October 18, 2018

National identity - do we need it?

A nation does not become a nation without its people having a passion for nationhood. The founding fathers of any nation had that spice for nationhood inscribed in them by the historical precedents they lived in. Every nation had an oppressive history from which its people wanted to be free. This freedom came at a cost of bloodshed and lives lost in most cases for the colonizer wouldn't give up their prize cow without a fight in most cases for they owned their prize cow for centuries. They invested in it in selfishness or not in its social institutions and its economics. But when times changed and the world clamored for this change whose time had come, the tipping point makes for these communal transitions; to nations big and small that is vested in democratic garments of sovereignty and human dignity and equal rights for all its peoples. The new nations while they had inherited centuries of foreign ways, they nevertheless tired to maintain their national identity in symbols such as statues of their martyrs, national flags and national anthems and celebrating their history in the birthdays and events that marked milestones in their political and cultural past. They celebrated everything local and tried to shape the new nation with images of their uniqueness. Some big enough to be visible and built and even military power to show their eagerness to protect this hard earned freedom. Consequently large amounts of national wealth was spent on these even at the opportunity costs of feeding the hungry or providing shelter to the marginalized. National dignity was important and that came from the show of power. This was a downside some may say but this was how they saw the priorities. This was the new nation states of the 20th century.

In the present day separated by three or four or even more generations from those passionate martyrs and social entrepreneurs, the present youth have no inkling of those past struggles. For most. this day is a leapfrog moment that leaves the history of those three or four or more generations behind in hazy or no memory and with only the ways of the colonizers to play with as they find place in the new national democracies. They only know and feel for the ways of the colonizers from where they got educated and whose ways they still attempt to emulate in this cultural and technological state of neo-colonization.

If we seek to maintain our nations as possessions to revere and protect, we need to reconstruct the images of nationalism into a holism that is paradigmatically different from the diversity that signified our nations of the past. The egalitarianism of culture creed and language and religion is being shredded and woven again into a wholeness that is signified by similarity, not diversity. That is perhaps what the neo-colonizer propaganda calls for. It thus remains for us to ask the question whether we want that in our heart of hearts or seek to maintain our true identity not as a mere waft of nostalgia but a five-sense daily reality. Don't answer this in a hurry, and especially while enthralled and inebriated by the fun and the glitter of the TV screens and its soap operas, the fake personality world of the facebook, instagram and twitter. These social media platforms push us into this mixed up mould which makes us totally like them and where nothing of us remains. Alternatively, could we ask why don't they become us? Do we ask that question ever? Or are we just following the pied piper to a faceless future and our cultural doom. If we want to change, why not attempt to chart another model of development and modernization? Do we have a mould that cannot be broken? Is it God-sent or man-made? If we have to courage to rebuild, a re-fabrication will require new minds; not minds such as those that fabricated the past. This what i would call Maldives to attempt. New minds and youthful energy is not in short supply, but we need moral inspiration and the courage to move this way. If we have that edge, we have the chance of a new moment yet again, to breathe and think and reflect. 

Lets not bet again for another chance. How many chances should one get. Already we are too blessed and Providence pokes us again. Let's not lose this chance to lift ourselves out of the greedy and selfish isolationist attitudes that seem to have gripped us for the past 10 years as a nation. Let us reframe our future in knowing what it means to be Maldivian. Let’s again attempt to become that corner of this world people label as the most peaceful of God’s sprinklings on earth.

October 12, 2018

Building a moral society

From our infant childhood, making people like us is the model that groomed us into adult life.
This is the essence of being good in a moral way. We don't have to be seemingly good to those
who are bad or criminal or deceitful but the real meaning of good stems from being acceptable
to those with moral values. So the basis of being good is morality. Being a good citizen is also
about being good and acceptable to the people that populate that community. That we don't
behave in a way we disrupt aggressively the ways that society has chosen to live by. True, big
changes happen from iconoclastic events, but we all know that these when engineered in selfish
and too bold an aggressiveness may totally backfire whereas when nurtured  assertively, can
work beautifully to transform society. Perhaps this is what the famous adage means “an idea
whose time has come”. This coming is not merely a temporal but a mental one too. We are
always, even subconsciously, matching our ideas with the ways of society so that we can
expound it in ways that society accepts these with only little defensiveness. Even saying
something as simple as proposing a different view at a gathering is fraught with such mental
play. We are strapped into this mental mould of fear or a yearning for approval.

