CategoryWhile we are here

James Webb Telescope and the Importance of Reflection

In his book, Al-Fawa’id, paraphrasing the great Imam Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله invites the reader to know Allaah عز و جل in two ways,

1. To observe the creation and ponder upon it.

2. To contemplate on the ayahs of Allaah عز و جل mentioned in the Qur’an.

If we were to sincerely acknowledge the above two points and implement them in our lives then there is no doubt that we will recognize Allaah عز و جل, and will strive to make our lives better in this world and the Hereafter by implementing the correct belief in Allaah عز و جل and His Messenger, the obligations in the religion of Islaam and by performing voluntary acts of worship because of the ‘ihsaan’ we develop in ourselves by Allaah’s عز و جل permission (i.e., as per the hadeeth of Jibreel: That you worship Allaah عز و جل as if you are seeing Him, for though you don’t see Him, He, verily, sees you.).

One of the amazing signs that we can reflect upon is the creation of the heavenly bodies and the space which exists out of the atmosphere of the earth. We have read a lot about the sun, the moon, and the planets but let us today see what some extraordinary technology has brought for us from the voids of darkness beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

Growing up, with our eyes we witness the sunrise and sunset, we see the beautiful full night moon and the amazing sight of the stars on clear summer nights but there are also things which are not visible to the naked eye (at least under the city lights). One example I would like to present from my amateur astrophotography is the ‘Orion Nebula’.

1 The Orion Nebula captured by the author in suburban Melbourne, Australia. A wiki page on what are nebulas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula  

This beautiful creation of a hot gaseous interstellar cloud is up there in the sky and is a constant reminder for me that such beautiful objects exist and many more like it which are not easily seen with our eyes. The revolution in scientific instrumentation in telescopes and other technologies has enabled us to discover many more objects similar to it in space. We are so advanced right now that we can capture some (stacked) pictures of such nebulae or galaxies using ground-based telescopes with cameras in our house backyards but bear in mind it is an expensive hobby and is much feasible if we live far away from the city!

One such technological advancement on a massive scale was way back in 1990, the launch of the revolutionary Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble captured and produced some amazing pictures of nebulae and galaxies over the decades. One such amazing capture is that of the “Eagle Nebula” or specifically known as the “Pillars of Creation” within the Eagle Nebula.

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2 The Eagle Nebula. Source: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/messier-16-the-eagle-nebula 

We can see how in this picture above how awe aspiring is the creation of Allaah عز و جل, such magnificent clouds are of the size beyond our imagination, the elements it is made up of are the source of light which makes it so beautiful. No doubt, this one image itself is a masterpiece.

Recently, in the year 2021, the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope was commissioned on the 24th of December. This is a breakthrough in space telescopes because this space telescope is Hubble 2.0, and that means it is a successor to the Hubble Telescope.

3 James Webb Space Telescope. Source: https://engt.co/31l2anI 

 See JWST in 3D here: https://bit.ly/3HxG94x  

The exciting thing about JWST is it will help us answer questions like, What lies deep within the space? What is out there yet to be discovered? How can it help solve a few theories about the Universe? These are some questions we can anticipate an answer for from JWST, in shaa Allaah. No doubt, this is exciting stuff we are looking forward to. But as we wait for the next scientific breakthroughs we need a reminder for ourselves to remain grounded in our faith. We should know:

All of this is by Allaah’s عز و جل permission.

We as mankind forget that we own nothing in this universe, Allaah عز و جل has given us everything and thus we should never be arrogant in accepting the truth, and acknowledging our weakness and limitedness. The scientific community at large these days tend to get arrogant thinking that they know everything about the universe (when theories are presented as facts to the general public) but we should always keep in mind that “our eyes can only reach a distance”, i.e., we are limited and whatever we have from our amazing minds to resources that we use to make intelligent hardware and software is all from the blessings of Allaah عز و جل.

In the last couple of decades, we have seen several advancements in technology, in AI, and other inventions but this was only possible because of the amazing intellectual brains Allaah

عز و جل has given to us as mankind. The exploration of space, i.e., what lies beyond earth’s atmosphere is also by Allaah’s permission.

يَـٰمَعْشَرَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلْإِنسِ إِنِ ٱسْتَطَعْتُمْ أَن تَنفُذُوا۟ مِنْ أَقْطَارِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ فَٱنفُذُوا۟ ۚ لَا تَنفُذُونَ إِلَّا بِسُلْطَـٰنٍ

“O assembly of jinn and men! If you have power to pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, then pass beyond (them)! But you will never be able to pass them, except with authority (from Allâh)!” (Qur’an 55:33)

Thus, in the conclusion of this reminder, a believer in Islaam should not doubt that whatever happens in this universe is by the permission of Allaah عز و جل.

