Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: The Pale Blue Dot - that is Us

Sarfaraz A Rehman: The Pale Blue Dot - that is Us: Having served its mission, the old machine was let to travel on its lonely route to where nothing had gone before. Out of the sola...

The Pale Blue Dot - that is Us

Having served its mission, the old machine was let to travel on its lonely route to where nothing had gone before. Out of the solar system and into interstellar space, for a tryst with a star some 40000 years from now. Yet unknown to everyone, the best was to be served up last.  

On the fervent request of Carl Sagan, the iconic astronomer, finally in 1990 the Voyager 1 cameras were turned around to  face its mother planet Earth. This last service, some 13 years from launch and after 6 billion kilometres of lonely travel. Mans most unique servant was about to provide perspective to its master. More than 27 years ago, the Voyager 1, took 60 frames which were merged into what today is known as the Pale Blue Dot. A picture of our planet and home from way out there, showing us our reality. The picture is so small that one is not able to download it sufficiently for a proper view.  It has become the most poignant photograph in history and there is no better explanation of its importance, then from Sagan himself, the originator of the idea.
“Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.  

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
Once seen, one can never forget the Pale Blue Dot and the words of Sagan make the reality even more stark. Our feet on the ground, we should never be arrogant in this tiny circus of our existence. We have no reason to be. 

*picture is from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: A Method of Life

Sarfaraz A Rehman: A Method of Life: Five day formula Mon-Friday :). Try it, it might stick. Fajar, read Quran with meaning walk  have a healthy breakfast be in ti...

A Method of Life

Five day formula Mon-Friday :). Try it, it might stick.

Fajar, read Quran with meaning
have a healthy breakfast
be in time for all commitments
never stress on the road
smile and appreciate others
when required, advise, never criticise, never talk down
let others be. Don't be holier than thou.
lunch, less carbs, Zohar.
play some brain challenging puzzles
have haldi, green tea with honey, ginger and kaali mirch
stay in touch with old friends
stay active and Asr
dinner (light) and then Isha
watch TV, social media, read, play some more puzzles
contemplate on day, on life and times.
try and sleep early enough, unless some social event.

if at first do not succeed, keep trying.  :)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: The Passport

Sarfaraz A Rehman: The Passport: “One does not sell the land people walk on” Crazy Horse, Oglalala Sioux Chieftain, 1875  The nomads understood the earth was chan...

The Passport

“One does not sell the land people walk on” 
Crazy Horse, Oglalala Sioux Chieftain, 1875 
The nomads understood the earth was changing. Cold and  drought were making it difficult to survive on the vast steppes. To their East they had heard of a big water and on the West was the sea of dark water. But, there was enough land out their for the tribes. They would go both East and West. The great Aryan migration had begun. Slowly over  hundreds of years, they came to lands in India and Iran, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Germany. The Aryan migration was to change the world many millennia later. 
Even earlier than that, the sons of Hazrat Nuh, Shem; Haam; Japheth had migrated too, into empty lands and filled them with humans. Thus humans had spread through the world. 
The Quran speaks about migration. Indeed, the Islamic calendar started from the migration of the Prophet (saw). In the Islamic perspective, migration can be for religion, for education or to avoid repression. There is freedom to go from a land and no reason to be attached to it. 

“Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (4:97)

So many Prophets, Adam, Ibrahim, Ismael, Musa etc migrated. It is allowed and such sacrifice, if done for religion is greatly honoured. 
Ibn Battuta, left his native Moroccan land at 21. A wander lust and a thirst for knowledge led him for three decades through lands as far East as India. He came home to narrate his many adventures. Thus enriching history and bringing mankind ever closer together.
Humanity for much of history had the freedom of the lands. As Crazy Horse quoted, you cannot own land. Allah (swt) had given this for free, for humanity to use and succeeding generations of humans were just occupiers of the land, to eventually pass on the usage to the next generation.
Sometime after World War 1 came a change in the status of empires. The nation states were born and its first representative the League of Nations was created. Much was changed and one of the first things agreed was to stamp the identity of nation states; thus the Passport was born. Back in the Persian empire days, the Khusro would issue letters of authority to his representatives, when they traveled to other parts. Similarly, Henry Viii issued authorities for his people to travel. But by and large, the Passport was first put into effect around 1920.   
It seemed like a minor intervention, but the Passport and what it implied, has changed the world. The word “immigrant” has been stamped onto our psyche now. In the past large groups of people simply moved lands and no one stopped them. USA, the most iconic country of the last century, is also born out of this very immigration. When the Mayflower from Plymouth sailed across the seas bringing the Pilgrim Fathers, there were no passports or barriers to entry. The Passport is the basic tenet of nation hood and has become the tool of racism, wealth, barriers and has also led to conflicts. Whatever the intention of the League of Nations, it has so transpired, that the simple agreement to institute the Passport almost a 100 years ago, is suspiciously viewed by many as a sinister conspiracy to subjugate the people of humanity.

