Friday, February 29, 2008

Patty Sucks! (With Her New Oreck Vacuum Cleaner!)



(Image from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/your_kids/babies_colic.shtml)

Boo hoo ... I didn't win the Oreck Vacuum cleaner.

"Patty" did.

Mabrook Patty :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Avoiding The Riba Trap


(image courtesy of http://www.infomerchant.net)

Media organizations such as CNN, NPR, and Fox have all recently covered the escalating problem of credit card debt in America. What has rekindled the interest in an old problem? In March of 2007, the reports and special features were prompted by a United States Senate hearing on the practices of the credit card industry, and separate warnings to the financial industry of possible legislation if reform does not occur.

Complaints about the industry include deceptive disclosure on credit card contracts that can result in high balances, and steep fees such as late fees, over-the-limit fees, and annual fees. Credit card companies can also change the terms and conditions of their contracts at any time. This includes their right to raise your interest rate if you pay late, even if it’s a late payment to another credit card company!

Advocates for consumers claim that the practices of credit card companies have resulted in alarming debt problems for the unsuspecting public. Many Americans, including Muslims, are experiencing difficulty paying their credit card bills. Advocates lay the blame for the problem squarely on the shoulders of the credit card industry, claiming that it takes advantage of people, and comparing the industry to loan sharks.

Here we are; it is nearly one year later and nothing has changed in the credit card industry. No reform or legislation has occurred. (Perhaps because our legislature is busy wasting time on the steroid scandals in professional sports?) To add to the problem, America is now buried in the sub-prime mortgage mess!

Credit cards can entice Muslims with their convenience and instant access, but they come with a potential risk. For example, factors such as health problems, job loss, divorce, and other unexpected expenses can all necessitate the need for money. New Muslims often come to Islam carrying large balances on interest-bearing credit cards and loans. Muslim children in America may tend to be just like their non-Muslim peers, constantly asking their parents to buy them things that other children have, or things that they see on the television. Some Muslim parents, who have difficulty saying “no” to their children, may overuse their credit cards in order to make their children happy. Other Muslims merely have a bad habit of overspending. All of these situations can result in what is known in Islam as riba.

A working definition of riba breaks it down into type types: (1) Riba Al-Fadl, which is the added charge to the money loaned because of delayed payment, which is definitely prohibited, and (2) Riba Al-Nasi’aa, which is a function of the term of financing (number of years to repay the loan). This form of Riba is used as a foundation for Murabaha contracts but with the provision that the added value after a certain number of years does not change if the person cannot pay back due to a legitimate excuse (LaRiba website). Some scholars claim that the whole business of signing contracts with interest clauses is prohibited due to the possibility that the Muslim may activate the interest clause if he finds himself in a position where he is unable to pay on time. While scholars may differ in their interpretations of riba, they all agree that paying interest is prohibited.

Allah Almighty has made clear His position on riba: “Those who eat Riba (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitan (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: ‘Trading is only like Riba (usury),’ whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden Riba (usury). So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Riba (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allah (to judge); but whoever returns [to Riba (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire - they will abide therein.” (2:275)

Riba is a huge business in America. But, can Muslims really live without using credit cards? Can they use them responsibility and insulate themselves against the danger of riba? While the rest of the country is waiting for the credit card industry to reform itself, Muslims would benefit from finding solutions within an Islamic framework to resolve financial difficulties and maintain financial health.

- Be mindful of Allah Almighty’s exhortation to avoid riba.
- Be steadfast in your deen and make du’a for Allah to change your financial situation. Remember that what you want and what you need are two different things.
- If you are not currently overburdened with credit card debt, follow the practice of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, and invoke Allah saving, “O Allah, I seek refuge with you from all sins, and from being in debt.” (Bukhari)
- Live within your means; remember that the wasting of money is prohibited in Islam.

Some advice for managing money and utilizing credit wisely includes:

- Budgeting. Make a budget, and stick to it as closely as possible.
- Use Layaway. Look for stores that offer layaway programs for your large items. Many businesses offer layaway at no extra charge. Some stores offer no-interest payment plans to qualified buyers.
- Family. Sometimes family can help with unexpected expenses.
- Pay in Full. If you do use a credit card, charge only what you can afford to pay for in full when the bill comes.
- Avoid Cash Advances. Do not use cash advance; riba accumulates on the advance from day one.
- Borrow From Yourself. Save an amount of money equivalent to a credit card limit. Spend from that fund, and then repay yourself!
- Teach Children Financial Responsibility. Help your kids to develop sound money management. Give them an allowance if possible. Assign them chores appropriate for their age group so that they can earn money to buy what they want. Encourage them to save. Buy them a little bank to keep on their dressers, or engage them in a fun project of making a little savings bank. (Don’t forget to teach your children about charity!)

