Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Lessons from the Isra and Mi’raj from the Perspective of a Parent with a Child with Autism

Posted on the May 26th, 2014 under Human Rights,Islam and Muslims,Productivity,Reflections/Thoughts,South Africa by

The Isra and Mi’raj are the two parts of a Night Journey that, according to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621. The Qur’an makes reference to this event in Chapter 17 (Al-Isra) verse 1:

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.

Now whilst many people will expound on the significance of the journey and the night, events that occurred, and how the Salaah (5 daily prayers) became ordained, I believe it also offers lessons and inspiration for people with special needs and their parents and those who support them.

From the perspective of a parent of a child with Autism, no other Islamic event resonates with me more than that of the Isra and Mi’raj.

The Isra and Mi’raj in the Face of Rejection and Dejection

Ask any parent of a child with special needs as to what has been their greatest challenge and battle. Many will think it is the ‘burden’ of the child or the financial cost factor or the sacrifices of time.

On the contrary, these parents will tell you the greatest challenge and battle has been to face rejection: rejection that kids can have a disorder or disability; rejection that disorders or disabilities exists; rejection that their kids cannot behave ‘normally’; rejection with the notion that ‘parents probably did something wrong’, and hence are ‘being punished’.

And what makes this challenge even harder is put simply: the loss of support.

Accepting that you have a child with special needs is tough. Tougher than this is coming to accept that people for whom you believe would support you through thick and thin, will abandon you when you need them the most.

My greatest source of comfort has been to know that our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went through a similar phase, in what has generally become known as ‘Aam-ul-Huzn’ or the Year of Sorrow.

The period was referenced by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the toughest time of his life, and preceded the event of the Isra and Mi’raj. It is the period where he faced a number of misfortunes:

  • The public boycott where the Meccans banished the Banu Hashim to an area known Shib Abi Talib (Valley of Abu Talib), and refused to trade with them resulting in hunger and privation.
  • The death of his wife Khadija (RA), the first person to accept Islam and upon whom he could always rely on.
  • The subsequent death of his uncle, Abu Talib, whose protection ensured that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would never face any direct harm.

Following these misfortunes, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also faced the brutal rejection of the people of Ta’if who stoned him. Such was the extent of his injuries that even his shoes were filled with blood. The Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) came to him with the Angel of the Mountains and said that if the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) wanted, he would blow the mountains over the people of Ta’if.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instead replied with the following prayer:

O Allah, To Thee I complain of my weakness, my lack of resources and my lowliness before men.

O Most Merciful! Thou art the Lord of the weak and Thou art my Lord. To whom wilt Thou relinquish my fate! To one who will misuse me? Or to an enemy to whom Thou hast given power over me? If Thou art not angry with me then I care not what happens to me. Thy favor is all that counts for me.

I take refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is illuminated. And the things of this world and next are rightly ordered. I wish to please Thee until Thou art pleased. There is no power and no might save in Thee.

As time has passed, I’ve realized that my role is not to force people to accept that autism exists, or to force people to accept my son. As a matter of fact, such efforts might not only have been in vain, but also a poor utilization of time and effort.

Instead my role has to be to not only support my one son who has autism in particular, but to assist all my kids to become the best they can be, to the best of their ability.

In doing so, we prove to others that autism is not a burden, but an opportunity to show others, that no matter the weaknesses of our kids, we will not give up on them. The goal is not to make them compete or be better than others, but better than what they can be, and in doing so, remove the stigma of autism.

Our weakness and lack of resources will only be outdone by our determination.

The Isra and Mi’raj as the Turning Point in Turning Perspective

At this low point in time, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was taken on this glorious journey. Some scholars are of the opinion that there were a few reasons why the Prophet Muhammad’s journey started at the house of Umm Hani, and not his own.

  • Firstly, it was closer to the Kaaba.
  • Secondly, some opine that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stayed there after the incident in Taif to not reveal the extent of his injuries to his immediate family.

The latter point is, in my opinion, also reflective of how many parents of kids with special needs put on a ‘brave face’. Deep down, they are filled with concern of the future, and what would happen when they are no longer around.

These are natural to have, but have to gradually fade into an action plan. Firstly, the best way to prepare for the future is to build it. Secondly, we cannot tell how long we will be around, so best make every minute of it starting now.

