4: 1-2)

Fasting helps us to train us to abstain from some the things we take for granted in this life. It needs a strong will to have self-control, self-discipline and self-restraint. Fasting develops self-control and helps Muslims overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. It is an annual training program to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah. A person who can restrain himself, for the love and pleasure of Allah, deserves a reward from the Creator Himself.

Fasting not only means abstaining from food and drink, but also refraining from all vices and evils committed by us consciously or unconsciously. It also builds the strength to bear difficulties and hardship and instils in us the character of perseverance. The fasting person by depriving himself from food and drink and other necessities of life throughout the daylight hours becomes capable of controlling his desires, urges, and temptations. The purpose of fasting is to enable a Muslim to control his passions, so that he becomes a person of good deeds and intentions.

A fasting person is also required to guard his tongue from vain talk and obscenities. We are also required to suppress a common human weakness of anger which should also be brought under control by fasting. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match.

Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’” The spirit of Fasting is not observed as only an exercise in starvation but also an exercise of restraint in every manner. The Prophet (pubh) said “whosoever does not give up telling lies, or acting in a false manner, Allah has no need for his giving up his eating or drinking.”  

Another lesson that fasting person is taught is that it engenders feelings of sympathy for the poor. Fasting has another special aspect because it is a practical means that develops within us the compassion for other people’s sufferings. Whilst fasting, it makes us share in the feelings of hunger and thirst of the poor and needy.

In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the conscience of those of us who are blessed, nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “O people!  The month of Ramadan has come with His mercy, blessing and forgiveness.  Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. Its days are the best among days, its nights the best among nights, and its hours the best among hours.  This is a month in which you have been invited by Him to fast and pray.  Allah has honoured you in it.  Every breath you take in this month has the reward of praise of Allah. Your sleep in worship your good deeds are accepted and your invocations answered.”  

Therefore we must invoke our Lord in earnest, with hearts that are free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah helps us through this Ramadan in the true spirit and manner that we are required to.

Ramadan Mubarak (Ramadan Blessings) to all Muslims.

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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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