The Power of “Us’

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Ahmed Alam and Rama Ali

It is 2018 and apparently, mankind is stuck on issues like whether it should be men or women getting the food microwaved; or maybe not? Mayhaps, mankind is trying to critically analyze what he (and she, hehehehe) has erstwhile taken for granted casually. Mayhaps, the issue goes much deeper than the mere brawl that got traction on social media: that of men and women fighting over gender roles.

But fighting over the social media doesn’t really get results, except for unnecessarily fanning the fire. NCBS took it up to try to find a solution to this longstanding debate of what men and women should and shouldn’t do. On the 8th of May, the event “The Power of Us” was held at SEECS Seminar Hall with Ms. Raafia Tehsin representing the female side and Dr. Yusuf Raza taking up the representation of the male side.

Ms. Raafia was entertaining from the very start and recounted of her own experiences, within and without her family, and even abroad. One of her story told how her husband was looked down upon by people when she used to walk all her kids and carry their stuff because her husband was suffering from a spine disorder. Another mentioned her youngest child not completely fulfilling the definition of a “boy” because he was not interested in outdoor sports.

Ms. Raafia’s anecdotes brought home the message that in the name of norms, we have accepted some things by default, and any idea beyond these norms is either societally damaging or antithetical to religious values. “The problem is to unlearn and not to learn,” was what was stressed by Ms. Raafia.

She tried to impress upon the audience that peaceful coexistence must be the target we should be after, rather than fighting over petty issues like who should wash the dishes or mop the house. After all, no life is possible without the male and the females.

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Dr. Yusuf was next on the stage. He gave some insight into what feminism stood for, and what it has largely come to be now. He very matter-of-factly opened our eyes to the upsetting state of things.

Let’s just list down the key points he talked about:

  1. “Feminism is fed by misogyny and misogyny by feminism!”

Recent outbursts started, presumably, when somebody had the audacity to say ”Khaana khud garam krlo!” On the one hand, we have our male chauvinists, who thought of this as nothing better than a rebellious attempt at throwing off responsibility.

Regardless, how do you justify the actual cases of women being killed at the outrageous impulses of men just because ”khana garam nhi tha” and what have you.  Why is it mostly women who are victims of abuse and deprivation? To really know there is a problem you only have to consider this: the worst kind of abusive language so rampant on our tongues, targets the honor of… who? Our own women!

As male chauvinists and misogynists continue to evade the writing on the wall, feminists strike back with more hatred. Thus, ignorance and hate begets more of itself.

  1. There are as many definitions of feminism as there are feminists.

Now everyone is invited to find their own little problem and become a feminist. What once started as a movement to attain equal opportunities for men and women has now become a move to get your own way and more equal ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘opportunity’.

So much has ‘feminism’ got to some people’s heads that even heterosexuality is considered to be an example of a natural patriarchal scheme of things! There’s oppression anywhere if you care to find it guys……ridiculous, right?

  1. A move for superiority rather than equality

“Blame, shame, justify!”

For many, this topic is just an excuse to denounce members of the opposite sex. ‘Compromise’ is becoming an obsolete idea in the hearts of people. In their tussle, they do away with the peace of their home, and their own children bear the brunt of it.

  1. Freedom ‘from’ or freedom ‘to’?

All rights and no responsibilities? As we call so vehemently for ‘freedom, freedom and more freedom’, do care to clarify what kind of freedom we are vying for. Is it freedom ‘to’ do something, or is it just, regrettably, freedom ‘from’ responsibility? It has, for a considerable many, become the latter too.

  1. Misquoting Islamic references to defend.

“Ar rijalu qawwamuna ‘alan nisaa” –This is the one quoted by one too many of the self-proclaimed defenders of Islam, to discredit feminists. Though ironically, it in no way establishes superiority of men except in terms of responsibility.

Creating grievances between a husband and wife is the act most loved by Shaytan. Needless to say, with the present state of affairs, he must feel pretty accomplished more often than not.

The bottom line is: any physical or economic superiority a man might have comes with added responsibility that he will be questioned about. Likewise, for a woman, the upbringing of her children and caring for her home (not slaving away, mind you!) is a responsibility she must fulfil with joy. There are issues that must be rectified of course but, in doing so, it would not take away from either’s self-esteem, if they were to be patient with each other. Relationships are built with forgiveness and compromise. And they require effort, as do all things. Learn to take responsibility rather than evade it.

And here we quote none other than Lady Google: “I eat gender roles for breakfast.”