Just a further related footnote of history. A hundred years ago, much changed very suddenly. The Balfour Declaration was made, creating the vision of Israel; the Caliphate of Muslims was destroyed; USA took its role as the major power; the concept of modern nationhood was established; The Bolshevik Revolution took place in Russia; the Jewish people commenced their migration to the Middle East (all done without any Passport!!!); The division of Europe was done leaving the seeds for World War 2. The division of Arabia was done, leaving seeds for the present conflict. The Passport was born; The present day system was institutionalised (banks, stock markets, currencies, insurance companies, transnational organisations, democracy). All within a space of three years history was transformed. So who was the guiding hand? Are we humans so obtuse, that we do not see a pattern here? But, that is a question of a separate story. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Living in the Now

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Living in the Now: As a child Our time scale was very short. That was the basic reason why we lived in the Now and were happy.  It was incredible how t...

Living in the Now

As a child Our time scale was very short. That was the basic reason why we lived in the Now and were happy.  
It was incredible how the smallest expectation and our happiness would hit the roof. That is because the time span we saw was just upto the expectation. We did not see beyond.

If something bad was about to happen, even then we were like a rubber ball, because we bounced back immediately after the bad event, because we did not look back and so happiness prevailed.  

There is a lesson for us in this. Kids outlook span of a short time, is natural. A fear of the future is deliberately inserted into our children by us humans. Making them slaves of society for the rest of their lives. If we stop, they will continue to be the happy creatures they were at the start. 

The sort of fears we inculcate in our young ones are endless. 
  • a fear of financial security
  • of rejection
  • of loss of face 
  • defeat or failure 
  • loneliness 
  • a lack of love  
  • physical safety
  • And many more specific ones

These kids are born clean happy humans and we distort them. They then end up developing paranoia, ego or insecurities. It mutates them and that mutation becomes the basis of all the troubles of this world. The likes of Borgias, Caligula, Attila, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini and many more are just some of the products of their circumstances. The world paid a heavy price for what went on in their houses, schools and early lives. Had their parents and adults been able to see into the future, much could have been prevented. Much! Such a tragedy the world could have been spared.  

Wish there was a way to stop these tragedies in the future. Of leaving these happy bubbling beings just what they were born to be, good happy humans.

* picture is from 123rf.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Laws of Perversity (Never say Never)

