Ismail Kamdar

Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
Ismail Kamdar is the Founder of Islamic Self Help, author of over a dozen books, faculty manager of IOU, and a freelance writer.
“Difficulty Causes Ease” and the case of the Coronavirus

“Difficulty Causes Ease” and the case of the Coronavirus

One of the five major maxims of Fiqh is “المشقة تجلب التيسير” which is usually translated as “Difficulty causes ease”. I prefer to translate it as “Extreme difficulty causes relaxation of the law” as that is more clear and precise. This maxim means that the laws of Islam are flexible enough to cater for difficult situations. The maxim is extracted from several rulings found in the Quran and Sunnah.

These include the permission to make Tayammum when water is not available or useable, the permission to consume Haram when there is a risk of life, and the permissibility to shorten and combine prayers when traveling. All of these rulings share one common theme; they are all examples of the law beings relaxed because of difficulty. This maxim is agreed upon by all four madhhabs, although they may differ in how to implement it.

Types of difficulty that cause the law to change

The scholars of Fiqh list seven types of difficulty (المشقة) that can cause the law to change. These causes are coercion, sickness, travel, forgetfulness, ignorance, lack of legal competence, and public affliction. There are examples of each of these in the Shariah. An example of coercion is that it is permissible to say words of Kufr to save one’s life. The examples of sickness are plenty which includes the allowance of Tayammum when using water is harmful and the permissibility to delay fasting when ill in Ramadan. Likewise, the examples of travel are clear i.e. delaying fasting or shortening prayers while traveling.

Ignorance and forgetfulness are a bit different. This simply means that Allah forgives anything that is done out of forgetfulness or genuine ignorance. Similarly, we should go easy on people who are genuinely ignorant or made a mistake. Lack of legal competence falls into the same category. For example, children are not responsible to obey the laws of the Shariah until they hit puberty, so we should go easy on them and be gentle with their mistakes.

It is the final type of difficulty, public/common affliction that concerns us here. The Shariah allows for the relaxation of several laws when the health, lives, wealth or general well-being of the community is at risk. There are two examples of this from the reign of Umar bin al-Khattab. During the plague that afflicted al-Shaam, the Muslims isolated themselves in the mountains to prevent it from spreading. Then when a drought hit Arabia, Umar suspended the law of amputating the hands of thieves due to mass starvation. In both cases, the well-being of the community was given preference over individual laws of the Shariah.

The types of Ease

As the scholars divided difficulty into seven categories, they did the same for the types of changes that can occur to the laws. The first type of change is that the laws can be omitted, like when Umar suspended the amputation of the hands of thieves. A change could also mean a decrease is what is expected like the reduction of the number of Rakah to pray when traveling. Or it could refer to delaying an act of worship or doing it earlier than usually allowed, like combining Dhuhr with Asr in one time when traveling.

Laws can also be replaced or substituted with others, like replacing Wudhu with Tayammum when water is not available, or replacing fasting in Ramadan with Fidya for the chronically ill. Laws can also be changed to accommodate the hardship like praying Salah al-Khawf during times of civil unrest or war. Finally, the haram can become permissible at times of necessity, depending on the level of prohibition and the level of necessity. Each of these seven types of changes can be found in the Shariah and in practice throughout our history.

The Coronavirus and the application of this maxim

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the globe, we are entering perhaps for the first time in decades, a situation of public affliction on a global scale. This means that scholars around the world need to consider what kind of Taysir (Relaxation) can be done to the laws of Islam in order to stop the spread of this virus and to save the lives of the believers.

It is my opinion that the following changes take place in the law during this time of crisis. Note that these changes apply only to countries that are afflicted, and the changes will be rolled back when the crisis is over.

The changes are:
1. The suspension of congregational prayer until it is over, with the exception of small congregations in the home.
2. The obligation to pray Jum’ah falls away, and it becomes permissible to pray Dhuhr at home.
3. Masjids and other places of mass gatherings should be closed if possible. If not possible, then measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus in our places of gathering.
4. Weddings should be delayed, a small nikah will suffice to avoid large gatherings.
5. If someone passes away from the virus, then Ghusl may not be possible, Janazahs may be limited to ten people, the family will not get to attend the funeral and people will not be allowed to visit the family.
6. Taraweh should be prayed at home with one’s family. Likewise, Iftar should take place at home with the family.
7. If necessary, Eid prayer should be canceled completely.
8. Avoid leaving the home except for necessities. The best usage of our time now is to be at home worshipping Allah and asking for His Divine Assistance.

