Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Advantages of the Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is a sucessful union of seven Emirates situated towards the tip Jazeerat al Arab, i.e. Arabian Penninsula, at the mouth of Mudeeq Hormuz, i.e. the Strait of Hormuz, which pinches at Al Khaleej al Arabi, i.e. the Arabian Gulf, before its waters spill into Al Bahr Al Arabi, i.e. the Arabian Sea. It is quite small in size, populated by about 4 million people, most of whom are transitory expatriate workers. Despite its size, it holds a plethora of advantages for practicing Muslims to call it home - at least temporarily.

Muslims scholars agree that it is incumbent on a Muslim to leave a land where he is not able to establish proper worship. The UAE is very amenable to making worship easy for a practicing Muslim. The Adhaan (call to prayer) is called five times a day. Prayer facilities are available everywhere, be they in the mall, at the airport or on the road. Friday is an official holiday, so Muslims can fulfill all obligations that go with preparing for and attending the Friday service with all family members together. Friday services are available in different languages including Arabic, English, Urdu and Malayalam. It is easy to take half an hour break from work to perform Zuhr prayer in congregation in the company masjid or prayer room. Due to the close proximity to Makkah, residents of the UAE can make frequents Umrah and Hajj trips either by road or by air.

The Quran states that whoever migrates for Allah's (SWT) cause will find safe refuge and great bounty in the earth.

When one looks at peace and security, the UAE ranks high among the most peaceful of places on earth. There are no known natural or man-made disasters in this region for a long time, Alhamdulillah. The weather is almost always bright and sunny causing the people to stay cheerful and welcoming. In fact, the Emiratis are known for their hospitality. In general, most people in the UAE are well mannered and concerned for others as foreign workers living in the country must pass a demanding selection criteria. No wonder, maladies like AIDS, drugs, crime, violence, arms, pollution and alcohol in the open are very rare. People generally are easy to trust and one feels safe with one's children playing alone outdoors even at night. People are afraid to break the local laws which are developed from their Sharia sources. Unlike other places the UAE awqaf makes certain that the masajid are not being used for wrong purposes by deviant groups nor are there any political tussles in the masajid administration.

The UAE does not disappoint in terms of the other promise of the verse above -- great bounty. Abu Dhabi alone sits on top of 10% the world's proven reserves of petroleum, while Dubai is an international city of trade and finance. Thus there is good overall economic growth in the Emirates, providing relative job security that may not be found elsewhere. It is possible to achieve a good work-life balance while resident in the UAE, thanks to month+ vacation time, relatively short commutes, no taxes, cheap domestic help, reduced work hours in Ramadan, etc. In the UAE, the cost of living varies drastically with your lifestyle which you choose to adopt. You are more likely to spend money on the intangible good things in life -- education, children's upbringing, relatives, friends, etc. rather than paying mortgage on one expensive property which consumes all your wealth. With the savings and end of service benefits you can purchase a property in a good neighborhood of your homeland without riba.

Logistically, the UAE is close to the center of the Muslim world. Being a transport hub, it allows you to go to Makkah, your homeland as well as neighboring Muslim countries for tourism on a regular basis. Travel within the Emirates is easy with good highways and service stations in all 7 emirates. Every emirate is unique in its own ways and ready for you to explore its distinctive charm.

The UAE is proud of its Islamic heritage and has taken steps to preserve it. It is a Muslim majority country with a lot of diversity. The overall population shows a genuine respect for Muslims and their practices. The niqaab is not looked down on, nor are men and women expected to shake hands -- even in boardrooms. Muslims feel right at home at their turf in giving dawah to non-Muslims and helping reverts. Living in the UAE, one enjoys all official Islamic holidays including those of Eidayn.

