Sunday, June 26, 2016

Be afraid of our own religious fanaticism

                                                   Picture credit: Furqan T. Siddiqui

I am really blessed and fortunate to be brought up in a home where anyone is welcome irrespective of race, colour, creed or sect for that matter. I grew up listening to qawwali music along with various other genres of music as well. I was exposed to the various facets of life from a young age and it taught me tolerance and acceptance of others. I am sure many of you out there must have heard about the tragic assassination of Amjad Sabri Sahab who was a well known and well respected musician who specialised in Sufi music. A radical faction of the Taliban have taken responsibility for his life claiming that he was not a Muslim and hence needed to be killed due to blasphemy. The prophet Muhammed (saw) was a peace loving human being. His heart was filled with kindness and compassion towards others. He respected everyone. How then can we as human beings run down or condemn another person's belief system. When you visit Makkatul mukarramah you will see millions of Muslims and everyone has their own variation of praying. Just because they pray differently to me does not mean that they are bad people and neither does it mean that I am superior over them. Sabri Sahab was a qawwal. He expressed his love for his Creator and the prophet Muhammad (saw) through poetry and music. And whilst many hardcore fanatics out there have condemned his way of devotion I am of the opinion that he probably had a deeper love and connection with his Lord than these merciless fanatics. A person who is close to his Lord will not murder and kill innocent people. When you get close to your Lord, Allah softens your heart. Who are we to judge or run down another human being when we are not sinless or faultless ourselves? If you don't agree with a person's belief system that's fine. Carry on with your own life. But don't condemn anyone. The irony is that his assassins have in actual fact given him a death in Ramadhaan whereby the doors of paradise will be open for him. The fact that he was shot makes him a shaheed. Our duty on earth is to do good and spread good. We are not here to label people. Take the good from every person that you meet and discard the bad.Always ask Allah to give you eyes that enable you to see the good in others. This is the essence and the basis of Islam. It is such a perfect, practical religion that is followed by imperfect, impractical followers. ......