The less time spent fretting about other people’s opinions, thoughts and behaviour, means more time to do something constructive.

The Isra and Mi’raj and the Scent of People who Don’t Give Up

One of the incidents of the Isra and Mi’raj that is only occasionally shared is this one:

On the journey of the Isra, the Prophet smelled a very nice odor. He asked Jibreel about this pleasant scent and Jibreel informed him this good smell was coming from the grave of the woman whose duty used to be to comb Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair. This woman was a good, pious believer.

One day, as she was combing Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair, the comb fell from her hand. At this she said, “Bismillah.” The Pharaoh’s daughter asked her, “Do you have a god other than my father?” The woman said, “Yes. My Lord and the Lord of your father is Allah.”

The Pharaoh’s daughter told her father what had happened and he demanded this woman blaspheme and leave Islam, but she refused. At that, the Pharaoh threatened to kill her children.

He brought a great pot of water and built a great fire under it. When the water boiled, the Pharaoh brought her children and started to drop them into that pot one after the other.

Throughout all this, the woman remained steadfast to Islam, even when the Pharaoh reached her youngest child — a little boy still breast-feeding — but she felt pity for him.

At that, Allah enabled this child to speak. He said to his mother, “O Mother, be patient. The torture of the Hereafter is far more severe than the torture of this life, and do not be reluctant, because you are right.”

At this the woman requested Pharaoh collect her bones and the bones of her children and bury them in the same grave. The Pharaoh promised her that — then dropped her into that boiling water. She died as a martyr. The good odor the Prophet smelled coming from her grave is an indication of her high status.

Adapted from: http://www.islamawareness.net/Isra/miracle.html

Kids with special needs are also kids of Jannah (paradise), and some would argue this is a fanciful thought. But when you meet a child that is unable to talk or unable to verbalize his/her thoughts, perhaps it is that their tongue is protected from committing sin, a child who unlike others cannot display disrespect verbally or demonstrate foul language that he/she has learnt.

These are indeed the kids of paradise. The question is: will we use them as a means to enable us to also enter paradise.

The Isra and Mi’raj and the Journey You’d Never Imagine You’d Undertake

The story most often told is that of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his meeting with different prophets on different levels of Jannah.

Since the inception of Raa’id being diagnosed with autism, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, finding a school for him, getting him to therapies, etc.

The one question I occasionally ponder is: How would our life have been, had he not have been diagnosed with autism? A few answers:

  • We probably would never have met other wonderful parents who also have kids with special needs.
  • We probably would never have given up evenings to attend support groups and learn from the experiences of others.
  • We probably would never have been invited by the University of Cape Town to use Raa’id in a pilot programme that they wanted to roll-out, a programme that would benefit hundreds of other children.
  • We probably would never have been as passionate about any disorder as we now are.

The ‘early days’ were daunting. It remains a marvel when we meet parents whose kids have recently been diagnosed with autism. We see our old selves in them; they are starting to undertake a journey that we undertook a few years ago, a journey we’d never imagine we would undertake.

The Isra and Mi’raj and the Special Verses that could be only be Shared in a Special Way

During the Mi’raj or heavenly journey, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received a portion of verses of the Holy Quran of which I cannot help but remind myself of on a daily basis. Beyond my personal attachment to them, these verses of the Holy Quran have certain special characteristics that no other verses of the Holy Quran have:

  • Firstly, these are the only verses of the Holy Quran that were not revealed on Earth.
  • Secondly, these are the only verses of the Holy Quran that were not revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel). Instead they were given directly to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the night of the Mi’raj.

Now if one would ask, if these verses are so special, what would they relate to: does it refer to the Majesty of Almighty Allah, does it perhaps refer to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), or perhaps this glorious journey of Mi’raj.

The special verses of the Holy Quran that were shared in a special way on this special night refers to the wonderful capacity that mankind has. The verses that were revealed form part of the last verses of Surah Baqara (the second chapter), and the last one reads:

Allah will not place a burden on any soul greater than it can bear.
It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.
(Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord!
Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us;
Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear.
Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us.
Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith

Raising a child with special needs is an enormous responsibility, eased only with the knowledge that this is the Almighty’s will, and that He only grants this to people with a special capacity, one they might not realize they have.

