Pasha Hour International:
Live from America!
December 18, 2007
PASHA HOUR INTERNATIONAL: LIVE FROM AMERICA! is an international radio program that is now – Mashallah! – in its fourth year of live broadcast.
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THANKSGIVING IS US!
Giving thanks to God Almighty – and also to our fellow human beings – what could be wrong with that?
Or in fact, what could be better than that?
If you ask me, the idea of the American Festival of Thanksgiving is fantastic. It is yet another way of saying “Thank You!” to God Almighty.
However, Thanksgiving, as celebrated by the American people, has been misunderstood by many Muslims. Once we cooked a turkey and feasted on it. When we went to Jummah prayer on Friday that week, the Imam announced in his Khutbah that celebrating Thanksgiving was forbidden.
The man on the Mimbar (pulpit) didn’t seem to know or care that the spirit of Thanksgiving pervaded every aspect of Islam. He forgot that Eid was like Thanksgiving in many ways. That Eid was an occasion when people generally have fun and a lot of good food – and say Alhamdulillah, Mashallah and things like that.
There are different ways of having fun of course: Halaal and Haraam ways; right and wrong ways; good and bad ways; lawful and unlawful ways.
On festive occasions, some people get drunk, become disconnected from their brains, throw off their clothes and think that is the best way to have what Americans call fun.
It is not.
It is in fact a pretty foolish and stupid and self-destructive way to do any thing. It is detrimental to individuals, families, groups and societies. So God has forbidden this way of having fun.
The truth is being Muslim is all about being thankful: thankful to God Almighty and thankful to people, in many ways the crown of his creation – all at the same time. Both intertwined with one another.
FEAR OF GOD AND FEAR OF PEOPLE
But things change. And people change. Sometimes through their own natural course. Sometimes through cataclysmic events that impose change on people.
The dark events of September 11, 2001, as well as their darker results and aftermath, imposed certain fundamental changes on the way Muslims in America think, live life and do business. As a result, American Muslims seem to be catching on to the fact that, turkey or no turkey, Thanksgiving may not be such a bad idea after all.
It is amazing how people would do for fear of man what they would not do for fear of God! But that is human nature for you.
Maybe that is one way God Almighty gets things done from people who wouldn’t do them otherwise. Maybe it is a mechanism God Almighty uses to change people who are so deaf, dumb and dull-witted that they wouldn’t change otherwise.
Only recently, I visited a Muslim website – I generally stay away from Muslim writings on Islam and Muslims in English – that seems to make a case that the American Thanksgiving may in fact not be such a bad idea after all. That is, Islamically speaking of course.
Welcome home boys. What took you so long? I know what did, but I am just asking.
THANKING GOD AND THANKING PEOPLE: CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER
The fact is thanking God cannot be done without thanking people. Nor does thanking people really mean much without thanking God.
Muslims “pray” five times a day, is that a way of giving thanks to God, a caller on PASHA HOUR INTERNATIONAL asked. Is that a form of Thanksgiving that Muslims do?
And my reply to that caller was: Absolutely, without a question. What is prayer if not a comprehensive way of giving thanks to God Almighty?
Islam is all about giving thanks. If you don’t give thanks to God, then forget about being a Muslim. It is as simple as that.
But what we should not forget is that thanking God includes thanking people. That is one of the most amazing equations I found in Islam.
PROPHET, SALLALLAHU ALAIHI WA SALLAM, TEACHES WORLD TO THANK PEOPLE
It is fair to say that, like a lot of other good things in the world, we invented the practice of thanking people.
God Almighty in the Qur’an did and Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, did through his teachings and practice. That is what I usually mean when I say “we” did.
A Hadith (statement or saying) of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, puts it starkly: You cannot thank God unless you thank people.
Hadith: Man lam yashkurinnas, lam yashkurillah.
Paraphrase: If you don’t thank people, forget about thanking God.
Au kamaa qaala Rasulullahi, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
That is often what Muslims say when they are not 100 percent sure about the words of a certain Hadith.
Paraphrase: Or whatever were the exact words of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
What the Hadith means – as if I have any inkling of what Allah’s Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, said or meant – is this: You want to thank God, start by thanking people.
What a wonderful way to build a better world, which is what Islam is all about: Building a Better World.
THE PASHA CHALLENGE: BRING IT ON!
That brings us to yet another Pasha challenge.
I am not saying it is not out there. I am not even saying you cannot do it. All I am saying is this: If you got something better, or if you can say it better than that Hadith does, then the Pasha Challenge to you is this: Bring It On!