Monday, June 20, 2016

A tribute to my beloved grandmother- 1936- 2016

19 June 2016
Dear blog readers,
First and foremost from the bottom of my heart I would like to thank each and everyone of you for your warm wishes and prayers during this trying time. Thank you for the messages and phone calls. As I try putting pen to paper I find myself stuck for words. There's a hundred and one thoughts going through my mind right now. Where do I begin. Nanima has always had a history of cardiac issues. For the last three years now she has always been in hospital over the ramadhaan period. We would actually tease her about it saying, " Ma, if you need a holiday please tell us but don't book yourself in hospital year after year". She would respond by laughing. This year when she got admitted we thought that as usual she would be in hospital for a week or two. But a week became a month, a month became two months and soon nanimas life was confined to a small hospital cubicle. In her own words she said, " I have no home. I live in a box". There were days when she felt better and gave us all a ray of hope and there were days when we tried convincing ourselves that the end is near. The most painful part was watching her waste away. There were days when she told us that she would like to live longer for the sake of her great grand children and there were days when she said that she was tired of living. She needed to leave.
To the doctors and staff at the NETCARE Sunninghill CCU unit, words can not express my gratitude and respect that I have for all of you especially to sister Charlene and her team and ofcourse Dr.Ganchi. You have restored my faith in humanity. You have restored my faith in the medical fraternity in this country. You were all at my grandmother's bedside as she took her last and final breath. You accommodated our family and friends and gave us the much needed space we all required. You treated my grandmother as though she was your own and hence I could feel and sense the sadness that all of you felt within. You fought till the end to save her life trying everything in the book but of course God Almighty is the custodian of life and death. To Dr Jeffery King, Dr Hsu and Dr Deseta thank you all for attending to my grandmother during her sporadic visits at hospital. Thank you for taking our calls at odd hours and making my grandmother's life a top priority. May God bless and reward all of you in abundance.
It is said that when the angel of death comes knocking at your door to take away your soul it is quite a painful ordeal. Some people are in constant agony moaning and groaning and yet my nanima experienced nothing of that sort. As she layed in bed staring in one corner of the room whilst we all held her hands she simply stopped breathing. No sound, no movement. With absolute ease her soul left her body. There was a smile on her face, an unexplainable glow.Finally she was in eternal peace.
As I stare at my beloved nanimas photo I can not help but reflect on her life. Passing away in Ramadhaan is auspicious for a Muslim. It is said that only the fortunate ones pass on in this month. A person who passes away in Ramadhaan is safeguarded from punishment and the gates of paradise are open for them. Nanima knew her end was near. Over the last few days she was talking about her parents and her home town Newcastle. Ironically some of the nursing staff who took care of her were also from Newcastle. Newcastle has a suburb called Paradise and so the nursing staff would tell her that they going to take her straight to Paradise. Sometimes nanima use to point to the window saying that she could see a garden with yellow flowers and a bench. She could see her grandmother jumping with joy. Of course we thought that it was her medication that was causing her to speak in riddles. She was speaking the truth. She could see her abode.
Why did nanima pass away in Ramadhaan? I'll tell you why. She was a friend of God Almighty. She was simple yet she was super intelligent.She wasn't materialistic at all. She was an awesome cook and very creative with her hands. You couldn't beat her when it came to sewing, needle work.. embroidery. Ma was an avid reader. She was an ardent fan of radio 702. There were times when mum and I were unaware of an incident but Ma knew. A few weeks ago when she was still able to speak she kept on saying, " You must be clever. You must be sharp in life. You mustn't be stupid". She always pushed us and encouraged us towards academic excellence.
Nanima hailed from a wealthy family yet she married my nana who was a simple middle class man. Her initial stage of marriage was very hard. Nana earned a meagre salary but Ma made an effort to earn extra money. She would make coconut ice cubes and peanut brittle along with a variety of other sweets and chocolates to sell to the school kids. She had an old coal stove in her kitchen and everyday she would have to light it in order to cook. But she never complained. She had patience. And through her patience she was rewarded. She was a quiet soul. She never fought with anyone neither did she speak ill of anyone. She hated gossiping. She wouldn't mind anyone's business. She never ran in and out of her neighbours homes yet she was always there if someone needed help. She loved family and she hated arguing and fighting. She would always tell us that we must all live nicely and lovingly with each other. Nanima and i shared a very special relationship. I was the first born grand child. I lived with her for a few months after I was born. I stayed with her whilst at university as well. She wasn't my nani, she was more like a mother. Almost everyday we spoke to each other on the phone. The day we opened the pharmacy she was the happiest person making sure that she arrived on time for lunch. She was so proud of my brother and I. She loved coming to the pharmacy always saying a prayer as she left. May Allah grant this business with lots of blessings and may it be a source of comfort for all those people who are ill. May Allah accept her prayers. May Allah give us the strength to run the business for many years to come in the interest of the community. On a monthly basis she would contribute money to the hampers we make for the elderly. As a child she played with me, she was there for me for all my school events and up until she got ill she made sure she attended her great grandchildren's sporting events. How I wish I could do so much more for my nanima. How I wish I could see her smile one last time. But wishing is all I can do. Death is so final. A journey we will all be embarking on one day. A journey where no one ever returns to tell the tale.
Yesterday as I sat next to her body staring at her face with tears rolling down my cheeks, family and friends tried consoling mom and I saying, " Don't be sad. Ma is in a better place.How fortunate she is" .. Yes, indeed she is finally in a place of peace but the void and emptiness that she has left within us will remain with us forever and ever and ever.I humbly request all of you to please say a little prayer for her.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A home where angels reside

