Thursday, September 6, 2012

Modern Media Brain Busters and How Islam Solves Them

Do you remember Brain busters (also known as brain teasers)? And no I'm not talking about the awesome finishing move former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg used to do. These were nauseating logic puzzles and riddles which you had to do in elementary school from time to time. For the geniuses and those with access to the answer key, it was typically a stress-free activity. However, for the normal human population, they were sheer torture designed to question your sanity. I'm talking about the brain busters which made you cringe and had the power to burst your blood vessels, doubt your intelligence and purpose in life to the point where you'd wither into a corner of the room, curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth in agony.

If you're still a little hazy on what I'm referring to, take a look at the example below. (Note: For those that do figure out the words or phrases suggested, good for you! But couldn't you have rather done without the mental anguish your brain went through to find the answers?)

Brain busters:

Not This...


I'm sorry I had to bring you back to a time where you had to regularly endure these sorts of things, but it had to be done to inform you that this mental onslaught has not stopped. In fact, it's gotten worse, much worse! Back in the day it used to be schoolteachers who made you wrack your brain with these confounding monstrosities. When the dismissal bell rung, you were free (ehh...unless you had them for homework). Now it's everywhere, even in your daily gathering of news and current affairs. Please allow me to elaborate.

Back in the era of standard definition television and dial-up internet connections (eons ago for the young'uns) you primarily used to be able to get your news via newspapers. If you don't remember what those are, it's what pet birds doo-doo on in their cages these days or what you use to stuff fragile boxes when you can't afford bubble wrap. You see back in those days, if news broke, you'd find out about it the next morning after shelling out a quarter (yes, news was not free--shocker right?) or you had to tune your radio or flip on your TV to see what Dan Rather had to say. Back then it was also much easier to differentiate credible honest news reports and pure rubbish. For example, at the supermarket if you wanted your regular dose of rubbish, they were right there on tabloid stands. Celebrity Scandals, UFO sightings, Batboy being on the loose, it was right there. 

Oh boy, he's at it again...
Nowadays with society being smack dab in the information age, news is instantly at your fingertips faster than you can say Bilal's your uncle. Unfortunately, the side effect to news and opinion being just a tweet away means it's a little tougher to tell whether news is from trustworthy, reputable sources. Lingering around the information superhighway, lurking in the shadows and barging it's way into your life via smartphone/laptop/tablet is a raunchy heaping pile of BS. (aka hogwash,  rubbish, nonsense, poppycock etc. call it what you will, I'll call it that.)

BS can take on many forms. Misinformation, propaganda or just plain contradictory material. What is the aim of BS? Well that would depend on who's churning it out. However, what is known about this constant, undying plague is it's tendency to control the minds of people who, when forced to think about a particular subject for more than two seconds, their brains start to hurt. Like brain busters! BS Information causes strife and conflict. It creates prejudices and promotes fear and anxiety when there isn't a need for it. So what happens when that very disease is disguised as trustworthy, fair-and-balanced, news? If the word pandemonium and antonyms of pandemonium come to mind, then you're on to something. Utter confusion! And it's even worse when there are "studies" conducted by researching Universities to support certain claims. 

Thankfully, there is a remedy that's right under our noses. Islam! Thanks to the wisdom provided in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), you find satisfying answers for many of the modern matters people bang their heads against the wall trying to resolve. Listed below are just some current hot issues which the wisdom of Islam has already cleared the fog up on. Of course only for those who, like the Qur'an says in Surah Yunus, use their common sense.

Dress Code

Here's a question: Outside of a religious context, who or what governs appropriate dress code for people? Private businesses and religious organizations have their rules but who calls the shots in secular society other than authorities vaguely saying to "dress appropriately"? People in the fashion industry of course. They've become an influential authority on that matter. They decide what's best to wear in the summer ("break out those bathing suits and short shorts ladies!") and what's best to wear when it's cold out ("This is the season for fur!"). And there lies the problem. The Fashion Industry is so influential to the point where parliamentary legislation of certain countries are compelled to mold their values off of them.

In France, the governing body is telling women that they will be penalized with a fine for covering up. This ranges anywhere from covering their entire body,to wearing headscarves and veiling their faces. Ideologies aside and putting it in terms where a child can understand it, in France covering up your body=BAD. The French feel it is oppressive and demeaning towards women that they hide their curves and those beautiful ornaments that hang off their bodies. Basically if you got it, flaunt it! Free yourself from those chains of oppression. Free that body from all those layers of clothing so people can see you in all your naked glory. You will feel better!

BUT on the other side of the world--China to be more specific--theres a conflicting message to the countries women, and that is to, "have self-respect" and cover yourself up. That was the message  China's metro subway station relayed to the masses beside a photo of a scantily clad woman which stated: (Translated in English) “If that’s what you wear on the subway, then no wonder you will be sexually harassed! There are perverts riding the subway every day and we can’t catch them all. Girls, you’ve got to respect yourself!” To no one's surprise this created an uproar with people opposing this statement and many supporting the position of the Subway station. So there you have two sides of the spectrum and that brings about the conondrum of which viewpoint is correct.

What does Islam say? 
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, for that is purer for them. God is fully aware of what you do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, and that they should not reveal their beauty except what is apparent of it, and let them draw with their covers over their chests... [Noble Quran 24:30-31]

"O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as to adorn you. But the best garment is the garment of piety/righteousness. These are some of God's signs, so that they may be mindful." [7:26]

See how easy Islam uncomplicates things? There's fashion and there's self-respect. You can have both within the boundaries of what Allah (SWT) has set, not a writer for Cosmo or the advertising department for Macy's. 

The consumption of Alcohol.