Don’t fall for the bait.

Some people from the scientific community who fail to recognize their Creator because they fall short on sincerely pondering upon the creation and the purpose of life often come up with scientific terms or sentences to create confusion from their articles, videos or any other form of media to those who believe in their Creator. To cite a few examples, “JWST will reveal the origin of the Universe”, “JWST will confirm if the Universe is 14 billion years old” or any other such catchy headlines aimed at the common masses as click baits and possibly to spread scientific theories (presented as facts!). For example, the scientists state that the universe is around 14 billion years old and they have come up with this number using something known as the “Hubble constant” in Cosmology. This constant has been adjusted over the decades so much so that this constant now encapsulates (the time required for) the Darwinism evolution that we as mankind evolved over millions of years from micro-organisms. So yes, science today especially in the field of Cosmology and Theoretical Physics heavily involve theories rather than observation and testable evidence (and is rapidly also getting Philosophy involved with a concept like a multiverse and this can be seen in the latest studies of Quantum Mechanics).

The bottom line here is, as much exciting and promising the project of JWST is, we should remember not to go overboard with regards to believing and promoting everything the scientists or the media say about it.

We should reflect.

How many aayaat in the Qur’an invite us to reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth and yet many of us are so busy with this materialistic life that we do not pause to reflect as this is one of the most important activities in our lives which pushes us to sincerely turn towards our Creator. To cite a few aayaat from Surah Aal-Imran,

إِنَّ فِى خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَٱخْتِلَـٰفِ ٱلَّيْلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍ لِّأُو۟لِى ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ

“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.” (Qur’an 3:190)

ٱلَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ ٱللَّهَ قِيَـٰمًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِى خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَـٰذَا بَـٰطِلًا سُبْحَـٰنَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ ٱلنَّارِ

“Those who remember Allâh (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord!

You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Qur’an 3:191)

Even with the launch of JWST and the anticipation of what lies deep into the space, the revelation of it will be by Allaah’s عز و جل permission alone, it sure will bring excitement to mankind for a few days and then we usually forget about it just because this is (the mentality of mankind) going on since the beginning of our creation. We see amazing aayaat like the glorious sunrise and sunset, the magnificent mountains, the beautiful birds and flowers…, these are only to name a few from the creation and we do not reflect upon them as we have taken them for granted and just as a part of the system. As believers, one must spend ample time reflecting upon the heavens and the earth and it is a key to a huge success as it will help us recognize our Lord through His Lordship (Tawheed Ar-Ruboobiyah), it will make us strive to worship Him alone without associating any partners to Him (Tawheed Al-‘Ibaadah), and it will make us know our Lord through His beautiful Names and Attributes (Tawheed Al-Asmaa ul Husna).

Concluding, to reflect, ponder, contemplate, whatever you call it, will facilitate us to bring about love, hope, and fear of our Lord and will bring us near to Him by His permission. May Allaah عز و جل facilitate us to ponder upon His creation and upon His Glorious book, Al-Qur’an.

A Muslims Reflection on Hawking and the Likes…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

As a student of Astrophysics, I have always found myself plunging into studying the cosmos. Lately I have also started reading about particle physics. In short I can describe my experience as breath-taking! I am stunned by the creation of Almighty.

At the same time, I always wonder, why the likes of smart people, highly intelligent, like Hawking (Theorotical Physicist – highly known for his work on Black Holes and Hawking Radiation, who died today), Ed Witten (proposer of M-theory) etc. did/do not receive guidance to believe in a Superme Creator..

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(Hawking has produced some amazing research on Black Holes. Hawking Radiation describes the process on how a black hole slowly evaporates and loses its existence)

I found my answer in the Nobel Qur’an, where Allaah عز وجل says,

وَعَادًا وَثَمُودَ وَقَدْ تَبَيَّنَ لَكُمْ مِنْ مَسَاكِنِهِمْ ۖ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ

“And ‘Ad and Thamud (people)! And indeed (their destruction) is clearly apparent to you from their (ruined) dwellings. Shaitan (Satan) made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and turned them away from the (Right) Path, though they were intelligent.”