For Maldives the restaurant sanitation culture legislations of the 1980s were appropriate for
a push for a healthy change because of the cholera epidemic in Maldives in 1978 that struck
us from the blue. Or the mechanisation of the fishing boats in the 1980s when it was
imperative for economic reasons, to move from the sail to the engine. We can bring to mind
many such moments. Yes we can also create our moments by building towards these in a
planned way without waiting for a natural progression of events to happen or for a devastating
strike from the blue.

Building society is an art. We learn the methods from formal schooling at colleges and
universities; but the real schooling that makes us wise and useful human being is what we
reap from the school of life; learning from our own and other’s experiences by being in a
state of open mind to listen or accept others views and reflecting on it for its truths or follies,
whatever these maybe. This awareness is what orchestrates knowledge and action into social transformation. And this is what every budding leader should know. Knowledge, character
and wisdom must come together in a shared oneness. True leaders who transform society
bring with them these pristine human qualities.

There is a mental element to this too. Good character comes from conforming and acceding
and respectful deference with the realization that this behaviour stems from strength of
character rather than from an innate weakness of the self. And that is just what it is even
though society in its wild form sees aggressiveness as strength.

May Allah SWA Bless Maldives!!

October 4, 2018

To believe

Everyone in this world seeks to believe in something. It is a primeval urge to discover the purpose of our being. Subconsciously or consciously we yearn to know who we are or where we came from and why we are here. Strangely without even realizing this to be so, this seems to be the first questions we ask even as we first meet a stranger. What is your name? Where are you from? Why should it matter where he or she is from? Why can't we just begin talking? No, it is to see if that person had something in common with us and in so doing for us to search for what will make for a good conversation. I wouldn't want to pick up a conversation on rocket science when i happen to meet a person who is a day laborer in a grocery store. Don't get me wrong. I'm not discriminating. Yes indeed that person may have an interest in rocket science. But that would be one in a thousand, and that much probability considerations i will have to give room for if am to not be sounding arrogant or foolish. And so it is that we ask where are you from, and what do you do, and when or why did you come to this place? All these are questions we ask as a reference to our desire to know these same queries of ourselves. This means we have an innate desire to know these concerns about ourselves. Deeper then is the desire to find and believe something about ourselves. We ask questions to verify and validate our assumptions. Do we fit into this way of thinking? All our lives we keep on seeking the truth about ourselves. Some find it and take that path which seems to be the one laid out for us and others retaliate even as they are on the borderline of finding it. Perhaps these are the questions we continue to ask for validation until we are satisfied. Some are easily satisfied and others go on questioning ad nauseum and still not find that comfort of acceptance. Some go through their whole life time not finding it. Some accept on blind faith and some on an inkling of rationality and yet others with some inner acceptance that the notion they came upon from this search is somehow acceptable. This tells us that the myriad path to finding the object of our belief is varied indeed. Evanescent for some and wholly real for others. Yet the reality remains of the undeniable fact that we all seek this desire to believe in something.

It is this belief that energises us ultimately to find the joy in life for as the seekers of the past put it - Joy is manifest when one finds his purpose and puts it in the service of mankind. That finding or assuredness is what gives us the feeling of being guided and our hands held always. This is the confidence we all seek to actualize our life dreams. It's no surprise then that we all seek to find the self confidence to do our things in life to its best. We go to school, do apprenticeships, read books on how to do things, watch youtube from Ted talks to Yan can cook,and so on; all about seeking the confidence to do something that we want to do. To learn from others of past wisdom and awareness to get a head start in the collecting of goods that will be meaningful to us on our journey to wherever we are going.

That power is in the Universe. Surely this profound creation can't have just sprouted up as a cosmic accident. All these wonders in our universe working in perfect unison to make for the life we lead on this planet earth can't be on its own, given that we full well know that conflict is the way of our world and no two people can work together for an extended period of time without getting on each others nerves even as every cell and organ in our body works 99.99 percent of the time in complete unison; and that the 0.01 percent of discord that can happen is more often than not from our own foolish doing - as we seek our so called pleasure from the ways that upset the cosmic balance. The seasons that change with cosmic precision or the blade of grass that grows with all its microscopic metabolic organelles within it working in perfect order and precision to give us that beautiful lawn where we spend many a joyous moment. The multitudes of plants and animals that weave the web of life to make for our mind-boggling ecosystem and our livable environment just happens? Surely, all these can't be accidents or the continuing result of one? The cause must be that destination we so fervently seek and want to be one with. That lap of comfort that we seek from the time we left the lap of our mother to yet again be in that lap of our creator.