None of these changes should be a source of happiness for the believer. It should hurt our hearts that we are unable to pray in congregation, attend Islamic gatherings, or enjoy the atmosphere of the Masjid. This is a test from Allah, and these changes to the law are for the protection of human life, which is one of the fundamental goals of the Shariah.

Remember; to stay home is Fiqh and to feel bad about it is Imaan.

May Allah protect us all and help us through this difficult trial.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments
Ibn al-Haytham and the productive usage of time when stuck at home

Ibn al-Haytham and the productive usage of time when stuck at home

With the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe, the idea of being stuck at home for weeks is becoming a reality for many people. This may prove challenging for those who are accustomed to spending most of their time in public. They may find it difficult to remain calm, focused and productive while working from home during a pandemic. To assist in dealing with this, let’s look at a case study from the past in which greatness was achieved while someone was stuck at home. That person was the great scientist al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham.

Short Biography

Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) was a famous Muslim scholar who contributed greatly to the fields of optics, astronomy, mathematics, meteorology, visual perception and the scientific method. He was born in 965 CE during the Islamic Golden Age in Iraq. He received an excellent education under the scholars of Baghdad and become a famous scientist at a very young age.

The Incident

As his fame grew, Ibn Al-Haytham found himself invited to lead various projects. The Fatimid King of Egypt at that time, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, invited him to Egypt to build a dam across the River Nile. Upon reviewing the plans, Ibn al-Haytham realized it was not feasible and the technology to complete the project did not exist yet. The king was not happy with Ibn al-Haytham’s conclusion and placed him under house arrest for ten years. (There is a difference of opinion on exactly what occurred between the king and Ibn al-Haytham)

The Discovery

Ibn al-Haytham did not waste these ten years at all. He spent his time reading, researching, experimenting, and journalling as he explored various scientific concepts. Finally, he had a breakthrough. Ibn al-Haytham made one of the most important discoveries related to optics during this period. Based on that discovery, he wrote his Book Of Optics which became the most influential book in that field. This discovery by Ibn al-Haytham helped people understand how eyes function. It also helped him develop an early model of the camera. His discovery led the way for the eventual invention of eyeglasses. Finally, during this process, he developed the scientific method which is still used today. All of this was accomplished while under house arrest.

The Lesson

It is highly unlikely that any of us will have to face something as severe as ten years of house arrest. Yet it is very likely we may face a few weeks of being stuck at home at some point in our lives or another. Ibn al-Haytham’s example teaches us the importance of not wasting time when stuck at home. It is possible to remain productive and beneficial to the rest of the world even when you are confined to the four walls of your house. This is even easier today with the existence of technology and the internet. Through this story, we learn never to waste time or blame our circumstances for our own lack of productivity. No matter what situation a person is in, it is almost always possible to find a way to use your time wisely and maximize the benefit from that time.

How to maximize benefit from time at home

If you ever find yourself stuck at home and unable to find ways to use your time productively, try the following:
1. Read some books
2. Study some online courses
3. Write a book or journal
4. Engage in extra acts of worship
5. Spend time in contemplation and reflection
6. Spend quality time with your family
7. Work on those ideas that you have been holding back because you were too busy

Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6049)

During this health scare, let us waste neither and maximize the usage of our time.

To learn more productivity lessons from the heroes of Islamic History, join our Muslim Golden Ages Online Course or read my latest book Productivity Principles of Umar II.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 2 comments
How Having Fun Affects Productivity

How Having Fun Affects Productivity

Is having fun a good or bad thing? This is a question I struggled with during my youth. Over the years, I have met many people who ignore their own need for fun because they see it as a distraction from work or worship. But is it really a distraction? Isn’t there a way to have fun and remain productive? When trying to improve our productivity, we sometimes forget that we need to live a well-rounded life. We get so caught up in one aspect of our lives or another that we neglect others. When this happens, having fun is often the first victim. (The next is family but that’s a topic for another article)

You may be wondering what fun has to do with productivity. Is it really necessary to have fun? Shouldn’t every hour of the day be used for work and worship? Isn’t that what productivity is all about? Well no, not really. Productivity is about doing your best work, not overworking yourself to death. The truth is that every human (except perhaps the exceptionally pious) needs to have fun in order to recharge, relax, and perform at their best. In this article, we will discuss three topics related to having fun; the Fiqh ruling on Having Fun, the psychological benefits of Halal fun, and how to have fun in a way that keeps us productive.

Having Fun The Halal Way

The first book I ever wrote, all the way back in 2009, was titled Having Fun The Halal Way: Entertainment in Islam. I wrote this book because at that time I was struggling with understanding the role of fun in Islam. I was studying Islam back then under an ultra-conservative set of teachers who considered all forms of fun Haram and a waste of time. I was struggling to stay productive without any fun in my life, and it began to affect my mood, my happiness, and my health. In my frustration, I began researching what Islam really had to say about having fun, and this book was the result of my research.