Conclusion

Now in 2014, it is barely a few weeks after the Autism Awareness month of April, that Muslims will celebrate the auspicious night of the Isra and Mi’raj. In a few years to come, these will overlap each other, as the Islamic calendar year is shorter than the Gregorian one.

Tonight as people fill up the Masaajid, you may see a young child behaving in a way you may consider ill-befitting the sanctity of a Masjid. That child may or may not have a disorder. That child will not be Raa’id though.

Raa’id, because of his autism, cannot stand crowds and restrictive space. He is only six now, so it concerns us whether one day in the future he will be able to perform Jumu’ah.

The truth of the matter is that more and more parents will be pondering this concern.

  • In 1970, the numbers for autism was 1 in 10,000.
  • In 1975, it was 1 in 5,000.
  • In 1985, it was 1 in 2,500.
  • In 1995, it was 1 in 500.
  • In 2001, it was 1 in 250.
  • In 2004, it was 1 in 166.
  • In 2009, it was 1 in 110.
  • In 2012, it was 1 in 88.
  • Last year, in 2013, it was 1 in 50.

Preparing For Hajj – Some tips for techno hajjis

Posted on the September 27th, 2010 under Internet,Islam and Muslims,Reflections/Thoughts,South Africa by

Going on Hajj nowadays is so much different from years ago. As someone that was fortunate to be there in 1995 and last year (2009), the differences were stark. No longer did we have queue for prepaid phones, we could video chat (skype) with our family back home. No longer did people have to wait for photos to be developed. We shared them immediately on Facebook. And yes, we took photos of ourselves inside the Haram and MMS’d it home!

Opting to take our gadgets also came with its own preparation. Having learnt from the advice of well-wishers, as well as mistakes from previous trips, here are some tips we can offer.

Electricity – Get a Travel Plug Converter

Saudi Arabia uses the Type F plug, South Africa the Type M. One Hajji noted that his hotel also had the Type G plug (as used in the UK), but this is very rare.

I found a travel plug converter at Diskem, but its generally available at stores like Cape Union Mart. Also try places that sell suitcases. Type G to Type M is easier to find and available at Clicks for instance, but rather take the Type F. This also makes a handy gift to Hujaaj!

We also took with a multiplug allowing us to comfortably power the laptop as well as charge our cellphones, camera battery, electric tooth brushes, electric shavers.

Saudi Arabia also uses 220V so there’s no need to change the voltage on your equipment.

Type F Plug

Type F Plug

Type M Plug

Type M Plug

Type G Plug

Type G Plug

WiFi and Internet

Even if Wifi is advertised  free in your hotel, it may only be available on a certain floor. Check with your travel agent whether the hotels you are staying in offer WiFi and whether WiFi is offered on all floors or just some. I found WiFi more available in Medina than in Makka. It may be because of the construction work, but speculation on my side.

Internet on your Cellphone

Have a habit of quickly checking Facebook on your cell phone, I was shocked to see how expensive this is with airtime just running away. My guess is that it costs something in the region of Rs2 (Saudi Riyals) a megabyte which would be more expensive than South Africa.

Tip: Keep this is mind that their billing rate may be different. Also check your airtime balance regularly, and modify the settings of programs that connect to the Internet. In my case, one of them was one that downloads the daily weather.

3G Internet for Your Laptop

It is possible to take your 3G card with and purchase a one 30 day data bundle from a service provider in Saudi Arabia. There are two advantages to doing this:

  • If your hotel does not offer WiFi on your floor, you can comfortably Skype and video chat with your family in the comfort of your hotel room.
  • If your package involves moving to Azizia, you’ll have Internet access there! Azizia is nice, but WiFi is not standard there 😉

Some tips on purchasing a data bundle

1) Saudi Arabia has two main operators: STC and Mobily. STC is the equivalent of Telkom, advertises everything but has nothing and unlikely to help you if they sense you are going to make them THINK or do some real work. The service from Mobily on the hand was wonderful. They knew their products, no queues.

