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Friday, 25 January 2013

12 Prophetic Methods of Education

It is reported in the biography of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that he sent messages to different kings and leaders in a way to spread the Word of Allah and disseminate the message of Islam. Among the then world leaders who received such noble messages was Caesar, the Roman Emperor.
In that message, the Prophet addressed him as, “The Great Man ofByzantine”. This tribute of honor given to him contained a recognetion of the emperor’s being great – though, for the Romans, not for the Prophet. He also quoted in his message the following words:{O People of the Book, come to a word common between us and you that we worship none but Allah.} (Aali-Imran 3: 64)

Here, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did a number of things. Firstly, he honored the addressee and accorded him the due respect. Secondly, he mentioned in his message a common factor between the addressee and himself. 
The life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is abundant in examples of this sort in which the Prophet knew how to approach the invitee, attract his attention, draw his heart nearer to him, and then start to invite him to Islam or to educate him if he was already a Muslim.
Marvelous are the techniques and methods that were adopted by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). These methods are to be emulated by those who take the responsibility of following his honorable steps and task themselves with that great burden.
Among the methods that were adopted by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) are the following:

1. Education by setting an example:
{O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do. Grealy hateful in the sight of Allah is that you say what you do not do.} (As-Saff 61: 2-3)

The Prophet never preached anything that he himself does not perform and he taught all Muslims to do the same in obedience to the above Qur’anic ayah (i.e. verse) and many others as well. To recognize the importance of this method, we can cite one example from the Hudaibiyah Treaty: When the writing of the peace treaty was concluded, Allah’s Apostle said to his companions, ‘Get up and slaughter your sacrifices and get your head shaved.’ None of them got up, and the Prophet repeated his order thrice.
When none of them got up, he left them and went to Um Salamah and told her of the people’s attitudes towards him. Um Salamah said, ‘O the Prophet of Allah! Do you want your order to be carried out? Go out and don't say a word to anybody till you have slaughtered your sacrifice and call your barber to shave your head.’ So, the Prophet went out and did not talk to anyone of them till he did that, i.e. slaughtered the sacrifice and called his barber who shaved his head. Seeing that, the companions of the Prophet got up, slaughtered their sacrifices, and started shaving the heads of one another, and there was so much rush that there was a danger of killing each other.” (Al-Bukhari)

2. Education through Q & A:

 This can be attested to by recalling the famous hadith in which the Archangel Jibril came to the Prophet asking him about faith, Islam, ihsan (i.e., perfection), and the Hour; the Prophet answered him in full detail and further commented that the questioner was Jibril who came to teach the Companions – using this method in cooperation with the Prophet – the matters of their religion. (This hadith can be found in Muslim)
3. Giving speeches and sermons:
The Prophet used to constantly and regularly offer the Friday Sermon (khutbat al-Jumu`ah) in which he admonished the Companions and taught them about their religion. He earnestly addressed the needs of the then emerging Muslim community and the issues that would appear to them in their daily lives. He also paid great attention to the purification of their souls and getting their hearts attached to the hereafter.

4. Giving talks or sermons every now and then:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to give short talks every now and then in a way to draw the attention of Muslims to something important, or ward off something heinous. He did not do that regularly as he did not like to bore them by stuffing their minds with sermons and talks. The Companions themselves used to emulate this method of da`wah with their invitees as reported by Shaqiq who said: 
We were sitting at the door of `Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) waiting for him (to come out and deliver a sermon to us). It was at this time that there happened to pass by us Yazid ibn Mu`awiyah an-Nakha`i. We said: Inform him (`Abdullah ib. Mas`ud) of our presence here. He went in and `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud lost no time in coming out to us and said: I was informed of your presence here but nothing hindered me to come out to you but the fact that I did not like to bore you as Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) did not deliver us sermon on certain days fearing that it might prove to be boring for us. (Muslim)

5. Giving short talks after Salah:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to give short talks immediately after Salah (i.e., prayer) in a way to clarify something to Muslims or comment on another. This can be attested to by various hadiths from the Prophetic Sunnah that go beyond the scope of this article.