 

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Soul Searching

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Zahra Waheed

You are prepping for a job interview tomorrow. You request your friends for advice. They advise you to “be yourself”. This phrase reverberates in the deepest recesses of your brain. You begin to consider, “How can I be myself?” You draw a blank. You restructure your thoughts, “Who am I?” You come up empty-handed.

In the above scenario, you are self-reflecting. You are undergoing an act of self-awareness by analyzing your thoughts and feelings. Another way of phrasing this is affirming that you are, undeniably, introspecting. Introspection is often associated to a result in greater insight about oneself. Conversely, that is debatably untrue.

“Introspection is arguably the most universally hailed path to internal self-awareness.” After all, the most crucial qualities for success in today’s world, including but not limited to, – emotional intelligence, influence, persuasion, communication, and collaboration – all stem from self-awareness. Self-awareness can help master these skills.

Psychologists have categorized introspection in two conditions – destructive and constructive. Self-rumination is harmful, where one is doubtful of one’s behavior and fixated on their incompetence. Self-reflection is helpful, where one denominates significance to one’s behavior and accepts and learns from their blunders.

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When one seeks to unearth the root-cause of a crisis; the first question raised is, “Why?” This steers one to retrieving the easiest, quickest, and most-plausible solutions – which are often misleading. There is also a pinch of one’s innate confirmation bias present as well. It keeps one preoccupied with setbacks; unable to progress with their lives.

This is detrimental to one’s mental health. It lulls one into a false sense of certainty that the dilemma has been accurately recognized. It can also direct one to a torrent of pessimistic emotions, for instance, depression and anxiousness. One becomes prejudiced – often rationalizing and justifying negative information.

The optimal technique to deciphering a predicament is to inquire, “What?” This guides one to be curious about oneself and have a positive perspective about the future. This attitude paves the establishment for factual insights. One is more rational to discovering a new piece of information about oneself, even in the face of controversy.

 


Self-rumination is harmful, where one is doubtful of one’s behavior and fixated on their incompetence. Self-reflection is helpful, where one denominates significance to one’s behavior and accepts and learns from their blunders.


 

Evidently, it is more favorable to one’s mental well-being. This exemplifies dedication to recuperate and upgrade one’s life. One experiences more in control of their life. This further stimulates an abundance of upbeat emotions. This is where one attains a perception of superior insight; more tritely referred to as “inner peace”.

Inquiring what not why compels one to name emotions rather than denying them. It assists to visualize one’s potential. It facilitates an enhanced understanding and management of one’s emotions. Contrarily, when facing a conundrum, one ought to demand why. This emphasizes the necessity for the elimination of redundant re-occurrences.

A rule of thumb is that why questions foster one’s comprehension of the environment and what questions bolster one’s acknowledgment of oneself. One can ponder away for days-on-end and will not be able to arrive at an unadulterated insight. The aftermath is great time wastage; otherwise, forestalled.

Business students are taught to analyze businesses using the SWOT analysis. This can also be reused as a self-development tool by applying it to oneself. One, pragmatically, catalogs their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Logically, a personality test can also ascertain one’s internal self.

When using such tools, it is imperative that one encapsulates the entirety of oneself veritably. It is essential that one endeavors to remain equitable when illustrating one’s persona. Introspection executed reasonably validates the most conclusive outcomes. Practical introspective insights point to an optimistic prospective future.

 

Introspection

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Ahmed Alam Ansari

Think deep and you’ll realize that everything we undergo and experience, emanates, develops and terminates within the small confines of our mental faculties. Our absorption of the past or projection of the future yet-to-come, our stance on the tactile realities or our thinking on the abstract, the fleeting thoughts over a cat that passes us by, or the potentially ever-lasting feelings of failure and success, never quite transgress beyond our mental self. Imagine yourself imagining, or think how you think a thought. The fact is that our mind is like a deep well, it echoes when we speak to it, yet its depth is unfathomable. Come to think on it and you’ll realize that we are all thinkers, although the term is generally reserved for a select few like Aristotle and Plato and Ibn e Rushd. Come to think on it and you’ll realize that the way to what we all seek is through the stairs of our upper portion.

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Introspection is to look inwards; to temporarily disconnect with the external and reconnect with the internal. It is the applied effort that is required to revisit our sorrows and pain, the causes of our depression and the reasons for our elations and happiness. Iqbal, who seems to have savored this inward journey greatly, is famously known to have said that everything resides within one’s self. To say in Iqbal’s own words:

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Selfhood in the world of men is prophethood;
Selfhood in solitude is godliness;

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The earth, the heavens, the great empyrean,
Are all within the range of selfhoodʹs power.