That is why i believe. And perhaps many more do so in this same vein. I can only conjecture. I am not unique and neither are you either. We are all one - having emerged from that oneness and to be returned to that oneness. What is to struggle against the churning waves but to drown. To be seeking a uniqueness that is not ours is perhaps the source of arrogance and thus conflict. That is what my belief says we must seek to control or put way behind on the furthermost of our back burners. Only then can we, as equal beings, seek to have peace on earth.

September 24, 2018

The People have spoken today!

Ibu OK. The People have spoken emphatically for change! And what a change!

Hats off to the energetic effort of the Ithihad coalition group and the excitement provided by the preceding couple of months on the campaign trail. Ibu’s indefatigable round of visits to all of our nation’s inhabited islands and the applause he received for his gentle and amiable character is unprecedented for a presidential candidate in Maldives. This is a sea change to the image of what we in Maldives have held as the personality type of a president. The self-assured and vocally glib individual who seem to have the world in his grasp is a world away from the patiently quiet and pensive personality of Ibu that has marked for us the change of quality in what we have so fas seen as the personality of a president. And why not? We need a person of impeccable character that conforms with what the majority of our polity whose secret desire is for peace and justice and that which falls within the spiritual edicts of our wonderful Islam. Not the arrogance of an i-know-it-all to someone who will actively seek the counsel of those who may know better than he knows. This is a step into reality and the practical world that requires us to work for national progress in cooperative engagement; that which would instil the sense of inclusiveness and the team approach that is so needed in governing in the 21st century. We don't now need the father figures who tell us what to do but a friend and guide to support and orchestrate the myriad capacity we have, to be used to its last drop rather than be neglected just because these don't come from party affiliates. our leaders can't be trapped in hubristic behaviour but be embracing an open attitude of cooperation; leading from both the front and back. We need leaders who have the humility to listen to others and see the wisdom of others words and views. To move away from the tight grip of party to being the president of the people.

I would hope Ibu will be this kind of leader. One who will attract the love and adulation of his nation. Who will squeeze the nation for all the technical and managerial capacity of each and every citizen so that we can truly begin to exercise the freedom and nationhood that is what our democratic situation leads us to act within.

I hope and pray that Ibu will be that lovable president of the people for the next five years and who knows if he engenders enough of our adulation by making the grade, might just spark the possibility for remaining yet another term as our beloved servant leader.

May Allah Bless you. May he give you the wisdom and keep at bay the hubris that deludes the foolish leader

May 26, 2018

Moral human being

On a moral compass there are two types of human beings. Ones who helps themselves and those that help others. Of course there are many permutations in between but the essence of our spiritual typology is our weighing on these two scales.

The most basic type is the one who lives only for himself. There is the display of selfishness in every deed goaded by the paradigm “what's in it for me?”. The other is move the desire to be of service to others with the guiding paradigm “how can i help?” our purpose in life is to move from this selfish extreme to the selfless extreme. But as many would agree this extreme is possible only to a most negligible few and many remain easily in the throes of the other end.

What keeps us say that selfish end is our human nature one would say. True and our Creator has made this so because this worldly existence is a test for us. How much mettle do we have to strive and move towards the other end. Just like any worldly test of our making we make it challenging for it to be worth its salt. Similarly we as human beings demonstrate our worth in how close we get to the other side. It's easy to be on the left but to get to the right it requires a lot of struggle and sacrifice. Many ask, why the struggle? Why do we have tp get on that side? These questions come from a source of ignorance; ignorance of what the purpose of life is. This creation of such grandeur magnificence could not be here just for the pleasure of our short life. There must be something beyond; something that must be worth this struggle. And that is the achievement of Jannah the doorway to which is the right side. If not for the assurance of that there is no use for morality and goodness in this world. Why do we have to be good for the purpose of just being good? In fact good has no meaning if there is no duality in life, in this case it would be ‘the bad’.