6. Education through raising questions:

Sometimes, the Prophet used to raise questions in a way to raise the people’s interest in the matter at hand or to draw their attention to the importance of something he intended to handle. In addition, he often used this way to revisit the terminology adopted by people and to incorporate new meanings in old terms. Abu Hurairah reported Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying,

"Do you know who is the bankrupt?’ They (the Companions) said, ‘A bankrupt man amongst us is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth.’ He said, ‘The bankrupt of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakah but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then sins would be transfered (from the abused accounts') and entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire.”(Muslim)

7. Education through story telling:
The Prophet used to tell stories of the past Prophets and their nations and sometimes of some individuals of such nations in certain contexts in a way to teach Muslims through using interesting stories from which they can derive lessons and admonition. This can be clarified by referring the reader to the story of the People of the Ditch, the Magician, the Monk and the slave (boy) as mentioned in Sahih Muslim.

8. Education through setting parables:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to set parables for the Companions to teach them and draw abstract concepts nearer to their minds on his way of getting them from the darkness of ignorance into the light of faith and belief. The following famous hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah can be cited here as a good example on this. Allah’s Apostle said,
“My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say, ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.” (Al-Bukhari)

9. Education through practical application:
This can be shown in the story of the Bedouin who came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asking about the time of Salah and the following hadith shows how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) responded. Sulaiman b. Buraidah narrated on the authority of his father that a person asked the Apostle of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) about the time of prayer. Upon this he said, “Pray with us these two, meaning two days." When the sun passed the meridian, he gave command to Bilal who uttered the call to prayer.
Then he commanded him and pronounced Iqama for noon prayer (Then at the time of the afternoon prayer) he again commanded and Iqama for the afternoon prayer was pronounced when the sun was high, white and clear. He then commanded and Iqamafor the evening prayer was pronounced, when the sun had set. He then commanded him and the Iqama for the night prayer was pronounced when the twilight had disappeared. He then commanded him and the Iqama for the morning prayer was pronounced, when the dawn had appeared.
When it was the next day, he commanded him to delay the noon prayer till the extreme heat had passed and he did so, and he allowed it to be delayed till the extreme heat had passed. He observed the afternoon prayer when the sun was high, delaying it beyond the time he had previously observed it. He observed the evening prayer before the twilight had vanished; he observed the night prayer when a third of the night had passed; and he observed the dawn prayer when there was clear daylight. He (the Prophet) then said, ‘Where is the man who inquired about the time of prayer?’ He (the inquirer) said, ‘Messenger of Allah! Here I am.’ He (the Prophet) said,
"The time for your prayer is within the limits of what you have seen.”(Muslim)

10. Education through applied lessoning:
This can be seen in the following hadith that is narrated by Abu Hurairah. “Allah’s Apostle entered the mosque and a person followed him. The man prayed and went to the Prophet and greeted him. The Prophet returned the greeting and said to him, ‘Go back and pray, for you have not prayed.’ The man went back and prayed in the same way as before, returned and greeted the Prophet who said, ‘Go back and pray, for you have not prayed.
This happened thrice. The man said, ‘By Him Who sent you with the Truth, I cannot offer the prayer in a better way than this. Please, teach me how to pray.’ The Prophet said, ‘When you stand for Prayer say Takbir and then recite from the Qur'an (of what you know by heart) and then bow till you feel at ease. Then raise your head and stand up straight, then prostrate till you feel at ease during your prostration, then sit with calmness till you feel at ease (do not hurry) and do the same in all your prayers.’” (Al-Bukhari)

11. Education through accompanying the educator for some time:

It was the habit of the Prophet that when he marched for battle all Muslims capable of fighting would accompany him and no one was ever allowed to be left behind except with the Prophet’s permission. Moreover, when he dispatched military expeditions, he would command a group of Muslims to remain with him to witness the revelation of the Qur’an in order for them to convey these revealed parts and teach them to those who set out for jihad upon their return. So they learn from them what Allah revealed to His Prophet in their absence, while the Prophet sent some other men into military expeditions. This is understood from Allah’s saying,

{And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).} (Al-Tawbah 9: 122)

12. Education without embarrassing the addressee:
The Prophet used to say in his public addresses, “What has happened to people that they do so?” Naturally, the person who was supposed to hear it did hear it, was ashamed in his heart and went about getting rid of that shortcoming. Certainly,da`wah (Islamic preaching) means to call someone to come closer to the da`iyahand, definitely, not to enumerate the person’s shortcomings or drawbacks!
Finally, these were some of the techniques and methods of da`wah adopted and applied by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) by which he earned the hearts of almost all those he invited to Islam. Unfortunately, in our present time, we suffer from lack of da`iyahs who take care of their addressees in such a noble manner and thus draw them nearer to Allah and His straight path. Rather, some of those who are deemed as da`iyahs and who see themselves as doing a great service to Islam, they do nothing but making people scared of the religion of monotheism, mercy and peace.