imageIts my hypothesis, that there is a trap set at every step during our lives. Its been pre programmed. You just need to find it. And its not that difficult. Just the right mind set and you are in there.
As a kid, I remember my father thinking of buying a Volkswagen Beetle, as a family car. Nothing unusual about that. One in every four cars on the road was a Beetle in those days. This is before the Government of Pakistan decided in its infinite wisdom, that they should tax higher literage cars more than others. So before the Japanese cars took over in Pakistan (and really the world), you could see the Beetles every where. We all went and checked out the Beetle at the showroom and my mother categorically stated that it was a horrible, ugly looking thing, and she would not sit in it. So, alas, no Beetle!
Cut forward 14 years and I was back in Pakistan, studies completed, I had recently joined Unilever, on whose princely salary, all I could afford was an old second hand car, Alhamdulillah. Guess what I ended up buying ? A dilapidated 14 year old Beetle! ( this car had a mind of its own. It would forever stop on Clifton Road at the most inopportune times and caused me constant heartburn). And of course my mother sat often in the same ugly car, for the next 3 years. A soft trap, but nevertheless, one which repeats itself all the time.  
Never say Never!
Just go ahead and state your intentions of not doing something in a categorical fashion, and more than likely, the exact thing you denied, you will end up doing. Now, somewhere there is a Murphy’s Law, which states that anything which could possibly go wrong, well it will go wrong. Similarly, I think there should be a Perversity Law. If you say something will “Never” happen, well sadly it will happen.
In my own personal experience, it has occurred exactly like that. I stated I would not study abroad; I did. Never do Chartered Accountancy; I did. Would not join a commercial organisation; I did. Did not want to be heading an operation; I did. Once I left the commercial world, would never come back; I did. Would never smoke; I did. Will always exercise and have no weight problems; well in the last ten years done little exercise and had the mother of fights to keep the weight in check.
I wonder where this stops and how many others suffer from similar results. Friends I have enquired from, all have a similar story to tell. So is this a worldwide phenomenon? Then the thought occurs, if it is so common, why don’t we humans, stop stating things in a categorical fashion? Or better still, only say “Never” to things you actually want to happen, thus engineering a perverse reaction, all to your benefit. That should lead to the perverse happening., which is what you wanted in the first place… right? If you see what I mean.
So then, my fresh, new Laws of Perversity.
A) if you are sure in your mind you will “Never” do something and you state it out loud for general consumption, you will end up doing it.
B) if you are sure in your mind something will “Never” happen and you state it out loud for general consumption, it will happen.
C) if you are blessed with a high IQ and a devious mind, and believe (A) or (B) are true, and then you state the opposite deliberately, thinking its going to assist you to achieve the same, you are wrong! It will catch you out and it will not happen. It simply reads your intention.
D) Law A and B are therefore the only true laws, based on the confidence of your statement.
Therefore, my conclusion, after a lifetime of experience … Never say Never!
*the picture has been taken from Wylio.com a free picture site.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Let Go

Sarfaraz A Rehman: Let Go:    The older guy smiled and said 'Yes, he knew the place and had walked the familiar corridors'. The young man, in some puzzlem...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Let Go

The older guy smiled and said 'Yes, he knew the place and had walked the familiar corridors'. The young man, in some puzzlement and trepidation, looked at the older person and nodded. 'I have heard your name before, they say you were very good'. The older guy, was not even sure his name was  recognised. Long time ago, these corridors belonged to him and were his creation. C'est la vie.     
The mace passes. What is today will not be tomorrow. Do not forget it. Age gracefully. Move on before your downtime comes. Let go! Leave some of yourself behind. So that some of it is remembered, which in time will also be forgotten. Do not hold onto the past. It is a recipe for defeat, ridicule and pain.       
This is the best advice I would give to anyone, in youth or old age.. There is a time and place for things. One day move on and do new things.  And some day like all humans, we will go the way of eternity. There we can seek the everlasting. 

Lastly the best human words related to this are from Percy Shelley in Ozymandias.   
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” 

*picture is from Pinterest.com 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Life's like that"

Such a common phrase. We hear it used often. "Life's like that". It explains much and most of us, who have lived long enough, understand it immediately. It does not need any further clarification.

There was a time in younger and more idealistic days, we would rant and rail when destiny went against us. A bad umpiring decision in cricket would bother us for days. I  remember the awful decisions against Pakistan during the 1982 England series (no neutral umpiring in those days). We were angry for days, as it meant not winning our first series in England. Alternatively, sometimes it was just about luck. A terrible FA Cup final in 1977. Liverpool would have done the treble that year, long before any other European team. But they missed out on the FA Cup, while winning the  League and European Cup.  In the FA Cup Final they    attacked Manchester United all the game, were parked in  their area and scored only one goal. ManU attacked twice during the whole game, and scored two goals. The second goal was a horrendous deflection of a ball going well out, but catching an errant foot and looping over Clemence into the goal. I was distraught for days. The reach of Allah had meant this to happen.  

You see plenty of lack of perfection and equity in life. And this discussion need not be about personal events. Infact, through the course of life, the personal blips are the least bothersome. Generally, a person feels that one has the capacity to get over personal setbacks, injustices or failures. It is the events which are uncontrollable and happen to others which bother the most. So one of the most bothersome was the gruesome Bosnian war in early 90s. Watching those horrible events on television was excruciating. But other than donate money there was not much we could do. Similar events in Syria, brought sadness and helplessness to the fore. Donating money is never  enough. The inner conscience requires action and in today's very structured world, one feels disenfranchised in such situations.

