Showing posts from August, 2020


  There are many other ways of helping people with one’s words. For example, if a person is looking for a job and you tell them about a suitable job you know of, if someone is looking for a specific specialist and you put them in touch with the right person, if someone needs some information and you find that information for them, if you see someone who is lost and you help them find their way, there are numerous situations like this when we can do things for people which do not cost us anything but may make a great difference to their lives.


THE DIFFERENT WAYS OF HELPING PEOPLE    Sometimes you hear people say, “I have no purpose in life.” I reply to them, “one of the greatest purposes in life that I know of is helping other people.” To this they reply, “but I have no money. How can I help other people?” This is a major misconception. There are at least three main ways in which we can help other people, two of which do not involve any money at all.   The first way of helping other people is through our words. Many of us underestimate how greatly our words affect other people, both positively and negatively. If one starts thinking of ways in which we can help other people with our words, the first and foremost is listening to them kindly. Again, many of us do not realize how much difference it makes to other people, and how much it helps unburden their hearts, if, upon seeing someone looked distressed and troubled, we ask them, “are you okay? Is everything alright?”, and then if they want to talk about it, just listen respe


 STEP 3: DO GOOD TO EVERYONE   In my younger days (once upon a time in history) I used to have all these big fantasies that one day I will become a great person, with lots of money and power, and then I will change the world and help so many people and change their lives for the better. I guess many young people these days have the same fantasies. That is why I thought I will share some lessons I learnt on the way which may be useful for them too.   CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME   I was very fortunate to find a very wise mentor early in life who taught me that there is no greater good in this world than helping your mother do her chores so that she feels a little less tired at the end of the day!   We crave greatness by doing great things so that we will become famous, everyone would know our name, sing our praises, write about how we changed the world. Doing the dishes at home, helping clean the house, helping with the laundry, seem like menial tasks which are for lesser mortals.    When we


THE CORRECT INTENTION ( NIYYAH) Hazrat Thanvi RE said that when it is pointed out to people that they have caused harm to or hurt someone, often their response is “I did not mean to hurt them.” Hazrat Thanvi said that NOT HAVING an intention to harm someone is not enough. It is important to HAVE an active intention of not harming others, meaning that one should always be mindful that whatever they are about to say or do will not end up harming or hurting someone.   The last but most important point in this series is that a person can convert their everyday acts into  Ibadah  (acts of worship) by adopting the correct intention ( Niyyah ). For example, if you are angry and feel like screaming or yelling at someone, or want to say something bad about them in their absence, reflect on it for a moment and then think “even though I feel very angry with this person but I am not going to shout at them or say anything bad about them because not doing so will greatly please Allah Ta’ala.” Just a


  RIGHTS WE OWE IN OUR JOBS To recap, in general the closer our relationship is to someone, the closer we physically are to someone, and the more time we spend with someone, the greater the rights we owe to them. That is why so much emphasis has been placed on rights of family and neighbours. However, if we think about it, those of us who work full-time spend more waking hours at work than at home on a working day. And yet some people are not aware of the full extent of the rights we owe to our jobs. The first right we owe is that of ‘time’. When we sign a job contract, we sell a certain amount of our time per day or per week in return for a certain amount of remuneration. After that business transaction is agreed, it is not permissible to use the time we have sold, outside of designated breaks, for personal, leisure, family use. In early days of Darul Uloom Deoband, teachers used to keep a record of how many hours they had spent per month on personal chores or socializing, and got sal


  THE BEST JUDGE OF CHARACTER Hazrat Thanvi RE used to say that “the best judge of whether a person is a good human being or not, is his wife. If a wife confirms it, only then we should believe that that person has become a better human being as a result of going through the process of Tazkiyah (purification of inner self)”. On another occasion, Hazrat Thanvi had said that if you really want to know what a person’s true character is like, ask their wife and their household servant (who still exist in some countries). The philosophy behind these statements is that we all show our true colours, when we are with people we feel we don’t HAVE to be nice with. Then we are who we really are. And that is why for people on the path of self-improvement, it is one of the first steps to critically evaluate how we treat people who are nearest and dearest to us; our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children. If we are polite and gentle with them all the time, or at least most of the time, the


  A NEW PAIR OF SHOES Bought a new pair of shoes yesterday. After I had said a few times that I really liked the new shoes because Alhamdulillah I had found exactly the kind of shoes I was looking for, my daughter asked me, "Daddy, you really must like your new shoes. You have said it kind of ten times now." I just smiled in reply. It is kind of difficult to explain to your child that every happy moment in life, everything good that happens, every time something makes us happy, is an opportunity to remember how truly blessed we are, compared to the billions of other people in this world, and to thank God for it. We have a roof over our heads, we do not have to worry about where the next day's food will come from, we have loving families around us and all over the world who would do absolutely anything for us, we have wonderful friends all over the world who would do the same, I still have a job while so many others have lost it unfortunately, and the list goes on and on.