To summarize the core message of the book; everything is permissible unless proven prohibited. This includes the majority of recreational activities. Recreational activities only become prohibited if they are directly mentioned in the Quran or Hadith, contain prohibited elements, or distract one from one’s duties. Beyond this, there is no harm in enjoying the good things of this world. In fact, Allah created good things for the enjoyment of the believers, as stated in the Quran.

Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of [from] Allah which He has produced for His servants and the good things of provision? Say: They are for those who believe during worldly life [but] exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection. Thus do We detail the verses for a people who know. Say: My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.

Qur’an 7: 32-33

This verse is very clear. The good things in the world were created for our enjoyment. Therefore, a believer should not experience any guilt, nor be shamed, for enjoying some halal entertainment in moderation. This is what Islam teaches about having fun, its a simple practical and balanced approach to the topic that ties in with the psychological and productivity perspectives on the topic. Although, it has been a decade since I wrote the book, and many of my opinions have changed on specific issues in the book. The general message remains the same; the majority of recreational acts are permissible in moderation. Moderation really is the key, especially when it comes to productivity.

The Psychology of Having Fun

Having fun in moderation is very beneficial, both physically and mentally. Some of the benefits of having fun include reduction of stress, the release of Serotonin, and improved concentration, performance and memory. The health benefits of having fun also include an increase in positive thoughts and better sleep. The three key points I want to focus on here are the release of Serotonin, improved concentration, and improved performance.

Serotonin is a very important chemical in the bodies. It is sometimes called “the happy chemical” because it is a primary source of human happiness. Serotonin affects our mood, sleep, energy levels, productivity, and overall happiness. Doing activities that release Serotonin is crucial for remaining productive and mentally well. This includes doing work that matters, exercising, eating healthy and having fun. As Serotonin is necessary for productivity, this makes having fun necessary for remaining productive too.

The link between fun and concentration is very important. When a person has difficulty concentrating at work or studies, the first reaction tends to be to try harder which can lead to further difficulty and may even cause a headache. Try this instead. Take a five-minute break and do something fun for just five minutes. You will find an immediate spike in your concentration level when you do so. The key is to balance your work with moderate fun sessions to keep your concentration high all day long. I prefer to work in 45-to-90-minute intensive sessions followed by a short break doing something fun in order to recharge. This helps me maintain high levels of concentration throughout the day.

Just as fun is necessary for boosting concentration, it also assists in improving overall performance at a task. This can occur in two ways; by having fun before a difficult task or by finding a way to make the task fun. When we take time to relax and enjoy some Halal fun before doing a difficult task, we increase our chances of performing optimally. Alternatively, if we can find ways to make tasks more fun, this also increases our performance. I use this method with my daily writing. A lot of people find writing strenuous and difficult. However, I enjoy writing, and one of the reasons why is that I set up my writing hour is a way that makes it fun and exciting. I look forward to writing every day because I get as much joy out of it as I do when I am relaxing. This allows me to write more productively and to produce higher quality work. Take a task that you find difficult and find a way to make it more fun, this will increase both your concentration and overall performance at that task.

Having Fun The Productive Way

There is a fine line to walk here though. For many people, having fun is the main obstacle between them and productivity. Addiction and wasting time in entertainment often results in having less time for doing great work. The key here is to find balance. Balance doesn’t mean equal time for both, but rather the right amount of time for both. Self-discipline is necessary for turning fun from a distraction into a productivity tool.

The main step is to schedule your fun for specific times of the day and to stick to those times. If you plan to have a five-minute break, stick to five-minutes. My schedule generally includes the following times for fun; five minutes every hour, half an hour after lunch, two hours in the evening. Altogether, that equals less than three hours a day which is a very small portion of the day and doesn’t impact my work negatively. Instead, it keeps me productive, healthy and performing optimally throughout the day. Additionally, I take a day off every week to spend time with family, and at least one week of vacation every year. The goal in both cases is to recharge so that I can work optimally. When we approach having fun in this manner, it becomes a crucial productivity tool, rather than an obstacle to productivity.

There are several other steps for turning fun time into a productivity tool. This includes selecting hobbies that are mentally stimulating and beneficial. It also includes avoiding immoral forms of entertainment, avoiding things we find addictive, sticking to our times and schedule, and knowing when to get back to work. When we approach the concept of having fun from this angle, it becomes a tool of productivity and does not become an obstacle. The key is self-discipline. If you can be disciplined about the usage of your time, then having fun becomes an important part of your productive daily routine and you will feel no guilt in having halal fun.