Eventually, through the course of this life, we actually do learn that Life has a mind of its own. I think of it as Allah's will, others will have different names. This world is not a perfect place called Jannah.  Life is about striving; the good, the bad and the ugly, all will be thrown at us. It's up to us how to handle them. Decades ago, the lyrics of Bob Dylan made much sense. His words about the perceived injustices of this world rankled and pained. We were always ready to take up a cause, however small. Then slowly, life taught us a lesson. Even Dylan stopped ranting and raving and became more mainline. He became a born again Christian, lost his revolutionary fervour and eventually the establishment gave him a Nobel Literature Prize!  

That unfortunately happens to us as we grow older. Experience, attrition and a declining ability, teaches us that 'Life's like that'. We grow to accept this and sadly go the way of all humans. Our destiny is that. This is life and not Jannah.

*the cover of Two doors Down.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A List of Hope

Forever one has tried to be positive in this life. Even in the   worst of times. That is a trait which beats next to the heart   and keeps it ticking. Recently, after a couple of these 'knife  in the guts type' world wide events, I was going to write a  list of despair. Fortunately, reflection made me change it into a list of prayers. 

So I pray fervently, with a sincere heart, without any prejudice and with belief in Allah.

  • I pray that all wars go away and killing fields disappear. 
  • I pray that the rich become softer and less concerned about themselves.
  • That the poor become more hopeful and happier.
  • Perhaps corporates, superstar actors, singers, sportsmen, high flying executives be less greedy and more human.  
  • That journalists and judges are good, honest people.  
  • That wealth is distributed more evenly; the rich give more.  
  • That humans waste less and not cut trees.  
  • I pray that humans do not starve, go unclothed or have no roof. 
  • That children have a chance to play and the old a chance to rest. 
  • That education is for all.
  • That everyone finds a passion and stays engaged in life. 
  • That religions find their space and Allah guides all. 
  • That armies disarm and spies go home to their families.
  • I pray there are no refugees and humans welcome all. That home is everywhere. 
  • That discrimination on language, colour or creed does not happen.
  • That leaders are servants and not rulers.
  • Once everyone gets their due,  justice is not needed.
  • That everyone loves and finds their love.
  • That the softer subjects prevail and arts and spirituality abound everywhere.
  • That humans guard their tongue and hurt others less.
  • That people will be healthy,  live long and be happy.
  • That people will acquire wisdom and big hearts. 
I pray for the above and much more. Just a small list of wants. Now who is to say, Allah (swt) might accept all this in his absolute wisdom, knowledge and power. Ameen.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Darogha Mindset

In Mughal times the Darogha was a senior position. The Empress Nur Jahan's mother, Asmat Begum was a Darogha in the Mughal courts. Her position of authority and custodianship was the charge of the women quarters of the Mughal King. This was a high honour and a position of some trust and authority. 

When you research the word Darogha, it carries several meanings, including an inspector, a manager, a warden and a custodian. To me personally, it is about security, and hence, I use the word Darogha as oft used, to equate to sentry. So rather than a broad spread, I looked at it as a narrower definition for the purpose of this blog.

Ibn-Kathir, writing some seven hundred years ago, made a startling revelation. His source, was apparently from the earliest Muslim texts. Writing in his End of Days history, he predicted that the Muslim 'zawaal' (decline) will come when sentries will be posted on Muslim rulers as guards for security and safety.  You just need to be on the streets of some of the Muslim countries, when todays rulers are commuting. In one instance, I personally witnessed eighty security cars in the flotilla accompanying one of our rulers. 

What would be the logic of Ibn Kathir's definitive statement about the future? In the time of Umar bin Khattab (ra) a man came with a petition from Egypt, citing the injustice of the then Governor. He found, Umar (ra), the Caliph of Islam, standing alone in the street, wearing simple clothes and with no security. It showed that Hazrat Umar had no need to fear his safety. His faith and his deeds (as Caliph) left no need for security. He was ruling with his conscience and any adversity on this path did not matter. Life had little meaning, without it being on the right path and death was welcome rather than do any wrong. It is no wonder, that three of the first four Caliphs suffered shehadat, but did not compromise on what they thought was right.

