- Isam Meaning
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I expect the Muslims to know what Eid al-Adha is but not anyone else really, so I thought I'd write a little about this celebration to introduce it. The word "eid" means celebration or feast, so Muslims celebrate this day by dressing smartly, going to the mosque and praying the eid prayer, visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts and feasting together. Al-Adha roughly means "The sacrifice/slaughter". So all together it means the "Celebration of the Sacrifice". Muslims worldwide celebrate two eids annually, the other being Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month fasting, Ramadhan. Eid Al-Fitr and is the larger eid of the two.
"The Celebration of the Sacrifice", or Eid Al-Fitr, refers to the slaughtering of a ram (sheep). The backstory goes something like this: Prophet Abraham (PBUH), having lived a long life and being married to Sarah (RA) for a long while, was without any children because his wife was barren. The family wanted to have a child so Sarah asked her servant Hagar if she would like to marry Abraham and she agreed and sure enough she became pregnant. Soon enough the little baby boy was born and they called him Ismaeel (Ishmael). After a few years, Prophet Abraham started having dreams where he was commanded to take his only son to a certain place outside the city and slaughter him with a sharp knife. Now you can probably imagine how overjoyed they were, having been childless for so long, and then they were blessed with a child - now they became especially distressed that they would lose their only child. But Abraham, being a Prophet, knew it was a command from God and went to his son and told him what he planned to do. Rather than screaming, running-away or rebelling, the young Ishmael accepted this command from God and accepted his presumed fate. So the next morning, the Prophet took a sharp knife, some rope to bind the child's limbs together and awoke Ismaeel to guide him to an alter where he would soon carry out the slaughter. They walked a while before they got there and ishmael willingly presented his hands and legs to be bound, and they were, and he was positioned, ready for slaughter. Then Abraham raised the razor-sharp knife and uttered the name of God and was about to strike Ismaeel when God commanded an angel to stop him from killing his son and replace the child with a ram (sheep) to be slaughtered instead. Thus, both Ishmael and Abraham were tested by their Lord and succeeded and their spiritual stations were raised.
This story and many others related to the stories of Abraham, considered the grandfather of the Prophets, are commemorated by the Muslims during the pilgrimage rites. One of the rituals of the pilgrimage is the slaughter of an animal like a sheep, cow, camel or goat, and they cook and eat some of it and give the rest to friends, family and the poor. Eid al-Adha is also know as Eid al-Hujjaj - Eid of the Pilgrims - and Eid al-Adha marks the completion of the pilgrimage event. The day of completion is on the 10th day of the last month of the Muslim Calender, the month of Dhul-Hijjah. To read more about the pilgrimage, or hajj, please check out the About Islam section of the website - The Five pillars of Islam: Hajj (Pilgrimage). And if you would like to view some photos from Makkah and the pilgrimage and also from Madina, then please check out our Photo Gallery.
In my life I have been exposed to amazing opportunities and moments which most people rarely get to see. But with the good, you must allow yourself to witness moments which will conversely not be as enjoyable. Last week whilst volunteering for a local MP, I was able to come face to face with situations which were foreign to me. What I didn’t know was that it was this next two weeks would have a profound effect on me as a person. Throughout the placement, I dealt which serious health issues, human rights issues, to simple squabbles between neighbours.
Towards the end of my time at the office, I was able to shadow some home visits of local constituents in my area. As I entered the first house in an Asian estate, there was a sombre atmosphere where a young Asian man led us into a small little room. In that room, I met a frail middle-aged woman lying on a broken bed moaning from her pain. We were told she had suffered a stroke 6 months ago, and she was unable to move, and subsequently she was living in what would be her dining room/kitchen area. Honestly, the scene itself brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was her physical state or the living conditions they were in. There was Qur’an playing in the background, and religious symbols draping the walls around the home. It was humbling to see a family which had been hit with such a personal tragedy, yet their closeness with God was unaffected.
As we went on from house to house, the circumstances were similar if not worse. However, it was the patience and the friendliness of the people that shone through. Being an Asian neighbourhood, they were pleased to see a local young Muslim woman partaking in local politics, and so I felt this instantaneous connection which put us on a shared level of understanding regardless of the language barrier.
