O Dhaka!

 

O Dhaka, I am dispirited and down.

I feel weak for what am I to do?

Instead of joy, paralysis is sown.

I pray that there is something I can do!

 

On and on, a string of sadness replays

throughout this blessed month of Ramadan.

Where is the happiness and joy I pray?

What am I to do during this time of reflection?

 

O Lord, give me strength to carry on;

so I can pray for my brothers and sisters.

Let me pray for those whose heart are torn

and for those whose heart is bitter!

 

Let me not fall into a cyclic trepidation

and, instead, reflect through meditation.

Let me not fall into the dizzying darkness.

and, instead, shine with a collective brightness!

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Reflections on Respect for Animals

ant

Sorry, it has been a long time since I’ve done this, but I had to address something that was bugging (no pun intended) me since the afternoon. I hope you all can get a chance to read this and reflect upon it. If there are any errors, please let me know and forgive me. I tried to write this without bias, but I know this is impossible, so forgive me.

There was a fly spiraling upwards. I noticed it buzzing around, while I was sitting down. I pushed it gently to the side and later it buzzed away from me.

Later, I was talking with a friend and I noticed this person smack hands together. I asked the person why they did that and the person responded that it was a fly. The person rolled their eyes and said, “please!” I told the person I was serious and was trying to explain why it was wrong. The person said it was just an animal and I explained we were animals. However, the person didn’t agree with this. The person became frustrated and shot, “It’s JUST a fly,” and that caught my attention.

The statement was so ignorant and careless. I went on and explained that we should respect all living things and we shouldn’t kill things just because. The person answered back, “if that is the case, why don’t you stop eating meat,” which is a good point. However, although I will admit that it is a good point, I will argue that the two scenarios are different, which I will explain below.

Firstly, I believe that those who are vegetarians are spiritually stronger people than me. I can admit this. However, killing for food and killing “just because (in this case, a nuisance)” are two separate matters. After all, humans are omnivores and, as such, we are programmed to eat meat and non-meat. Therefore, killing for food is a matter of nourishment and shouldn’t be compared with killing “just because”.

Secondly, when we eat food religion (I bring this up, because religion was brought in to this) teaches that we should be conscious of our food. We do this by blessing our food – either by making it halal, kosher, or saying grace. Why? We do this to reflect upon God who has sacrificed this animal for our benefit – our nourishment. It teaches us to be aware of where our food comes from. It teaches us to be cognizant that an animal died for our nourishment. Ultimately, we are taking the life of a living organism with the permission of God. Therefore, respect should be paid for the animal that becomes our food.

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I hope this illustrates the difference between the killing of animals for food and “just because.” On the matter of it being, “just an animal,” is also a horrible answer. I questioned, “aren’t human animals, as well?” and the person answered apathetically, “NO!” for spiritual reasons.

Scientifically, human are part animals. After all, we are part of the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, I can understand that, in religion, we are considered to be above animals. Many people will argue this and I can see the logic. However, this does not give permission for us to kill animals, “just because.” This logic explicitly says it is alright for one to kill or mis-treat another because one is perceived to be “dominant” over the other. This idea, which is inherent in many, shows no humility or respect for life – and if one has no respect for the smallest or weakest of things then how can one have respect for humans – or even God!

On the contrary, our dominion over the animals give us more responsibilities to handle and treat animals with care and respect. To say otherwise is repulsive and disgusting. Even animals, don’t have this logic of killing just because – rather, they do it for their own nourishment or fear. Both of these reasons, are reasonable. Ultimately, a human that kills an animal intentionally “just because” is worse than an animal itself because animals don’t have use this logic. “If” we are better than animals than we need to show that we are better by treating them with respect and awareness.

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Nevertheless, lets see what religion has to say on this matter for those that are still not convinced. From what I have been taught animals are to be respected. This can be related by the prophet (PBUH);

Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.

Sunnan An Nasai

There are many hadiths similar to this, for example;

A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being

and also in the Holy Qur’an;

Seest thou not that it is Allah whose praises are celebrated by all beings in the heavens and on earth, and by the birds with extended wings? Each one knows its prayer and psalm, and Allah is aware of what they do. Yea, to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah is the final goal (of all).

Quran 24:41-42

However, this isn’t just in the Holy Qur’an, but also in the Old Testament;

For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; the same thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man has no advantage over a beast: for all is vanity

Ecclesiastes 3:19

I don’t mean to make it a religious argument, but I desperately hope to show that it is a serious matter when it comes to religion.

deer

Lastly; although I can go on, killing animals “just because” is not just a spiritual dilemma. It has affects that are visible in our daily lives. For example;

The killing of wolves in Yellowstone led to the overpopulation of elk. This as a result led to more elk grazing for food by eating berries and shrubs. More elk grazing meant more berries and shrubs were eaten. Consequently, this meant less food for birds, bears, and beavers. [paraphrased]. 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/26/endangered-species-carnivores-extinction

Animals play a big role in ecosystems. The loss of one species can have huge repercussion within an ecosystem and consequently other organisms that are part of the ecosystem – which includes humans.

This is also visible within the human itself. Aside, from the spiritual decay that results from killing “just because” it can also cause physical decay. The logic is this: Those who don’t have sympathy for the killing of an animal will have no sympathy while eating. As a result, one eats based on satisfaction and not nourishment. Therefore, the person doesn’t stop eating until one is satisfied and therefore eat more to satisfy this desire. This ultimately leads to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, and so forth.