The mind is but a maze; it presents a labyrinth to the many who seek to decipher the meaning of life. In their efforts, many lose and many win. One gets to befriend or begrudge the other part of the self. Yet, introspection is still dark and soul-sucking, much more than this piece of writing would reveal to you. But the journey itself, through the mind, is purposeful, I think, and enjoyable in the least.


Imagine yourself imagining, or think how you think a thought.


Iqbal, with his articulate words, explains the feeling in the following verse:

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How strange! The bliss of self having bestowed on me,
God mighty will that I beside myself should be.

For some, within the mind is the answer to any and everything, and the power derived from self-thought flows through the body in the form of confidence, prowess and emotional strength. But in the absence of an internal tether, the sheep can wander far away from the flock. And in the ocean that the mind is, who can warrant that all is colorful and safe? Mayhaps, if God resides within us, so does the devil.

 

 

Building Beautiful Minds

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Swaibah Bilal

Dr. Nasir Aziz -a Yale graduate and Professor at LUMS- has been teaching and training at schools, colleges and universities and has delivered lectures in a multitude of educational institutes all across Pakistan. He was invited by NUST Character Building Society on 1st March, 2018 to deliver an enlightening session titled “Building Beautiful Minds.” The event commenced with recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by a brief introduction about the speaker. Mr. Nasir started off with quoting the following which laid out the crux of his talk:


 “The only sustainable difference for an organization and a country are its people- Not capital, not strategy, not policies, procedures or systems, not technology- but people. Invest in them, nurture them and train them- because intellectual capital is unique”


Mr. Nasir equated all the material in the world with hardware and intellectual capital with software. He explained how even the best hardware would be rendered useless without  software and extended the same example to humans to explain how our appearances and possessions serve only as hardware while the human mind serves as software through which other aspects of a person can be used constructively. He proceeded to compare Singapore and Pakistan in terms of population, land area, natural resources, and years since independence, all of which Pakistan had a clear advantage at. But then came the catch- the economy of Singapore is far more successful than that of Pakistan. The speaker attributed this phenomenon to the difference in prioritization of education in both countries. Singapore’s government invests approximately 30% in the educational sector, while Pakistan only spends approximately 0.2%. This explains a difference in priorities because money invested in education is not thought of as an expense in Singapore, but rather as an investment. Resultantly, they have a greater reserve of intellectual capital. The speaker stressed that the intellectual capital of an organization or country depends upon the quality of its minds and used Singapore’s example to drive home the message at an individual level- in order to be successful, people must invest at least 30% of their total income or pocket money into intellectual development.

The mind is the software of the brain. The development of the mind depends 10% upon genes and 90% upon the environment we live in. Some people build beautiful minds by design despite their genes and environment by making better choices. Resultantly the choices we make in life have the greatest role to play in intellectual development.

Mr. Nasir brought up a powerful concept of assets vs. liabilities.  The vast majority of Pakistan’s 200 million population wakes up every day with aspirations and goals focused around the sole question, “What can we gain today?” instead of, “What can we give back today?” Every individual who takes more than they give back to society is a liability, not an asset. Their role in society then, is that of a parasite or woodcutter, gradually driving society towards decline. An average Pakistani grows up with aspirations and goals, driven by a desire to claim their share of money and prestige in society. It is not a surprise then, that when an average Pakistani is asked why they opted for a certain field in education they are likely to reply they are in it for the “scope” it offers. Ask an average Pakistani medical student why they took up medicine and they are likely to say they took it up to serve humanity but ask them five years down the lane why they specialized in a certain field and they are practically bound to say they took it up because it is lucrative. Our educational systems are remarkable at converting assets into liabilities. Mr. Nasir propounded that building beautiful minds is the way to converting assets into liabilities. He speaker added that we are born in this world with nothing and that we leave this world with nothing. Everything that comes in between is a blessing and it belongs to Allah, so we must develop humility and accustom ourselves into being givers rather than takers.

