Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dated: 10 November 2010

This Article was published in
Pakistan Observer (November 10, 2010)

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

Happiness has remained an elusive concept over the centuries. Philosophers, religious scholars, sociologists, and academicians have held out their opinions and tried to define what happiness is. Some regard it as a material thing for which material possessions have been identified as a means to achieve happiness. Others are of the view that happiness has nothing to do with material pursuits. Rather it is a moral or a spiritual phenomenon which one can acquire by doing right things. Despite these definitions and explorations, the idea is as Greek as it was before.

However, if you want to be happy but are not sure where to start, then I suggest you to begin by being kinder. Acts of giving will boost your well being as well as offer something good to the recipient and the world at large. Furthermore, these acts can take many forms and so you can do something that suits you personally. For instance, you can do voluntary work for a philanthropist organisation; you can do good deeds in your neighbourhood, for friends, family, work colleagues, strangers.

Happiness lies in giving to others. When you stop thinking about yourself, it is then the journey to happiness starts. Our focal point is always “I” or”me”. These two words are actually the root cause of much of our sadness we suffer from. Whenever we run after something to achieve, it runs away even faster from us. But when we decide to turn our back on our sought-after pursuits, those things would come for us. This is the law of nature, which is immutable and never changes.

If real happiness could be achieved by having lots of money and concentrating power, the kings would never have left their thrones in search of happiness. Buddha, Ashoka, Ibraham bin Adham are few examples from the history who abandoned their exalted positions to find solace and happiness. They found happiness once they started serving the poor and the needy of God’s creations.

The happiest time of our life lies in our childhood. As we grow in terms of age, our desires grow as well. When desires are not fulfilled, their unfulfillment brings sadness in our life. In order to acquire eternal happiness, we need to get rid of our desires. That is why it is said, best state to go back to God is the state in which you were born. That state is the state when one is innocent with one’s soul untainted by the worldly desires.

You don't just have to do volunteer work to be a kinder person. Remember you can carry out good deeds on a daily basis, in your home or at work. You can do something for people you don't know. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Let them make creative mistakes and learn for the sake of personal growth. Offer genuine compliments. Give small gifts. Plan something special for a loved one. Share your possessions without getting uptight about them.

Avoid gossiping in emails and on the telephone. Instead make a conscious effort to only say good things about others. You always have something to offer. Think of ways you can share that information. Think of ways in which you might be a positive influence on someone's life. When you see an opportunity to help, take it. Don't just keep walking. Not every act of kindness needs to be acknowledged. You are better off assuming you won't be. You are doing them because you want to, not for the thanks but for the sake of happiness that springs from inside. This will ensure you won't feel resentment if people don't respond as you'd imagined. This resentment can lead you to deciding that it is pointless being kind as it gets you nowhere. Carry out secret good deeds. These are acts of kindness that you carry out for another, without telling that person you did it.

It's a great way to increase your humility. Recognise that each act, no matter how small, will make a difference. It doesn't have to be the grand gesture. Holding a door open for someone is something we can all appreciate. A truly generous person does good deeds without expecting anything in return. So don't do it just for the praise. However, what you will get in return is greater happiness. There is also something known as the feel-good, do-good phenomenon, where being happy inclines a person to be more generous, which in turn brings greater happiness.

The way to transform happiness from individual level to the collective phenomenon is to make efforts aimed at making your country and society welfare-oriented. One can start this endeavour from the grassroots level by establishing welfare committees and keep on expanding its ambit. It calls for establishment of systems and arrangements for doing good to people in an institutionalized manne

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breaking myth about Muslim women’s education

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

Islam enjoins upon its followers both men and women to dedicate themselves fully to learning knowledge. There is an ingrained value in every Muslim, man and woman alike to pursue knowledge and to learn about God's Truth. Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) advised his followers to seek knowledge from every nook and corner of the world. In keeping with this value, Muslim women are continuing to make headway in the field of science and their participation in terms of graduation ratios often surpasses that of western women in pursuing scientific degrees according to UNESCO.

Contrarily, the western media is never tired of churning out stereotypes and outdated clichés about the Muslim women. Their favourite propaganda line is that it is because of discrimination ordered by the Islam that the Muslim women lag behind in the field of education. The western mind gets swayed in favour of this kind of reasoning when it is repeated over and over, while the fact is that truth is other way round. The Islamic message, which stresses gender equity and rights for women, is often polluted by competing cultural values that have no basis in Islam scripture.

The quest for knowledge has always applied to women in Islam. God has made no difference between genders in this area. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) once said: "Seeking knowledge is a mandatory for every Muslim (male and female)." (Sahih Bukhari)

History bears witness to the fact that the Muslim women have achieved numerous excellences in the field of science and technology thereby opening ways for more exploration through their findings and dedication. But the western media does not take these contributions into account nor is it ready to offer any kind of appreciation for these women who have broken male hegemony in the field of science and technology.