Taking time out for Eid is especially important for showing its importance to children. In fact, the UAE is an ideal place to raise a family in many other respects as well. There are many conveniences which makes it easier to preserve and grow faith in the next generation as children growing up in the Emirates feel proud about their Islamic heritage and tend to own it, rather than feeling shy about it. Islamic studies and Arabic are part of their regular school curriculum, and if parents make the effort they can ask the school to teach their children the same level of Arabic the native children get. There are some very good quality secular education schools -- better than those in the West. Children enjoy watching Arabic/Islamic cartoons and there are many family entertainment opportunities again much better than those in the West, in many instances. It is easy to find private tutors to teach kids Quran and Arabic in-person (face to face) at home.

The UAE presents several opportunities of learning for adults too. There are several institutes and private tutors to learn Arabic. One can learn different characteristics from different nationalities one works and worships with, not feeling bound to follow the majority public trend in your country, nor that of the West, but to construct the ideal Islamic society that you believe in. What is lacking in onsite education, one can substitute with on-line education.

There are several other conveniences in the UAE which are not there in many other places. The UAE is described as a salad bowl rather a melting pot; which allows one to always feel comfortable about one's identity and do not feel any pressure to fit in. If one wants, one can avoid the overwhelming decadent culture of globalization and still enjoy all good infrastructure/conveniences that the UAE provides. It is uplifting to go to masajid which are well provisioned and well maintained. Halal food is the norm rather than the exception. Fruits and vegetables are flown in daily fresh from all over the world. The local grocery stores stock up on your favorite Sunnah foods, e.g. dates, camel milk, camel meat, talbeenah, etc. The media, especially the internet is protected from unislamic and deviant content. One can find several dedicated Islamic TV and radio channels, which are frequently playing in the background while you do grocery shopping. Perhaps what a lot of homemakers like is the ability to order any item from the neighboring grocery (baqala) shop over the phone for home delivery without having to pay extra.

Those who criticize living in the UAE point out that one cannot easily become naturalized citizens and enjoy state benefits including permanent residency. Those who do so are often those who are takers and not givers to society. This point is really a blessing in many ways as living in constant guard about one's residency status, makes one more pious - not deluded in enjoying the dunya, but constantly planning to fulfill one's responsibilities before one leaves the Emirates, like wise men do before leaving this world. Living with this knowledge, takes out the best in one's character and accomplishments. Those who have successfully done this for generations have in fact refined the process in multiple stages.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Scripture So Special

Whiteboard Video Animation

It is amazing that both Muslims and non-Muslims attest to the unique qualities of the Quran. Let us consider what makes this scripture so special.

Linguistically the genre of the Quran can not be described as prose nor complete poetry. It is something unique in literature. Despite being eloquent to the extreme, its vocabulary is surprisingly limited, allowing anyone to understand it without translation with some effort on his part. Not only that, anyone can recite it as it was meant to be recited by the Arabs, with some training in tajweed. The Quran repeatedly throws a literary challenge to its doubters -- asking them to produce anything similar to it. The fact that nothing exists of a similar nature despite centuries of attempts, signifies the unearthly qualities of its origin. The Arabs -- both Muslims and Christians -- unanimously agree to the literary masterpiece of the Quran and hold it as a reference for all Arabic works. No doubt, the Quran is the reason for the survival of Arabic as a first language in 22 countries and a formal language of religion in many others. It allows the Arabs to understand each other despite the vast differences in their colloquial forms that they use in every day parlance.

The rewards and benefits one can achieve with an association with the Quran are truly limitless. It is the real primary source of guidance for all humanity. Reciting it daily with understanding and thought, causes one to live in the context of his journey in life. It increases the reciter in belief or eemaan. Its verses are a protection against evil and magic. It helps people achieve good spiritual health. It relieves pain and suffering in many physical ailments. Its recitation is rewarded both in this life and the next. It provides insights and wisdom for its students by developing their worldview of true reality. Subsequently it has changed the lives of innumerable people throughout history and provides the most important reason for believers to come to and stay committed to their religion. Angels gather during gatherings of its study circles, supplicating for all those present.