-Sura Al-Ankabut, Ayah 38

For anyone who knows the history of the people of ‘Ad and Thamud, it becomes apparent that they were highly intelligent, strongly built, carved homes in sand hills – a feat which requires planned engineering (refer Tasfir ibn Kathir). This becomes explicit in the ayah,

أَوَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۚ كَانُوا أَشَدَّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً وَأَثَارُوا الْأَرْضَ وَعَمَرُوهَا أَكْثَرَ مِمَّا عَمَرُوهَا وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ۖ فَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ

“Do they not travel in the land, and see what was the end of those before them? They were superior to them in strength, and they tilled the earth and populated it in greater numbers than these (pagans) have done, and there came to them their Messengers with clear proofs. Surely, Allah wronged them not, but they used to wrong themselves.”

-Sura Ar-Rum, Ayah 9

Going back the former ayah in Surah al-Ankabut, Allaah عز وجل uses the word مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ to describe the people of ‘Ad and Thamud – that means they were given baseerah – they were a people with deep insights. That’s why, Dr. Muhsin Khan and Taqi ud Deen al-Hilali (May Allaah have mercy upon both of them) interpreted the word مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ as ‘they (people of ‘Ad and Thamud) were intelligent’.

So it becomes explicit now, people with high intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be guided. Why aren’t they guided then?

Dr. Muhsin Khan and Taqi ud Deen al-Hilali mentioned the five reasons why people fall into major disbelief in the appendix of their interpretation of the Noble Qur’an,

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(To understand what a true Muslim believes and what are the six articles of faith, please download the concise thirteen page book here – Belief of a Muslim)

So basically, it is one of the reasons above, the well known scientists today persist in their disbelief and hence lack guidance towards the ultimate truth.

I’d like to conclude this article by including another ayah from the Noble Qur’an and سبحان الله , this from Surah al-Ankabut again,

Allaah عز وجل says,

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

“As for those who strive hard in Us (Our Cause), We will surely guide them to Our Paths (i.e. Allah’s Religion – Islamic Monotheism). And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinun (good doers).”

-Sura Al-Ankabut, Ayah 69

May Allaah عز وجل guide all those who sincerely strive to seek the truth.

– Compiled by Sarfarāz ibn Shuja

 

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Advice to the muslim sisters who have gone to the west for studies

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

(In the name of Allah, the entirely merciful, the especially merciful.)

Praise be to Allah. I ask Allah to exalt the mention and grant peace to the final messenger Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, his family, his companions and all those who follow him on the path of righteousness until the end of time.

Looking at the large amount of sisters leaving their countries (especially from Hyderabad, India) and heading to the west for pursuing higher education, I thought of writing this article as a naseehah (advice) to them, and I hope that they will comprehend on its content and take necessary steps to be on the path that leads to paradise (as that is the aim of every muslim alive).

This article has two parts, one part is aimed at those sisters who have already left their homes and gone abroad, whereas the other part is for those who are thinking to follow the footsteps of the sisters addressed in the first part. (The first part is advice, and the second part discusses the Islamic ruling in brief.)

Part 1 (The advice)

Those who have already left will bear witness to the fact that there’s a lot of evil involved for an unmarried muslim sister leaving parents and siblings behind to head out to the west for seeking worldly education.

“Since I’m already here, and have jumped into this ocean full of evils, what can be done now?” may be the thoughts of someone reading this who is trapped in such a situation. I would advise, if you can, please go back dear sister, there is nothing more important than safeguarding your eeman. But if you cannot, please fear Allah in each and every matter of yours.

The people who sin in the west usually give the reason: “Bhai, majboori hai bhai, majboori me haraam cheez bhi halaal hojati.” (Meaning: Brother, it’s a necessity, and during a necessity, whatever is haraam (impermissible) becomes halaal (permissible). But they fail to understand this principle correctly. I will attach a link to the fatwa which explains this principle underlining its conditions. (You can check it for a detailed discussion.) However, I will explain it in layman terms below.

Consider a person who is hungry and has nothing halaal to eat in front of him. If his hunger reaches to the point that he fears death due to his hunger, then he can eat the haraam which he sees in front of him (flesh of swine, dead animal etc.). But if his hunger is not intense, and he can wait for sometime (if his hunger wouldn’t cause him to die) he must wait. He cannot simply eat the haraam. It only becomes halaal when he is about to die because of hunger.

Also, if you were to consume this haraam food, how much would you eat? Would you eat your fill? No. You cannot do that. You can only eat few morsels that would keep you alive. In other words, if you are eating your fill, you are overstepping the mark. The haraam food that you are consuming becomes halaal for you to save you from death. Therefore, you can only eat what will keep you alive.

