Beyond Orwellian: Liberty and technology today
By: Robert Scheer
For democracy, privacy is the ball game. Without the assurance of a zone of inviolate space, both physical and mental, that a citizen can inhabit without fear of observation by others, there is no guarantee of the essential sovereignty of the individual promised in the First and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution. That should be clear, as it is to most people who have been oppressed by the tyranny of authoritarian regimes. Indeed, as Aldous Huxley and George Orwell brilliantly established in their classic writing on this subject, the totality of societal observation over the individual is the defining antithesis of freedom, even when that observation is gained through hidden and subtle persuasion.
The Sunnah of Mental Focus
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Whosoever begins the day feeling family security and good health; and possessing provision for his day is as though he possessed the whole world.” [At- Tirmidhi].
AMERICAN MUSLIMS AND THE TRAUMA OF ANTI MUSLIM BIGOTRY
By: Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad
In Aug 2011, Associated Press journalists Chris Hawley, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo began publishing a series of detailed reports exposing a decades long secret surveillance program. This program was engineered by the NYPD (with assistance from the CIA) to gather intelligence on entire Muslim communities. Operating under the auspices of the “Demographic Unit”, law enforcement spied on American Muslim citizens all along the Northeastern seaboard— from New Haven, CT to Philadelphia, PA. The extent and reach of this suspicion-less spying extended far beyond the boundaries of New York City; with local officials and police departments seemingly unaware that the NYPD was conducting such far-reaching clandestine activity outside of its jurisdiction.
This series of Associated Reports revealed the surreal and sordid details of a program that read more like a Hollywood Spy/Crime drama- filled with informants, undercover police officers (“rakers and mosque crawlers”), monitoring of masjids, bookstores, homes, cafés, halal meat markets, and other businesses. Muslim Students’ Associationswere also targeted for surveillance –including Yale MSA, City College of New York, Rutgers New Brunswick and UPenn MSA. NYPD informants infiltrated MSA student meetings, chat rooms, online forums and group outings. Based on information obtained by the Associated Press “Student groups were of particular interest to the NYPD because they attract young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training.”
Arrogance: a spiritual poison
By: Maryam Hedayat
“I am proud of my achievement”, “I feel proud being myself”, “Proud to be a father”,” and so on…we usually hear people expressing their accomplishments with pride.
Being proud or feeling of pride has become so common that it is no more seen as immodest and improper.
Pride or (takabbur) in Arabic is, in fact, a negative feeling. Pride, arrogance, egotism, self-importance are among the most malicious inner diseases of the heart and mind.
Beating Procrastination: Keeping a Daily Relationship with the Quran
Procrastination affects us all – however, the most serious procrastination is the one that keeps us away from Allah’s path and away from good deeds.
It’s interesting how people normally procrastinate to do good deeds or beneficial actions, but would rarely procrastinate when it come to bad deeds or useless tasks! It reminds me of what Imam Zaid Shakir said in our recent interview with him, he said clearly ”procrastination is from shaytaan”.
I want us to tackle a growing problem amongst many Muslims today: It’s the procrastination from reading/reciting the Quran on a daily basis. We call it procrastination, but in some cases, it can be called complete abandonment (may Allah protect us).
Q&A: How can I stop thinking about women?
How can I stop thinking about women? I try too fast but don’t have enough money to get married and I try to lower my gaze but it’s so difficult. Please advise.
Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
Thank you for your question.
Allah says in the Quran:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things)…” [Surat al-Nur: 30]
Al-Junayd (rahimahullah) was asked: “With what do we seek help to lower our gaze?”
He replied: “Your knowledge that Him looking upon you precedes whatever you look at.”