Unfortunately, this thinking does not simply stop at security. It pervades into our lives. I can remember, one hardly ever saw a sentry or guard in my younger days. A deteriorating mindset has led to the present situation. But what it really implies is a lack of trust. When you expand that to our 21st century society, then you see it everywhere. On one side people are causing lack of trust by their actions and on the other side we are not ready to trust anyone. It's chicken and egg and I am not sure which has followed what. 

You see it in our daily lives. Guards everywhere. Cross confirmation everywhere. To open a bank account you have to prove your life history. To get a visa or permit, the examination is all encompassing, including finger printing. Documentation in commerce is all invasive; cross checks and audits are absolutes. You may have got used to it, because you have not seen better, but I promise you some few decades ago this was a free world. You could actually travel without a visa and you could open a bank account without proof. Somewhere, we decided we are not capable of this higher level existence and descended to a Darogha mindset. Now we guard and watch everything. And even the watchers have watchers on them. Some societies have on average a monitoring camera for every dozen people. Soon we will require computers to watch our cameras...George Orwell partially saw this slavery a long time ago (1984).

A very stunning example of this Darogha Mindset which I personally witnessed recently. On trying to enter a hotel mosque to say prayers, I was asked to produce an  identity to prove I was connected to the hotel, either as guest or an employee. So the Darogha is now even preventing the worship of Allah. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017


I estimate that if events were to go positively, then in some seventy years, in the year 2087, my great-great-grandchild will be in the range of 7-10 years, In-sha-Allah.       

It's a totally ridiculous piece of forward planning, in a world where Allah is Qadir and might dispose as He wishes.  But an even more audacious piece of forward planning is, I am hoping that these great-great-grandchildren would be resident either in Siberia or Northern Canada!!!   
There is some method to this thought process. If present trends continue, then not many places will be liveable on Earth. With Himalayan glaciers gone, Pakistan, Northern  India, Bangladesh and eastwards, plus Southern China will all be barren deserts, high temperature and not much to drink and eat. Other ice masses, Arctic, Greenland and  Antarctic will also recede, causing damage elsewhere in the world. So, Africa, Southern Europe, Australia, much of USA, South America will be very unfriendly places too. Growing wheat will be a challenge, the outside temperature will be unbearable and water scarcity would be extreme. Some hardy souls will eke out a living from these places, but these would be like oases in a desert. Perhaps some areas of Northern Europe might be habitable, but it would be so overcrowded with climate migrants that one can see it being a messy place.

That is a conclusion I reached, having worked and lobbied on climate change and water for close on to two decades.  From being eternally passionate about saving humanity from its own folly, to being certain something will change, I have now become realist enough to feel we may be headed towards self-extermination. Sadly! Infact, recent forecasts from some experts suggest that the sixth mass extinction in this worlds history has already begun. 

Why this conclusion? Well most of you who will read this blog, are well aware that there is real danger on the horizon. But are you doing anything about it? You are going about your daily struggle of existence - and I acknowledge that goal in itself is a tough one - and do not spend a passing thought on what is coming just around the corner.

What we are witnessing today is, huge temperature rise in US, Europe and in Kuwait recently, trees by the road side caught fire, as temperatures reached 59 degree Celsius.  This is not normal and in the last fifteen years, average temperature worldwide have risen year on year. And let me elaborate a bit more. What we are witnessing today is the effect of our actions from the last century. The damage we have caused in the last twenty years, has still not come home to roost. This is a delayed cycle and it will be coming around soon enough.

While we doggedly go about our daily business of survival, ignoring our future, the damage to other species continues. So plants, animals, amphibians, birds, bees and sealife is all disappearing at a pace. We just ignore the fact that without this eco system, we will disappear too. Unfortunately, our climate sceptic corporates, with the oil and gas corporations at the head, are ignoring this story. They are simply playing out the same tactics as they did with tobacco. Pay politicians, lobbyists, scientists and media to create a sense of doubt, that the story is not real. The first knowledge that tobacco kills was available in the 1950s.  Sixty years later, they are still fighting a retreating battle of pro choice. Cigarettes are being consumed at a higher level worldwide, than it was sixty years ago. 

In the case of climate change, we have not got sixty years. We probably do not have even ten. We are standing at the edge of a precipice. If the people and nations of the world do not take immediate action, the battle is lost. It probably is even now. We need to do simple things. Consume less, travel less, burn less fossil fuel, use alternative energy, save water, stop cutting trees and plant them again. We need to go back to some of the basic ways of living, which served us well till the 19th century. If we do not do all this, we will be exterminated. That is why I personalised this at the beginning, in that I fear I too shall have no progeny to carry on the work of man.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our Home ❤

The question is simply what makes a home and how much is it worth to one? 