When I finished the visits, I sat in the car feeling upset and remained quiet. I was shocked that this level of local poverty existed in such close proximity to my own home. Coming from a comfortable upbringing, I was always told I was sheltered and unaware of the “real world”. It hit me right then that this was the real world. I looked at my problems, and I felt ashamed to call them problems in comparison to those which others were experiencing. I felt a sense of disgust at Politicians at the top of the hierarchy who were unaware of the disastrous effect on the people they were supposed to be looking out for. What was more aggravating was that it is the same elite, who come from a specific section of society, who have never come into contact with people such as these in order to truly see the effect of their own political decisions from the roots.
There are politicians who work in their field in order to create their own personal brand of superiority and power. On the other hand there are real politicians who carry their people’s interests in their heart, and give a voice to the neglected. They strive to make life better for every section of society.
It is so easy for people to become unheard and meaningless. At the same time, it is so easy for those in better standards of living to put our fingers in our ears and brush away the harsh realities those below us are experiencing. I left my work experience coming out with more than just a career benefit. Those two weeks gave me a feeling of thankfulness for everything I had, and a sense of urgency to pursue my career in the political arena in order to do what I can to help people just like the ones I had come across. What attracts me to politics? Is it the power, the corruption, the salary or the other appealing benefits? No, I grew up believing politics is the where decisions were made to improve people, your area, your nation, and the world.
In order to improve in life, you need to aim for the top, yet keep an eye on the bottom. Whether you’re interested in politics, science, or the arts, take yourself out of your comfort zone and take as much out of life as you can, be it good or bad. It is moments like these which will shape who you become as a person.
Having a relationship with God is one of the strongest bonds anyone can create. The unique thing about this rapport is that you are the sole conductor of it, and therefore it is ultimately in your hands to determine the strength of this connection. When things go wrong and you feel detached from God, you must ask yourself: who moved? From my own personal experience, Allah (God) to me is with me wherever I go. He is entwined into my conscience which subsequently helps me to decide upon my actions – what is right and what is wrong. Many people look to faith as a moral guide, setting the boundaries of life, and obeisance of this will enable you to be rewarded eternally. Being in the UK, there has recently been a shift in the levels of religious involvement. This is down to many factors such as the pursuit of Liberalism, and generally as human beings we are becoming more self inclined, leading us to not want to have to be held accountable for our actions. Personally, I feel disappointed that so many are missing out on such a close relationship with God, and I feel that this is because of the misunderstanding of His role. You often find particularly in the Muslim faith, Allah’s functions are viewed in a punitive manner rather than a loving one. This will be partly due to the way parents have brought up their children with the idea that if you do X wrong, God will punish you in Y way. As representatives of faith, we should be concentrating on God as a support mechanism, and a constant source of love and affection. Yes, without a doubt there are certain actions which may have consequences, yet we do not express as strongly the ability of God to forgive. His mercy extends beyond belief, and the root of that is His love for us. Seeing God as a Judge who hands out a punishment takes away from His capacity to love and to respect the human beings whom He has created.
To commemorate world mental health day, 10/10/2011, I thought I'd write a post about the most common mental health problem people suffer from – depression.
Depression is more than just feeling down or temporarily unhappy, and depression doesn't come in just one form. Many things can affect our mood and increase our risk of falling into depression. Some risk factors include traumatic childhood experiences, conflict, unemployment, genetic predisposition, stress, boredom, bullying, childbirth and many other things and if you're a woman, you're more than twice as likely to seek treatment for it. Current numbers indicate that depression is on the increase and the current statistics state that between 8-12% of the population experience depression in any year with half them getting better after 18 months. (source)
The French philosopher Descartes once said "I think, therefore I am", and when it comes to depression this is key to our susceptibility and prognosis because the contents of our thoughts have a major influence on our emotions. Our outlook on life, our attitude to our own situation, how we interact with our environment all have a major impact on how we perceive the world. If, for example, you feel unloved, the world will appear unloving, and if you continue to have this kind of outlook and continue to tell yourself that you will never be loved then it will lead you on a trip to the darkest recesses of your soul, a downward spiral into a deep depression.