Allah (SWT) has promised to protect the actual text of the Quran from alteration. No wonder, research has shown that it has not changed since its compilation. It is the only holy Scripture, in which the Creator Himself speaks in the first person verbatim to mankind almost throughout its text. Despite being revealed in portions during 23 years of span of time, there is no contradiction in its contents. Its main topic is mankind's guidance for which it expounds natural laws and consequences. Its description of nature contains many scientific insights whose veracity we are still attesting to even today.

Historically, the Quran is the final scripture of revelation that was sent by Allah (SWT) to a series of Messengers to mankind -- the last being Prophet Muhammad (SWAS). It provides information about past civilizations which was lost prior to its revelation as well as containg prophcies which have come true with time. It is the Quran that fueled the eemaan of Muslims, who then went on to change the course of history. History has shown through successful Islamic revival movements, that it still has the potential power to do it again and again.

The Quran literally means something that is recited over and over again. Countless Muslims have recited it througout their lives and still do so today. It is the most read and most memorized book in human literary history. Allah (SWT) has shown miracles to many civilizations in the past to help them come to the Truth. He (SWT) has saved his most special gift to humanity for last -- The Quran -- Allah's (SWT) Everlasting Miracle.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Miracles of Makkah

Mentioned as Umm al Qurra, i.e. Mother of Cities (Settlements) in the Holy Quran, Makkah is the birthplace of Islam. It had special significance, as a center of annual pilgrimage, even before the Message of the Last Messenger was preached. In its central valley is situated the Baitul Ateeq, the oldest place of worship for mankind. It was originally built by angels when the Earth was being formed. It was rebuilt and repaired several times by different Prophets of Allah, including Adam (AS) and Abraham (AS). In the sky above the Kaaba, lies the Baitul Mamoor, the Oft-Visited House; the place of worship of angels. The sanctuary around the Kaaba today is known as the Masjid al Haraam, the Sacred Mosque.

Throughout centuries, mankind has witnessed special miraculous powers while visiting this Holy Land. The reward of prayers performed there are multiplied hundred thousand times the reward of prayers in any ordinary place on Earth. The atmosphere of the place affects the guests of Allah (SWT), as it causes them to stay away from sins and engrossed in worship. They know, that if their worship is accepted, they will go back to their homes as sinless as a newborn.

Walking through the streets of Makkah, one hears the Salaam (Islamic greeting) everywhere as no non-Muslim are allowed in its boundaries. It is the center of the Muslim world and one can meet representatives from all Muslim countries as well as Muslims from non-Muslim lands there. As they carry out the manasik (rituals) of worship together in the same simple attire, they feel a common bond of brotherhood among them. They address each other lovingly and respectfully as Haaji or Haajah. There is no industry or other source of business in Makkah except related to its special place of pilgrimage from Muslims. Thus its provision (rizq) comes from all over the world. Traders and shopkeepers in Makkah know several languages and invite customers in their own. Nevertheless, Arabic is the lingua franca of Muslims there. Even those weak in it find their levels enhanced after a visit there in its practical language laboratory. A visit there is more beneficial than several classes back home. Students and scholars of Islam from all over the world desire to learn and teach in Makkah. Indeed one can find many halaqas (study circles) of knowledge in between the prayer times in the Sacred Mosque.

The blessings of Makkah are due to Prophet Ibrahim's (AS) supplication:

“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House in order that they may perform As-Salat. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.”
(Surah Ibrahim, v. 37)

Part of the fulfillment of that supplication is the well of Zamzam. It has miraculous powers for whatever you intend it for and it does not diminish. Many have found miraculous cures in its drinking.

Indeed prayers, generally, are answered more in Makkah. Throughout history, it has been a place for turning points in the lives of many Muslims who became motivated to improve themselves due to their visits. Psychologically, Makkah causes tranquility of the soul as well as physical and spiritual improvement of the body. A Muslim feels energized and his level of eeman increases, causing him to wish to return again and again to this blessed city.