Saturday, February 28, 2009

High Divorce Rate in Kuwait?

First of all, the proof. Is there really a high divorce rate in Kuwait?

This report says that "The divorce rate in the UAE has touched 46 per cent, the highest in the AGCC. The divorce rate in Qatar is 38 per cent; it is 35 per cent in Kuwait and 34 per cent in Bahrain"

Why is it this high? I think it's because we're spoiled. plain and simple. And we love ourselves more than we love other people.

A good, productive and stable marriage is built on one's ability to "LOVE" someone else and make sacrifices for them. We in this region as a whole are materialistic and wealthy. Couples get married because marriage is the new "thing to do", it's merely the new toy. Maybe the honeymoon period is the only highlight of the whole affair. Both sides needed intimacy and (Yes,) they needed some good sex, so they get married to do it. There's nothing wrong with that. Infact if there's one good thing this says about our society is that atleast some young people feel that they should "get married first" before "doing it". That's a noble and encouraging thought.

But after the 1st few months? the 1st couple of years?

First sign of trouble, and you see both sides contemplating the "Dee" word. They think "I don't need this.". And rightly so, they really don't need it. Either of them. Both are wealthy, both have high paying jobs, their rooms in their parents' houses are still empty and perhaps are still untouched with their original furniture of the previously "single" boy or girl.

So High Divorce Rate in Kuwait means 2 things:
1- We're too spoiled to want to stay in the marriage team. (Negative)
2- We still respect our Islamic sensibility enough to get married in order to have regular sex. (Positive)

So what will happen to us in umm... say 50 years?

The world will be less dependent on our oil, the oil will become less abundant anyway. We will become poorer in general. Right?

We will have less materialistic "toys" to play with. We will become less spoiled. And I think we will tend to stay committed to our marriages more.

Our men will start actually doing some "work" to earn a living. And less of these jobs will be suited to women, and the women will have less incentive to leave the umbrella of her husband's (modest) financial security.

Just like the stories of our grandfathers and grandmothers, remember those?

Now, is that a bleak picture? I don't think so!

With less material distractions, and with healthier marriages, I only see us becoming happier people.

What do you think about that upside-down logic? :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dr. Laurence B. Brown's Conversion Story

I found out about Dr. Laurence Brown from my aunt, then I looked him up and found his website and turned out to be truly his, and the story was authentic from his own telling. The first few times I told the story to others, I couldn't help choking up as I reached the end, it is nothing short of truly miraculous:


There is a certain fascination with conversion stories, and for good reason. Frequently they involve dramatic life-altering events, sufficient to shock the convert out of the materialistic world and into the spiritual. Most who pass through such moments of trial and panic experience an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, and turn to their Creator in prayer. In virtually every case I know, they forget the strained theological formulas they have been taught and instinctively pray directly to our Creator.

For example, a lady once related her ‘Born Again Christian’ conversion story on a popular evangelical television show. This lady told how she had been the sole survivor of a terrible boat-wreck. During her days and nights alone in the harsh elements of the open ocean, she told how God spoke to her, guided her and protected her and how, seeking His favor, she prayed to God and to God Alone. In her long tale, she mentioned God over and over again, and never once mentioned Jesus Christ. However, the moment she was saved by a passing ship, she threw her arms open to the heavens and yelled, “Thank you, Jesus!”

There is a lesson here. When in panic and stress, people instinctively pray directly to God, without intermediary or intercessor. That is the default setting of our spiritual consciousness. However, when relieved of their distress, people frequently return to their previously held theological formulas, no matter how strained or bizarre. All converts feel God saved them, and that the miracle of their salvation justifies their beliefs. But there is only One God, so it makes sense that there can only be one religion that is true in all aspects. Hence, only one group can be right and all others are, to one degree or another, wrong. For the latter group, their personal miracles serve to confirm them upon disbelief rather than upon truth. As Allah teaches in the Holy Qur’an, “Allah leaves astray whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ -- Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an: 13:27) and “So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.” (TMQ 4:175) As for those astray in disbelief, our Creator leaves them to stray upon whatever misdirected path they themselves choose.