Put it on the table and let us discuss it. Let us then learn from one another. Let the better man win, as they say, even though I consider myself the worst of all Muslims and all human beings.
Let truth prevail.
For, when truth wins, we all win. And when truth is buried under a debris of falsehood and make-believe, we all lose. The world comes out a loser.
So, Bring It On! and let us talk about it.
WHY THANK GOD AND ALSO HUMAN BEINGS?
Why should we thank God in the first place, you might ask.
What do you want me to say? Where do you want me to start? What about a lungful of air?
What about a millimeter or two of a capillary? How about a pore or two on your skin?
The sun, the moon, the earth, all have to be in position and in orbit so that we in this beautiful place of Trinidad and Tobago, or in a desert in Arabia, can take a simple breath of fresh air: inhale and/or exhale it.
We are indebted to God, and to a motley collection of human beings, for being who we are and for being where we are in our journey of life. That is why God Almighty and his Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, want us not to forget to thank people.
We are so much in debt, to God and to our fellow human beings, that we should be thanking God every second of the day. And also thanking our fellow humans at every opportunity we get.
That means we should be thanking everyone everywhere: the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, as they say – and everyone else. That is what Islam wants us to do.
Another miracle, if you want to call it that. Another proof that this Islam could only have come from God.
A MATHEMATICAL EQUATION FOR THANKING GOD
I don’t know if there is a mathematical equation for giving thanks to God. If there isn’t one, I submit the math wizards among us construct one. It would be nice to attach all kinds of weights to all kinds of things, as the statisticians would say.
As for as a simple country or village fellow like me is concerned, the matter is most simple: how can we walk this earth, or how can we look left or right, without giving thanks, knowing that someone was responsible for pulling us out of our mother’s womb; for washing our clothes; for cooking our meals; for taking us to school; and for educating us?
So, can we then come up with a formula please – a simple mathematical equation of some kind – for how many times we must give thanks?
To God and to people?
For, everything we have we seem to owe to God and to people – if we really and actually owe anything to anyone other than God. For, God is the Almighty who owns everything; controls everything; and does everything.
He in fact is the one to whom everyone owes everything, whereas he owes nothing to anyone. That by the way is the definition of God for you – in the Qur’an, if you will. If you ever wanted to know who God is, that is who God is.
Qura’an refers to that quality or attribute of God as As-Samad.
If we succeeded in evolving such an equation, we would be spending every second of our life doing nothing but thanking God and thanking people.
It will be a full-time job and we won’t have time or energy left to do anything else.
If we are serious, here is the question all of us should be asking: Do we have any other business in this world than thanking God Almighty, thanking people and thanking the rest of God’s creation?
So, when we thank them, we live; when we thank them, we grow; and when we thank them, we get a new lease on life, a new rationale for being.
MUSLIMS: WORLD’S DESIGNATED BLESSERS AND THANKERS
Here is one way to do it, thank God I mean: Just say, “Thank You God!”
Or say, “Praise be to you, Lord and Master of the Worlds!”
Or say “Glory be to you God!”
Or, if you can’t think of anything to say, just think of God in the innermost recesses of your heart and mind and feel grateful for all that God has given you. For all the blessings God has conferred upon you and yours.
Muslims give thanks to God all the time by saying Alhamdu Lillaah! – All praise be to Allah. We do this after eating; after drinking; after waking up from sleep; and after almost everything else.
Even when sneeze.
Ask Muslims a simple question: “Hey how are you doing?” Guess what they will say. They will say: “Alhamdu Lillaah!” – All praise to Allah!
That is right. Question: How are you? Answer: Alhamdulillah!
Ask Muslims the same question when they are ill. What do you think the answer will be? Believe it or not, the answer will be pretty much the same. Here is how a typical encounter may go.
“How are you?”
“But you don’t look all that great though, are you sick?”
“Well, yeaaah, I have been running fever; and I have a splitting headache; and it looks like I may just die; but ‘Alhamdulillah!'”
That is a Muslim for you, folks, that is a Muslim for you.
I would say the business of giving thanks never got a better day.
Not because Muslims are that smart or good or hot. But because “Alhamdulillah!” is God’s own direct gift to humanity and the world.
And “Alhamdulillah!” rings in the message of the Qur’an in this world, as those are the very first words of the Qur’an.
GIVE MUSLIMS A CALL AND THANK THEM
So, whether it is giving thanks to God or man, Muslims are the ultimate “Thank-You People” of the world. They are God’s and the world’s “Designated Thankers.”
Just like I used to say about Muslims that they are the world’s “Designated Blessers,” I am now saying that Muslims are the world’s “Designated Thankers.”