Similarly, these people who say majboori hai (meaning: it’s a matter of necessity) should sincerely examine their cases fearing Allah whether it’s really al-dharoorah (necessity) or not. You cannot just do everything and anything in the west just because it’s a necessity. Each case needs to be examined. Is there a halaal alternative to this problem? And if there is, then it’s no more a necessity and what you are doing is haraam no matter what excuses you give.

Now, since (in the above example) you can only eat what would keep you alive and cannot eat your fill, the matter in which you are involved due to necessity, you have to fear Allah in it, and cannot do whatever you like.

Let’s understand this by an example. We know that it is not permissible for a muslim woman to study in a mixed university (I will discuss why in the next part if you are curious about the reason), but let’s say, there’s a sister who is compelled to do so. She just doesn’t have an option. So, since it’s a majboori for her, can she do anything in the university? Can she take part in events that involve free mixing between the genders? Can she study in a group with men?

The answer is no. That is because, it is like she is compelled to eat the flesh of swine. So she can consume it, but she should not eat her fill (as she is not compelled to do so). She should only eat enough that will keep her alive. She is not compelled to take part in events. She is not compelled to study in groups that consist of men. So, she needs to fear Allah and interact with men only when she doesn’t have an option. And she must always try to find an alternative to this interaction. Maybe she can get her work done without getting involved with men. Maybe she has an alternative. She has to cut down the interaction as much as she can.

I hope this makes it clear about the majboori thingy. What about the hijab dear sister? Just because you live in the west doesn’t give you an automatic permission to get your hijab off. And by hijab, I mean the Islamic hijab which has some guidelines. Yes, it doesn’t have to be black (as some people think), it can be of any color that will serve its purpose. But, it’s not just a headscarf as many people in the west think of it. I will attach a link to the guidelines of hijab and their evidences here. (The first link contains the conditions without evidences, and the second link contains the evidences of those conditions, if you are interested to know about them.)

As long as your hijab satisfies the above conditions, it can be of any color. So, please fear Allah in this area and put your hijab on. Yes sister, I know it’s not that easy. But, do you really want jannah? If yes, then you need to put some efforts to achieve it. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested.” (The Qur’an 29:2)

He also says:

“Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving;” (The Qur’an 67:2)

So you see sister, life is a test! Nobody can go to jannah without being tested in this dunya. The prophets were the best of people and faced the most difficult tests. Until we start passing in these tests, we cannot really succeed and make it there.

And you don’t need to think about those things which aren’t in your control. You don’t need to feel depressed to the point that it affects your present life. You are supposed to worry about only that which is under your control. If you are compelled to do something, in sha Allah, Allah will not hold you accountable for that. But you need to act wisely in those things which are at hand. If you were involved in anything sinful, repent sincerely to Allah and leave off the sin. Take help from someone who can help you to leave that. You need to put a full stop, and not return. In sha Allah, Allah will accept your repentance, verily He is at-Tawwab (the one who accepts repentance), and ar-Raheem.

Allah says:

“Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

And whosoever repents and does righteous good deeds, then verily, he repents towards Allah with true repentance.” (The Qur’an 25:70-71)

I will end this part by giving you a deal. Please think about it.

Sister, you might have cooked in the kitchen before. It is possible to get burns and cuts while you work there. You may even have got one. How did you feel? Can you bear that? If no, then can you bear the fire of Hell which is seventy times hotter than the fire in this world? If no, then do you want to enjoy this transient life (free of struggles) and become one of the losers in the Hereafter?

If the answer is no, then please reflect on all the points mentioned above sincerely, and start making the positive change that will help you reach your goal.

May Allah help you.

Part 2 (Ruling on muslim women going to the west for the purpose of studies)

Before I begin to talk about the ruling in brief, I highly recommend that you watch this lecture that I delivered a year ago. It is titled “Women Empowerment & Islam (MJCET Student Chapters: IEEE, ECell etc. specifically addressed)”. In it, I have highlighted few important points regarding women empowerment from an Islamic perspective.

Secondly, with regards to the ruling on this issue, please check out this fatwa.

In brief, Islam doesn’t stop women from seeking knowledge. Seeking knowledge is not haraam fi nafsihi (in and of itself). It is what the environment and other things that make it haraam. There is absolutely no problem if a woman were to seek a master’s degree in the country in which she resides (along with her family) if all the Islamic guidelines are met. Heading to the west involves a lot of evils. For example, it is not allowed for a muslim woman to travel alone unless she is accompanied by a mahram.