So who will become Muslim based upon my conversion story? Only one person: me. Muslims might appreciate my story, others might not. Either way, here it is:

In 1990, I was in the last year of my ophthalmology residency at George Washington University hospital in Washington, DC. My second daughter was born October tenth. To my great dismay, she was a dusky, gunmetal blue from the chest to the toes. Her body was not getting enough blood, and the cause was found to be a coarctation of the aorta -- a critical narrowing in the major artery from the heart. Needless to say, I was shattered. Being a doctor, I understood she needed emergency surgery, with a poor chance of long-term survival. A consultant pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeon was called from across town, and I left him in the neonatal intensive care unit to examine my daughter. With no companion but my fears, I went to the hospital prayer room and fell to my knees. A product of Christian-American heritage dating back to 1677, nonetheless this was the first time that I even partially recognized God. I say partially, for even then I prayed the prayer of a skeptic, “Oh, God, if you are there . . .” I promised that if God existed, and if He saved my daughter and then guided me to the religion most pleasing to Him, that I would follow. I returned to the neonatal ICU roughly fifteen minutes later, and was shocked when the consultant told me that my daughter would be fine. True to his assessment, within the next two days her condition resolved miraculously, without medicine or surgery. She grew to be a perfectly normal child and as of this date -- July 2008 -- is on the verge of her eighteenth birthday.

Now, as I said before, I am a doctor. And although the consultant provided a medical explanation for my daughter’s miraculous recovery, I simply didn’t buy it. I remember him explaining about a patent ductus arteriosis, low oxygenation and spontaneous resolution. But I also remember thinking, “No,” my daughter’s salvation was not a medical miracle, but a divine one. Many who make promises to God in moments of panic find or invent excuses to escape their part of the bargain, once God relieves them of their distress. I could easily have assigned my daughter’s recovery to the doctor’s explanation rather than to a miracle from God. But faith had entered my heart, and it wouldn’t leave. We had cardiac ultrasounds taken before and after, showing the stricture one day and gone the next, and all I could think was that God had made good on His part of the deal, and I had to make good on mine. Even if there was a medical explanation, that was nothing more than the pathway by which Almighty God chose to answer my prayer and effect His decree. I did not then, and I do not now, accept any other explanation.

For the next few years I tried to fulfill my side of the bargain, but failed. I studied Judaism and a large number of Christian sects. I felt I was on the right track, close to the truth but not upon it. I never fully embraced any specific Christian formula, for I could not reconcile the differences between Christian canon and Jesus’ teachings. Eventually I was introduced to the Holy Qur’an and Martin Lings’s biography, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources.

During my years of study, I had encountered the Jewish scriptures’ reference to three prophets to follow Moses. I had concluded that John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were two, but that left one. In the New Testament Jesus Christ spoke of a final prophet to follow. When I found the Holy Qur’an teaching the oneness of God, as both Moses and Jesus Christ had taught, I become convinced Muhammad was the predicted final prophet. Suddenly, everything made sense: The continuity in the chain of prophethood and revelation, the One-ness of Almighty God, and the completion of revelation in the Holy Qur’an. It was then that I became Muslim.

Pretty smart, hunh? No, I would err greatly if I believed that I figured it out for myself. One lesson I have learned is that there are a lot of people more intelligent than I who have not learned the truth of Islam. It is not a matter of intelligence but of enlightenment, for “…whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart” (TMQ 64:11), “Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ 42:13), “And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (TMQ 24:46)

So I thank Allah that He chose to guide me, and I attribute that guidance to one simple formula: recognizing our Creator, praying to Him and to Him alone, and sincerely seeking His guidance. And whom He guides, none can lead astray.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Standing Next to a Murderer.. infront of God

About five years ago, at the lunch table with my family, having m6abbag Balool extremely fresh and tender, my dad and grandmother were talking in low shocked voices:

Dad: "He did what???"
Grandmother: "inna lillah wa inna ilaih raje3oon, what can you do or say? it's hard to imagine."
Dad: "That man?? he prays with us in our mosque!! are you sure it's him??!"
Grandmother: "Yes I am sure as I am sure you are my son. There's no mistake."

Then they stop while my dad shakes his head "La 7ola wala qowata illa billah". and my grandmother sighs and her hand forming her next lugma not enthusiatsically. My dad's shock stopped him from eating altogether. My eyes following both of them with concern and curiousity, I can't help but ask what's going on? And they tell me the horrific story.

This man who's only maybe a few years older than I am, in his mid 30's at the time, very quiet and mild mannered, divorced with children, and regularly prays at our neighborhood mosque, was in the newspaper for murder.

Turns out he was not mentally stable, and was on medication for a long time. I would never have suspected it, because he always had this air of calm and good manners about him. He even walked slowly, never rushing to catch a rak3a.