(Onislam / 23 Jan 2013)

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Islamic banking on uptrend and continues to grow despite challenges

PETALING JAYA: Challenges or not, Islamic banking is set to continue its growth momentum this year. Underpinning this is the planned conversion of development financial institutions (DFIs) into full-fledged Islamic banks, a growing demand for Islamic finance, a strong sukuk market and anticipated mergers among Islamic banks.
Industry observers and players reckoned that these factors would spur the growth of the industry and hot up competition among the players, both existing and new.
Statistics concur with this. According to the Ministry of Finance (MOF)2012/2013 Economic Report, Islamic banking continued to expand in the first seven months of 2012, with total assets increasing 20.6% to RM469.5bil, representing 24.2% of the country's banking system assets.
As at end-September 2012, Malaysia still dominated the global market with 74% of global sukuk issuance, a Bank Negara report indicated.
Ernst & Young Malaysia director for Islamic Banking Group (Global Financial Services) Muhammad Syarizal Rahim told StarBiz there were several factors that would spur this growth momentum despite the challenges present.
According to him, the game changer in the country's bid to double its share of Islamic banking assets by 2020 and the contributing sustained growth trend in 2013 would be the conversion of DFIs into full-fledged Islamic banking institutions by 2015.
This would, among others, involve the conversion of existing DFI loan and deposit products into Islamic products.
“It is projected that the demand for sukuk instruments will continue to grow, outpacing global supply and providing opportunities for Islamic banks to establish and grow their Islamic fixed income advisory platforms.
“The anticipated consolidation among Islamic banks will also continue, including the creation of a mega Islamic bank. This trend will ensure the continued strengthening of Islamic banks and will be crucial for their planned expansion to be regional players,'' Syarizal noted.
With a total Muslim population of about 60% of the total population, he said there were significant opportunities for the Islamic banking players in the country to increase their market penetration.
He added, however, that there were a number of key challenges for the Islamic banking players in achieving their growth prospects. Although the overall profitability has improved, he felt the operating expenses were still higher for Islamic banks.
The largest operational cost tended to be for human capital, he said, noting that there was also a need to increase technology enablement so services could be delivered more effectively and efficiently. Apart from this, Syarizal said Islamic banks would need to better manage their asset quality, with risk and governance often a complex and sensitive factor in deciding revaluations or disposals.

As for competition, Maybank Islamic Bhd CEO Muzaffar Hisham said the bank welcomed it, as it was confident of its services, corporate philosophy and ability to maintain market leadership. Towards this end, he added that the bank was also committed to improving efficiency and customer satisfaction amidst increasing competition in the market.
“We have successfully expanded our domestic market share in both deposits and financing, 22.9% and 25.9%, respectively, for 2012. Our profit before tax has also recorded a 43.8% year-on-year growth in the first nine months of last year. We are cementing and establishing our domestic leadership in Islamic banking and aggressively pursuing a regional push,'' he noted.
To differentiate itself in the area of Islamic banking, Muzaffar said the bank would continue to strive in providing innovative syariah-compliant solutions for the benefit of its customers. Last year, Maybank Islamic had extended its Premier Mudharabah Account-i to small and medium enterprises, business banking and corporate segments.
He said the bank had also launched the new variable rate of mortgage financing under the concept of Commodity Murabahah. Besides this, it had enhanced the bank's Ikhwan credit card offerings via the Ikhwan Visa Infinite launch.
It had also introduced the M2U Savers-i, an online savings account for the convenience of opening, accessing and closing accounts from anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, OCBC Al-Amin Bank Bhd director and CEO Syed Abdull Aziz Syed Kechik concurred with Muzaffar, saying that competition in Islamic banking would continue to intensify and was a good thing.
The industry's attractive growth rate across various markets would attract more players, with the healthy competition driving further improvements in the industry.
In terms of differentiation and strategies employed in Islamic banking, he said: “Each player has its own unique value proposition and market strategy. For home-grown firms, the entrenched and well-established position coupled with various home market advantages provides the solid base to grow further.
“For offshore-owned entities, meanwhile, the capability to tap into their international/regional group resources and network provides some degree of advantage in growing the Islamic finance business base across borders.”

