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Live in Peace (2)

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Continued from last week

Without doubt life today is so hectic that many of us are desperately seeking for some peace of mind and contentment, but sometimes it is difficult to find. The daily pressures of life bring on their own stresses and strains, but sometimes that lack of peace is as a result of our own doing.

Many of us have those human weaknesses that tend to look at the world in a manner that brings about negativity into our lives. Many of them can be and are self-inflicted because of our human weakness: they can range from our desire to imitate others, to compete with them and to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, as it were. Very often we envy them, harbour jealousy and ill feelings towards them or even simply because we think we are superior to them.

Wealth is one of life’s necessities but it is not life’s final goal. Wealth itself is not bad and the problem is not the money – but the love of it. It is natural for us look to for a more comfortable life for us and our families and will strive and work to move up in life; to get a better car, a better home, better clothes and all those worldly desirables on our human ‘want’ list. Nothing wrong with that, but the danger lies in when we make it our sole objective in life to achieve those things by any means possible, this can lead to unquenchable greed and brings with it the many stresses.

Too often when chasing those dreams, we cross the line and are liable to put our upbringing and our primary Religious responsibilities on the back burner. ‘The mutual rivalry of piling up the good things of this world diverts you from the more serious things, until you visit the grave’. (Quran 102: 1-2), And, Alluring to men is the love of things they covet- women and sons, hoarded treasure of gold and silver, highly bred horses, well-bred cattle and land. This is the provision of this world’s life; but nearness to Allah is the best of goals. (Quran 3:14)

The starting point of achieving a degree of peace is from within. This means that we have to re-examine and learn how we look at and see life, and react to its situations. The main ingredient is self-reformation, how we look at life is the building block of how we will cope with that life. But the most important thing in seeking peace is to find peace within ourselves first, only then we can begin to feel more confident to tackle the issues out there. To find that peace and contentment we have to start with our Creator as dealt with in last week’s column, then we have to look at ourselves and changes we can consider to bring about that peace.

Let us start with the basics:

Do Not Be Jealous:  We all have experienced how jealousy and envy can disturb and play havoc with our peace of mind. For example you know that you work harder than your colleagues in the office, but sometimes they get promotions; you do not. You started a business several years ago, but you are not as successful as your neighbour whose business is only a one year old. There are many examples like these in everyday life. Should you be jealous? No. Remember, a person's life is shaped by their destiny, which becomes their reality.

If you are destined to be rich, nothing in the world can stop you. And if you are destined to be poor, then no matter what you do, you will only be what you are destined to be. You will gain nothing except more stress by blaming others for your misfortune. Jealousy will not get you anywhere; it will only take away your peace of mind and create more hatred towards others.

“And in no wise covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others; to men is allotted is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn; but envy not one another and ask Allah for His bounty’. (Quran 4:32). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘Do not compare yourself against nor envy those who have more than you, but rather compare yourselves to those who are less fortunate or have less than you, in that way you will appreciate the favours of your Lord’.

Next we have to learn to forgive and forget: This is the most powerful aid to peace of mind, but also challenging and difficult to achieve. Often we develop ill feelings inside our heart for the person who insults or harm us. We nurture those grievances resulting in loss of sleep and develop medical ailments such as stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and importantly peace of mind. We further aggravate stress in ourselves by remembering, and reminding ourselves of the very persons that caused us harm.

Sometimes we bear grudges that get passed on from one generation to another sometimes the new generation is not even aware of the circumstances to the grudges. Get over this bad habit. Life is too short to waste in such trifles. Forgive, forget, and march on. Love flourishes in giving and forgiving. ‘…but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah…..but indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs’ (Qur’an 42:40-43)  

Also Do Not Interfere in Other People Business Unless Asked to: Most of us create our own problems very often by interfering in others people’s affairs. When hear scandalous gossip of our neighbours, friends and others, we want to dig up and hear more juicy titbits. Sometimes this becomes our obsession simply because our egos want us to rejoice and feel that we are better than ‘them’.

Sometimes we interfere for the wrong reasons, we do so because somehow we have convinced ourselves that our way is the best way, we tend to think that our way is the best way and those who do not conform to our thinking must be criticized and steered to the right direction, i.e. our direction. This interference can cause a backlash and add to an already stressful situation. However there is a fine line between interfering and try to help those who genuinely need help and guidance. It should be borne in mind that a Muslims responsibility is to guide those who have veered from the path of righteousness.

Prophet Muhammad said: ‘You help your neighbour if he asks for your help; you support him if he requests your support…….you comfort him when he is afflicted with misfortune’. Allah has created each one of us in a unique way. No two human beings can think or act in exactly the same way. Be patient with one another, and mind your own business and you will keep your peace. The proof of a Muslim’s sincerity is that he pays no heed to that which is not his business.

To be continued

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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