In regard to these verses Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) says: “So He (Allah) put purity after lowering of the gaze and protecting of the private parts. For this reason lowering the gaze away from the prohibited things warrants three great benefits. The first of them is the sweetness of Imaan and the pleasure that comes from it, which is more sweet and pleasing than that which he diverted his eyes away from for Allah’s sake. Verily, whoever abandons a thing for Allah’s sake, He (Subhaanahu WaTa’ala) compensates him with better than it…The second benefit is a light in the heart and quality of intuition… and the third benefit is the strength of the heart and steadfastness and courage. So Allah (Subhaanahu WaTa’ala) would give him, by His strength, the ability of wisdom and substantiation, and the devil would flee from him as it has been mentioned in the saying, “Whoever fears his whims, the devil would race out of his shadow.”
So part of the answer dear brother is recognizing that Allah is watching you and that by looking at that which He has forbidden, you risk losing the opportunity to see Him on the Day of Judgment.
As far as practical tips are concerned:
1. Install a firewall on your computer/laptop that filters lewd material
2. Enroll in a program online to help you deal with pornography. Purify your gaze is one that I would recommend.
3. Try not to put yourself in a situation that will make it harder for you. So avoid places that will cause your gaze to wander and also being alone with your computer/laptop/TV.
4. Fasting controls ones desires and builds that consciousness in Allah needed to fight this disease.
5. Remind yourself frequently of the reward of paradise for lowering your gaze.
May Allah make it easy for you and grant you strength and firmness. Ameen
And Allah knows best.
Answered by Shaykh Omar Suleiman
Hadith of the Day Imam
Director – Islamic Learning Foundation
Mind Body Connection
The connection between your mind and body is very powerful and although it cannot be visually seen, the effects your mind can have on your physical body are profound. We can have an overall positive mental attitude and deal directly with our internal challenges and in turn create a healthy lifestyle or we can be in negative, have self destructive thoughts and not deal with our internal issues, possibly even cloak those issues with affirmations and positivity without finding the route and in turn we can create an unhealthy lifestyle. Why is this?
Our emotions and experiences are essentially energy and they can be stored in the cellular memory of our bodies. Have you ever experienced something in your life that left an emotional mark or pain in a certain area of your body? Almost as if you can still feel something that may have happened to you? It is likely because in that area of your body you still hold energy released from that experience that is remaining in that area. I came across an interesting chart that explores some possible areas that various emotions might affect the body.
Stay fit, Run to the Max!
By: Naman Mahajan
Psychological Blessings of Tarawih
Ramadan is the month of multiple blessings. It is the time of fasting and of extensive spiritual exercise. It is the time when we change our everyday routine and set a new one: revolving around our religious duties more than around the worldly affairs.
During Ramadan, Muslims make special effort to find time for recitation and study of the Holy Quran, for supererogatory prayers, such as Tarawih, and other charitable deeds.
The rewards in the Herafter (akhira) for the good deeds done in Ramadan are manifold, but there are also more immediate benefits of Ramadan worship.
It is widely known that people who fast enjoy spiritual and psychological wellbeing and that fasting is of great advantage to physical health. But it is not only fasting that profits our mind and spirit during Ramadan.
Tarawih, the extra night prayers performed by the believers usually after Isha (evening prayers) and lasting from eight to twenty rakahs, bring great spiritual and psychological comforts, despite the physical and mental effort required to practice them.
Ibrahim B. Syed, doctor of medicine and the president of the Islamic Research Foundation International, in his essay ‘The Medical Benefits of Tarawih Prayers’ published on the IRFI website, mentions the multiple benefits of tarawih for physical, emotional and mental health.
Mood & Mental State
According to Syed, tarawih prayer, as indeed any prayer performed by Muslims, has the same effects on body and mind as gentle exercise. Therefore tarawih improves mood, thought and behaviour in the same way as the exercise does.
Furthermore, the exercise of tarawih “induces greater sense of well-being and energy, reduces anxiety and depression, influences mood favorably and contributes to self-esteem and an aura of confidence; improves memory in the elderly especially with constant repetition of the Ayaat”.
The relaxed state of mind achieved through tarawih may be partly due to the chemical response of brain to the combination of repeated muscular activity with repetition of recited words over a certain period of time.