(The Star Online / 21 Jan 2013)

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Brunei Darussalam: Islamic banking earmarked for further growth

The Islamic banking segment strengthened its position within Brunei Darussalam’s financial services industry last year on the back of rising demand that led to the launch of a new bank and major bond issuances. Having moved early to establish sharia-compliant services, the Sultanate is now well placed to carve out a niche for itself as an international Islamic banking centre. However, the industry will need to address a number of challenges, led by a shortage of skilled workers, if it is to fully support the segment’s development.
In mid-October, Standard Chartered Bank Brunei (SCB) said it was mulling plans to introduce Islamic banking products this year to meet increased demand for sharia-compliant banking services in the Sultanate. SCB’s announcement followed the September launch of the Islamic Bank of Brunei, which replaced the International Bank of Brunei as the sole domestically owned bank operating in the country.
The Tabung Amanah Islam Brunei was the first financial institution to offer savings and financing in accordance with Islamic principles when it was launched in 1991, followed two years later by the Islamic Bank of Brunei. They were joined in 2000 by the Islamic Development Bank of Brunei.
SCB’s CEO, Lai Pei-Si, told reporters during a media luncheon held at Hua Ho Manggis Mall in October that launching an Islamic bank was a “logical step to take and logical step to consider because Brunei has an express need for Islamic banking products”. He added that the bank would begin modestly by offering Islamic products, with hopes of bringing “much more comprehensive Islamic solutions into the country”.
In April, the managing director of Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, Javed Ahmad, said the market share held by sharia-compliant banking was expected to increase to 60% from its current levels of 40-55% over the next five years.
Speaking at a seminar on Islamic finance, Ahmad said Brunei Darussalam’s strengths, led by strong economic and political stability, good infrastructure and government support, meant it was well placed to build a reputation as an Islamic financial centre. “With more aggressive marketing, Brunei Darussalam’s journey towards making itself an Islamic financial hub might become a possibility in the next few years,” he said.
A report prepared in December by global consultancy firm Ernst & Young said the worldwide value of Islamic banking would reach $1.55trn in 2012 and $1.8trn this year. Growth within the Muslim population of Middle East and North African countries and Asia, it added, were key drivers in the increasing demand for Islamic financial services. The Sultanate is clearly benefitting from early participation in the Islamic banking segment, having launched its first Islamic bond, the Short Term Government Sukuk Al-Ijarah programme worth BND150m ($111m) for a three-month certificate in April 2006.
In November, the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD), which is acting as the central bank, announced the successful pricing of its 82nd issuance of sukuk, or Islamic bond, which was worth BND100m ($122.5m) at a rental rate of 0.16%. The move followed a $100m, 90-day issuance that matures this month.
While Brunei Darussalam is well placed to tap into growing interest in Islamic financial services, observers have highlighted the need for the Sultanate to develop new Islamic banking products if it is to maintain its position in the market.
“Understanding the theory of Maqasid al-Sharia (the objectives of Islamic law) and the defining characteristics of an Islamic bank could encourage the Islamic banking industry to improve and excel in their product innovation as well as financial intermediation that can be linked to economic growth,” Abdul Ghafar Ismail, a lecturer at the Research Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said at a conference in May.
Industry experts believe the Sultanate is working to address these challenges, with a particular emphasis on improving staff training after human resources was identified as a factor that could limit its success in the field. “Having strengthened its operational base and regulatory framework, Brunei is now taking steps to address a shortage of trained industry professionals in the Islamic financial sector by providing on-the-job training and local universities offering bachelors, masters and doctorate degree programmes related to Islamic finance,” said Javed.
The Sultanate’s early entry into the Islamic financial services market has provided it with solid foundations to develop the industry. Experts suggest the sector should now shift its focus to exporting that expertise and consolidating a global role in sharia-compliant banking.

