TIES THAT BIND Q47.22-3

Family: The bedrock of the society; that unit we can do anything for; a group of people we can let our hair down with. They know all our quirks but love us anyway. Love them or hate them, we are stuck with them.

I have always wondered why some families seem like a jalopy car, trudging along, with its occupants too scared to get out of the vehicle and take a peek under the hood/bonnet. Perhaps, in fear that stopping to remedy it will cause the car not to start again. Instead, all the members in the family remain on board, burying their heads and ignoring the obvious tensions within.

Why?
ties that bind
We are scared to sever the ties that bind, and for good reason. We are frightened to resolve family conflict for fear that it will escalate and rip the family apart. We would rather keep honouring the ties of kinship for as long as possible.

Other times, we are just plain ol’ cowards; content to sit back and not upset the apple cart. Tensions are often more common in large families particularly where autocracy is practised, or a matriarch makes all the family decisions whether anyone likes it or not. This way, other members of the family feel relegated and oppressed their views unheard.

Truth be told, no matter how pragmatic a leader is, there will always be voices of dissent. However, effort should be made to ensure that people’s views are heard and respected even if not followed. Regular family meetings should be scheduled for this to occur and no one should have his/her wishes imposed on others, as much as is possible.

As family, we should also not take each other for granted, despite how easy it is to do so. Instead, we should respect each others’ views and be kind in our dealings. And this should not be restricted to the adults alone, even the children should have their say and their suggestions considered.

As the Yoruba adage goes: Ile-Ife (a great historical Yoruba town) was built by both the youths and the elderly.

May Allah grant us wisdom in all our affairs and strengthen our ties of kinship.

FINAL TESTAMENT Q2.180-1, Q4.5-14

When we need to embark on a trip, we often inform our neighbours or relatives so that they can look after our house and take charge in the case of an emergency. We entrust our pets to them, if we cannot travel with them. We hand over our potted plants; set our security lights to flip on in the evenings, set our house and car alarms.
Hand writing using quill pen
We take all these precautions for inanimate objects in our possession when we travel, but what do we do about the dependants in our care when we leave them behind for good?

When you take a look at single parents who have been widowed, you realise how few of them had husbands with foresight. It is simply disheartening to see how the family plunges from grace to grass because the head of the family and breadwinner, did not make proper plans to ensure his dependants are catered for even in his inevitable absence.

Families abound where the wife has not a clue of the husband’s possessions or bank accounts. Indeed, some women may not even be aware of where their husbands work. Those who bear the brunt the most, in this society, are women who were totally dependent on their husbands with no financial independence of their own.
They end up sharing the children amongst relatives to cater for, or engage the kids in child labour. We are all aware the dangers involved in both. Others begin to dabble unsuccessfully in commerce to fend for their dependants. Some widows are known to become mistresses to wealthy benefactors while a couple of the widows remarry and with hardly a backward glance, walk into the sunset without their children who are left at the mercy of who will have them.

And these incidents are not limited to Nigeria; it is a worldwide trend. In the times of old, such widows were married to provide protection and provision for both the mother and child(ren). These days, few of these altruistic men like the Prophet (SAW) remain.

It is not acceptable for a man to embark on a journey without making adequate provision for his family so how can it be acceptable for him to embark on an eternal journey without thought of the tomorrow of his family? Islam is a completed religion and Allah has called our attention to dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s before we venture into the Great Beyond.

Dear Muslim men (and women), put your house in order today. You may not get another opportunity to do so.

ISLAMIC IDENTITY Q4.124

I was taught as a child that a good deed is that which you want people to meet you performing and a bad deed is that you prefer to do in secret. Alas, as an adult, I have realised things are not quite so black and white.
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During one Ramadan, my husband had some lower denomination currency he wanted to give in charity so he parked in front of a mosque and beckoned to the children in front of it. Initially reluctant, they quickly lost inhibition and ran in to call others once they realised he was giving out mint notes. Their numbers quickly swelled and I shrunk in my seat. I was just embarrassed we were drawing attention although that wasn’t my husband’s intention. I couldn’t wait for him to get it over with and for us to leave!