One day while doing my usual browse-a-thon on the interwebs, I came across a headline that touted a recent study which concluded that alcohol is bad for you (No kidding). The study determined that consumption of alcohol makes you at risk for addiction, cancer and liver disease and a shorter overall lifespan. However this was not the study which captured a slew of buzz on the mainstream news. A few days later on the morning news there was another clinical study by a "reputable university" which revealed alcohol is actually good for you and has many redeeming qualities like increased vitality, less stress and a lower risk of heart disease. The same study even stated people who consume wine or an alcoholic beverage regularly tend to live longer lifespans and those who abstain are at risk of dying sooner than those who drink moderately.  Huh? So should I drink up or not? Am I gonna die faster drinking or not drinking? Ouch, my poor brain!

What does Islam Say?
One amazing thing about Islam people overlook sometimes is that Islam doesn't say alcohol is no-good absolute filth and is the most horrible thing in the world. God in the Qur'an confirms that there are benefits to drinking alcohol!  But Allah continues by saying that the harm from consuming alcohol far outweighs the good you get from feeling buzzed and thus it's forbidden outright.

"They ask you (O Muhammad  ) concerning alcoholic drink and gambling. Say: 'In them is a great sin, and (some) benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit.'"[The Noble Qur'an - al-Baqarah 2:219]

Once again, Allah makes it clear as crystal. So before another study comes out stating that drinking alcohol can make you fly, give you six-pack abs, cures AIDS and instantly puts a billion dollars in your bank account, just listen to what The Creator says and leave it at that.

Food Consumption and Weight Loss

The battle of the bulge has always been big business. Gyms thrive on it, and the restaurant and food industry does everything it can, promising weight loss and a new you by trying their product. The wishy-washy "news" from seeing those alcohol studies reminded me of the plethora of articles I've read over the years and news stories I've seen of doctors and nutritionists releasing research studies which conclude in order to lose weight one must eat more food, more often while conflicting studies say to eat less. "Uh so I just need to eat 5 small meals a day?" "Oh nevermind, it's big breakfast, medium lunch and a tiny dinner." "Oh, skip breakfast?" "Wait, skipping breakfast is actually the worst thing I could possibly do?" "Avoid eating completely until night time, but at least three hours before you go to bed?" "HELP ME!" Islam has answered your call.

What does Islam Say?
"Eat and drink, but avoid excess." (Quran 20:81)

The Prophet (PBUH) said "No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than a few morsels of food to keep up his strength, doing so he should consider that a third of his stomach is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing’  [Ibn Maja]

It's not rocket science people! No special diet or supplements necessary. Just don't gorge your stomach, leave it some air space and you'll be healthy and GERD free.

Party Affiliation

It's an election year for anyone who hasn't been under a rock and in some peoples eyes it's the worst time to be a citizen. And the media plays a large part in causing the headache. You're bombarded with campaign literature, ads on TV and the internet, called at home by political research polls. And all of that is fine and typical but the problem is the fact that politics has just become high school with all the rampant peer pressure. Everyone wants to know your affiliation and if you're not affiliated with a party, you're a weird outcast that needs to make up their mind. I used to work for a political research company that did nationwide telephone surveys that were skewed to a particular party. The funny thing was that there were preliminary questions that weeded out certain demographics of people. Like for instance, one of the initial questions would be "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" The very second a person says they were an independent or didn't have an affiliation, they were hung up on. It didn't matter what they thought about any issues because they hadn't chosen their club yet. The important issues don't even matter a majority of the time, since campaigns and debates usually are remembered for their verbal mud slinging like an episode of the Jerry Springer show. 

This issue is something that transcends race and religion but if you're a Muslim in America, it's even tougher because not only are you living in a country where the process of voting is not based on religious ideology but your religion and values are being attacked or not represented properly. But this shouldn't deter you from doing your part as a member of a community, even if you are a small part of it.

What does Islam say?
The Qur'an has stated in numerous verses how "Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil" are admirable qualities of a Muslim and in turn a quality of a good human being. Islam is also big on establishing justice and is against creating mischief and oppression. Oppression is noted to be "worse than slaughter" [2:217]. 

“Allah commands you to render back your trusts to those whom they are due.” (Surah al-Nisa, 58)

The Prophet (PBUH) was reported to have said “If people see an oppressor and don’t prevent him, then it is very likely that Allah will include all of them in the punishment.” (Sunan Tirmidhi & Sunan Abu Dawud) 

He also was to have said “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by hating it and feeling that it is wrong] – and that is the weakest of faith” [Muslim]

It's crucial to remember to cast your vote on a person and not the party.When looking at a candidate, all the affiliations and political mumbo jumbo concentrated in the media should be ignored or cast aside. What's important are the looking at the facts and looking at what they have accomplished, what they value and what they promise. You don't need to completely agree with their beliefs and ideologies but look at the intention of the candidate and whether you feel they can be a help to the community or nation as a whole. That doesn't make you affiliated with their crew, be it democrat, republican or whatever. You're a Muslim first and foremost and that trumps everything else.  If that person can bring the greatest benefit to the general public and stay true to qualities such as a honesty, justice and doing right by the people that he governs, than he deserves a vote.

In regards to the ahadith about the evil act and the various ways of changing it and preventing an oppressor, voting in an election may very well be one such action, if you feel that voting a certain way may possibly result in the evil act being stopped. And of course, Allah knows best.


Putting all of these brain busters into perspective, this all goes back to the sheer beauty of Islam. We hear it all the time that one of the meanings of Islam is "peace" and the wisdom this way of life contains should bring one peace of mind in the face of all the mind-boggling things we deal with and hear in this world. It's no wonder we as Muslims are recommended to go open the Qur'an whenever we are enduring hardships or having trouble making a decision about a particular thing. Whether life throws us a brain buster, a brain teaser, a riddle, or a puzzle we just have to remember to keep Allah's answer key nearby.

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