HOW TO CONTROL A LOOSE TONGUE Most of us, if not all of us, can probably think of at least some occasions in our life when we have said harsh and unpleasant things to others, told a lie, said bad things about people behind their back, shared things with others which were told to us in private, talked back to our elders, hurt other people's feelings, etc. Reflecting upon my own life, misuse, or rather abuse, of my tongue has most likely contributed to the greatest proportion of sins that I have ever committed. But how to stop one's tongue from being so out of control? Wise elders have said that the best way to stop oneself from committing sins of the tongue is to pause for a few moments before saying anything. This gives us time to reflect on whether what we are going to say is going to violate another person's rights. In reality, for a beginner it takes a Herculean effort to make this practice one's second nature, especially when one is angry or upset.  Being the weak M


 On the other hand, t he process of doing Taubah (repentance) for any violations of rights of people is a lot more complicated. If I start thinking (hypothetically) about all the violations of other people's rights I have committed in my life; how many times did I talk back to my parents or didn't do things they told me to do, how many times did I physically/verbally fight with my siblings/friends/class fellows/acquaintances, how many times did I borrow books/other items from other people and did not return these, how many times have I made harsh/nasty comments to my family members, said terrible things to them, said bad things about people behind their back, how about all the times I used items provided to me for doing my job, for personal uses, how many times have I done personal chores/spent time socialising, in duty hours for which I was being paid for by my employers, how many years have I not paid full taxes, how many times have I paid a workman in cash so that I/they wo


 STEP 2. NEVER HURT ANOTHER SOUL Many people think that practicing Deen is all about performing Ibadah (acts of worship). This couldn't be further from the truth. In general, as Muslims we are supposed to fulfil two sorts of rights due towards us, 1. Rights of Allah (Huqooq Allah) , and 2. Rights of people (Huqooq al-Ibad) . Between the two, Allah Ta'ala has clearly stated that if we perform Taubah (repentance) He will forgive His own rights, but He will not forgive any violations of other people's rights that we have carried out, unless we apologise to them and the aggrieve person forgives us first.  To put it in perspective, when a person decides to start undergoing Tazkiah  (تزکیہ) (purification of one's inner self) the first step is the process of Taubah (repentance). When a person is doing Taubah towards the rights of Allah, for example, for all the Salah they have not performed in their life, all they have to do is to; (1) try to calculate the number of Sala


STEP 1: ESTABLISH YOUR OWN BASELINE   The first step towards starting to practice Deen is to establish one's own baseline, focusing on Fard and Wajib first. This is the bare minimum we commit to ourselves to do every day. One can do more when one feels like it, but should at least do this bare minimum even when one is tired or busy. I remember once I told my religious mentor that I found praying all the Raka'at of all the 5 Salah every day quite a daunting task. It was then he told me about different levels of compulsoriness of the Ibadah (acts of worship) and the importance of committing to do a bare minimum.  He gave an example that in Isha   prayer people generally think it is 17 Raka'at . However, there are 9 which are really important, the 4 Fard , the 2 Sunnah , and the 3 Witr (which is Wajib) . He then said that some day if you are really tired, try to pray at least the Fard and the Witr . If you are really, really tired, try to pray at least the Fard . Doing


Before we go on to step 1, i t is important to remember that not all commandments of  Deen  are equally obligatory. In the descending order of their importance and compulsoriness permissible acts are divided into the following categories; 1.  Fard  ( فرض)   (made obligatory by direct commands of Qur'an and Sunnah), for example, the commandments to pray Salah, fast and perform Hajj have been directly revealed in the Holy Quran, 2. Wajib ( واجب) (made obligatory by indirect commands or derivations from Qur'an and Sunnah),  3. Sunnat Muakkadah (سنّت موٴکدہ) (practices of the Holy Prophet [peace be upon him] which he always carried out), for example, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed the two Raka'at before Fajr Fard throughout his life, 4. Sunnat Ghair Muakkadah (سنّت غیر موٴکدہ) (practices of the Holy Prophet [peace be upon him] which he sometimes carried out and sometimes didn't),  5. Mustahabb (مستحب) (acts which earn great reward but are not obligatory), for e