The magnificence of this universe attests to the existence of a creator. If so we must be grateful and thankful and go down on our knees to prostrate to this magnificence. That is what we do in our prayer. Acknowledge this mighty Presence. How can we be so arrogant to believe that this little speck in the universe can be a challenge to the Creator. On earth we fear our bosses our leaders and our competitors; why not our Creator? If we do accept the need for obeisance then we must be humble and be empathetic to the emotions of our human brothers and sisters. We cannot remove ourselves from the spiritual bind our Maker has ordained it to be. No we can't!

Let get back to our roots. Let not the great Deceiver take us for the ride of doom! This moment's pleasure is just not worth it!

July 2, 2017

Manners - how far have we come?

The other day i came across a little booklet that was written about 80 years ago and i was amazed at this thoughtful little compilation of a powerful piece of advice. Forty short paragraphs depicting the essence of humane behaviour that would surely be the foundation of a good and kind society. The book was titled “Dhuroosul-Akhlaaq” meaning “Lessons on Manners” . Eighty years down the road how mannerful are we in our society? Or has this book been buried with the grime of a dead past? To now be resurrected and put on store shelf by some that lament a bygone past. It's a miracle this is still available in some book stores reproduced by some thoughtful local printers. Kudos to them. This book illuminates the effort of our early local educators and spiritual leaders to inculcate the timeless aspects of human mortality in our society. The result of their effort - and / or the lack of it - is for us all to see in the ways of our present society. How far have we come?

Why manners? Any behaviour labelled as manners are those beautiful behaviours that help society to feel comfortable as we go about in our daily lives interacting with each other. The way we talk and act, constitute the bulk of manners which is the physical manifestation of our inner thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others. Manners may come of nurtured habit of our upbringing and our social experience, but it's logical to realise that ultimately manners are sustained by moral thinking, This attitude of being kind and humble translate into mannerful behaviour. Manners are necessary for us to live harmoniously in a society that attempts to offer human dignity to everyone. Yes,  dignity is something everyone yearns to have but depending on the level of manners manifest in society it is fulfilled or we fall short. When there is this shortage, society suffers for its lack. People fight and vie for space and become spitefully competitive. In such a social ambience, cooperative and thoughtfulness become the least of concerns. We become selfish and resentful beings only being guided by the paradigm of "what's in this for me?". In contrast, manners make a person's character attractive - how others see us - and there lies the power of human social transformation.

Some simple examples from our age old  “grandmother’s repertoire” of good manners: When we talk to others, is our tone and cadence pleasant and our attitude approachable?. When we are at the dinner table do we respect our space and serve with consideration to the others and attempt to pass the food rather than reach out to fill our places before anyone else, or give due attention to even the simple act of letting a spoon not drip food on the tablecloth for the respect we like to give to the host. These are mannerful acts of reciprocity; those that delight others and also gain the merit of respect for ourselves. On the street, are we considerate of how we give way to each other or have consideration for those older than us or do we just walk along as if we own the pavement (if there was one); or in traffic, do we care about the safety of fellow drivers and engage in safe and defensive driving? When engaged in a conversation do we listen intently to what the other person is saying or just behave like “Tennyson's Brook”? Do we say “thank you” when a favour is done to us, or voice a sincere “sorry” when we happen to accidentally inconvenience anyone? At the crowded bank, would we give the seat to an older person or someone with disabilities? Could this be also so while we are stuck in the many lines (queues) we form up at grocery stores, banks, payment counters in hospitals and the like? Or for that matter in situations where there is no arrangement for such a line, do we attempt to form a line or just prefer aggregating at the counter like bees around the honey pot?  Do we greet people on the street and attempt to spread good will with a smile or a nice gesture of acknowledgement? Do we give way to pedestrians at a street junction or do we just race our powerful machines dangerously past the hapless pedestrian in our seemingly endless hurry to go wherever that we may be going without any consideration for the road risk we may be creating. Do we care at all?

When we don't practice these finities we lose ground in our humaneness. We are surely not wild animals but this must be hallmarked by the behaviour that makes us separate from those at the zoo. Those qualities that define our difference is nothing but manners. It's manners that take us out of the realm of “the survival of the fittest” that is the animal kingdom. Our’s is the realm of the human kingdom. There must be a difference. Otherwise we are nothing better than animals in human form. We thus live a wrong label.