So, a lot of the potential for treatment lies in our own selves and how we think about things. Where possible and permitted, a person should identify and tackle the root cause of their ailment. Be proactive, try solving the problem or speaking with people who can help, like your family, friends, employer and doctor. If you can't solve the problem nor make a massive change in your life then you have to find a way to deal with it. Talking with friends and family is a starting point, but from hereon, your aim is not to deal with the root cause of the problem as you cannot change the past, your aim is to change your future, to handle the symptoms or secondary problems and reduce their influence. Your aim is to create a more positive outlook on your life and a better future.
As Muslims, we find strength from our faith and our belief and trust in Allah. Sometimes we feel all alone and with no one to seek help from when in fact we have God there to seek help and support from. If we seek treatment, Allah will help us on our way to getting better. We need to form a better understanding of life. We have to understand that we will all have some adversity in our life but we need to be patient:
[2.155] And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient,
[2.156] Who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: Surely we are Allah's and to Him we shall surely return.
[2.157] Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course.
On the face of it, the reality of life is that we will all get diseases, suffer, grow old and die, but our attitude towards this reality makes all the difference. This is the human condition and there is nothing you can do about it apart from change your attitude towards it. In Islam, life isn't viewed as the be all and end all of existence. Our life is a gift from Allah and He uses it to test us to see if we are patient and obedient before He takes us into the afterlife where we will discover our fate. We need to understand the value of our own soul and this is why we need to form a better relationship with God. When we feel lonely and unloved, we must always remember that God is with us and that He loves and cares about us and He is never far from us. We can talk to Him and seek help from Him and He can help us get better and He has the power to improve our situation. Allah asks us to call on Him for support:
[2.186] And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way.
Humans have an unmatched ability to make their own lives miserable and ruin the lives of others with them. Isn't it strange how we commit sins against our very own souls and against the people we love and our neighbours and wonder why we feel bad and ashamed or ask why we get punished in this life? The first step to becoming a better person and a better believer who Allah is more likely to help, is to reduce your sinning, right your wrongs and seek repentance from those you wronged and from Allah. Never lose hope in the forgiveness of Allah and pray to Him. It is said that one of the worst sin a person can do, aside from the obvious ascribing partners to Allah (shirk), or disbelieving in Him, is despondence and despair, or losing all hope in God and in His mercy and forgiveness. If we are depressed we may feel hopeless and powerless, but if we lose our trust and faith in Allah then we have committed a great injustice against our very own souls.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) has related:
"No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that" [Sahih Bukhari]
We might suffer in this life, but if we are patient and obedient to Allah then He will remove our sins and bless us manifold in the hereafter. If we go through a hard time, and we fight a good fight and we remain patient in adversity, we may come out better people, mentally and spiritually stronger at the end of it. Let us not forget, that there is something good in the bad things that happen to us and we are in far less dire a condition than other people in the world. Other people are dying of terrible diseases, people are watching their friends and family getting hacked to death and others are being tortured while we here are worrying about ourselves. And let us not forget that the most beloved people to Allah suffered some terrible fates – one has only to remember the fate of Imam Hussain ibn Ali (AS) and his family members, including his children, close friends and companions getting slaughtered one after the other, but he never lost trust in Allah and he prayed to Him throughout the massacre. And also of the Prophets of God, like Nuh (Noah), Ayub (Job) and Muhammed (PBUT). All of these holy and most beloved people to God were physically harmed by their enemies, belittled, called liars, became ill and suffered the loss of their own children.
Brothers and sisters, you are not alone and you have people who care about you. There is no shame is seeking help. You have Allah, your family and friends and if you need further help then please speak with your doctor. There are also books, help lines you can telephone (Muslim Youth Helpline 0808 808 2008) and websites you can visit to help you overcome depression inshallah.
I should state that I'm not a therapist of any sort, nor can I give any professional advice, and the aim of this article is to help guide you to seeking professional help if you require it. The statistics and non-religious advice mentioned in the article have been paraphrased from the books I read in researching the subject: Overcoming Depression by Dr Windy Dryden and Sarah Opie, and Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert.