A few years ago I was lecturing something to my daughter about religion when she said with a smile, "Daddy, you haven't always been a very practicing Muslim all your life. Have you?" Mmmm. On reflection I did think about how I have struggled all my life following even some of the most basic commandments of Deen (religion). As the same daughter also says, "always follow a lazy person's path because they will almost always find the easiest way to do  something." Hence this easy 4-step guide for those young people who want to follow Deen but find it a daunting prospect to follow its every commandment.  What follows is a bit of over-simplification but please remember that it is meant for those people who are just starting on this journey so deserve a bit of leeway. to be continued...


 There is a beautiful Maori saying that "it takes a village to raise a child". This is so very true when it comes to a child adhering to the norms/traditions of their culture and religion, particularly when it comes to children of migrants. I sometimes see migrant parents who complain that their children have no connection with their culture, or are not following their religion, or have no attachment for their extended families. And yet you see the same parents not taking their children to see the culture/places they have come from, or to spend time with their extended families, for years. Even more extreme are those families who cut themselves off from their ethnic/religious community and  sub-culture in the country they have migrated to. When a child has never experienced a culture, why would they feel any affiliation with or love for that culture? When a child has a close relationship with their parents, they develop one bond with their culture. If they have a close relati


  Another factor that is important in relation to children being aligned with their parents' cultural/religious values is age at migration. Generally when people migrate after the age of 25 or so, their personal/ cultural/ religious identity is more or less fully formed and has generally stabilised. By that age, these people know who they are and what their do's and don't's are, both good and bad. In general, they are less likely to be influenced by the host culture and transform their identity completely. On the other hand, people who migrate at a very early age where their identity is as yet not stable, are much more likely to have values and practices completely different from their parent culture and more in line with the host culture. to be continued...


  The third thing I tell parents is to help their children learn their own values, rather than try to force their values on their children. For some parents it can be very difficult especially if they firmly believe that they already 'know' what the best values are for their children.  One of my daughters wears a hijab, one doesn't. When I asked the younger one one day about it, she said she knows she will do it one day, but only when her own heart tells her she should start doing it now. I said that was absolutely fine with me, and eventually I would like it to be her decision because I want her to act exactly the same way in my absence, as she does in my presence. Surprised by this comment she asked what I meant so I told her a story. When we were in medical college we used to go home at the end of the day in the college bus which was called a 'point'. One day the point broke down while it had stopped to drop a girl outside her home. She waited for several minutes


  Parents often ask what can they do to make it more likely that their children will keep to the norms of their culture/religion after leaving the parental home. I always tell them that there are 3 factors that most strongly determine whether your child will always follow your values; relationship, relationship, relationship.  Try to focus on developing a closer relationship with your child, and it is (almost) never too late to start doing so. Start spending as much time  with them  as you can. Try to join them in activities of their interest. TALK to them every day. Make a habit of asking your child everyday what their day has been like. Even if they tell you something you do not approve of, try to KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT at that time. It is always better if your children tell you what they have done wrong in your absence, than they start hiding those activities from you. Try to create happy memories, meaning doing activities with them that make them really happy. The second thing I alwa


INTERNALIZATION: "T he nonconscious mental process by which the characteristics, beliefs, feelings, or attitudes of other individuals or groups are assimilated into the self and adopted as one’s own." (American Psychological Association) (My daughters recently asked me how some young Muslims in NZ could engage in activities that would have been a big  taboo both for their parents and the culture they come from, e.g. drinking alcohol. Fol lowing is a summary fo the discussion we had.) We all start our lives learning our norms from our parents (parental figures). If we think deeply enough about even the simplest of tasks like brushing our teeth, how to clean after relieving ourselves, or where to put our elbows while eating, we may remember at what stage of life we learnt each of these from our parents.  Similarly, when we start getting a bit older, we start learning our moral and ethical norms from our parents. It is okay/not okay to hit/shout back if someone hits you or shout