If you are currently experiencing financial problems:

- Do Not Despair. Make a sincere intention to Allah (swt) to repay your credit card debt and ask Him for help. Narrated Abu Huraira, “The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, ‘Whoever takes the money of the people with the intention of repaying it, Allah will repay it on his behalf, and whoever takes it in order to spoil it, then Allah will spoil him.’” (Bukhari)
- Seek Credit Counseling. Do your research well in order to avoid hidden costs. Some of these companies have been known to get your interest rates eliminated.
- Refinance With Islamic Banks. Access to Islamic banks and financial service companies is growing in America. Talk to them about refinancing your current debt. New Muslims can also refinance riba-bearing mortgages with these institutions. It is incumbent upon Islamic banks and financial service companies to work with you within an Islamic framework should you experience legitimate difficulty repaying your loan.

Muslims can obtain financial health and avoid the potential traps that can result from irresponsible use of credit cards. Answers exist within an Islamic context to help guide the Muslim toward success.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Win an Oreck XL Vacuum


Man, with my bad back, I could really use this ultra light vacuum cleaner: the Oreck XL Ultra.

There is a giveaway contest at http://www.5minutesformom.com/2943/oreck/

All you have to do is make a post on your blog like I am doing now and provide a few links. Check it out at the link above!

While you're at it, you can see the vacuum cleaner at http://www.oreck.com/upright-vacuum-cleaners/intellashield_xl_ultra.cfm?keycode=CC575

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Squeeze of the Grave


Today I went for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). After years of ruling out various conditions, I was diagnosed with MS. But now I have a new pain management doctor and he wants to do his own tests to confirm the MS diagnosis. Ahhhh, ok ... here we go again. (It took me a long time to gain a level of acceptance about my condition.)

Anyhow, if you look at the image above, you can understand how anxious an MRI can make someone feel. Even if it is an "open MRI" (sides of it are open so you can see a little bit, doesn't feel so confining), it can still be a frightening experience. After you are settled and braced up, you lie there, ready to be slid into the machine, listening to the steps of the nurse/technician as they leave the room. Then they slide you into the machine. It is inches from your face! A tight fit indeed!

While I was under there today, a thought came into my mind: I was reminded of the "squeeze of the grave".





(Image from: http://indianmuslims.in/a-ramadan-visit-to-the-two-holy-masjids/)

The squeeze of the grave occurs after the deceased Muslim hears the thumping of his companions' shoes as they walk away from his grave.

No one is spared it. Whether he be a Believer or a Disbeliever!

I haven't been able to find a lot of detailed information about the squeeze of the grave other than the following:

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said that the torment, squeezing, and terror that happens in the grave are things by means of which sins are expiated. (Majmoo' Fataawa Ibn Taymiyah, vol. 7, p. 487-501). http://www.islam-qa.com/index.php?ref=13693&ln=eng&txt=repentence

In his book, Life in Al-Barzakh, Muhammad al-Jibaly states:

"No human being will be spared the squeeze of the grave. However, the following hadith indicates that it is not at the same degree of severity for all people; some of the believers are released from its grip quicker than others. Iban `Abbas (ra) said that Allah's Messenger (saw) said:

'If anyone were to escape from the squeeze of the grave, it would be Sa`d Bin Mu`ath; however, he was squeezed once and then released.' (At-Tabarani in al-Kabir; Sahih ul-Jami by al-Albani No. 5306)"

Can we be spared from excessive horror in the grave if we live our lives here in the dunya aiming to please Allah (swt) and by following Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the Straight Path)? Insha Allah, yes.

Alhamdulilah, I was grateful to have this reminder today.

May Allah (swt) spare us from excessive torment in the grave and grant us a quick squeeze/Ameen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Improve Your Vocabulary While Feeding the Hungry!



Here is a website that donates 20 grains of rice (through the United Nations) for each word you can correctly define!

It's a great opportunity to improve your vocabulary while helping to feed the world's hungry people.

Check it out! It's actually a bit addicting.

http://www.freerice.com/

Monday, February 04, 2008

Washing and Shrouding the Deceased Muslim


Alhamdulillah, this is an important topic and this wonderful video from IslamWay demonstrates the exact procedures.

http://www.islamictube.net/watch/1514326458/Washing-&-Shrouding-the-Deceased---By-IslamWay