Allah SWA created us different for us to behave differently and this difference is what separates us from the other creatures He created. In fact this aspect of manners is what differentiates us even amongst ourselves in the human society. As we all know. Allah SWA looks not at anything else about us in his judgement of our goodness but our deeds. Absolutely nothing else. Not our lineage, our wealth, our educational qualifications or the colour of our skin or our physical skills. Good deeds are all He looks for. And good deeds are mannerful acts.

June 24, 2017

Life’s journey

Eid Mubarak to every one of you! As we say goodbye to another Blessed Ramadan, we are returned again to the task of regular daily living. But something must have changed in us for the better, for that is the stuff of Ramadan; and life's journey continues. Ramadan refreshes our minds of the essence of this journey. metaphorically we reflect. Here is a peek into my thoughts of this. 

From the moment we are born to the moment of our death we are on this journey of life. It is interesting to note that when we board the ship we are crying (perhaps because we already know the hardship of life) and others are laughing. And when we disembark at our death, others are crying and we are laughing (if we have lived a good life).

So how do we live a good life? How do we make that happen? One approach to living a good life is the worldly one. We can do so by accumulating wealth and indulging in the pleasures of life with not a bit of thanks given to the Provider of all this bounty. We indulge in this kind of hedonism when our eman is low and we have no thought given to the advent of the Hereafter. Some of this group actively believes that there is no Hereafter. What we have is here and now. Still, those that believe so know they are on a journey but for them it is more a cruise-ship of fun than a moment's ride to a destination. The other way is to balance this worldly comfort without forgetting the merits we need to accumulate for the Hereafter.

Metaphorically, our ship of life, as is any ship, is guided by two very important groups of people; the captain of the ship and the crew of the ship. If we can imagine our body to be the ship, the captain is our conscious mind and the crew is our subconscious mind. Whatever command the captain gives, the crew follows because the subconscious mind does not evaluate the command and give a feedback to challenge the captain’s command. It follows the orders. Now, we must know that our subconscious mind is the confluence of such commands it has received over time from the time we wore born to this present time in our lives. It has defined our personality, our habits and our values and our assumptions right or wrong. So we guide our ship in this collective consciousness imbued by this historical and cumulative experience which we call our basic wisdom framework. So we are wiser than others. And yet others are more creative or compassionate or cruel or deceptive or resentful than others; all based on how our captain has commanded the crew of our body.

But Allah is wise and so he created us not in complete hard-wiring but with the ability to rewire and become different as we wish. But the change has to be based on changing the captain’s command. When the captain can be made to change the command for some length of our temporal time we can change old habits and beliefs. Our power of self-will and choice is what gives the responsibility for ourselves. Yes, this world is a test, and each one of us believers in a Supreme Being, must pass the test to achieve the Hereafter  Just like our achievements on our school prize giving day or winning a trophy in game of physical endurance, Allah will handover to us our report cards on the day of judgement. Some will be enthralled in joy while others will have their share of tears. We can ask Allah to give us hidayath, for in the asking is the answering. When we don't ask we don't get. That is the power of dhua.

Yes, now is the time to struggle and accumulate the goodness we need for the prize of the Hereafter. We need to fill our baggage with the right goods we can use in the land of the Hereafter when we get there, and we are sure to get there no doubt. This requires a conscious packing of our baggage with the right kind of clothes and adornments and also ensure that the Captain gives the right orders right from the beginning of our journey.

Our short sojourn in this world is to accumulate the goodness that will be the investment for the Hereafter. Selfish action does not give us merit. It is social good that we do that adds to the merit. See that we do no harm to others. It's not enough just to focus on doing good, but quite as important also is about not doing harm to others. Allah SWA counts this also as merit.

Allah SWS calls on us to enjoy this world even as we seek the Hereafter. But why is it that some people commit suicide? Some want to leave the ship even before time. They don't want to be with the ship. Why? Much research shows that they left in dispair because of another person's hurtful action. Otherwise no one will leave this ship by themselves. So don't hurt others to the extent of pushing them off the ship. We may not be doing it in awareness but in ignorance. Still it is our action. So let's not make that happen to others. When we don't engage in hurting others, we do a great service to mankind.

So, as we board the next leg of our journey, let us fill our bags with the best of what we can use in the hereafter. And that is the best of deeds; not money or wealth or fame or position in this worldly society. Surah -Takasur attests to the folly of being distracted from the Akhirah in our desperate accumulation of worldly wealth.

To get dhuniya we have to do fikr and to get jannah we have to do zikr.