They thank God and they have been asked to thank people. They are thus the world’s professionals when it comes to the business of giving thanks.
What blessings this brings down on them, on you and on God’s world in general, I cannot fathom. But this much I must say that next time you want to know who the Muslims are just remember this: Muslims are the fellows, men and women, who not only spend their lives blessing you and yours, but also thanking God Almighty, and thus opening up additional doors of divine blessings on you and your world.
So, maybe you should give the Muslims you know a call and say “Thank You Muslims!” Muslims may not have a clue, being the kind of generally clueless people that they are, what you are talking about.
But don’t worry. Just say: Thank you, Muslims.
I would if I were you.
ALHAMDULILLAH! IS THE BEST PRAYER, SAYS PROPHET MUHAMMAD, SALLALLAAHU ALAIHI WA SALLAM!
And then guess what else the Qur’an says? It says – of course it is Almighty Allah who says it, for the Qur’an is his speech – “Thank me and I will give you more.”
That is why – right, as if I have any clue what he says or means – Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, points out that “Alhamdulillah!” is the best and the most successful way of praying to God Almighty.
It is the best prayer or supplication there is.
You want to ask God for all kinds of wonderful things, just say to him: “Thank You Lord!” and watch his blessings rain down on you.
But then don’t just do it once or twice and then look out the window to see what is happening. Learn to connect with him. Build a relationship with him. Spend a lifetime saying Thank You to him.
A BUSINESS OR ECONOMIC MODEL FOR GIVING THANKS
Earlier in this Payaam, I called on our math geniuses to build a mathematical model for us to calculate the amount of thanks we should give God and people.
I am now calling on our superior business and economic brains to design an econometric model for us that will tell us exactly how much we owe God and people in a dollar-and-cents sense.
A model that would tell us the value of all the assets we have at our disposal.
The R & D and the capital outlay that has been made in our being as well as all the recurring expenses that we incur in living our lives on a daily, hourly or second-by-second basis.
Call it micro- or milli- or nano-seconds if you want. I have no clue what any of those things mean anyway.
DON’T BE LEFT OUT!
And then the Qur’an goes on to reinforce that message in all sorts of other ways.
It is not just you, the Qur’an tells human beings. Everyone and everything in this universe sings the praises of God Almighty and gives thanks to him.
So, in a universe every bit of which is constantly engaged in giving thanks to God, don’t be the odd man – and the odd woman – out.
Again: Want to thank God? Learn to thank people. That is Islam 101, as they say here in America.
That means we can say “Thank You!” to people who do us various favors. Saying this is good and wonderful. But the fact remains that it doesn’t do much for you, other than maybe making you feel good for a few moments.
How can we put a bit more content in it and give people something that will be of real use to them in their lives? Something a bit more “functional” as it were?
My own easy and convenient upgrade to “Thank You!” is “God Bless You!”
When you say “God Bless You!” we at least start thinking if there really is a God who can and will bless us. But Islam says there indeed is a God. And if God wants to shower someone with his love, mercy and his blessings, it becomes a privilege for us to invoke God’s blessings on people.
So, my own personal way of looking at it is it beats a simple thank you by a couple of lengths.
FORMS OF GOD’S BLESSINGS
Who can ever count Allah’s blessings? And who can ever tell what shape or form they take? But this much we all know: they do include life and liberty and everything else that goes with them.
And the fact that God Almighty has put together a whole universe to sustain and make life and liberty possible for us seems among his very special favors on us.
Come to think of it, how is even a single human hair or breath possible without this most elaborate and infinite infrastructure, of what God Almighty calls in the Qur’an, of Assamaawaati wal ard?
Meaning heaven and earth.
Improving our careers, jobs and peace of mind – is that all part of Allah’s blessings on us?
Obtaining answers when we are happy or troubled – is that part of Allah’s love and blessings?
Easing traffic jams, when we most need them, and creating a way for us to slip through – is that from God?
Reducing the number and size of potholes – while the government may claim credit for that, when and if that happens, can it be a blessing from God?
Decreasing crime and road accidents and reducing the prices of essential commodities making life easier for people in Trinidad and everywhere else – when those things do happen, is that all part of God Almighty’s blessings on us?
Well, you get the idea.
Or why don’t you simply read the Qur’an: Wa in ta’uddoo ni’amatallahi laa tuhsoohaa?
Paraphrase: If you were to count Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to exhaust them?
ARE GOD’S BLESSINGS RELATED TO ANYTHING?
God’s love is boundless and God does not need a reason or justification why he should or should not bless us. And in what particular measure, form or format he should do so, if he chooses to do it.
