August 24, 2011 issue


Observing Ramadan

The times are changing around us. We can now follow our favourite Facebook site as we mark the holy month of Ramadan. We can Twitter, text message each other, or even using our iPhones, we can download the Qur'an App, or the Salah Clock to ensure we do not miss the calls to prayer during the day.
What remains steadfast though, is the marking of the holy month of Ramadan. Having started at the top of August, it marked the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims throughout the world began fasting, praying and connecting with family and friends. It also marked the time when the world's Muslims began re-evaluating their lives using the light of Islamic guidance.
Throughout this holy month the fast continues from sun up to sundown. Fasting is intended to redirect the mind and spirit away from worldly activities. It is a way of focusing on the cleansing of the soul while paying homage to Allah. It instils patience, self-sacrifice, and spiritual enlightenment. It is also a way to clear the path to better understanding. The month is especially significant for Muslims since it is believed this is when the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed.
For the Muslim faithful observing this holy and auspicious month, this is also the time for a more profound type of self-restraint. This must not only be done through keeping away from food, drink and other activities, but by also emphasising self-restraint through not using harsh and painful language. This is the month when eyes are uplifted to Allah and not cast down in the commercial thrill of material acquisition. Hands must be uplifted in prayer, rather than be used for doing harm. The poetry of prayer should fill the ears. The faithful should take the path to mosques, rather than find the way to sinful places. The holy month of Ramadan means the entire heart, the body, and the soul must be focused on purity and goodness.
The lessons of this month would then fill the entire world. The self-imposed hunger and thirst that are being endured by the faithful bring empathy and understanding for those who live their daily lives in need. The emphasis on purity and prayer brings Muslims closer to Allah, and with this, the appreciation for the blessings that arrive. The increase in family and community encounters cause the bonds of fellowship to grow and become stronger.
The celebration that comes with the end of Ramadan during Eid ul-Fitr always sees the world having become a better place. This is so because of the self-sacrifice, the cleansing, and the growth of understanding that flourished during this holy month. Even as the world changes, the essential messages endure. Eid Mubarak to all!


Well done, Dr Deen
Congratulations go out to Dr Jamal Deen on receiving an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo. Currently professor and senior Canada Research Chair in Information Technology in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McMaster University, he received his honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding contributions to university teaching and optoelectronic research.
Dr Deen comes from very humble beginnings in Guyana. He credits growing up in a family of modest means back home for his perseverance and time management skills, which have led him to excel in his academic pursuits. He went on to attend Queen's College in Guyana, and later graduated from the University of Guyana. Later he moved to North America where he has since excelled. He is internationally credited today as a highly accomplished researcher, inventor, and a prolific scholar.
Dr Deen's work has helped McMaster University and Canada be recognised throughout the world for innovation and cutting-edge research in optoelectronic, microelectronic and nanoelectronic devices. He is also a fellow of eight prestigious societies including IEEE, the Royal Society of Canada, and the American Physical Society. As well as being an inspiration to us all.
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