Summary

In this article, we learned that the majority of recreational activities are halal and a believer shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying some halal fun as part of a balanced day. There are several health benefits to including fun in your day. These include better sleep, higher levels of concentration and performance, reduction of stress, the release of serotonin, and improved memory. When scheduled around work and moderated, recreational activities become productivity boosters aiding us in achieving peak performance. Self-discipline and scheduling are necessary for keeping our fun time productive and beneficial.

Want to learn more Productivity Principles? Check out my latest book which covers fifteen Productivity Principles, exploring each of them in detail.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 3 comments
The Difference Between Learning and Education

The Difference Between Learning and Education

What is learning anyway? When people say they learned something, is it the same as getting a degree or completing a formal class? I believe that there is a huge difference between learning and education and that learning is far more important than ‘formal education’.

Learning, is psychology, is defined as a permanent change in behavior. Education is generally defined as completing a formal study program. Sometimes the two occur together, but often they do not. An example of this is running a business. Someone could complete a degree in business studies, yet still, be clueless on how to successfully start and run a business. Someone else, having never been to business school, but growing up working in his father’s shop may know exactly what is needed to make a business thrive. The first has an education, the second learned how to do business. The first has a degree, the second has the experience that permanently changed the way he does business.

The Problem with Education

There is an overemphasis on formal education today. Far too many people are taught that in order to succeed in life, they need a degree. Reality is that just as many people succeed in life without a formal education, as those who do. Perhaps even more. Education today has become a business revolving around memorization, regurgitation, accolades, and bureaucracy. Whether in school or university, it is very easy to pass by simply memorizing, remembering a few points for the tests, scoring some awards, and pleasing the right people.

This doesn’t make a person ready for the real world, or truly indicate that they have learned anything. The school system doesn’t take into account things like different learning styles, evolving technologies, real-world life skills, or shaping the behavior of students in a positive way. For too many young people, school and university are simply a game of survival and ‘passing the test’. There is no motivation to learn, grow or improve through the experience, except for a few exceptional students.

The School of Life

Young people can learn a lot more by living their lives outside of these institutes than they do in them. They can choose a learning style that suits them like reading, listening, doing or asking questions to an expert. They can choose fields they are interested in and pursue those entirely. Most importantly, they can experience life, make mistakes, and learn through all of this.

So someone who learns well through reading and wants to be a computer specialist would benefit more from sitting at home reading coding books all day. A potential athlete would benefit more from spending his prime learning years practicing, instead of sitting in a classroom. A future chef would be successful far quicker if she spent her educational years with a mentor, instead of learning history and algebra. And a future inventor would benefit more from tinkering in his home lab (like Einstein did) then from going to school.

Life is where the real learning happens. It is outside the classroom in the workplace, the home, books, online courses, mentoring, practicing, and exploring. These are the places were true learning thrives and happens. Schools have simply become babysitters to keep children out of the parents’ way, rather than actual places of learning.

Its time to do away with school altogether

That may sound like a radical thought. Maybe it is. But every day more and more people are thinking about it. The world is changing. Knowledge is available online in almost any field. As I write this, two of my children are attending online courses, while the other two are using YouTube to explore their interests. All of them spend more time reading books than attending formal classes. And each of them enjoys learning and loves the entire system we have developed for them.

The world is changing. We have the technology. We have the internet. We have the resources at home. We no longer need an outdated industrial-era system of education. Either we revamp it completely or throw it out the window. The longer society takes to make this decision, the more people will waste a large portion of their lives thinking they are learning while doing nothing more than simply receiving an education.

A few alternatives to school and university

But school and university are the only paths to success, right? Not anymore, here are a few alternatives:
1. Homeschooling
2. Online Learning
3. Self Education
4. Starting a Business
5. Finding a mentor
6. Interning
7. Unschooling
8. Traveling
9. Reading
10. Spending time with people who have succeeded in your field of interest

All of these methods are far more beneficial than wasting a large portion of one’s life in a classroom. Find a method that works for you and start today, even if it is for just an hour a day after school.

NOTE: I am NOT anti-education. I am simply writing this to get people thinking about alternatives. School isn’t working, it is outdated and needs a revamp. Until we do so, there is no harm in exploring alternative forms of education. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that passing tests and receiving accolades is real learning. Furthermore, formal education is still necessary for certain career paths like medicine and psychology, so we can’t do away with it altogether. It is important, but not as important as real learning, that is where life happens.