The fact that he is God and he is our absolute owner and master, and we are his abject and wholly owned slaves, is reason and justification enough for any and every thing he does and how and when he does them.
But it is only reasonable to think that God’s mercy and blessings will somehow be related to our relationship with him and to the way we look at him and he looks at us.
The Qur’an says: Wa huwa ma’akum ainamaa kuntum.
Paraphrase: He, Allah, is with you wherever you are.
The Qur’an: Fa ainamaa tuwalloo fa thamma wajhullah.
Paraphrase: Wherever you turn, there you shall find him.
That means – as if we know anything God says or means – if we are serious and make an honest and diligent search for him, we will get closer to him.
We will get the answers we are looking for – the answers he wants to give us.
HOW ELSE TO GIVE THANKS
And then there was this caller who asked on Pasha Hour International if there were other gestures of thanks – other than saying thank you or God bless you – that Muslims can make to thank God or people?
I couldn’t understand what the caller meant by the word “gestures,” but here is part of what I said in reply.
Well, the point is Islam is all about making whatever ritual or token gestures we can make either to thank God or to thank people. But at the same time Islam is also not about gestures or empty rituals.
Islam is about going beyond gestures to the heart and soul of things.
Islam is about tapping into the real spirit that lies behind expressions of thanks. That means before saying thank you or God bless you, we have to think about these things deeply and make them a part of our souls and our personalities.
We have to find the bubbling fountain of love and respect and care and concern within us for our fellow human beings.
And for all of God’s creation.
It is out of that fountainhead of love, mercy, compassion and caring that we can really and truly thank people. Otherwise, an empty “Thank You!” may not mean all that much.
SOME OTHER “GESTURES” OF THANKS, MAYBE
Some other gestures, if that is what you want to call them, based on the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that can bring God’s blessings to you – and to God’s world in general – are these:
- If you see anything wrong or harmful being done by anyone to anyone – human or non-human – in this world, stop it!
But the question is how do you stop it?
- Stop it with your hand if you can, says the Prophet, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
- But if you are incapable of stopping it with your hand, then stop it with your “mouth” – speak out against it, for example – he says.
- But if you cannot do even that, then at least resent it in your own heart and wish in some way that you can make God’s earth a better place for all people and for all things.
And Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, says, if you can’t even feel it in your heart, then that means you have absolutely not even an iota of belief inside you. You are no better than a pagan as it were, no matter how much you may claim to love, fear or worship God.
CIVIC SENSE IS US TOO
As Muslims, our middle name could have been “The Civic People.” For, civic engagement at the broadest as well as the most basic levels is what Islam is all about.
And here is the scale of civic engagement laid down by Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam for the whole world: Removing a harmful object from the road is an act of charity.
How much simpler or more basic does it get?
For us, it should mean just another act of thanking God. At the same time, it should also count as a “gesture,” if you will, of showing gratefulness to people.
So, in this sense we invented civic engagement too.
SIMPLE CIVILITY AND SOCIAL GRACES? WE INVENTED THAT TOO!
If you want to deal with the concept of thanking Allah – as well as people – at an even more basic level, then here is what Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, says: Just try smiling when you run into a fellow human being.
So, we invented the art and science of smiling too.
Remember the catchphrase “Service with a Smile”? That is us too. But with one serious exception. We don’t use smiling as a means to boost our businesses, we smile because that is the least we can do.
That is the smallest “gesture” or token of appreciation we can display at the wonderful divine gift of being brought face to face, by an ever-loving God Almighty, with another member of our ilk.
Yet another human on this Planet of the Humans? Wow, what joy!
In one simple gesture, we are saying: Thank You God for making another one just like us. And thank you God for this wonderful opportunity that you made it possible for us to meet this person.
For, among other things, no matter how much we search, there is no greater wonder or miracle on the face of this earth than a real, walking, talking, living human being.
Thank you Lord, thank you!
At the same time you are also saying to this person who suddenly registered on your radar: Thank You My Dear Fellow Muslim, or Thank You My Dear Fellow Human, for coming into my life even if it is just for a few seconds.
And, folks, let me make it quite clear that what goes for face-to-face meetings also applies to telephone encounters. So next time you pick up the phone, you know what to do.
Allahu Akbar! What a Deen this Deen is!
And what a loving, merciful God, God is. And what a fountain of divine mercy Prophet Muhammad, Sallallaahu Alaihi wa Sallam, is!
So, ladies and gentlemen, next time you want to know who the Muslims are, just think of us not only as the people who would keep your streets, communities, neighborhoods and environment clean, but also as the people who invented the art of smiling as an act of social grace and charity at the most fundamental level.
