Monday, July 25, 2011

Of World Cup, Shaaban and Ramadhan

This piece was written by YMP President Khairul last year after he experienced the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Unfortunately time did not permit us to post this up much earlier (we only have a week left before Ramadhan) but there are still many lessons to be learned from it.


How's everyone? I pray Allah's guidance is upon all of us and He blesses us with all that is good.

What did you guys think of the World Cup? I'm sure it left as quickly as it arrived. Conveniently I was supporting Spain =D

As some of you know, alhamdulilah I managed to experience the World Cup fever in South Africa and it was definitely an experience to remember. It's obvious that there's many aspects of it that, as Muslims, we don't agree on. Be it the wastage of money, alcohol consumption, heedlessness or the amount of time it distracts us from our responsibilities.

But back to our daily lives, I believe as Muslims we are obliged to take lessons and learn from it. To use the teachings of Islam to study history with wisdom. Then use history as a yardstick to measure our progress, rather then be stuck in the glory or failing of the past.

Many lessons can be extracted from the world cup. South Africa held a hugely successful World Cup. Much was said before the event started. South Africa had a reputation of a country rife with racial tension and discrimination. A third world country naysayers were saying doomed to fail under the limelight. But as the final curtain comes to a close, everyone can see it was an event to be remembered, one of the best run world cup ever perhaps. And we can only see that it only comes with detailed planning and investments. They invested billions into infrastructure and many man hours. From the state to the volunteers to the residence, everyone put in their share of work. Logistical planning was a nightmare especially since South Africa is only a developing country. It needed to practically built brand new stadiums, transport infrastructure, and plan for each detail of hosting World Cup. As you can attest now they pulled it off and the fireworks display at the end of the final proved to be a fitting end.

As we approach Shaaban and Ramadhan, it's important for us to reevaluate our planning for it. Do we want to have a successful Ramadhan? Do we have a plan in place? It starts with Shaaban, the holy month where we start to prepare ourselves physically and spiritually for hardship of Ramadhan.

We saw Spain lifting the cup the first time in history. I'd say it was a deserving victory for them as they played some of the most entertaining and consistent football. I'm certain it came with preparation. They ply their trade  at one of the best leagues in the world, harnessing their skill through good competition and company.

Just like it, it shows the importance of the crowd we mix around with. Our Prophet (saw) warned us to always keep with good company as we are upon the religion of our friends. So we need to check ourselves and see if our friends are bringing us closer to Allah or otherwise.

Spain also had a good coach who displayed his tactical acumen and courage. He got his tactics and selections correct, even leaving out the hugely popular but under performing Torres for the semifinals and the finals.

We saw how the French team went into complete disarray under their coach. The vastly talented team  disintegrated into chaos through rebellion of their captain. Immediately we saw the effect on the pitch. They left in disgrace, the wrath of their whole nation behind them. Showing the importance of the management and coaching team. 

For us, we need to see who our teachers are, who are guiding us, whether it's in accordance to Quran or the Sunnah. Whether we have the right teacher to teach, befriend and guide us on the correct path. Whether we have a healthy relationship with the Quran or not. It also teaches us the importance of communication as the French team brought the whole world into their internal feud. The Spanish team was mainly from Barcelona (without Messi) so we could see the special togetherness within them that brought them their success. Unity of the ummah is of utmost important as we all know. It's one of the most integral part of our ummah.

And we know at the end of the day, regardless how well you are playing, it is Allah who decides as He wish. Teams like Germany played well, Argentina was the overwhelming favourites but it is Allah who will permit the winner.

Regardless of our talent or experience, we must always pair our effort with constant dua and remembrance of Allah. It comes in hand in hand. On our part it is our effort and resolve, we leave the matter of success to Allah. As we are rewarded for our effort, inshaAllah with the correct intention, our success will be in the Afterlife, regardless of what happens in this transient world. It is Allah swt who decides whom He honours.

So as the team progressed and the world cup comes to an end, we see it's all about organisation, about  planning, about resolve, about collaboration between groups and people. I saw inherent in everyone, the quality that we can work together, we can live together regardless of our background if we share a common goal. We are talking about South Africa who only 20 years ago had the apartheid system in place and they could put their differences aside to host and enjoy the World Cup together. A country with many ethnicity and 11 official languanges!

I saw the spirit of the humanity in beautiful colours. The fan walk in Cape Town, the route of around 2.5km from the train station to the stadium had a reported volume of 300,000. It was an amazing electrifying atmosphere. People from all spectrum of lives came together to enjoy the environment. I saw tablighis,  maulanas, hijabis, non hijabis, non muslims (not scantilly clad because it was winter!) and fans from all over the world. Everyone was just enjoying their time, getting along with each other and soaking up the atmosphere. I know of families who just came out for the walk and then return home for the match. It was such an uplifting experience that puts aside whatever differences that we have with each other.

