The clock has ticked and we have left 2019 behind and we have welcomed 2020. With the festive season becoming a fading memory we are back at work or to whatever we do in life.
Many will have come back recharged and full of zeal ready to face 2020 – yet some of us may still be feeling rather ‘fragile’ and looking on at the new year with a great deal of trepidation, anxiety and apprehension; we will moan, groan and feel sorry for ourselves – well this is as real as it gets.
For those of the Christian faith, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ (PBUH); sadly over the years society has so commercialised and degraded it to such an extent that the holidays have now become an excuse for many to act shamelessly by binge drinking, partying and over indulging in everything. Today, it is that fat man, Santa Claus, in the red suit trimmed with white, with a beard, saying ‘ho, ho, ho’, bringing gifts by sleigh from the North Pole that has taken over this sacred of Christian celebrations.
Up to recently many people would go for midnight Mass to church and spend the time with family and friends. Fast forward to today, very few people go to the Mass but instead spend their time inebriated at parties, waiting for Santa Claus to ‘bring’ gifts at midnight. It is now time for a reality check so that we are ready to face the New Year with positivity, hope and vigour. It may be difficult because some of us were swept away by ‘silly’ season and may have over stretched ourselves – financially or otherwise.
It’s not unusual for this time of the year, that some of us may have over indulged, overspent or got carried away with the ‘festive’ spirit. Now it is back to reality – school fees, books, uniforms, and all the other expenses that the New Year brings. To make matters worse the credit card has been stretched to its limit, and the bank account is looking very miserable
But a new year has dawned, and it is the time of the year that many of us make New Year resolutions laced with good intentions for the year ahead. The most common ones are; to lose weight / get rid of that pot belly, exercise more, eat healthy food, quit smoking, settle down and start a family or to spend more time with our family and loved ones, etc. The more ‘aggressive’ ones amongst us will have resolved to go on that overseas holiday, buy ‘that’ car, and other worldly pursuits like scaling the social and economic ladder to higher levels. So what are your goals and targets for the year?
Most of the resolutions we make are cosmetic lifestyle changes and in making them I wonder how many of us have really thought of taking the plunge and making a real life changing decision of our turning our inner self and our lives towards our Lord and Creator? ‘Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls) (Quran 13:11). Nothing wrong with desires but for any Muslim when making resolutions the most important message is: ‘Nor say of anything, I shall do so and so tomorrow without adding “Insha-Allah” (if Allah so wills)’ (Quran 18:23-24).
Whilst there is nothing wrong with making resolutions it got me thinking ‘why do we wait only for New Year to make resolutions?’ Anyway how long do these resolutions last before running out of steam, a week, a month before we revert back to our old style habits? Surely every day that we wake up is the start of a new year in our lives. Not only that but every day is the beginning of the rest of our lives, and every day is a day closer to the end of life as we know it on this earth.
Sorry, but this is the stark reality and an uncomfortable reminder that this earthly life is temporary and that we all are on that inevitable journey to eternal life that has been promised to everyone regardless of status, colour or religious persuasion. With this in mind is it not time to start making resolutions to do those righteous things that will bring us closer to our Creator?
‘To those who do good, there is good in this world – and the home of the Hereafter is even better excellent indeed is the home of the righteous……enter you the Garden because of the good which you did in the world.( Quran 16: 30-32) Where can we start? The message for Muslims is in the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); ’Take benefit of: your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death.’
Starting with ourselves, let us to do away with personal pride, arrogance, jealousy, greed/ avarice, mischief making, using harsh words and foul language, and all the other daily ‘deadly sins’. Why can’t we try to be more friendly, kind, humble, sincere, show respect, courtesy and compassion for others, be helpful, honest and truthful or maybe more charitable?
Regrettably when one mentions charity some people mistakenly associate it to mean monetary donations that the rich give to the poor. They conclude that since they themselves are not ‘rich’ and don’t have sufficient money how could they give to charity? However charity is not only about making a monetary contribution – it is about doing things that make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate or even doing anything that is of good to others.
A kind word, a smile, a hug, greeting a stranger, visiting the sick, consoling someone going through difficulty, offering a prayer on behalf of someone in need of help, forgiving a person who has hurt us or even removing a harmful object from a pathway – these are simple acts of charity, none of those are headline grabbing acts, but they can bring about a major shift and an attitude change in our lives.
Let us appreciate the great blessing of being alive to see in 2020. We seldom appreciate that at some point – only the Almighty knows – when our life will be taken away from us for good, leaving no second chance, no opportunity to make up for the wrongs we have done, and no turning back time. We should therefore savour every moment and use it to our best advantage in pleasing Allah in order to achieve our goal of Heaven. ‘He Who created life and death, that He may try which of you is the best in deed… (Qur’an 67: 2)
Let us start with the small things first, because, as you sow a thought and you will reap an act, sow an act and you will reap habit, sow a habit and you will reap a character, sow a character and you will reap a destiny…….. Therefore who knows, every good deed or act, no matter how small or insignificant could significantly change our lives. ‘Whoever works righteousness and has faith, verily to him We will give a new life, a life that is good and pure…’ (Quran 16:97) May this year 2020 be a defining year for all of us; let it be a year in which we turn to and find the path of salvation which leads to finding true happiness and peace with our Creator.
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.