For some of you who may have wondered about it, where do you think Dr. Pasha’s International Islamic-Community Clean-Up comes from?
Or for that matter where do you think Dr. Pasha’s Campus-Community Clean-Up comes from?
Do bear in mind, however, that all translations from original Arabic are my paraphrases. What they try to do is capture the essence and spirit of the Hadith to the extent they can. They do not provide literal translations of the Arabic text.
Well, how is all this for making “gestures” of thanks to the Lord?
WHAT IS SAID ABOUT ISLAM AND MUSLIMS
What people need to understand – Muslims among them – is that Islam is not the kind of mumbo jumbo people sometimes call “religion.”
Islam is a confluence of the most beautiful ideas and principles on how to live life on earth to the fullest and in the best and the most perfect possible way, right here in this world. And, at the same time, how to make sure that life lived on this side of the grave leads to the greatest possible success and joy and the most wonderful results on the other side of the grave as well.
That is smart thinking.
So, what it boils down to is that Islam is for smart people and it is not for dumb people. And that means Islam is the really smart way of living life in this world.
The trouble with the Muslims is that Muslims want to go to Paradise, but they will not work for it in this world. Whereas the fact is that to gain entry into Paradise after death we have to work for it in this world and earn it.
So, if Paradise is what Muslims will get after death, this world itself is up for grabs for anyone who will work for it. If Muslims behave properly in this world, and do all they need to do to be successful, they will be rewarded in this world with success, like everybody else.
By the same token, if Muslims won’t do what success requires in this world, they will also be denied success in this world, just like everybody else.
That’s God’s immutable law.
Of course, all this must be interpreted keeping in mind the laws and principles of right and wrong, Halal and Haram, that God has provided for our guidance.
As for the fate of this world itself, it lies squarely in the hands of God – just like everything else. But what God Almighty has done is made Muslims the keepers and custodians of this world. He did so with the specific mandate to the Muslims to go and make this world a better place for all – every animal, every tree and every human being.
Muslims thus have been charged by God to create the best conditions and the finest environment on earth for the survival and success of everyone and everything.
ISLAM AND ELECTIONS: THE TWINS THAT NEVER CAN PART
What makes Muslims really Muslims is the fact that they have willingly and voluntarily accepted and embraced this divine mandate. They have opted or, as they say, “elected,” to do so. Muslims, thus, are the ones who have chosen or “elected” to say “Yes” to God Almighty.
Could they have said “No” to him? Of course they could have. But that would have made them non-Muslims. So, instead, Muslims exercised their right of choice the right way and said “Yes” to God.
And it is the birthright of every human being in this world: to be able to say “Yes” or “No” to anyone, including to God Almighty himself. In fact, Islam came into this world to give humanity that choice – and that right – to say “Yes” or “No.”
Islam came in this world to give an oppressed humanity the freedom of thought and behavior to be able to choose the kind of leaders they want to rule over them.
Islam came into this world to teach human beings to use free and fair elections as the basis for all power relations among them.
Thus, in Trinidad or anywhere else, to be able to choose our leaders freely is one of the blessings of God Almighty. Being able to elect our leaders is one of the key contributions of Islam to human civilization and culture.
As the Qur’an says: Wa amruhum shoora bainahum.
Paraphrase: Muslim life is characterized by the fact that Muslims conduct all their affairs on the basis of free and fair exercise of choice.
That is what God ordained in his heaven. What Muslims do on earth may be a very different matter.
What we are doing here is clarifying the theory. We will deal with Muslim practice, Inshallah, when Allah makes that possible.
WHAT PASHA HOUR INTERNATIONAL STANDS FOR
That is what Pasha Hour International is all about. It is all about Islam, Muslims and the World. But at the same time it is not one of your typical Muslim programs.
Pasha Hour International is about saying nice things about people – about friends and even about foes: about Muslims and about Hindus, Jews, Christians and Atheists.
And about all kinds of other people.
Not because we at Pasha Hour International are nice people, any more than anyone else, but because that is the onus or burden God has placed upon us as Muslims.
That is the mandate Muslims have from God Almighty: to say nice things to and about others. And to say what they say as nicely as they can.
To me there is no greater test of a human being’s inner strength or wisdom or skills than that.
Muslims, thus, have a direct mandate from God to build bridges and create connections among human beings.
Thus, just like Islam itself, Pasha Hour International also is about building bridges of understanding and cooperation, and it is about creating conditions of coexistence and cooperation, among cultures, societies, religions, races, genders and people in general.
So, help us God!
© 2007 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.