(Oxford Business Group / 24 Jan 2013)

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How Islamic finance and a more ethical capitalism go hand-in-hand

Though wealth creation is the primary goal taught by top businessmen, social impact is considered to be a more fulfilling outcome for others. Money is not timeless, but what you do with that money can be. The light you instil in the uneducated, the medicine you provide to the ill, or the food and water you provide to the malnourished is far more enduring than the car you drive or the house you buy. Most advocates of social entrepreneurship believe that creating a business with a social impact leaves much more than just a humble footprint behind.
The concept of social entrepreneurship however is not new despite the recent rise in press coverage. It has existed since the 6th century and one particular group was taught the importance of such business: Muslims.
Muslims live their lives in accordance to the teachings of the Last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who led his life as a humble merchant and was the "trustworthy one" by all those who knew him. His teachings and examples of business dealings were strongly linked to humanitarian values where the poor, the sick and orphans took precedence. He acknowledged the suffering of people in surrounding environments and continually created solutions for them while creating a system that would ensure their care long after his passing.
The mention of Muhammad (pbuh) is significant to understand how today's Muslims are encouraged to create wealth; supporting the notion of an existing relationship between Islamic business and social enterprise.
According to Sir Zafrullah Khan, the former Pakistani politician and diplomat, the Holy Qur'an states (59:8), "the object of the Islamic economic system is to secure the widest and most beneficent distribution of wealth through institutions set up by it and through moral exhortation. Wealth must remain in constant circulation among all sections of the community and should not become the monopoly of the right."
In Islamic law, the principal economic obligation is the payment of the capital levy called the zakat (Holy Qur'an, 22:79), which is "a levy imposed upon the well-to-do which is returned to the poorer sections of people". This law applies to both individual and business wealth. In the wealth that is produced, three parties are entitled to share: the working man, the person supplying the capital, and the community as representing mankind. According to Khan, "The community's share in produced wealth is called the zakat. After this has been set aside for the benefit of the community, the rest is 'purified' and may be divided between the remaining parties that are entitled to share in it."Though zakat is imposed only as a small percentage on one's actual assets, Islamic teachings encourage the injection of wealth into communities where support is small or absent. Wealth is encouraged to be in constant circulation, either into the business, or into local communities to ensure the poor and sick are consistently attended to.
Comparatively, a social enterprise is an organisation, which focuses on environmental, social and economical well-being with a profit-making business model. The primary aim of a commercial business is to maximise shareholder wealth whereas the primary aim of a social enterprise is to maximise social value. Simply put, it is the bridge between non-profit organisations and commercial businesses.
Many examples can be found when exploring the Muslim world of social entrepreneurs who have values rooted in Islamic teachings. One notable organisation is the Grameen Foundation, which provides financial services, life-changing information and unique income-generating opportunities to improve the lives of the poor. In the last 15 years, the foundation and its partners have helped 9.4 million of the world's poor.
Similarly, Net Impact Saudi Arabia (NISA) strives to make a positive impact in society by assisting social entrepreneurs with the provision of education, equipment and inspiration to aid with the growth of their business. NISA has successfully supported 10,000 business owners.
In relation to the business model followed by Muslims, equity holders and communities share both Islamic wealth and social enterprise-related wealth.
These two types of businesses have community interests in common and are also faced with similar issues, a major one being reduced assets as money is constantly being circulated either for the purpose of business expansion or for community support. Some would argue that this makes sustaining a social enterprise business model much more difficult in comparison to other enterprises purely because their products and services focus on something more than just increasing profits: social value.
Consumer trends have shifted towards investment in products that come attached with an individual and social benefit, which is why the successes shared by many social enterprises have been profound. Muslims and social enterprise owners pursuing businesses based on either of the two models discussed are keen to accept the challenges ahead of them as they find solace in making a difference on a social level. To them and the consumer, this holds far greater value than the accumulated wealth itself.
Sheeza Ahmad is the founder of social enterprise HelpingB through which users build communities around a patient's recovery to keep them close to their loved ones; encouraging them to BWellsoon. Profits go on to fund educational projects in developing countries throughBEducational – creating the social entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
(The Guardian / 24 Jan 2013)
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