Muna is a strong-willed, opinionated and educated British Muslim woman of Iraqi origin who is currently studying Law with Politics at Manchester University. To some people, she might possibly be the antithesis of what they expect from a Muslim woman; she is devout, has a modern open minded outlook, and pushes for more cultural and religious integration in the UK. She has a particular interest in the field of human rights which she wishes to work in in the future.
Apart from focusing on her education and future career, Muna is co-founder of a charity called Mount Elimu which aims to eradicate poverty in the third world by educating young people through providing schools with textbooks and other educational materials. The Mount Elimu team are currently focusing their efforts on the African country of Tanzania and have supplied 5 schools with textbooks, opened an e-learning centre, and a brand new orphanage looking after 22 children.
I have no doubt that Muna's knowledge and background will provide deep insights into topics we rarely read about and present interesting perspectives from a British Muslim woman's point of view. I hope you will be as interested as I am in seeing what she has to say.
The new Islamic-Dictionary.com website was launched on Eid day, which was just over a month ago. Alhamdullilah, for the most part, the site has been running fine apart from a hiccup in the middle of the month. Unbeknownst to me, a newly installed third-party module was using up all the memory on the server so the website stopped working properly and then around the same time, the hosting company made some major upgrades to the server and the website went down for quite a few hours, but the problem was eventually sorted out and the site was back to normal. Sorry for the downtime if it affected you.
Anyway, judging from the poll that has been running since the launch, out of 554 votes, most (76%) of you are in favour of the new site, some think it’s OK (8%) but quite a few (17%) do not like it. As I’m not a mind reader, I’d like to hear from our visitors as to how you think the site can be improved:
- What features/pages do you like but think could be better?
- What features/pages do you think need a lot of improvement?
- Is there anything you really don’t like?
If you could please send me the suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do. If you prefer, you can also comment on this blog post.
Furthermore, if anybody would like to suggest some new ideas or offer some help then please do send me an email. If you have a photo collection or individual photos you think should be added to the gallery then please email those. And if you register on the site, if you search for a word and find a meaning but you don’t think it is sufficient, or you have better wording, or it needs correcting , then click the “Suggest changes” link just below it and you can help improve the site for all the visitors. Thank you.
There were no indications that the subservient people of the Arab nations would ever request a change to the system and rise up against it even when they were denied the most basic of human rights, but to our pleasant surprise they rose up against dictators, against bureaucracy, against the corrupt officials, against murderous villains whose offices had stood unperturbed for 40 years in some cases, and they sacrificed their lives for the sake of their fellow countrymen.
God has said in the Quran that,
And indeed the youth in particular, having seen the poverty, humiliation and fear their parents and fellow countrymen lived in, decided to take up the reigns of social responsibility and demand change and better treatment and social justice, their innate human rights and basic respect. And they had the courage and sense to fight for what they believed in and Allah provided them with His support and blessed them with a grand success because they placed their trust in Him.
The dictators, the enemies of God, had they read the words of God, the Quran, would have come upon the story of Prophet Moses (PBUH) and learnt the fate of Pharaoh, and then perhaps they would have considered that they might meet an evil fate as well. They also had the example of Saddam Hussain before that and the other nations as they fell one by one but yet they remained heedless.
Alhamdullilah, the dictators of the Middle East are falling one by one. Let us hope that they come to their senses and stand down of their own accord to stop any unnecessary bloodshed, otherwise their end will be a wretched one and Allah’s punishment more so severe.
But the battle continues in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria and the blood continues to flow in the streets. In the case of Bahrain, we see that an outside state, Saudi Arabia, has interfered and sent thousands of its troops to support the current rulers to kill any protesters. Young unarmed men posing no physical threat have been being shot in cold blood, possibly by Saudi troops, while the Western countries watch and remain silent. Isn’t it strange to see how they support one uprising, like in Libya, and not another, and they take an ally in Saudi Arabia knowing of their crimes and opposition to "freedom and democracy". The politicians and newspapers may be silent but let us, the people, do our part and raise awareness of the plight of the people of Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. Use Facebook, Twitter, email and other means to inform your friends of the news and please contact your local MP and have them raise the issue in parliament and then you can say you did your part.