Ready to begin your life of self-learning? Check out our starter bundle here to begin.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling, 0 comments
The Abundance Mentality: An Islamic Perspective

The Abundance Mentality: An Islamic Perspective

The abundance mentality is the philosophy that there is enough in this world for everybody, and that we can all prosper together. It is the opposite of the scarcity mentality which pervades capitalistic societies. The scarcity mentality is the belief that there are limited resources in the world, and there isn’t enough for everybody.

The Abundance Mentality Defined

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains clearly the difference between the scarcity mentality and the abundance mentality. He describes the Scarcity Mentality as follows:

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit—even with those who help in the production. They also have a hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 219

He describes the Abundance mentality as follows:

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth or security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in the sharing of prestige, recognition, profits, and decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pp. 219-220

Stephen Covey explained the harms of the scarcity mentality as follows:

People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit…They also have a hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. Even, and sometimes, especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something is being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition…

Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 219

God’s Limitless Treasures

The abundance mentality for Muslims is an even deeper issue, it is a matter of theology. Muslims believe that God created the entire universe, provides for all His creation, and that God’s treasures are limitless. Based on these beliefs, a scarcity mentality can lead to defects in one’s understanding of God and His infinite treasures.

The scarcity mentality is based on false notions about this world and God. These false notions lead to a problematic understanding of resources and how they are divided. In reality, there is enough food, wealth, and everything else for all of humanity to live comfortably. Unfortunately, this wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few elite capitalist leaders.

Yet, if it were distributed fairly, world poverty would not exist. This balance and fair distribution actually occurred in ʿUmar bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz’s kingdom during his reign. ʿUmar’s economic reforms, as well as his emphasis on the collection and fair distribution of the Zakat, led to a strong economy. The economy grew so strong under ʿUmar II that there reached a point in which people had difficulty locating eligible Zakat recipients.

In a truly Islamic environment, it is common to find most people engaging in acts of charity well above the minimum. They do so regardless of their economic status and without fear of poverty. This is because Islam cements the abundance mentality into the minds of its believers.

Islam teaches us that God’s treasures are limitless, and even if every creature asked God for whatever they wanted and He gave it to them, it would not decrease His treasures in the least.

Muslims also believe that charity increases wealth and causes Baraka (spiritual blessings) in one’s wealth. With such deep-rooted spiritual beliefs, it is clear why Muslims who understand their religion are often among the most charitable people in the world, without any anxiety about poverty.

Tapping into the Abundance Mindset

The abundance mindset is easily espoused when a person has the correct understanding of God and His Attributes. One of Allah’s Beautiful Names is al-Ghani which translates as “The Independent” or “The Richest” or “The One whose treasures are limitless”.

Based on this belief, Muslims have a firm conviction that there are enough resources on earth for everybody, and the apparent shortage or deficiency is simply a matter of flawed access and distribution. This is why a Muslim trader would not feel threatened if someone purchased an item from a neighboring store. He simply sees it as that person receiving his share of sustenance from God whose own treasures are limitless.

In Islamic theology, the scarcity mindset is considered one of the tricks of the devil. God states in the Quran, “Satan threatens you with poverty and orders you to immorality, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and abundance. And Allah is All-Encompassing and All-Knowing.” (Quran 2:268)

In the above verse, the scarcity mentality is listed as a trick of the devil that leads to immorality–much like how Umar’s cousins had him poisoned out of fear of loss of wealth. The scarcity mentality causes jealousy, hatred, anger, pettiness, miserliness, and is sometimes the rod prodding one to commit violence and murder. Therefore, the scarcity mentality is condemned in Islam as a trick of the devil.

This same verse also highlights the abundance mentality as a gift from God. The verse mentions God’s name al-Wāsi (The All-Encompassing) which means that God’s treasures are limitless and abundant. It also means that everything belongs to God and He is the one who distributes his treasures among His Creation. It also means that God’s generosity is limitless. All these meanings engrave in the mind of the believer an abundance mentality. Furthermore, in this same verse, God promises abundance for His servants.

This verse shapes the believer’s mindset regarding wealth and sustenance. Ideas of poverty, competition, jealousy, and pettiness are all tricks of the devil to push us into evil actions. While obedience to God leads to abundance, maybe not in material wealth but in contentment, happiness, inner peace, Baraka, and good character. All of which are more important than material wealth.

When a person adopts an abundance mentality, worries about this world fall away. Without worry, a person is able to be more charitable, generous, caring, happy, and content. This leads to a higher quality of life and better mental health overall.

This article was adapted from chapter seven of my latest book Productivity Principles of Umar II. The book is available at Amazon and Gumroad. (CLICK HERE to get the ebook from Gumroad at a discounted price – limited availability)

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Books, Positive Thinking, 1 comment