8 June 2016

So this morning I was unable to get to work on time due to the protests on Main Reef road. I feel sick hearing that rocks and stones were thrown at passing vehicles causing extensive damage. I don't understand the mentality of some of the Black people in this country. Maybe I need to be enlightened. Why do innocent people have to get into the mix if you have an issue with the government. What do you gain by destroying someone else's property? 
Anyway I told myself instead of being irritated let me start my day on a good positive note and indeed it turned out to be a really productive day. I enjoyed some quality time with mom. Every week mom has this big concern of making food and vegetable hampers for the residents of an old age home in Florida.She manages to put together these hampers through the donations of friends, family and some patients as well. I never really understood the magnitude of the task and how time consuming it really is to put the hampers together until today. What I really admire about mom is that she makes these hampers on a weekly basis with a smile. My parents have always said that by giving others, God Almighty grants the home with lots of mercy and blessings. Running a business is not easy. It's damn hard work and when month end arrives the stress sets in. But what I've noticed is that somehow God Almighty always helps us get through the month. It actually surprises me. I think it's all because of mom's good work. This evening a patient came to the pharmacy looking for dad to thank him for changing his life for the better. The young man was involved with drugs. He resided on the streets. He discarded his family and friends. About 2 years ago, dad sat him down and knocked some sense into him. Two years later with God's grace and guidance the man has changed his life 360 degrees. I am so proud to have parents that have a heart and compassion for humanity. I am so fortunate to be born into a home where angels reside. Dear Lord, I beseech Thee to grant my parents good health and a long life filled with blessings. Dear Lord have mercy on my parents as they get older. Make their old age easy for them. Grant them a comfortable life of wealth, peace and prosperity.Allow me to always be a coolness to their eyes. Let them be pleased with me at all times.Let me always be there for them as their strength and support.Dear Lord, forgive me and my parents for our shortcomings, grant us paradise the day we leave this world. And unite our souls in the hereafter. AMEEN!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Life has no guarantees

A few days ago whilst browsing the internet, I came across a post whereby a young woman wrote that she has been receiving proposals from many men, however they are mediocre proposals from middle class families and she does not wish to be a mother running around the house with 5 snotty kids. She desires to marry a rich man who will provide her with a cook and nanny and who takes her abroad on holidays. In yet another bizarre post a Muslim mom suggested that her 27 year old daughter starts wearing more open clothing in order for her to attract men and get married. 
I personally found both posts to be absolutely ridiculous. To the young woman who feels the need to marry a rich man, she is clearly living her life in a bubble. I personally think that she is wet behind the ears and should not get married. Here is a classic example of why marriages do not work out. Young women out there expect their lives to be straight out of a Bollywood movie and yet the stark reality is totally contrary to a romantic movie scene. My advise to this young woman is this, why become dependent on a man. Live your own dreams. Go out there, study, earn your own money and reach for the stars. Life has absolutely no guarantees and within my scope of practice I see this everyday. A good friend of mine got married 10 years ago. At the time he got married, he was leading a high flying life and naturally his wife had a queens life. The day his dad got ill and their company went insolvent, his wife left him. So did she love him and marry him because of the person he is or did she only marry him for money. A good couple of years ago my life crossed paths with a young couple from Cape Town. They were only married for a week wen tragedy struck. They were on their way to the airport to catch a plane to Russia. The young woman was from Russia and so her South African husband decided to move to her country of birth as she was not very comfortable residing here. In the accident, the car blew up and whilst the young man managed to escape the blaze of the fire, the young woman was burnt beyond recognition. He blonde, long hair was no more and she was disfigured for life. She stayed in hospital for almost a year undergoing many operations and procedures. She was suicidal. The most heartbreaking part of the story is that after six months of being at her bedside, her husband disappeared never to return. In a letter that he wrote to her, he mentioned that he finds her revolting and the fact that she is no longer beautiful is not good for his image. Did he marry her for love and the person that she is on the inside or did he marry her for her beauty. When her beauty faded he ran away. Last week I met a young man, who was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinsons a few months ago. His wife and family walked out on him. Did she marry him for his heart and the person he is on the inside... Definitely not.....The moral of the story is that life has no guarantees. We all need to aspire to build our own dreams. You can not make your dreams come true through someone else's hard work. Life does not work that way. To the mother who thinks her daughter needs to start dressing openly in order to attract men, I am of the opinion that this is a very dangerous stance on her part. Is this mother so desperate to get her daughter married? Has her own daughter become a burden to her.God Almighty has written out each and everyone's destiny the day we were born. Wearing open clothing will not guarantee marriage. In fact it will only attract men who are simply in a relationship for a fling with a sexily clad woman. Why should a woman change her style or personality to attract a man? Be yourself, be natural. Be proud of who you are. Be proud of your culture and tradition. If a man sincerely wishes to be with you, he must marry you with all your flaws and weaknesses. If he cant do that then he is just not worth it. Never, ever stoop down to another human being or change yourself for someone else. My dad has always taught me to walk with my head up high and face the world heads on. Motor ahead full steam to achieve your dreams because you are the only person that can shape your own destiny!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shaheer Nasheeds- Taking the nasheed industry by storm