To the rebels: We wish you the best of success in toppling these dictators and bringing freedom, peace and harmony to your lands Inshallah. We salute you for your efforts, and for those of you who have succeeded, we congratulate you for your success. And we pray for all the fallen martyrs who risked everything they hold dear to bring freedom to your nations. Jazakumullah Khair.
Ten years have passed since those fateful attacks on the twin towers in New York, America. The world is a very different place now from what it may have been had the attacks not happened. The US has led two costly wars since the attacks and we, the citizens of all the countries involved, have had to pay the price with our children, our money, and for the losers of those wars, their sovereignty.
Everyone can remember where they were when the attacks occured. I was in Iraq at the time and my cousin pointed at the TV and told me that planes had crashed into the twin towers. At first I didn’t believe it and thought it was like a clip from some Hollywood movie but the reality was much more horrifying and the consequences of the attacks would be far more resounding than I or anyone else could have ever imagined.
It was only when this incident had occurred that the ugly head of terrorism and islamaphobia became apparent to me and to the 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world. With one swift action, 1.5 Billion Muslims were painted with the same brush and labelled terrorists. The American media machine didn’t pause to breathe and continually spewed out hatred for Islam and the Muslims. Muslims became pariahs wherever they were, whoever they were, be they young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not – and school and work colleagues, people who we met every day, were friends with, knew us very well, met us with distrust having suddenly associated us with the murderers who flew those planes into the towers. Terrorism and all things associated with it was alien to us and our religion but somehow we were now made associates of a crime we had nothing to do with.
The 9/11 attacks were a wakeup call to Muslims across the world – we had had our eyes closed to the enemies in our midst. Somehow, a disease had spread within our social fabric and we had not noticed it till now, and when we did take notice, we did not understand it until we began to pay the price for our ignorance. These ‘terrorists’ began to kill Muslims. It started off with individual suicide bombings and car bombings in public places in Afghanistan, but they were attacking Afghani citizens, including women and children, not the occupier. Then when the Americans manufactured a case for war on Iraq, they grew more dastardly, and the terrorists started to kidnap, rape, torture, steal from and massacre anyone they could lay their hands on. Tribal leaders who had initially welcomed these terrorists in because they saw them as freedom fighters against the American occupation soon realised their grave mistake when they themselves and their people became the targets and were being killed off in droves as the power-mad terrorists clambered for the authority and governance of their hosts. They eventually realised that terrorists are not just the enemies of America, or the West in general, but they were enemies of Islam and the Muslims and anybody who didn’t believe in what they believed.
It seems like a blink of an eye but ten years has now passed. Millions have lost their lives – most of them innocent Muslims, no thanks to the callous acts of a few who thought themselves devout Muslims and the ensuing American war machine and its associates. Let us never forget that we are in this situation because of a few people who claimed to be devout Muslims yet broke all the rules and murdered innocent people, including innocent Muslims. Today they will be commemorating and paying tribute to the 3000 innocent men and women who lost their lives at the towers in America, but who will be holding a memorial for the hundreds of thousands of non-American victims of global terrorism and American wars after that? Let us never forget the innocent victims of their crimes, the 3000 who died at the towers, the Afghani and Iraqi civilians, and the people who have been attacked around the world in such places as Pakistan, India, Spain and the UK. Please recite a prayer for our fellow deceased brethren, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
This is the new Islamic-Dictionary.com blog.
Over the next few days I'll be adding new content and some of the useful content from the old blog amongst other things.
If you would like to contribute to Islamic-Dictionary.com then you are most welcome. Please sign up and become a member of the site and comment on posts and join the discussions.
The website needs volunteers so if you are interested in becoming a blogger, joining in the podcasts, doing some graphics work, suggesting news stories, translating dictionary listings and pointing us at good news content, or whatever you like, then we would surely appreciate it. You can get in touch by emailing email@example.com and if you like you can follow my twitter feed @idwebmaster and/or friend me (Alqamoos Al-Islami) on Facebook.