Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hamza Tzortzis and Pervez Hoodbhoy on Religion & Rationality- A Discussion @ LUMS

*grinning from ear to ear*

This was SOME debate. I started out a little apprehensively - I mean, look at that duration! I didn't watch it in one go. But was pretty much hooked throughout the talk. It was enlightening. I highly recommend everybody to watch it. And if the 1 hour 57 minutes seem too daunting, break it down into 15 minutes/day and watch it over the next week. It's worth it.

What I found disappointing here:

1. I, as a Muslim and a Pakistani, hate to admit that we're mostly all hollow people. We have hints of directions, but no concrete sets of ideas, values and principles. If something looks/sounds fascinating, we follow it. We do NO reading on our own and hence, we have no concrete arguments for anything anyway.

Hamza Tzortzis found that weakness in us, and I'm guessing he was disappointed in the overall student mindset of the so called Muslim country!

2. None of Hamza's arguments were properly addressed! Professor Hoodbhoy kept saying that religion should be kept separate and science should be separate - and science does not deal with questions like "Who created the Big Bang?" or "What was before time t = 0?"
I mean, then, according to the Professor, there is no argument here. To each his/her own!

3. The 'drop' scene :D. Awesome. I have yet to see a debate as, let's say - entertaining - as this one. Amazing, I tell you.
But there was something very disappointing about the drop scene. And that was that this debate ended on THIS note. It could have been better. Both academics could have talked their differences out, agreed to disagree and then courteously walked off. Instead, the (spoiler alert) Professor stormed out, saying 'Shut up!' [Uni, stop grinning!)

Point is, the Professor completely misunderstood Hamza, and based on mistaken assumptions, he got angry. Hamza, too, was angry, but his anger was justified because he was facing an argument which refused to be an argument! No wonder he said at the very end, "None of my debates in Britain have ever been like this."

4. At a point in the debate, Hamza started off 'Baa Baa Black Sheep, have you any??' and the audience replied 'Wool!' .. and he said, "Good! You've been colonized!'


Finally, it was refreshing to see something like this happening in LUMS. I so hope more debates and discussions like these are held and people throng to attend them, like they throng the Mausummery Lawn sale.

Again, highly highly recommended!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to attain Ikhlaas

Tough :) but doable Insha Allah for all of us. 
By: Shaykhul Islaam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah
Reference: Al Fawaa’id by Ibnul Qayyim: P.221(حفظه الله)
Translator: Nadir Ahmad, Abu Abdul-Waahid
Ikhlass (sincerity) cannot be combined in the heart together with the love of being praised and the greed for what other people have, except in the way that water and fire are combined.
So if your conscious tells you to seek ikhlaas, then turn to greed firstly, and slaughter it with the knife of despair [1], then turn to the love of being praised and abandon it like how those who adore the life of this world abandon the hereafter. If you are successful in slaughtering greed and in abandoning the love of being praised, then ikhlaas will be easy for you.
And if you ask:

“And what will make slaughtering greed and abandoning the love of being praised easy for me?”
I reply:  As for slaughtering greed, then what will facilitate this for you is your knowledge with certainty that there is nothing whatsoever that is desired, except that with Allaah alone are its treasures, none posses them except Him, and the slave is given nothing from them except by Him.

And as for abandoning the love of being praised, then what will facilitate this for you, is your knowledge that no one’s praise benefits and adorns, and no ones dispraise harms and makes one ugly, except the praise and dispraise of Allaah alone. One bedouin said to the messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه و سلم:

“Indeed whoever I praise is adorned, and whoever I dispraise is unadorned.”
So he صلى الله عليه و سلم said:

“That is [for] Allaah ‘az wa jal [alone].”

So abandon the praise of he whose praise does not adorn you and he whose dispraise does not make you any worse. And seek the praise of He whose praise has all the adornment and He whose dispraise has all the ugliness. And it is not possible to achieve this except with patience and surety, and whenever you lose patience and surety, you become like one who wants to travel across the oceans without a boat.”
Allaah the glorified said:

{So be patient (O Muhammad). Verily, the promise of Allaah is true, and don't let those who have no certainty of faith discourage you from conveying Allaah’s message (which you are obliged to convey).} [Surah: 30/60].

And He, The most high, said:

{And We made from amongst them (Children of Israel), leaders, giving guidance under Our command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our ayat.} [Surah: 32/24]

[1] Give up hope in worldly belongings.

Source: Blog

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Study: women leave math-intensive science fields when they decide to have kids

Women with advanced degrees in math-intensive academic fields drop out of fast-track research careers primarily because they want children -- not because their performance is devalued or they are shortchanged during interviewing and hiring, report two Cornell professors.

Fewer women choosing such fields in the first place means children take an especially heavy toll on math-intensive departments, where women full professors number only between 4 percent and 13 percent, report Cornell human development professors Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci in the journal American Scientist (100:2).

Female postdocs are twice as likely as men to choose to leave the academic pipeline once they have children. "For those women in math-based fields, who had the ability and commitment to persist through doctoral and postdoctoral training, this loss to the academy is especially salient," says Williams. "Moreover, we found that childless women fare as well professionally as men with or without children, while women who remain in the academy after having children fare worse."

In other words, the researchers conclude: "Motherhood -- and the policies that make it incompatible with a tenure-track research career -- take a toll on women that is detrimental to their professional lives. Even just the plan to have children in the future is associated with women exiting the research fast-track at a rate twice that of men.

"It is time for universities to move past thinking about underrepresentation of women in science solely as a consequence of biased hiring and evaluation, and instead think about it as resulting from outdated policies created at a time when men with stay-at-home wives ruled the academy," said Williams, who founded the Cornell Institute for Women in Science, a research and outreach center that studies and promotes the careers of women scientists.

