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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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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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