“Come on, we are in the 21st century! It was haraam back then because they used to travel on camels and blah blah! Today, we have airplanes and this and that.”

Being in the 21st century doesn’t change the Islamic ruling. Didn’t Allah know of the future from before? Didn’t He know that airplanes are going to be invented in the future? If you say no, you do not remain a muslim anymore, because you don’t believe that Allah has knowledge of the past and the future. If you say yes, then how is it possible that the rulings of Islam would change when Allah revealed the following aayah during al-hajjatul wada’ (the farewell pilgrimage):

“…This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion….” (Al Qur’an 5:3)

Apart from free mixing between the genders, and travelling without a mahram, there are many other evils that the sister will face when she lives alone. On whom will she depend to get her daily chores done? Who will support her if she gets ill and needs someone to help her and look after her? Living in a country where there is no protection whatsoever and with wolves wandering everywhere who can use her as they like leave her in great danger, and Allah’s refuge is sought. Only Allah is al-Hafiz (the protector), who can save her from all sorts of evil out there.

And that is why, due to the nature of women in which Allah created them, He enjoined that she is to be guarded by her maharim (plural of mahram). Allah gave a muslim woman the status of a queen who has bodyguards around her. Her maharim are her guards protecting her from every calamity. He enjoined that women be under the care of her maharim, and they go with her (whether the mahram is her father, brother, husband and so on) wherever she goes. Why does she want to reject this status and become a regular woman like the kafirah?

Lastly, this trend of muslim sisters going to the west is acting as an example for their juniors. It is as if they are calling their juniors towards misguidance indirectly.

The prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said, “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like the rewards of those who follow him, without that detracting from their reward in any way. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like the burden of those who follow him, without that detracting from their burden in any way.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2674)

May Allah help and guide the all the muslims worldwide to follow the only path that leads to Paradise.

Verily, Allah said the truth when He said:

“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers’ way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – what an evil destination.” (The Glorious Qur’an 4:115)

May Allah send blessings upon the final prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam.

And Allah knows best.

Some relevant fatawa:

Her school is mixed and her father refuses to let her leave!

She has no choice but to study in a mixed environment – can she comment and debate in front of males?

Permissibility of haraam things in the case of necessity and the conditions governing that

“And who does more wrong than he who is reminded of the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of his Lord, but turns away from them forgetting what (deeds) his hands have sent forth. Truly, We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this (the Quran), and in their ears, deafness. And if you call them to guidance, even then they will never be guided.” (The Noble Qur’an 18:57)

Safi Ahmed

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First Ask Why

Professor Hefley sat on the empty table across John Doe and with a  cheerful smile on his face asked him, 
“So why did you come late to class John?”
John was caught completely by surprise and in a shy voice muttered the words,
“I missed the early bus”, 
hoping that the rest of the class wouldn’t hear. But of course, they did. Professor Hefley’s smile widened and then he asked John, 
“Why did you miss the bus?”
John quickly answered, 
“I couldn’t make it to the bus stop on time”.
“Why couldn’t you make it on time?”.
John took a moment to recall and then replied, 
“I was speaking to someone on the phone.”
Professor Hefley didn’t stop there, he asked, 
“Why were you speaking on the phone?” 
John was having fun at this point, and once again resorted to the mode of thinking. 
“There was this package that I was expecting from India that did not arrive on time. I needed to make an inquiry.”
The professor theatrically exclaimed, 
“Aha! That is the problem you see!”
The professor pointed out to John that the phone call wasn’t made on the right time and also that his package not arriving on schedule was a reason for John to come late to class.

This episode took place in a Project Management class where the subject of the day was Project Quality Management. Specifically, what do when there is a problem in quality. And this is how Clinical Professor Hefley would teach us, by giving us real-time, understandable examples of the subject matter he was presenting at hand, with a touch of humor. He would use the environment around him and spontaneously come up with remarkable examples to explain complex concepts. He once had to explain this concept of  object ‘encapsulation’ in software development during object oriented analysis in the problem domain, which was for information hiding that enforces protection of what goes on inside an object from the outside world  to ensure no one can change the way the software operates without permission and they just have to trust it works. To explain this jibberish, he grabbed a glass of water that just happened to be in front of him and took a big gulp. And then he asked the class while rubbing his tummy,
“Do you know whats going on inside?”
The class replied, “No!”
“But do you trust it?”, he asked with a grin.
And the class all nodded their head in approval of the point they had got.
And then there was this other instance where he had to explain the messaging that takes place between objects in an information system and that a return value is a reply that a message may invoke from the receiving object after an operation has been complete. To explain this, he just shouted “Marco!” and someone from the back of the class who knew the game shouted back “Polo!”. The concept was seared into the mind from that moment onwards.