When it comes to Nasheeds in South Africa, Shaheer Nasheeds is definitely taking the industry by storm. Hearing the latest nasheed which was launched on Mother's day as a tribute to the artists mom, the song has touched the hearts of thousands of people across the globe. The man behind Shaheer Nasheeds is none other than Shaheer Karrim. Born in Durban, South Africa, not only is Shaheer a biokineticist and a soldier by profession, but he is also an aspiring singer and song writer. Read on to find out more in his own words.

Drink you would order at a coffee shop: hot chocolate 
Favourite cologne: cool waters
Favourite cuisine: I'm a pizza guy

1. Wow Shaheer, Your resume is truly impressive. Tell me a little more about your family background and life from childhood until present?
I had a very mixed childhood. On one hand, I grew up in a great complex with loads of friends, who are more like family to me now. I did great with sports through out school, had great times, won loads of trophies etc. and on the other hand I had to deal with my parents divorce, which occurred when I was around 10 years old. For me, this event was the beginning of a challenging emotional/spiritual journey  which taught me so much and made me the person I am today. I believe that these challenges Allah SWT gives us are there to strengthen and shape us for the purpose He SWT wants us to fulfill. 
2. Not many Indian boys desire to enter the army. What made you join the army and how was the experience over all.?
I qualified in 2007 with honors in biokinetics, but during my studying years I visited the military biokinetics department to help out and learn from them. It was very very different and exciting to meet actual soldiers and do exercise testing on them. In my final year, I was fortune to find out that a military biokineticist had transferred. I then applied early and got the postThumbs up sign. Alhamdulilah. The experience has been amazing. It's a different world that we soldiers live in. The rules are different, and putting on the uniform is a real privilege and honor. The basic training that all officers have to do when you join was probably the highlight. Five and a half months in the small town of Heidelberg, living with other soldiers in a communal setting, away from normal life. We also did a bush phase where we lived in the bush for a while. I can still remember walking in the dark through grass that was almost my height, hearing animal sounds and being told 'okay, we going to sleep here tonight'. We all just looked at each other confused(it's our first time) and abit scared. But we made through and actually enjoyed it. I endured one of my hardest nights ever in my life when it stormed one of the nights. It rained so hard that our makeshift tent collapsed and we obviously got really wet. And to make matters worse it was a really cold night so we really struggled all night holding on to each other for warmth. Desperate times calls for...but it was actually fun when I look back.
3. Music is a very controversial topic within the Islamic world. Have you ever received criticism or a back lash from within your community for singing nasheeds with musical instruments?
I haven't had much criticism in terms of people confronting me directly, although I do get a few comments on social media once in a while. There was that article written recently on the Hartley fair and souk where I was named personally, but those things don't bother me. In fact, it probably gives me more conviction. I won't discuss why, all I will say is that Iv done research and read Istikhara before embarking on this path, so I'm fine with it in my heart. I think it's a general problem that we (including me) as human beings find it hard to accept that our own opinion is not absolute and that other opinions can be accommodated (Even if you disagree). Maybe it makes us feel insecure. However, I think there are some great Leaders emerging around the Muslim world that are teaching tolerance and acceptance of diversity, so that's promising. I think It's also a matter of environment. In other parts of the world,especially Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, Islamic music is common and a huge industry. So their artists get loads of support and attention. But I think people should listen if they feel it's okay and don't listen if it's their opinion that it's wrong.