The fact is that the United States falls behind six Muslim countries in the percentage of women graduating in science to the total science graduate population. The countries whose ratio of women science graduates exceeds that of the United States are Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Qatar and Turkey. Morocco exceeds the United States in the ratio of women engineering graduates as a percentage of the science graduate population.

Traditionally, Muslim women do not face the kind of discouragement in the sciences to the extent that their Western counterparts do, which explains why statistics show such high ratios of Muslim women graduates in science fields as a percentage to the total science graduate population. However, the fact of the matter is that instead of any religion injunctions, these are the socio-economic hurdles that apply equally to both men and women and hinder their way to advancement. These hurdles reflect themselves in the form of poverty, illiteracy, political instability and the policy of foreign powers.

Data that explains the real problem can be found by comparing the total educated populations of countries and regions of the world. A high degree of illiteracy and low levels of secondary school enrollment account for the less number of graduates in poorer countries than in the wealthier regions. In locales defined by UNESCO in their recent report, gross secondary school enrollment ratios are very low: Africa (below 40%), West Asia (below 60%), and East Asia (below 75%).

Gender inequity is a fact of life and does exist, but Islam cannot be singled out for being responsible for it nor can it be relegated to Muslim countries. Some disparaging gender gaps in higher education exist where the religion of Islam isn't even practiced by a majority of the population. For example, only 44% of people enrolled in higher education in Switzerland are women, Guatemala (43%), Rwanda (37%), Korea (36%), Bhutan (34%), Cambodia (29%) and Liechtenstein (27%).

On the other side of the coin, in Tunisia, a country where 98% of people practice Islam, there were 5% more female students enrolled than males in higher education. Malaysian women made up 55% of the enrolled population in higher education, Lebanon (54%), Jordan and Libya (51%). Bahrain even exceeded the United States in the ratio of women enrolled in higher education by 6%. If education is freedom, then it looks like Muslim women in Bahrain are more liberated than American women.

It is not Islam that threatens a woman's right to education. Rather these are the governments, which are hostile to Islam, which often set up roadblocks to prevent Muslim women from obtaining education. Both France and Turkey are guilty of this type of exclusionary persecution, all under the false guise of secularism. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a prestigious nongovernmental organization, these bans exclude thousands of women from institutions of higher learning each year. A 2004 HRW report states, "This restriction of women's choice of dress is discriminatory and violates their right to education, their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and their right to privacy."

Despite the fact that the Muslim woman is constantly being harassed about her choice in religion and face the sustained and clichéd portrayal at the hands of the western media that ridicule her faith and demonize her culture, there exists an Islamic tradition celebrating women in science. The Muslims need to remind the world of such heroic and ground-breaking women contributions in an attempt to correct their perspectives. Today, the Islamic culture in which women are encouraged to participate, excel and lead in scientific fields continues to express itself, not only through statistical data, but in real, living, breathing and praying people. Although these women are exceptional, they are by no means the exception to the rule.

Here we have few examples from around the world.

Professor Samira Ibrahim Islam, was nominated as a distinguished Scientist of the World For the Year 2000 by UNESCO. She made significant contributions in drug safety by defining the Saudi profile for drug metabolism. Sameena Shah, presented an innovative algorithm in computerized cognitive leaning that she and a team of colleagues developed at IIT Delhi, India. Professor Dr. Bina Shaheen Siddiqui, has made significant contributions to medicine and agriculture through her study and classification of indigenous plant materials. She has been awarded several patents for anticancer constituents and biopesticides and has written more than 250 research articles. She has been honored with several prestigious awards including the Khwarizmi International Award of Iran and Salam Prize in Chemistry.

Historic records show that women participated in science and medicine in Muslim societies. By contrast, in America, during the 1890's women could not be doctors, and yet, Muslim women doctors were seen as equals to their male counterparts hundred's of years earlier, they were even responsible for written contributions in the field. Also, women like Ijliya, an astrolab builder, were employed as skilled scientists in Muslim courts. Others made progress in pharmacology.

The data for years 2002/2003 contained in these tables describes the percentage of women graduates in science and engineering out of the total science and engineering graduate population in each country, and pertains to higher-education in science: (Statistics from the "Global Education Digest" report released from UNESCO Institute for Statistics2005)

Woman Graduates in Science

Bahrain 74%
Bangladesh 24%
Brunei Darussalam 49%
Kyrgyzstan 64%
Lebanon 47%
Qatar 71%
Turkey 44%

Compared with...

U.S. 43%
Japan 25%

Women Graduates in Engineering

Eritrea 4%
Morocco 25%

Compared with...

U.S. 19%
Japan 13%