The physical exercise, but also other activities such as meditation and prayer, leads to the secretion of neurotransmitters such as Endorphins and Encephalin positively affecting the brain.
The release of encephalin and Beta-endorphins (Endogenous Morphines) acts on the central and peripheral nervous systems to reduce pain and has a calming effect on the mind. The encephalin is one of the most potent opiate-like substance naturally occurring in body.
The endorphins too have an analgesic effect, but also reduce the negative effects of stress, bring feelings of euphoria and enhance the immune system.
Syed mentions in his essay that tarawih helps achieve ‘relaxation response’ of the brain. Relaxation response is theory developed by a Harvard professor, Dr. Herbert Benson, who studied the impact of spirituality for physical health and whose work serves as a bridge between religion and medicine and mind and body.
According to Benson, continuous repetition of certain words, as in prayer or meditation, or a muscular activity coupled with passive disregard of intensive thoughts, leads to the lowering of blood pressure and reduction in heart and respiratory rates.
In words of Benson “the relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress”. Relaxation response puts the mind at ease, reduces effects of stress and induces the attitude of acceptance.
And while Benson never actually examined the effects of tarawih or any other Islamic prayer, focusing rather on the transcendental meditation of Yogis, his theory seems to be well applicable in explanation of the soothing effects of tarawih and dhikr on Muslims.
According to the study “Effect of Tarawih Prayers on Mental Health and Self Control” conducted by Quadri Syed Javeed, Head & Associate Professor in Psychology at M.S.S. Art’s Commerce & Science College, in Jalna, India, published in the February 2013 issue of Golden Research Thoughts, the tarawih prayer significantly improves mental health and self-control.
In his study Javeed examined the mental health of fifty respondents aged 18-30 before and after the prayer using Mental Health Inventory and Multi Assessment Personality Series Inventory, and the results upheld his hypothesis of the positive effects of tarawih on mental and spiritual well-being.
Yet another explanation of the beneficial effects of tarawih on mental health may be found in the results of the studies conducted by a University of Missouri neuropsychologist Brick Johnstone and by the Professor and Director of Research Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine Andrew Newberg.
The studies on the brain activity of Francescan nuns and Buddhist meditators during their prayer and found that during spiritual experiences the activity of right parietal lobe of the brain is significantly decreased.
Right parietal lobe is a small region near the back of the brain that constantly calculates a person’s spatial orientation, the sense of where one’s body ends and the world begins, in other words, it is a part of the brain responsible for the sense of self.
During intense prayer or meditation, and for yet unknown reasons, the right parietal lobe becomes a quiet oasis of inactivity. “It creates a blurring of the self-other relationship,” said Professor Newberg, “If they go far enough, they have a complete dissolving of the self, a sense of union, a sense of infinite spacelessness.”
Decreased activity of right parietal lobe induces the sense of selflessness, and the experience of selflessness, in the opinion of Johnstone positively affects the psychological health especially among people with strong faith in God.
“Our research focused on the personal experience of spiritual transcendence and does not in any way minimise the importance of religion or personal beliefs, nor does it suggest that spiritual experience are related only to neuropsychological activity in the brain,” Johnstone said. “It is important to note that individuals experience their God or higher power in many different ways, but that all people from all religions and beliefs appear to experience these connections in a similar way.”
The functioning of the brain during spiritual exercise is yet a field in which very little research has been done. The results of the studies of Johnstone and Newberg, the relaxation response theory of Benson and the neurotransmitters explanation of Syed, only partially answer the question of how prayer in general, and tarawih prayer in particular, benefits the mental health and the spiritual well-being.
Yet even though the ‘how’ is still largely unknown, the positive effects of tarawih during Ramadan and of everyday salat in the lives of Muslims are obvious even without scientific data to prove it.
After all Allah tells us in the Quran: “Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success, and remembers the name of his Lord and prays” (Surat Al-A`la: 87:15-16), and “O ye who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere.” (Surat Al-Baqarah: 2:153).