The academic system presents women with a harsh reality: They face the most challenging period of their careers during their peak childbearing years, the authors say. Women must deal with pregnancy, childbirth and child care while simultaneously accumulating an impressive portfolio of work to earn tenure. "Women are making active decisions to leave academia in a world that juxtaposes biologically determined fertility opportunity with the period of critical, early career growth," Williams added. "Due to the inescapable reality of biology, this is a choice men are not required to make."

For the study, Williams and Ceci analyzed data related to the academic careers of women and men with and without children in academic fields, including math-heavy ones. They found that before becoming mothers, women have careers equivalent to or better than men's. "They are paid and promoted the same as men, and are more likely to be interviewed and hired in the first place," Williams said.

The study has implications for university policymakers, the authors assert. Universities could pump up the number of women in fields where they are in short supply by updating policies to accommodate childrearing. Strategies could include, for example, offering women with children part-time tenure-track positions that segue to full time once children are older. Colleges could also stop the tenure "clock" for parents who are raising children, reduce teaching loads for parents of newborns and offer emergency childcare. The authors also note the need for more research into gender-specific aspects of women's professorial lives.

"In a time of limited resources, universities should direct attention toward solving the critical current problem: policies and procedures that make academic lives incompatible with motherhood," Williams said.

The study builds on previous research by Williams and Ceci published in 2011 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing that women in math-intensive fields did not face discrimination in hiring, publishing or funding.

The current research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Cornell University

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reflections on Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day approaches again, I notice the display of bright red and pink color everywhere. Shops have gorgeous red dresses on display; flower shops increase the prices of red roses; gift shops in malls are full of cute teddy bears bearing red and pink hearts; jewelry and watches have special expressions in-scripted on them. Even sweet shops have heart shaped chocolates and candies specially wrapped in red and pink on request.

All this is not happening in a foreign country, but in almost all Islamic countries!

Young men and women make plans to celebrate this day either in groups or alone with their “special friends” of the opposite gender, “ahem”, behind their parents’ back.

I see them shopping for special dresses to wear on this day. T-shirts, shoes, jewelry, dresses, and even red nail polish to wear with those high heels. And not to forget the abayas with shiny red hearts.

Subhan Allah, when I see this happening all around, I’m reminded of an incident during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). A young man comes to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and says, “O Messenger of Allah! You are more beloved to me than myself, my family and children. Sometimes when I am at home, I remember you, and I cannot wait until I come and look at you. When I contemplate about my death and your death, I know that you will be with the prophets when you enter Paradise. I fear that I might not see you when I enter Paradise.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) didn’t reply, but Allah then revealed a verse which addressed the young man’s concern: “And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, then they will be in the company of those, on whom Allah has bestowed His favor, of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs, and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions.” (Qur’an, 4:69)

Subhan Allah! What fortunate young man he was to whom Allah responded from above the seven heavens. He expressed his sincere love for the best of all men. He loved the Prophet (peace be upon him) for the sake of Allah and wished to gain the mercy, pleasure and paradise of Allah by being close to His Prophet. His mind was filled with concern for the next life.

But what about us? We are so busy following the customs and rituals of disbelievers. Loving the Prophet (peace be upon him) and following his Sunnah is not what occupies our minds. We as Muslims are neglecting the commandments of Allah and the Sunnah of our Prophet (peace be upon him). This has no doubt led to our failure. We read, observe, and witness the numerous signs and warnings of Allah, but we fail to take lessons from them or ignore them completely. The Gaza Massacre few years back, and the Muslims being oppressed in various states is like a slap on the face of every living Muslim. Like Allah’s giving us continuous reminders to return to our roots. But as time passes, all reminders are lost in our short-lived memory.

Sadly, pink and red teddy bears will be the focus of our youth this week – following the ways and customs of a people who are involved in the humiliation and killing of our fellow brothers and sisters. I don’t understand how, after all this, we still enjoy imitating them?

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” (Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawood, no. 4021)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you (bit by bit, step by step) until even if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would follow them.”The Sahabah said, “O Messenger of Allah, (do u mean) the Jews and Christians?” He replied, “Who else?!” (Al-Bukhari)

Isn’t this happening today? We are not only blindly following their ways, but also feel proud in doing so. We need to wake up and submit wholeheartedly to the will and commands of Allah. We need to follow the ways of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his companions and their righteous followers. Only then will we find true peace and success.

“And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and is conscious of Him – it is those who are the successful.” (Qur’an, 24:52)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A person will be with those whom he loves (in the Hereafter).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

May Allah put in our hearts the love of those who will be in Paradise. Ameen.
Written by Mariam Anwer, in October 2009
Published by Saudi Gazette in February 2010


So true...

“Most of the obstacles children face today are linked to the belief among adults that the prime duty of the individual is to make the most of their own life, rather than contribute to the good of others... excessive individualism is causing a range of problems for children including: high family break-up, teenage unkindness, commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality.” -- UK Good Childhood Inquiry

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A time like this...


I should probably sleep. Understatement of the century, it is.

Life in pictures.

These days, I'm totally...

Although I'm supposed to be...

The last 1-2 weeks have been a ...

And I think I am quite overwhelmed by the word...

You know, I have done this a lot in life..

And I now realize how wrong I was...and how...impatient..

I used to grumble about stuff, and didn't realize that life has strange things for us...all of us..

A long wait doesn't necessarily imply that everything is over.

An amazing present doesn't mean it's going to last forever.

:). Life's a series of ups and downs. And it's up to us to realize how best we can react/respond to our circumstances at the time.

I am finally embarking on the doctoral journey, Insha Allah. Scary? You bet! :)

And I can't thank Allah SWT enough for the opportunity enough. Nor can I ever repay some awesome  people in my life.