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IN RETROSPECT

All that Glitters

Shifa Mustapha


"Be sure We will test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere - who say, when afflicted with calamity:

"To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return" - They are those on whom (descend) blessings from their Lord, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance."

(Quran 2:155-157)

To be truthful I must confess that when I noted that this issue of Insight would be dealing with money and finances, my immediate reaction was, "Oh no!" However, with the passage of time, it did occur to me that perhaps the "other side of things" may strike a mutual chord with some who are not financial wizards, who may in fact even have 'failed' in financial endeavours.

It is not that I do not appreciate the talent for vision and wise management of things financial.. I do! However, it appears, that this is not a talent which has been entrusted to me and my interest wanes very rapidly.

Different Talents

Some may view a field and immediately envisage potential for financial gain. Others, such as I, on the other hand, are attracted to the beauty of the wildflowers; the sweet fragrance of the lush green grass; being enchanted by the bird-song and delighted with the chatter of the stream or the stillness of the nearby river.

That, to me, does not mean that my brother or sister, who sees financial security in that same scene, praising Allah for such security, is wrong. We have both been blessed, but differently. There is no doubt that when, lnsha'Allah, their vision comes to fruition, I, and others such as I, shall shake our heads and praise Allah for the insight and talent which He has given to such as they.

Childhood Experience

Twice in my lifetime I have become excited about a financial venture. The first was when I was seven years old, my cousin and I, deciding to go into the door- to-door selling immature carrots, were quite successful from the point of view of initiative and salesmanship. However there was a painful and ignominious end to our project when Grandfather discovered that his own flesh and blood had raided his garden.

Financial gain had not, on this occasion, been the stimulus. This had, in fact, been that we admired a ten year old girl named Pamela, who used, on occasions, to go door to door with a massive basket, selling vegetables. We longed for the day when we, also, would be old enough and clever enough to handle such a wondrous business.

The lesson learned?

The years passed and far from becoming involved in financial ventures, I questioned them, and recognised my own lack of understanding to the point where I actually took a course in Economics. I hoped that this would change my outlook. Academically it was interesting to a degree, but it did not give me any added talent regarding matters money. However it did stimulate my interest in politics quite markedly, for nations are made or broken through the money markets, and we must not be ignorant of this fact. Especially important is it for Muslim countries to be aware of the possible pit- falls. It is abundantly clear that there are those who do have an anti-Muslim political agenda. Some may accuse of paranoia but one only has to study the Quran and the Hadith to see the truth of this.

The Second Venture

As with most others, I was often approached to become involved in one or other of the American product companies. Quite honestly there was no temptation in these for me. However, a very wealthy relative, who had a great deal of experience in matters financial, approached my husband and I with a quite remarkable offer. It did not involve any gamble, it appeared to be quite solid and it dealt with one of the most important and oft-used Australian utilities.

We had some of our Muslim brothers look at it. One, an Accountant, thought it was brilliant and that Muslims should start something similar. However, would Muslims ever get to the place of working together long enough to achieve such a course?

A Promising Plan

Let me tell you that at this time our women's organisation had been hobbling along for the previous three years with no financial backing other than fees and donations of the faithful. We had envisaged a Centre where it would be possible to hold classes, to have a child-care area, a library, offices for our own medical, dental and legal services, as well as an area to sell various halal goods to ensure financial income. Christians could manage to have their Red Cross and Blue Nursing services, what was to prevent us other than our own lack of vision and support? Certainly we had worked hard and achieved, but to continue on such a day-to-day basis was extremely difficult, let alone being able to help in obtaining a centre.

This was very much representative of all our Muslim organisations. Our primary school was only just becoming a reality, requiring all the assistance we could muster. We were, therefore, hopeful that such a scheme would bring about the required financial boost which was so greatly needed.

Some Muslims were just as excited as we. Others could not be bothered, while yet again some spoke of defeat and loss - but as these always spoke of defeat and loss (regardless of what subject) we were hopeful that this was Allah's leading and not just our own yearning.

Even now my heart aches when I see many of our people as they are - talented, often wealthy, enjoying Western comforts and with never a thought for Islam or their brothers and sisters. Others have so much to give in the way of knowledge and wisdom, but are hampered by monetary needs. So it was then.

Intentions

What was the intention of our hearts? I know that it was not greed. I know also that those whom I personally contacted were not interested in making money for themselves, but for the good of Islam. The plan was such that mosques and schools and organisations would have had considerable help. In my own mind I believed that with a more substantial financial basis, more could be achieved for the Ummah and Islam as well as for the perception of Muslims.

Let us not forget, however, that good intentions are never enough. One can have sincere intentions, but if it is not what Allah wants, what He has decreed, then failure is absolutely assured.

The Disillusionment

It took quite a few months for us to see that something really strange was happening with this company. For a start the office procedure was astonishingly poor and many computer errors were supposedly made. I remember writing one letter by way of complaint. My relative was appalled. "What can they be thinking about?" he said. But there was little or no improvement. Always there was an excuse, and because we wanted so much for this to eventuate, we tried to believe that it was so.

Fortunately it was not a scheme where there was a serious outlay. However, it was enough and time was another factor. Eventually many hours were passed in sorting out problems and making direct contact. What had gone wrong? To this day many Muslim and non-Muslim business people are questioning how such a positive plan could possibly fail.

Failure and Praise

We are told to give praise and be thankful for all things. I'm not sure that all of us understood why we had met with failure, but to know that this was not what Allah wanted for us was a very strong lesson. Personally I must say that I shall always feel very badly that my example may have caused others to be misled or hurt. The very people who had given of their hard-earned means to further Islam; the ones who were always there when a helping hand was needed, were the very ones who suffered in this collapse. Perhaps collapse is too strong-a- word, "crumple" would come closer to the mark, for it did not crash as such, but slowly died.

Surely it was a trial for all of us, and lnsha'Allah we have learned patience. We have also had to realise that it is only upon Allah we may depend. Our own people may have been given the gift of wealth, but if they are of those who use it to further Islam, they have so many people and organisations to help. Others have no regard whatsoever for those who are in need.

Future Plans

While many of us look forward to furthering Islam in this country, do we take note of our brothers' and sisters' suffering - starvation and unbearable hardship - in other countries? Is there any way that we, as Muslims, could possibly do something to ease their pain? It would seem to me that perhaps our wealthy Muslim countries have overlooked this as well.

We should not depend upon the Christians and non-Muslims to carry the burden of our poor, our sick, our starving. When I view their pain, I think perhaps that although my intentions, Islamically, had been good, they may have been heading in the wrong direction.

May Almighty Allah, upon Whom we depend, grant that we may not lose sight of the important issues; that we may not forget those of our needy, our suffering ones. May it please Him to accept our gratitude for His closing of the door which promised so much, yet was not of His planning. Surely we have learned that should we gain the whole world, it would avail us nothing if it took us away from the Leading and Truth of Allah. For only in His Truth, His Mercy, His Nearness is there anything of value and in this we give praise for His Wisdom, His Love which sometimes has to separate us from our dreams to bring us back to His reality.



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