Some of us feel closer to Allah in the privacy of our rooms, prefer to donate anonymously, and keep good acts between ourselves and the concerned party. That sex between married couples is behind closed doors does not make it a shameful or sinful act. We should however not equate shyness or modesty with shame and vice-versa.

We sisters like to decline praying in the masjid (mosque) at the expense of praying on time. We say we would rather observe salat at home (kilometres away) even while other sisters are praying. Some Muslims shun sisters in hijab/niqab or brothers whose trousers are not as long because we feel ‘shy’ to say salaam; shy or ashamed? In the company of our friends, we hesitate to reply salaam thrown our way. We mumble when we introduce ourselves by our Muslim names and try to use nicknames instead, to hide its ‘Islamicness’. We push away from our mum’s kisses because she is ruining our ‘rep’. Indeed, we hesitate to answer our parents’ call so we can prove our independence to our peers. We have our Islamic clothing hanging in the back of our closet gathering dust. That is shame.

On the other hand, some of us are shy to do good deeds for fear of showing off. We see a stick on the road which may harm others but neglect to remove it lest someone behind us thinks we are holy. We observe a person needs our help but shun the person so as not draw attention to ourselves. Our wife needs our help but we are less willing to give up our macho image. We are too shy to excuse ourselves from our circle of friends to go for prayers. If there is a multi-religious gathering and a Muslim is called upon to give opening/closing prayer, we join others in searching for one who is bold enough.

While our intentions need to be purified so that we are not simply doing deeds to be seen of men, we should also not suppress our good instincts and conceal our Islamic identity. Muslims are a people of moderation; we just have to strike that balance between shyness and doing the right thing. So long as we perform a good deed (covert or overt), we will be rewarded accordingly, depending on our intentions.

LEARN FROM EACH CATASTROPHE Q3.137-9, Q94.5-6

Some years back, I had to rewrite an exam I had failed. It was the worst moment of my life at the time. I felt so low, like I let myself down. I felt humiliated. Resits (as they were called) were things that happened to unserious students! How could it be that I had to rewrite a paper in 6 weeks’ time when I knew for sure, that I had been well-prepared for the first exam? How would I explain it to my parents? Both my mates and juniors would see me like a mediocre. Through my hurt, I knew it was Allah’s Will but I kept feeling ‘Why me?’ I had worked so hard, I had passed tougher exams, why this one? I kept replaying the ‘Long Case’ oral exam in my head because I knew that was where the glitch was. My continuous assessment was fine.
Exam

Abu Yahya Suhaib b. Sinan said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: Strange are the matters of believers. For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful (shukr), and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him he is enduring patience (sabr), and that is good for him. –Sahih Muslim 2999

After the self-pity, I dusted myself and begged Allah not to let this repeat itself. ‘Let me learn what I am supposed to learn and move on,’ I begged Him. I was really frightened that if I did not learn my lesson, same would recur. Eventually, I did pass the resit exams and did not even go to check my results. Yes, I was that sure!

Every crisis reveals us to ourselves. They are a learning process and help groom us to become our best. Instead of bemoaning our fate, let’s beg Allah to help us learn from the event. People will taunt and laugh as they did at the Prophet in his time of distress when he lost his uncle, Khadija and migrated. These trials are meant to purify us.

And finally, let’s not drown ourselves in alcohol, drugs or other destructive vices. We are stronger than that. Allah’s with us so let’s get back on our feet and keep our chins up!

JUDGING PEOPLE Q49.11

As kids, my sister and I loved people-watching. We would go for a programme, sit behind and watch. As we assessed, we attached labels. The sayings go, ‘Dress as you want to be addressed’ and ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ but are they 100% true?