4. Do you think that the decision made by the SABC, for all radio stations to play 90 percent local music is applaudable? Do you think it will be of advantage to upcoming artists like yourself?
It will definitely improve the chances of getting local talent out there. But the question being asked by most artists who are going the extra mile in terms of production, is that, will the quality of the songs be at the required level to be on radio? Will it improve or weaken the industry? I think we'll have to wait and see. I believe it will definitely encourage younger artists to begin their journeys. But there's a huge difference between just getting a song out there and making a world class hit. As an upcoming artist I can tell you it's not easy or cheap trying to get out international quality. So hopefully the decision doesn't make us artists complacent in terms of the overall quality, but inspires us to take the opportunity to reach new levels of excellence. 

5. Are South African artists on par with international singers? If yes, why do you think so and if No, how can these artists improve themselves in order to reach an international standard?
I don't know too much about the mainstream singers. But I do know that our local sound doesn't really match the international style of music production, so it's hard to compare in terms of quality. In terms of Nasheeds, we are getting there slowly. Iv been forced to use mainstream producers at times to get the right quality for certain tracks, because there's not many Muslim producers with those specific expertise. I'd say that we lack Muslim producers more than artists. I think working with mainstream producers is excellent idea because they have in-depth knowledge of music, academically and also in terms of experience. Reaching an international standard? That was really challenging for me. With my debut single Veils, I had redone the song about 7 times before getting something  that was worth showing the world. I was new to the industry so I made loads of mistakes. I'd say the lessons that others can take heed from are: 1) make sure you compare your end product with artists who already have an international standard and don't give up until you find a way to get the same quality. 2) be patient and look for a producer who is the ability and equipment to give you what you want 3) You get what you pay for, so sometimes it's better to pay abit more. 4)let people you trust evaluate your song and don't be resistant to criticism, Let non musicians listen to the song and take their advice seriously, because they are your main listeners. 6) Reach out to international stars, some will reply and help you out as they were once amateurs and know the struggle.

6.What has been your most memorable experience in your life thus far?
Hmmm, i was always a person searching for deeper meaning and understanding. So I'd say there's a phase of my life that is most memorable, in which I met many spiritual people and got most of my questions answered, went for Haj and gained a lot of peace. Alhamdulilah 

7. Have you performed abroad?
I have not. Once my full album is out, it will make more sense for me to go abroad and promote it. Right now I've released only two songsSmiling face with smiling eyes

8. If you could be granted one wish and have any skill or talent in the world, what would it be?
I would definitely wish for equality, peace and love in the world. So much of violence and poverty throughout the globe, I would want that to instantly disappear 

9. What are your favourite websites?
Desert moon obviously, lol. I'm on Facebook and Instagram mostly.

10. Define success. What does success mean to you?
Success to me is realizing and pursuing your passions, striving to be better and aligning everything you do to your ultimate goal, which is Taqwa and realization of Allah SWT within every moment of your life. I think with that philosophy the accolades and milestones will come on there own.
11. Did you wish to collaborate with other artists in the future? Have you already worked with other artists in the nasheed industry?
I'm currently collaborating with Indonesian artist Yoga Al Ghazali who's signed to the Ana Muslim record label. We are doing an English version of His already famous track HasbunAllah. It will be released in Indonesia and Malaysia this Ramadaan InshaAllah. I hope I get to collaborate with lots of artists. I enjoy the process and love to connect with other artists. I'm also planning other collaborations with comedians and hope to have some fun doing something different. Can't say too much now. Will have to wait and see InshaAllah 

12. Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your plans for the future?
I see myself doing lots of things to be honest. I'm learning about myself everyday and I'm open to almost anything at the moment. But in terms of music, in 5 years I would like to think that I would have already done lots of traveling and live performances for huge crowds. I see myself producing for other artists, doing exciting collaborations with international entertainers and having lots of fun. I would also include some acting roles. I'd love to try myself out at acting, I think i have it in me. And most of all, I hope to connect with people and inspire them to live lives that are in alignment with things that make them happy and please God, Most High

13. Are there any other special experiences that have occurred within your life that you wish to share the blog readers?
18 months ago I had no idea that I would be singing professionally.I knew I could sing a bit, but didn't really believe in my ability. I thought,nah it takes much more than what I have to be a professional. But Somehow, I listened to that inner voice and I decided to try out this passion of mine. I made Dua, got help from people in the industry and gave it my all. Today my videos are watched and downloaded by people all over the world. I've got acknowledgement from established  international artists from different continents and I haven't released my first album as yet.
So my message to people is, if you love something but doubt your capabilities. Take the first step and believe in yourself. Listen to that voice that's pushing to try it out. You never know what can happen, maybe it will be a life changing decision,like in my caseSmiling face with smiling eyes
Thank you Shaheer Karrim for taking the time to answer these questions.
Desert Moon wishes you all the best in your future endeavours and beyond.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Muslim School-- Oh Really!!

I have spoken about this topic before and I think we need to bring up this topic again. This morning I had a childhood friend who passed by and he seemed to be distressed about the way the management and teachers conduct themselves at the Islamic school that his child is in. At the beginning of the year the school was suppose to host a speech contest. A date was set for the preliminary round of the competition and all the students prepared for the event. Guess what, the event got cancelled as the grandson of a so called wealthy prominent member of society was gone overseas with his parents. The event was rescheduled to when the child returned and a member of the teaching staff assisted him with his speech as well. Naturally the young man was chosen to be a part of the competition. At the actual event that occurred at a community hall, a little girl won the actual competition whereby the grandfather of the little boy walked out of the event and decided to put up a show as to why his grandson did not win. It is so ironic that we tell ourselves our kids are in the Islamic school yet these kids are taught values and etiquette that is totally against Islamic norm. Another mom who frequents the pharmacy told me that her child was stigmatized and mocked at by her class mates as she does not arrive at school with a posh vehicle like the other kids. The child suffered from depression and eventually needed the assistance of a psychologist. When she approached the school management for assistance, she was told that its not their problem. If a child has money and is from a wealthy family, that child is automatically placed on a pedestal by the teachers and staff of the school. This kind of behaviour disgusts me to the core and I have witnessed this many many times over. There are many kids at these Islamic schools who lead dual lives. Log into their instagram accounts, they are posing half naked with their boyfriends and yet the image they create to the world is one of a good Muslim child. I have said this before and I will say this again, I do not condone Islamic schools and this is my opinion. My friend now agrees with me and believes that his child needs to rather move to a good model C school or a private school whereby the child is acknowledged based on hard work and merit as opposed to the child's family name. He also believes that it will be in the child's best interests to be able to interact with different types of people and races in a mixed gendered school where the child can also partake in extra curricular activities thereby acquiring other skills that will assist the child later on in life.The favouritism and politics that occurs within these so called Islamic schools needs to stop.Wearing Islamic attire everyday to school does not make you a Muslim Why should one child be more privileged than the other simply because of the family name or simply because the child's family donates money to the school. Is this kind of a sick disgusting mentality a part of Islamic values?