2) Purchase the data bundle in Medina

Makka is full. Since it is also winter there, there is a shorter time between the Waqts and also to get to the Haram on time. By the time you get to the front of the queue, its time for Salaah. However, try and purchase it closer to the end of your stay in Medina, but with enough time to go back to them if any issues arise (about three days before you leave). A data bundle lasts for 30 days. The later you purchase your data bundle, the later for your stay in Makka you can use it. Otherwise you run in the dillemma of wanting to purchase a data bundle just a few days before Haj and risk losing the balance of data/airtime.

3) Requirements

I purchased the data bundle at the Mobily Store in Central Medina (opposite the Hilton hotel). They required a photocopy of my passport (which I did not have) but accepted my Al Anwar card. Best to take a photocopy of your passport with.

4) The connection settings for Mobiliy is built into Ubuntu, just setup a Mobile connection. For Windows users, they are:

Number: *99#
APN: web2

However, the pamphlet given is quite handy. The salesman will also tell you that you can bring your laptop to them and they will help you set it up!

AIR Time

Recharge Card

Recharge Card

Airtime is sold in various denominations. However, if you buy a larger, you stand to gain extra airtime. For example, a Rs100 airtime card gives your Rs150 airtime (cant recall exactly, but it was in this region).

Best of all, the cards have two scratch areas, so even if it is a single card, the airtime can go on to two phones. As they say in Cape Town, “Klap together”.

This also offers the opportunity for the budding entrepreneurs in Makka and Medina. Check that you are not paying the extra Rs50 when you dont have to. Also, some of them will sell you half the card for Rs75. There are so many of them, just walk away and move to the next guy.

Internet Banking

The number one rule: Update your profile to receive your One Time Password (OTP) via email. By default, most people receive their OTP via SMS. Unless you have international roaming activated and WORKING, you may not receive this, which may stop you from performing any transactions via the Internet.

Standard Bank users can only opt to receive their OTP via SMS or email. FNB users have the option of receiving the OTP via email in addition to SMS.

However, for both of them, you need to setup the OTP via email before leaving your hometown. Usually someone from the branch has to phone you, ask you to verify your details, etc. before they set this.

For Standard Bank, if you set up a recipient, you will not need to enter a OTP when doing a transfer to them.

ATMs, Banking in General

Please check that your card does not expire whilst you are on Haj. Banks usually have your new card a month before they expire, and you can request them to send you one earlier as well.

You are able to do cash withdrawals at Al Rajhi bank. In Makka, they are situated in front of the Hilton hotel. In Medina, there’s an ATM on the first floor of the Hilton Hotel. In most of the more modern malls, they do accept cards. Some of the smaller shops usually share one machine that services a group of them, so you may have to walk to another point to have your card swiped.

Wires

Make a checklist of all the wires and cables you need to take with. Its annoying to be on the other side of the world only to discover you dont have a cable you need.

Back Home Preparation

Apart from checking that you are hooked up, ensure that your family is likewise. Are they able to connect to the Internet, start skype, etc.? Does their webcam give a grainy or feed, etc.? Run a few checks before you leave, and also put them in contact with someone thats knowledgeable. If they are going to use someone else’s Internet connection, ensure that you have budgeted for this as well.

Lastly,

Where possible, assist your fellow Hujaaj if you can. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that the best of people are those who assist others, and how much greater is this in the Holy Cities. If you find any of these tips handy, please make Duah that the Almighty grants the author to apply these tips himself in the Holy Lands, Insha Allah

Electricity Tariff Increase Calculator

Posted on the February 24th, 2010 under South Africa by

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa on Wednesday granted state-owned utility Eskom a 24,8% tariff increase for the 2010/11 financial year, falling short of the power firm’s request for a 35% hike. For the following two financial years, Eskom was granted increases of 25,8% and 25,9% respectively.

How much does that amount to for you? Try the calculator below:

Read the story on Mail and Guardian

Road Closures for opening of Parliament

Posted on the February 8th, 2010 under Internet,South Africa by

Here’s a Google Map of the road closures for the opening of South African Parliament


View Opening of Parliament 2010 in a larger map

Would it not have been easier for them to stick to DeWaal Drive, Roeland Street?

Weekend Hiking Pics

Posted on the August 3rd, 2009 under South Africa by

Starting from Constantia Nek, we went up to Devillier’s Dam and past Camel Rock

Devillier's Dam on top of Table Mountain

De Villier’s Dam