This man was very talented as a teacher and I would always be at the edge of my seat in his class while he passionately delivered his genius on the subject until he would start to lose his breath. No wonder he has accomplished so much in his profession from being a Project Manager and System Developer in top class MNC’s; researcher and Ph.D holder in Computers, Organizations and Society; Professor, adviser and Program Director at Carnegie Mellon University and now a prestigious clinical professor at University of Texas at Dallas, the place where I happened to study under him.

Back to the John Doe incident in the Project Quality Management class. The professor was giving everyone a live example of a technique called the ‘5 Whys Technique’. This is a technique that is used when there’s a complaint for a quality problem in a project.This technique helps us to do two things:

  1. Trace complaints about quality problems back the responsible production operations, back to where the cause of problem might have erupted from.
  2. Take a corrective action to resolve the cause of the problem.

In simple words, the technique helps you to find the root cause of a problem and then solve it.

So John Doe’s case can be summarized as follows:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Made an inquiry call about package delivery at the wrong time
Corrective action:
Adjust time for making calls

Let’s say after further questioning we discover that the cause to John Does problem is not the call that he made. After asking him ‘Why’ he called at a time like that, he tells us that he had planned to make that call earlier but because he got into the washroom late, he ended up delaying the call. In this case, we notice that the cause of the problem has changed. And so subsequently the corrective action needs to change!:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Got into the bathroom late
Corrective action:
Adjust time for bathroom use

And another ‘Why?’ question reveals to us that he got into the bathroom late because his alarm clock didn’t go off, which would yet again change the corrective action to take against the cause:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
The Cause:
Got up late because Alarm didn’t go off
Corrective action:
Check Alarm clock batteries

And with these discoveries we can draw what’s called a ‘Cause-and-Effect’ diagram, or a ‘Fishbone’ or ‘Ishikawa Diagram’. The problem or effect is placed at the ‘fish head’. The causes of the effect are then laid out along the ‘bones’. This diagram helps us easily present the entire case to simplify the analysis.

blank-diagram-page-1-2

This is a very basic example of the profound use this technique has to offer. We notice that the problem remains the same, but a proper approach to problem solving helps us discover so many corrective measures to take that would help us best solve the case, because here we have to understand one very important principle that Professor Hefley taught us:

We have to correct the Cause, not the Problem

We see that upon asking a simple ‘Why’ to the individual we learn more about the problem. We discover new pathways that could potentially help us to arrive at the root cause of the problem.
By spending some time analyzing the problem and by introducing the ‘Cause‘ variable to the scenario, we can take a more appropriate and closer to accurate stance of implementing the corrective action against the Cause, and not the Problem itself. Thereby making our problems practicably solvable for a long term because we plug the cause of the problem forever.  What if we hadn’t introduced the variable of the ‘Cause’ in our measures to solve the problem? We would probably have ended up with:

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Warn John to catch the bus on time

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Scold John

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Tell John that he is lazy

or

The Problem:
John Doe came late to class
Corrective action:
Punish John by commanding him to go clean the class room white board

We see that none of the corrective actions discussed above have any guarantee of solving the problem. We don’t even know whether they address the thing that lead to the Problem. It’s like throwing the dart in the air without knowing where the center of the dartboard is. Or like giving a patient a remedy without knowing what the source of the disease is! You will only score the maximum points if you know the correct way of throwing (corrective action) and hit the dartboard (the Problem) at the bullseye (‘the Cause’). And you will only have a chance of curing a cancer patient if you kill the source of the cancer cells, the Cause of the cancer cells.

Such blind problem solving skills often result in the wrong outcome such as:

  • Not being able to solve the problem at all
  • Making the problem worse because of taking the wrong corrective action
  • Offending the doer of the mistake by alleging a charge against him that he did not commit.

Taking the corrective action to ‘Warn John to catch the bus on time’ (above) is almost an indirect allegation that he deliberately missed the bus, let alone the wrong corrective action.

The ‘5 Whys Technique’ was introduced by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the 12 billion dollar ‘Toyota Industries’ and father of Kiichiro Toyoda who found the gigantic 30 Trillion dollar company called the ‘Toyota Motor Corporation’. The technique was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. Since then it has been fine-tuned within the Toyota Motor Corporation as a critical component of its problem-solving training.

Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, says in his book ‘Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production’ that the ‘5 Whys Technique’ is “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”[1]

The technique is now used in Six Sigma DMAIC [2], Lean Manufacturing [3] and Kaizen [4] project management methodologies.

But the technique of asking ‘Why’ in solving quality problems is not something new to the world. It existed centuries ago.

In his book ‘The Prophet’s Method for Correcting People’s Mistakes’ [5], Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid cites instances of how the Prophet Sallahu Alayhi wa Sallam solved social problems that could have otherwise resulted in viscous feuds just by first asking ‘Why’. Study the following case:

An-Nisaa`i (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported from Abbaad ibn Sharhabeel RadhiAllahuAnhu (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“I came with my (paternal) uncles to Madeenah, and we entered one of the gardens of the city. I rubbed some of the wheat, and the owner of the garden came and took my cloak and hit me. I came to the Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam – peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asking for his help. He sent for that man and they brought him to him. He (the Messenger Sallalalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said to him,
‘What made you do that ?’ or ‘Why did you do that?’
He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he went into my garden and took some of my wheat and rubbed it.’
The Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said, 
‘You did not teach him if it was the matter of him not knowing, and you did not feed him if it was the matter of him being hungry.Give him back his cloak.’
And the Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) ordered that I should be given a wasq or half a wasq (a measure of wheat).”
[Al-Nisaa`i, al-MuLtabaa, Kitaab Aadaab al-Qudaat, Baab al-Isti’daa’; Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa`i, no. 4999]

So here is the case from the garden owners point of view:

The Problem:
Abbaad rubbed the wheat of my garden
Corrective action:
Take his clock and hit him

What did that result in? Did it solve the problem? Following were the results of that corrective action:

  • Abbaad RadhiAllahu Anhu became upset.
  • He went and made a complaint to the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam which was enough to scare the daylights out of anyone.
  • Most importantly, the problem wasn’t solved.

And when the case was brought to The Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam, what did he do? He taught the owner of the garden to properly inquire about the ‘Cause’ of the Problem first before deciding on the Corrective Action to take. So by saying:

‘You did not teach him if it was the matter of him not knowing, and you did not feed him if it was the matter of him being hungry.’

the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam taught the owner how to deal with problem by looking at the case differently after finding out about the ‘Cause’ variable:

The Problem:
Abbaad rubbed the wheat of my garden
The Cause:
Abbad says he is hungry
Corrective action:
Give him some wheat

How else do you think the Cause of the Problem could have ever been discovered except by the owner taking the step to first ask Why?
Here is another incident that Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid cites in the same book where the outcome was much better because the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam intervened with his wisdom to first ask Why:
Anas ibn Maalik RadhiAllahu Anhu reported:

“Whilst we were in the mosque with the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said,
“Stop it! Stop it!”
But the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said,
“Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.” (In another report by Bukhari, he said to them: “You have been sent to make things easy for people, not to make things hard.”)
So they left him until he had finished urinating…..Saheeh Muslim, no. 285
The incident continues in the following report where the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam called the Bedouin to find out the Cause by asking him:
“What made you urinate in our mosque?” or “Why did you urinate in our mosque?”
He (the Bedouin) said,
“By the One Who sent you with the truth, I thought it was just like any other place so I urinated in it.” ….Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, no. 11552, vol. 11, p.220.
The Corrective action that the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam took is reported to have been to advice the Bedouin the following:
“In these mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering Allah, praying and reading Qur`aan, or words to that effect. Then he commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over the urine, and he did so.” …….Saheeh Muslim, no. 285

So here is the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam, teaching the sahabah (the companions of the Prophet Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam) the importance of not jumping to correct the problem without proper evaluation. We can make the following analysis based on this case:

The Problem:
The Bedouin urinated in the mosque
The Cause:
The Bedouin thought the mosque is just like any other place where one may urinate
Corrective action:
Explain to the Bedouin what a mosque is used for

It is clear from this case that the Corrective action that the sahabah were about to use was to stop the Bedouin. But the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam had the foresightedness to solve the Problem for a long term using a different and more effective corrective action. So effective that when this incident was over, the character and wisdom of the Messenger of Allah Sallalahu Alayhi wa Sallam had left such an impression on the Bedouin that he is reported to have said:

“He got up, may my mother and my father be sacrificed for him, he did not rebuke me or insult me. He just said, ‘We do not urinate in this mosque; it was only built for the remembrance of Allah and for prayer.’ Then he called for a bucket of water and poured it over the urine.” ….Sunan Ibn Maajah

Written by Jibran Asif Shareef

Capture

[1] https://open.buffer.com/5-whys-process/

[2] https://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/determine-root-cause-5-whys/

[3] https://hbr.org/2010/04/the-five-whys-for-startups

[4] http://www.toyota-global.com/company/toyota_traditions/quality/mar_apr_2006.html

[5] The Prophet’s Methods for Correcting People’s Mistakes

Stressed Out?