My home was handed down to me by my elders, and it is old and it is dilapidated in places. it has got some rotten pipes and wiring and  at times it is frustrating to maintain it. Some of the residents are much favoured, while others are less so. And the family fights and oft times there is injustice in the decisions. But for all the problems, it is my home, has been all my life and it is my identity. For the life of me, I have never been able to nor have any wish to be out of this home. Because it is mine and I love it. And to be truthful, what someone else (from another place) thinks of it, is of little relevance.   

My home Is identified by an old, upright, stately man, the likes of whom I cannot see anywhere in the last century. It is identified, by high mountains, rivers, deserts, large fields, by another bearded human who gave his life working for the needy, by a man holding a crystal glass trophy aloft and then making a cancer hospital, by a painter who painted Allah's words every which way, by a poet whose words and wisdom will survive till the end, and by two women who brought our home awards on the world stage, for their courage and strength. It has had singers and artists galore and writers who the world admires.   

It is no ordinary place and as I get older it brings a bigger wrench to the heart to see it suffering. More and more, it's songs bring tears to the eye and it's young bring a shine and glitter. I cannot define this love affair which has lasted a lifetime, but I know that by changing my green book for a red or blue one will not bring happiness. This home of mine has been given to me by my Quaid's generation and for better or worse, one will live and die here.

My prayer on this day is that we live together, we are just to our people, we love all and do our best. Rest we leave to Allah, who made this home on 27th Ramadan, for what purpose only He knows.

A very happy 70th birthday to Pakistan, our home!💖💖💖

Friday, July 21, 2017

Do Schools serve their end?

The caption from Bruce Springsteen's famous words really says it all. Maybe, I need not expound on this further. However, to do a fair evaluation of the subject of school and learning, we shall start with positives.     
School taught us to think. What does that mean? The process of structuring thought. To use logic, to recognise emotions, to react with thought or impulse. To read a situation and come up with an answer - unfortunately the answers are wrong, because the motivation targeted behind the thought, is wrong.      
What else did school teach us? It taught us to concentrate for long and some of us learned to work hard and understand the worldly equation of success and rewards, failure and repercussions. Again the problem is this worldly equation (driven by economics and competition) itself is a lie, so our chase itself is wrong.  
That is mostly it. Yes, I understand we learned many subjects, but all those have been forgotten. Even language as taught at school, was not used in our daily lives. We just learned a different method to write and talk at work and in the house. And to add, this is not to denigrate the wonderful caring souls who taught us in school, i.e. our teachers. They are not to be faulted at all, it's the crazy system. 

For a sum total of plus 20 years of education, that is pretty awful results.    
Now if I alone was saying this, then it was I, who must have been a lower quadrant student. But, it's what almost all my contemporaries tell me also. School did not teach us life. It taught us stuff which failed to translate into any use in the real world. It did not teach us the art of living. It did not reach inside and touch us lifelong.  
Along the way, outside the curriculum and in the real world, we learned much. Firstly somewhere we learned a bit of a value system and secondly we learned the emotions quotient. We learned how to deal with people, how to interact in various situations, how to live together in society and how to get ahead. Laughter, fear, scorn, friendship, love, hardships, pain, rejection all came as a dose and left us more knowledgeable. Many of us learned compassion and giving, unfortunately many learned taking and exploitation.     
Now looking back over a life which has wound its normal course, surely, there must be a better way? Packed together, stressing out over results, facing the wrath of teachers and parents, we have collectively lived a lie. It has made some of us weak, others evil,  a few rebels and many saddened normal humans. This could have been much better, because schooling has been around forever, but we do not seem to have learned and improved.
Schools sole purpose should be to create rounded humans, who will go on and create harmony in their environment. Society's betterment has to be our end goal. No wonder, the world is such a dog-eat-dog place, where today only eight people own more than the sum of half the worlds population. Surely that cannot be right? ( Oxfam report on world wealth )

The worlds 7.3 billion people, are paying the price of our schooling. 