The speaker proceeded to shed light on the importance of hikmah and added that it can convert soil into gold and an absence of hikmah can convert gold into mere soil.  Hikmah (denoting ‘wisdom’) is a positive term used repeatedly in the Quran as a characteristic of the righteous. However, he added that there is no substitute for the word hikmah in English, even though the word wisdom is linked to it most closely. He advised the audience to make duaa for hikmah. Allah says in the Quran:


“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good…” (2:269)


Towards the end of the talk, Mr. Aziz urged the audience to develop a connection with Allah, because his rich experience in life taught him that it is the only way to success. He advised the audience to recite the following words of Prophet Musa Alayhisalam quoted in the Quran, when there seems to be no way out of a darkness, and Allah will guide them out of it In Sha Allah:

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He added that whenever he recited this ayah Allah guided him out of life’s darknesses when there seemed to be no way out.

The event ended with Mr. Nasir being presented with a souvenir by NUST Character Building Society.

 

The Traveler

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Usman Shafi

Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.

– Chinese Proverb

This world is a busy world. It is constantly buzzing with so many events happening simultaneously. Billions of people getting up in the morning, going through their morning routines, gearing themselves up for a day that will hopefully be an improvement on the previous one. People of various professions: farmers, laborers, chefs, salesmen and doctors, all working tirelessly to make their mark. Those who work for others and those who work for themselves, all going through their forever routines, working for that one contribution that will live past their lifetimes.

In this labyrinth of people and events, we often find ourselves not getting the satisfaction we are working for. What we need to do is remind ourselves of the bigger picture. A view so far away that we can see the labyrinth, see ourselves in it, and hopefully judge where we are going and whether we should be going there. This change of perspective may come from few different means, but the most widely acclaimed method is travel.

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For millennia, the act of traveling has remained the prescribed route to inspiration. Every inch of this land has been trodden countless times by ordinary people seeking extraordinary things, and these winds have carried many paradigms, ideas, and revolutions from shore to shore. Even though the means of travel have changed over the years, its place as a source of compassion and wisdom remains the same. Many notable historical figures – such as Christopher Columbus, James Cook, and Marco Polo – were travelers.

Travel introduces us to new regions, peoples, and cultures. It allows us to learn about the lives of our fellow human beings – not through the two-dimensionality of our television screens, nor the dullness of ink on paper, and certainly not the bias of government lent information – but through the blunt honesty of sharing physical space. It shreds vilifying pre-conceived notions and unveils the humanity of humans all around us.

For these reasons and many others, travel has a special place in Islam; so much so that the ability to travel has been described in the Holy Quran as a special honor endowed to mankind. Travel for various purposes – such as trade, exploration, and scientific discovery – has been encouraged. The Holy Quran says:

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways therein.

The Holy Quran (20:53)

and,

Do they then not travel through the land so that their hearts (and mind) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind but their hearts which are in their breasts.

The Holy Quran (22:46)

Travel exposes external realities that may have remained hidden from us for most of our lives. It also tells us a lot about ourselves. One of the most striking realizations is that so many of our sweeping generalizations about other peoples are based on such limited information. The internet may have diminished the obstacle of distance, but it is no substitute for travel. The world is still pretty BIG! It is best to go out there and see for yourself.

 

Allah Yuhabbunaa

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Muhammad Talha

Misled soul was wandering on misguided roads
He gave him wings, and let him fly
His wings are enough to carry all loads
So out of which of the favours of your Lord you’d deny?

The lost memories flashed upon him
Where he was flying high and high
His pride let him fall, but still he breathes
So out of which of the favours of your Lord you’d deny?

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He loves you more than seventy mothers
You can cry like a baby, no need to be shy
He keeps all secrets, doesn’t share with others
So out of which of the favours of your Lord you’d deny?

He catches you when you fall
Blesses you strength,to fly more high
Not only God, but a friend to all
So out of which of the favours of your Lord you’d deny?

O Dear! Do not be sad, it’s not too late
Turn to Allah, who has written your fate
Welcome your days,to sadness say a good bye
Out of which of the favours of your Lord you’d deny?

 

A New Horizon

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Rama Ali

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I remember the fear in your eyes,

You were scared you’d lose its sight-

Lose sight of home sweet home,

As you spread your wings in flight.

 

I still feel the wistful longing

Which kept you turning back,

The comforts of your home-

The protection of your pack.

 

But you didn’t stop brave soldier,

You pushed yourself after all.

Yes, you made that daring leap,

Knowing the chances of your fall.

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You didn’t fall–see? its alright!

Alive as ever! And you’ve won the fight.

You know the truth, for all its worth-

Found bigger things on little Earth.

 

You sought a different world-

A world of stranger things.

And in those strangers you then found…

A home of sorts, and hearts of kings.

 

Just the courage to untie your wings,

And look beyond –see what you’ve found!

Found strife’s worth, the joy it brings.

Found a better life, did better things!