There are times when you frequently forget about things, times of frequent mood swings, times of not being able to concentrate on anything.
Instead all you want to do is just lie down doing nothing because you just cannot bear another classroom lecture, cannot bear to listen to anything that requires the scratching of the brain.
You sleep restlessly, not physically present in the environment. You do not respond to situations and prompts, are mindless, lazy to do anything, show less interest, feel irritable, forget very obvious things, go extremely high on emotions in isolation.

Do you ever feel this way? Many people have been there. You were probably ‘just’ stressed out.

Though stress isn’t always a bad thing, it can give a burst of energy when competing or when speaking in public. (1)
But when stress becomes continuous, what happens? If you face it every day and every night, what will eventually happen?

Chronic stress actually begins to change your brain. It can affect the brains size, its structure and also how it functions.

When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis (Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal axis – a series of interactions between endocrine glands in the brain and kidney) gets activated and releases a hormone called ‘cortisol’. (2)

High levels of cortisol can cause the part of your brain associated with learning, memory and physical stress to deteriorate and keep diminishing. That answers why you couldn’t concentrate on your academics or chores or tried hard enough but couldn’t get through, striving with extremely high levels of stress over and over again.

Extremely high levels of cortisol can literally shrink your brain in size. Too much of it results into loss of synaptic connections (nerve impulses travel via this in the brain) between neurons and affects the part of your brain that regulates concentration, decision making, judgement and interaction with the surrounding. (3) This clearly means that chronic stress can make it difficult for you to learn and remember things. This leads to some serious mental problems like depression and so on.

But in the midst of all this we forget one thing. The presence of our Creator.

Our Creator, Allah the Almighty allowed our brain to repair itself. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah). From among the most prominent and common ways to control stress are exercising and even better – praying with khushoo (tranquility) to connect with our Rabb, Allah.

The treasures that we hold of our belief in the Oneness of Allah and His Teachings are priceless, treasures that we cannot possibly begin to imagine.

If things don’t work out for you, it’s okay, this is just a temporary world. Everything that begins also comes to an end at its final destination. In your case it is death.
Would you really bother at your death bed about what you are crying for now? What would matter at that time? Why doesn’t it matter to you now? That’s important to understand. Catch hold of it while you still can.

Allah Subhana wa Ta’la (Glory be to Him the Most High) has the power to give everything to whom He wills and to take away from whomever He wills. Both the scenarios are a test. Usually the 1st case consists of people who take things and blessings for granted. So what if you lost your job or a person you loved or what if you couldn’t get an exam cleared? I know it’s difficult to lose someone or something you love, but at the end, everyone and everything has to leave. It was always meant to be this way.

Getting excessively stressed, crying, throbbing your temples until your nerves start to burst? Really? Are you that weak?

You will lose your brain. Are you ready for the bargain? And all this comes from ‘just’ being stressed out!

Remember to leave your matters onto Allah Subhana wa Ta’la and start believing that He will take care. Quit crying, do your job which is to make the effort; the effort to purify what lies in your heart which is the only thing that will be examined in the end.

The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children.
Except him who brings to Allah a clean heart [clean from Shirk (polytheism) and Nifaq (hypocrisy)].

[Surah Ash-Shu’ra 26; Ayahs 88-89]

Written by Sidra Ali

Stressed Out

Footnotes:

(1) How stress affects your brain – http://ed.ted.com/on/xkIxB8xO
(2) The process of the release of cortisol, the hormone released during stress – http://www.youramazingbrain.org/brainchanges/stressbrain.htm
(3) Shrinking of the brain due to stress – http://share.upmc.com/2014/09/stress-affects-brain/

Please note:

We do not advocate any content that may be Islamically  inappropriate in the form of text, photo, audio, video etc. in the links above.
We provided the links to give you the resources we used that will also help you to get a better understanding of our article.

JazakAllahuKhairan and thank you for reading!