*picture from weheartit.com

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Making Pakistanis tick

Pakistanis are emotional, vibrant and insecure. It's our history, our colonialism, our sardari nizaam and our deprivation. We love to be recognized and praised. A bit of narcissism in this too. So a vision which inspires us will put electricity in us. We will give our all and die for a cause. But the mundane, the routine, the disciplined is not our game. Just watch our cricket team. It tells us all. Tigers against the wall in 1992; denigrated as losers in 2017. Winners against all odds in both cases. 

The cause (vision) gives us common purpose. This belief leads to passion. Passion leads to ownership and diligence. Ends up making a team and once a team, any goal is achievable. Absolutely any goal! But there has to be a leader. That leader should be at one with the vision and also connected to the team. The leader has to provide security; which means protecting the team from pressures and retribution, so they be free to operate without fear of failure. The leader has to be human, demonstrating empathy and a lack of ego. Most of all the leader has to sacrifice the self for the team and cause. Sacrifice can be time, money and health - e.g. Quaid-e-Azam. You have such a leader, you will have a team and you will have your success.

Former CEO Engro Foods Limited, Executive Coach and Consultant

This has been reblogged from the below mentioned site.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Yunus(as), The Fish and Nineveh

The town of Nineveh is the only populace that survived impending disaster (ordained by Allah), when they came back from the edge of a precipice. The Quran confirms this in Surah Yunus (10:98). These events seemingly taking place in the 8th century BC.                              
Nineveh lived an existence of excesses and to it came Hazrat Yunus as Prophet. For thirty plus years he endeavoured to teach them, but truth be told had scanty success, with only a handful of conversions. His warnings of the wrath of Allah made no difference and they ridiculed him. Eventually his patience ran out and he told them he is leaving Nineveh and punishment will follow. Alas, Yunus(as) was supposed to ask Allah for his directions and not go off in anger.       
Remember Dhan Nun (Yunus), when he went off in anger, and imagined that We shall not punish him (21:87)  

When Hazrat Yunus left the town, the skies changed colour  and dark clouds and rumblings appeared overhead. The people now fearful, gathered and implored Allah for His forgiveness. Since their repentance was sincere Allah withdrew his punishment. The storm was lifted, and the people now prayed for the return of Yunus(as) for proper guidance.    
Yunus (as) on leaving the town, boarded a ship and it sailed off into the sea. But by night-time the sea became turbulent and a storm tossed and rocked the ship, as if to break it up. This was no ordinary storm and despite baggage being thrown overboard it did not help. A sacrifice was necessary according to sea faring superstitions. Lots were drawn and Yunus(as) name came up. And so the Prophet Yunus dived into a dark stormy sea, with no support in the world but our Allah.          
In these stormy waters, a struggling Yunus(as) was miraculously swallowed by a very large fish (lots of disputes on the type of fish. Suffice to say Allah, the Qadir, caused this to happen). Enveloped in darkness, inside a fish, immersed in its digestive juices and with no hope. There can not have been a worse position of any human in history. Even Hazrat Ibrahim (as)  in the fire was out in the open, where he could see and had faith Allah will save him. In desperation, totally repentant and knowing Allah was there, Yunus (as) said the very famous words of Ayat Karima. 

"La ilaha illa anta subhanaka, inni kuntu minaz zalimeen."

There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have done wrong. (21:87)    
Allah is Rahman and Rahim and heard the sincere repentance of Yunus(as) and commanded the fish to eject him onto land. Once ejected on land, he was weak and his skin burning. A gourd tree grew over him and Yunus(as) was able to feed from it, and had shelter against the elements. Allah (swt) informed him that without repentance he would have stayed in the fish's stomach till the Day of Judgment. Instead due to repentance and Allah's mercy, Yunus (as) went back to Nineveh to a people who were waiting for him.

And We sent him to a hundred thousand people or even more, and they believed; so We gave them enjoyment for a while. (37:147-148 )

The Ayat Karima ( as we know it in Pakistan) is one of the most powerful supplications to Allah (swt), during desperate times. The Prophet (saw) has stated in a Hadith.   

“I know words that will cause Allah to remove one’s distress. These are the words (of supplication) of my brother Yunus (as).” (Tirmidhi)

Of all the legacies of Hazrat Yunus, this is the one, that almost three thousand years later, over a billion people repeat his words to Allah (swt) in times of repentance, sorrow and need.