The reason he was in the paper was that he had come to his father's house one day, where his ex-wife lived with his children, he got a knife from the kitchen, and as he sharpened it he told his eldest daughter not to be afraid, and that she would go to heaven, then as she was totally unsuspecting, he cut her throat. (that was pretty hard to type out)

He was going to continue with the rest of his children but his son ran crying to his mother and they all escaped.

The man disappeared and the case was famous at the time, it was too shocking to comprehend.

I had trouble for a long time to connect the face of the man I remember from the mosque to the man in the story. I couldn't imagine such a horrific act from ANYone I knew, let alone knew from the mosque.

Almost a year ago, I see the man in our mosque and my dad points him out to me.

He must have been released from the psychiatric hospital and heavily treated, and God knows what has been done to him. I am not a legal expert, but I think perhaps a death sentence wouldn't have been understandable in his case. Who could gaurantee that he's not a danger to anyone now? What if he forgot to take his pills?! My mind is having trouble handling him, free and so close to me physically. There are many parents who bring their sons to the mosque, from 4 years and upward. I fear for their safety near him.

Since he came back his presence has been very noticeable to me. Where he sits. He sits at the right back corner of the mosque with a few cushions and a Qur'an on its X shaped wooden carrier. He prays in his spot all the time, before and after prayers. He reads that Qur'an all the time. He doesn't talk to anyone. And not many talk to him.

Sometimes I see one of the old respected men of the mosque sitting with him talking softly.

I am always aware of his presense or absence. And whenever he turns towards me I intentionally turn my head away from him, ignoring him. I can't bring myself to say Salam to him. Always on the defensive around him.

I also feel sad thinking of his crime and how is he dealing with his guilt. He certainly looks like he's in pain because of it. I can't imagine what sort of strong will to live and faith in Allah's mercy he must have just to be able to walk and eat and breathe every morning, and pray and ask for Allah's forgiveness. I feel sorry for him. But I also can't speak to him or even offer greeting.

Yesterday and today it was by chance that he stood next to me for the first time in salaat. Which pushed me to write this post.

We're both men of very different circumstances. il7amdulillah Allah gave me beautiful kids and a beautiful wife who loves me and I love them all. and I can't imagine hurting them. And next to me is another man who has many years ahead of him and has to live with this horrible crime he did. He's not in prison for life, he's not sentenced to death. He's a Kuwaiti who the government didn't know what to do with. It's too strange to judge. But his biggest judge which he has to face now is Allah's judgement.

All he has to face that is repentance. As much as he is man enough to muster.

I still can't bring myself to pray to Allah to forgive him. I don't know him much. I don't want to know him at all. I am curious to what he's thinking now, but he repulses me.

And the wonderous and amazing thing is... No one can ever say who was a better man as we stood there, me or him.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Giving and Receiving in the Didache

I was thinking of avoiding people who hurt you in any way this morning. Usually they do it without meaning to. But in the end, the hurt is received, and it is not pleasant. You may have a certain level of tolerance for being hurt. A threshold for pain. Anything bellow that level is fine, you can take it. But with time, either that threshold becomes lower, or the hurt being received becomes higher, and they meet in the middle, and you can't endure it, you can't take it. You WANT to endure it, because enduring it would be good. But your knees simply buckle from underneath you and you fall. Or perhaps not yet, they just threaten to fall.

And then your alarm goes off. You have to protect yourself from more hurt, otherwise the next hit will surely mean you WILL fall. And you don't want to fall. Falling is the most shameful thing that could happen. So what to do? if you tried returning hurt back, you would know how useless and bad that was. It only breeds regret. And regret makes you hate yourself for being not wise enough.. to simply just.. avoid.

If you simply want to avoid hurt, you just stop receiving from people. You close the door shut, to the good as well as the bad. And you definitely never ask to receive.

As I was pondering all this, this morning I was researching old texts from the Bible (I needed information talking to a christian who was curious about Islam), and I came to hear of the "Didache", it's a text believed to have been written in greek by early 100-200 A.D. christians concerning the newly converted, and as I read into it, I found this piece (what's between parentheses are my comments):

Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. (Generousity)
Woe to him who receives; (The Warning)
for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless;
but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. (The Accounting and the Reckoning)
And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny.
And also concerning this, it has been said,
Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give. (The Responsibility and Care in Helping those who Deserve it)

What struck me was the responsibility tied with receiving. You can't get anything completely for free. If someone is kind to you now.. you need to be careful of the hurt that might come later.. if for no other reason that they feel entitled to.