A dear friend asked me to share my views  as a psychiatrist in relation to the referendum on legalising cannabis that is going to take place in NZ later this year. As with most things in life, there are both pros and cons associated with this question, the balance always hanging between an individual's right to use any psychoactive substance they may like to use for recreation and pleasure, versus the consequences of such use for the  society  at large. THE CONS If cannabis is legalised it will certainly make our (psychiatrists') jobs a lot busier as cannabis use has been reported to be associated with the development of psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety and (other) substance use disorders.  Using high potency marijuana daily can increase the risk of developing psychosis by nearly 5 times, compared to people who have never used it. The association for mood and anxiety disorders is less well established than that with psychosis. Significant associations have also be


(In the blank space you can insert the name of any minority group) I almost choked on the water I was drinking when my daughter asked this question out of the blue during a routine post-dinner chitchat. Apparently this had been a discussion topic in her school earlier that day. I will try to summarise my reply here but please remember it is reply to my 15-year old, not a treatise on right and wrong. I told her that in my opinion, people hate other groups of people for 3 main reasons. The first, and the stupidest, reason for hating another person is over factors that neither party had any control over. For example, if a white person feels superior to and hates a black person, do they ever reflect on the fact that neither of them had any control or choice over whether they were born white or black, and that it was just an accident of birth? The black person had no choice in being born black, just like the white person had no choice in being born white. How stupid a person has to be, to f


The second perspective is that of Sufis. Contrary to conventional use of the term, in Islam, Sufis are those people who have attempted to go through  Tazkiyah  (purification of one's inner self). In fact, many of the greatest Fuqaha were also Sufis. According to the Sufi perspective, a human being is not aware of anyone being a greater sinner than themselves. The simple reason for that is, for example, I know every sin I have ever committed in my life. On the other hand, I barely know any detail about the good and bad acts another person may have committed in their life. So what justification I have got to think that anyone could be a greater sinner than me? For all of I know, every human being that ever existed committed less sins than me. And it is for that reason we should teach our children never to hate anyone else for what they do, and to always think of others as better than ourselves. And you clearly can't hate someone who you think is better than you. The end


The third reason I could think of why some people hate others is some behaviour they do not approve of, or consider immoral or wrong. This was the trickiest part to explain in writing and which had made me hesitate to write about it. However, as parents we have as much responsibility for our children's moral and ethical development, as for their physical development. Hence I decided to write about it in the hope that if anyone has any misunderstanding they will talk or write to me directly and clear it up. From an Islamic perspective, there are two ways of looking at it. The first is the perspective of Fuqaha (scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence). From this perspective, some behaviours are allowed, and some are not which are called sins. However, what human beings have done is that they have created gradations of sins by themselves. This is independent of the classification of major and minor sins in Shariah. For example, most sins which involve harming or hurting another human being


The second common reason I could think of why people hate other people is being born in a different religion, or in a different sect in a religion.  While we were given no choice in which as to the religion of the parents we were born to, people do have a choice to change their religion after they have grown up, or to stop following religion all together. There are some religions which you can only be born into and cannot convert into, and there are some which actively preach and try to convert people into their own religion. In terms of Islam, there is a clear verse of the Holy Qur'an which most Muslims have heard about, "There is no compulsion in Faith. (2:256)" It means that it is not allowed to force anyone to become a Muslim. Hazrat Umer (may God be pleased with him) invited a very old non-Muslim woman to Islam. She replied, "I am an old woman who is near death. Why should I leave my religion?" Hazrat Umer did not force her then and recited the verse quoted


The first reason some people hate other people is, surprisingly, out of control of both of them. Does a white person, believing that they are superior to a black person, ever reflect on the fact that just like they had no choice in being born white, the black person had no choice in being born black? Does any of us remember being asked before birth whether we wanted to be born German, English, American or African? Probably not. It was an accident of birth. We did not have any choice in making that decision, it was simply made for us. How stupid is it then to be proud of, and to hate someone, for something over which neither the hater, nor the hated, had any control over?


One day, during a routine conversation my middle daughter suddenly asked,  "Daddy, IS WHITE PARENTS RAISING RACITS CHILDREN THE SAME AS BLACK PARENTS RAISING ... CHILDREN? " In the blank space you can put any minority persecuted group and the principle would remain the same. I did try to answer as best I could then. I had been thinking about writing something about it, but was also reluctant as it is such an explosive topic, and when you write, as against when you are talking to someone F2F, it is difficult to address any misunderstandings that my arise. However, a few days ago when a reasonably educated person shared a meme about a young man from my parent country killing someone of a different belief system and praised this act, I knew I had to write something, if only to protect my children and children of my family and friends, from seeing such senseless hatred as ever being justifiable. The primary reason human beings hate other groups of people is that they are 'dif