Many of us witness this when we go into boutiques or schools or even government parastatals. The front-desk officer critically appraises us as we step through the doors, trying to gauge the size of our wallets and how they should address us. We have also learnt to dress flamboyantly, wield expensive phones and bags and talk loud to obtain the desired respect from such superficial people.
judging
People are often multi-layered and we should not allow narrow views shaped by judging from afar dictate how we treat people. These inaccurate distorted views are often shaped from stereotypy or from gossips and rumours surrounding an individual. As Muslims, we should not join the bandwagon of insulting people or giving them names without verifying the information we hear. I have been guilty of it, and am sure you have too. We should be mindful as we judge others because as a Nigerian adage goes, ‘While we stare at the back of someone’s head, it’s another who stares at ours.’

Besides, have you considered that that ‘show-off’ Muslimah without hijab you keep ragging on could have just concluded online purchases of hijabs? That ‘flirtatious’ guy on campus could be weeping every night in tahajjud (voluntary night prayers) at his sins; the ‘hunk’ you were crushing on in class could be ill-mannered; the ‘stammerer’ in your class may have memorised more of the Quran than you; your ‘unserious’ friend may spend every weekend volunteering at an orphanage; and the guy in your final year class who puts on airs may be depressed and lonely.

Looks can be deceiving and the truth is we will never know until we reach beneath the surface to see what lies underneath.

We should show mercy as we judge others. Let us give people the benefit of doubt and allow them right the wrong impression we have of them.

And may Allah be merciful to us in return.

WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING Q5.90-2, Q6.120

There is an old saying about calling a spade a spade but I guess the operational word is ‘old’ because in this jet-age, a spade probably has a hundred different names in various slangs.

Jumping the queue is ‘shunting’, insulting is ‘dissing’ or ‘yabbing’, a lie is a ‘fib’, gossip is ‘gist’, while fornication is ‘making out’ . You are simply ‘greasing palms’ not bribing; ‘getting high’ not intoxicated and ‘playing a fast one’ not cheating’.
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We appear to think such ‘cool’ euphemisms make vices less offensive. These synonyms do not change the fact that some are sins, irrespective of how cool they sound. Because virtually all movies have sex scenes or nudity but are labelled ‘G’ for general viewing doesn’t make it okay to watch. When hip-hop artistes call the ladies in their videos derogatory names, it doesn’t mean it’s alright for us to address our sisters by such epithets. The point is no matter how gorgeous vices are wrapped, their content is still vile and a Muslim should stay away from them.

May Allah strengthen our resolve.

Do you have any slangs to share?

JUST LIKE US Q6.116-7

He keeps aloof, away from us
He sits afar, like he’s much better
Like he’s too good for our company,
Sinners with the scarlet letter.

When we step out, people take note
Not of me, no! Of him instead
Am more popular and better-clad,
‘His face does glow,’ I think in dread.

My mum likes him, she likes rarely
‘He’s special,’ she says, with a small smile
He’s not handsome, tall, or charming
I bet his humility is mere guile

No man’s perfect, so he can’t be
Hard as I look, there’s naught to see
He says he’s Muslim, but I am too
Yet everyone likes him and not me.

I stand with friends and view in ire
At how his spotless garment shines
I look at myself and my friends
At our soiled clothes and hands of grime

Right then, it hit! It hit me hard!
Envy for whom I call my ‘friend’
I wish he wouldn’t seem flawless
And had a vice, needed amend.

A petulant thought; Yes, I know
But hatch a plan amongst us eight
We stroll to meet him; hugs and smiles
With filthy hands, smear him with hate.

dirty-shirt

‘Our plan did work!’ I think in glee
Returned home pretty pleased today
‘He’s just like us! He’s now like us!’
I feel better, play better, eat okay.

When night rolls in, I lay in thought
Thinking of a good friend of mine
‘Will the stains clear? Will he recover?’
While my shirt lies, covered in grime.