For the opening match, since it was on a Friday, the Muslim society organised a Jumuah solah on an empty field near the stadium. The attendance was so overwhelming it overflowed out of the field. Men and women came in their bafana bafana colours, some with flag coloured hijabs and the field was overflowing with people. It was especially memorable since women over there don't usually go to the masajid for Friday prayers due to the lack of space.

There were concern that South Africa was unsafe but mashaAllah there were policemen everywhere. Every one of them were happy to help you out and guide you to the places you want to go. They were like tourist
guide in police uniforms.Together in enjoining good and forbidding evil, even the most notorious of places can be a secure place.

So Shaaban is our opportunity to start planning for Ramadhan. We need to create the buzz for Ramadhan so that when it comes, we are ready to receive its bountiful blessings. We need to start talking about the virtues or Shaaban and Ramadhan to each other. Remind each other of the Sunnahs. Do voluntary fasting together with friends, encourage people to do good. If they have trouble waking up for subuh, call and remind without being judgmental. Go to mosque together and remember it's a collaborative effort of all Muslims. Bring out the Vuvuzelas, the jabulanis, the flags, the banners of Ramadhan. I don't mean it literally but you know, our Quran, attires, banners, CDs or whatever it is that we can to create that buzz. Let us feel the atmosphere of
Shaaban and Ramadhan so that at the end or Ramadhan we are among the successful ones. The ones lifting the trophy and enjoying the fruits of success.

As I left South Africa, everyone was saying how they feel sad that the World Cup is coming to an end. Let's  make sure that we feel the same towards the end of Ramadhan.

Just in the space of a month, the world's view on South Africa seems to have changed. From a country known languishing in myriad of issues like poverty, HIV infection, languid infrastructure and high crime rates to
a country beeming with hope and potential. Let's make our Ramadhan our month of change and paradigm shift.

Make Shaaban and Ramadhan a process to attain taqwa, which will lead to character refinement. With  superior character don't you think we can live together in a better world? InshaAllah by being better people, we'll be equipped to serve, provide and engage to form a better society. We ask Allah to give us taqwa so that we will be better people. Ameen.

Shaaban is our training ground for Ramadhan. Remember that the accursed Shaytan is tied in Ramadhan. It only means that he will be in overdrive in Shaaban, calling us away from our ibadah, so that in Ramadhan we are already in autopilot to neglect Allah and our duties. Shaytan will create emnity in any way. Shaytan will use females, males, TV, celebrities, games or whatever ways he can to deceive us. We ask Allah swt to protect us all from it.

So in Shaaban there's many practical things that we can do. 

Start our voluntary fastings on Mondays or Thursday, or the 13th, 14th and 15th of the lunar month.

Start eating less and drinking more.

Sleep slightly earlier so that we can wake up slightly earlier to acclimmatise for sahur.

Remind and motive each other. Talk about the virtues and merits of Shaaban and Ramadhan.

Attend pre Ramadhan courses to cover the fiqh of fasting. Review the fiqh of prayers to enhance and perfect our prayers.

Set a new goal for Shaaban and Ramadhan and share it with others so they can help you achieve it. Create a vision that we want to achieve in inspire us to be patient.

Increase our zikr and shukr to Allah for all his blessings. Be grateful for Allah swt who's given so much yet ask in return so little from us.

Start voluntary prayers before sleeping to acclamatise for teraweh.

Exercise to be in better physical condition. We can do more ibadah if we are in a better shape.

Check within ourselves on our discipline and organisation of our daily lives.

Reduce watching TV, using our computers for unnecessary endeavours and hanging out.

Let's make this Ramadhan one to remember. We can emulate the same fervour, the same excitement that we put to the World Cup to our special month. Put the same passion that we had in cheering for our teams, for staying up late into the night to watch the games, into talking about our favourite players and their profiles, into team tactics and their blunders. With all the buzz going around, we get those who usually don't watch football suddenly become temporary fans. 

Let's start talking about our Prophet (saw), his companions and stories that would uplift our spirits. Let's make our intention and start planning and lay down the infrastructure now to reap the benefits of Ramadhan. Start early because change is not meant to be forced or rushed but nurtured. Like they say in Khosa languange, it's Ayoba time!

Lastly we make dua that Allah allows us to meet Ramadhan this year, give us the guidance to fully benefit  Ramadhan. May He accept all our ibadah and let us meet Syawal with increase taqwa and all our sins forgiven.

Obviously I'm addressing myself first before all of my friends that I care about. All that is good is from Allah and whatever error from myself and the accursed Syaitan.



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