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let us change – discipline and self control

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

For any believer the most important thing is faith – faith to believe in Allah, God, Modimo, Jehovah, Lord; or whatever you call Him. We also believe in His Prophets and in the Divine Laws and Injunctions. To abide by them, one needs a certain degree of discipline and self-control; therefore the most important characteristic of a believer is that of having the inner discipline to follow the injunctions.

As with all major religious teachings Islam has a code of behaviour and conduct for its followers based on values and qualities that can be classified under the broad term of an Islamic personality. Islam is not only a mere set of beliefs nor a religion in the commonly understood sense, but a complete system and a way of life that does not separate religious duties (prayer, fasting and other such acts of worship) from the ‘secular’ life – in other words it does not split or compartmentalise one’s life by applying different criteria and rules to different parts in the conduct of our daily lives.

The guide for my life’s conduct or for that matter any other Muslim is, first, the Holy Quran, second, the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) example and practices) and the Hadith which relates to what he said. I intend (Allah Willing) to devote the next few columns to explain and elaborate further on the manner of how a Muslim is expected to live, behave and interact with others in the conduct of his everyday life.

Now that the month of fasting (Ramadan) is over, going forward, we need to reflect on what we have learnt from this Blessed month and how are we going to infuse into our lives what we gained from this Holy month. This should be a stepping stone to lead a life of piety and free from sins. Over the next few weeks this column will ‘highlight’ those changes that we should be instilling and implanting into our daily lives.  

Fasting is a practice common to many religions – Islam has prescribed obligatory fasting in the form of a month-long period of abstinence accompanied by intensive devotional activity. The fasting involves the total abstinence from all food, drink and marital relations throughout the daylight hours; not even water may be taken, and no don’t even think about smoking either! The fast is broken at sunset each day and resumed the next day before the sun rises.

‘O ye who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may learn self-restraint’ Quran 2:183. It goes without saying that the fasting is test of discipline and one that trains a Muslim in self-control. Fasting makes a Muslim disciplined, steadfast and resilient and this also trains him to be flexible and adaptable in his habits, thus capable of enduring hardship. Fasting does not necessarily mean abstinence from food and drink alone, but from all the major vices and sins.

For example he must refrain from quarrelling, speaking lies, slandering and other such deeds. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘Allah has no need for him to go without food or drink who cannot shun evil and falsehood even during a fast’ and also ‘Many are there among you who fast and yet gain nothing from it except thirst and hunger’. This discipline is the distinguishing feature and is the defining line between belief and unbelief. Whereas a true believer will try his utmost to obey and follow those Commands, the unbeliever will live by his own dictates and desires.

Discipline / self-control are what the month of Ramadan has taught us. Discipline is the ability to exercise restraint and control of one’s emotions, actions or thoughts, and at times the will to follow what is right rather than follow what may be considered to be the ‘fashionable’ thing to do. Discipline is not something we are born with but it is the one personality trait that needs to be nurtured and developed within ourselves.

It comes from our own inner belief and conviction that says to us that there are certain standards of behaviour and action that we abide by and conform to. To abide by our religious beliefs, one needs a certain degree of discipline and self-control to suppress our humanly urges and to follow the straight path, but importantly it must be a lesson that teaches us not to take the bounties of Allah for granted and to be ever thankful for them.  

Discipline plays a major role in the life of a Muslim. For example, Muslims have to offer compulsory five times daily prayers (Namaaz) that are interspaced at specified times throughout the day – starting with the pre-dawn prayer and ending with the evening prayer at about 8 pm. Prior to offering these prayers we have to be in a state of purity by undergoing the necessary ablutions (wudhu) without which we will not be able to offer prayers. ‘Be steadfast in prayer and regular charity’ Quran 2:110. ‘Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong…..’ Quran 31: 17

This is a form of discipline which teaches us that even in the conduct of our daily lives there is a time for our normal daily activities but there is also a time for our Creator, Allah. Believers will where possible drop everything they are doing to answer the call to prayer. If they are able to they will join the congregation at the Mosque, otherwise they will offer their prayers individually at a suitable location. These five times daily prayers are where the true test of discipline comes in because, we have to place our obligations to Allah before the routine of our own daily lives.

If I recall the Bible also echoes the same message when it says ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God’. It is in the same spirit that Muslims will interrupt their daily routines to give to Allah the worship that belongs to Him. Whilst fasting may appear difficult to some, in practice it is generally tolerable and is relatively easy for many people, the benefits are that it brings about a feeling of intense spirituality. Some of my non-Muslim friends are at times taken aback at what they see as ‘impossible and very difficult’ obligations of Islam, but to a practicing Muslim these come as second nature.

The daily prayers and the month long fasting are part and parcel of some of the building blocks that nurture and build that discipline within the character of a Muslim. The world has many temptations and these desires come in different guises on a daily basis; yet despite us claiming to be God fearing, how many of us easily fall into the trap of lying, cheating, stealing, being unfaithful – in word deed, action and even to our partners, adultery, envy, and all the daily temptations/ challenges that come our way? ‘….true but you led yourself into temptation….your false desires deceived you’ Quran 57:14

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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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