It is imperative that we, at least, have respect for animals. Otherwise, if we don’t, there can be serious and unfortunate repercussions. Unfortunately, these consequences go beyond the self, albeit important, but also to entire ecosystem, the planet, and our humanity.

humanity

Experiencing “The Good Times”

The awareness of experiences brings up some of the best emotions in our lives. There are triggers everywhere that bring out these experiences and I reminisce about the “good times.” However, I believe the good times are unveiled through careful observation that can only be brought through novelty and experience. These are four examples (not exclusive) of my “good times.”

In Zimbabwe, I look up towards the night sky. I can feel the warmth of the bonfire behind me. The stars are scattered everywhere and decorate the blue draped sky. I find the stars comforting. I float from one star to the other. Slowly, I locate the Southern Cross, a constellation that points towards the south, and right above it is the star alpha centurion. I use that to find Corvus, the crow, and Gemini, the twins. I show my friend this and eventually we find the red glow of mars. I do this throughout the night.

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Bonfire by Zemar Ahadzada

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Southern Cross by Zemar Ahadzada

 In the Shenandoah mountains, as I am hiking I notice the sunlight reflect off the trees. The warmth of the sun provides a vibrant display of yellow and red. Light seeps through and warms my heart. In the distance, I hear finches and sparrows singing their songs. Their songs are followed by cardinals. The warm air rises as the sweat of my brow evaporates. The sun slowly finds its way to the horizon. Meanwhile, I look for my way back down.

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Treetop by Zemar Ahadzada

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Shenandoah Waterfall by Zemar A.

 I am in the woods next to my home. The days are slowly approaching summer. The sun has already set and a blue dusk falls upon the trees. Everything is almost quiet. The electric generators and acceleration of cars create background noise that is often ignored. I wait patiently for darkness to fall over. Slowly, everything becomes blue. I get my camera ready as I patiently wait. Suddenly, flickers of light are set off. They flash systematically, every five to six seconds, as the males try to attract the females There aren’t many. Maybe, the ideal requirements aren’t met. I take the picture, but I can’t capture their lights.

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Woods by Zemar Ahadzada

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Searching for Fireflies by Zemar Ahadzada

At the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town I notice a fog on the far side of the mountain. It sits carefully on the top of three peaks. The sun reflects off the Atlantic Ocean behind it, creating a glare. Wind is blowing aimlessly at the top and I begin to put on a wind breaker. It is amazing how detailed one’s vision can get when one is carefully in the present. I notice the dassies and the starlings. I also notice the ants scurrying underneath the Mountain Fynbos. Unfortunately, not many of the flowers are in full bloom considering it is winter time in Cape Town. Nevertheless, the views are amazing. As I look down from the Mountain I notice the flickering lights of the cars and homes. The city of Cape Town is surrounded by the mountain and the ocean. It leaves for some wonderful pictures.

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Table Mountain by Zemar Ahadzada

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Top of Table Mountain by Zemar Ahadzada

These are some examples of my “good times” that are triggered through novel experiences. What are some of your good times? What were you doing at that moment? Also, why was that moment important?

 

Let the Heart Melt

I caught myself in a troubling situation. Following my normal routine, I was working on an assignment when my friend suddenly displayed her frustration. Naturally, I asked her what was wrong. She explained that she was afraid for her little sister, especially since her country was consumed by war. I could sense from her expression that she was irritated and depressed. Meanwhile, as she is going through her story I am typing on the computer, while occasionally looking up at her and show that I was still listening. However, I really didn’t know what I could do

LectureWhat I have learned over the years is that, most of the times, the best thing to do is listen. However, I felt helpless and foolish responding with, “oh…” or  “that’s terrible” after every sentence. I wanted to help, but as one can imagine, there wasn’t much I could do. It would be a lie to tell her that everything would be alright, especially since I don’t know. It would be false if I tried to sympathize with her because I have never walked in these shoes. Instead, all I could do was look like a dumb bobble-head.

She continued that many people are ignorant to the news, which prompted me to stop typing and pay full attention towards her. She explained how a genocide was taking place against her people and that nobody hears or reads about it. I asked where she was reading her news and she prompted me to a website, which illustrated her case. It was a non-local online news agency that was illustrating these event. Naturally, I am skeptical to most news reporting agencies because I feel like they try to spread their own ideas and beliefs, which I find one dimensional.

Normally, I would say that it was propaganda that was trying to find dirt on it’s opponent. However, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. It wasn’t because it would be rude, although it would have been, but who was I to tell her that what
she believed was wrong, especially since I have no understanding of the situation. I realized that this scenario didn’t require skepticism. In a second, I was rounded back to what I originally learned, which was to listen to the story. However, it requires listening with an active heart.

Active listening, requires the heart to be open to the story. All blocks, such as negativity and skepticism, should be removed in order for the heart to receive the story. That is to say, that the heart needs to be warm and receptive. In contrast, passive listening is listening without any genuine feeling towards the subject matter. I don’t believe this reaction is immoral or intentional, but a natural reflex that our body develops to avoid absorbing any negativity and/or difficult. The result is an empty and unfelt response.

It may be unpleasant, but active listening made me realize that, maybe, there was something that I could do, especially for our brothers and sisters suffering. It is by allowing the heart to soften that our heart rises into action. It is through this social connection that the heart looks for a solution. At the very least, it develops a genuine connection. It is only when we allow the heart to melt that we are able to truly sympathize with the suffering.