Friday, March 30, 2012

Connecting to Prayer

Praying five times a day can be a struggle for adult Muslims, but an even greater one for young people. At a time when texting and other technology offer fast-paced distraction, encouraging our youth to establish Salah can seem impossible.
But this pillar of Islam keeps us all grounded in our faith. It is that necessary daily reminder of Who we are accountable to, as well as Who is our greatest Benefactor. It keeps us connected to Allah in all circumstances, and it is a gift and obligation we must pass on to young Muslims.
Here are a few ways to start that process.

1. Set the example
As is the case with all other good habits, parents, mentors, teachers, and others young Muslims look up to must be praying themselves. But we need to not only be offering our prayers. We must also truly reflect the level of concentration and commitment it takes, by praying on time, doing our best to focus, and offering the prayers diligently.

2. Establish prayer in the home
Kids learn faith first and foremost from the family and within the home. This is where prayer as a way of connecting to Allah needs to be discussed and shown in practice. Make it a habit to pray in congregation when going to the Masjid is not possible. Avoid having everyone pray in their own little corner of the house. Start today by designating one space of the home for this purpose.

3. Don’t discourage even small steps toward prayer
Prayer is a long-term commitment that requires the kind of dedication that’s hard to muster for many older people, let alone young people distracted by the ding of texts on their phone or other issues. Praise even the performance of a short, two-Rakat prayer, and encourage youth to take it to the next level.

4. Don’t discount strength in numbers
Whenever possible, pray in congregation with other Muslims outside of the family, especially other youth. This can be at weekend school, or even joining one of the prayers at a full-time Islamic school with the administration’s permission. This will show that prayer isn’t something "weird" that only you and your family do. Rather, it is something other young Muslims do regularly, as well.

5. Make prayer time parent time
Spend a few minutes after each prayer with your young Muslim connecting, asking or answering questions about an issue of concern, or simply making it a time for hugs, jokes, and lighthearted hanging out.

Compiled From:"8 Ways to Connect Young Muslims to Prayer" - Samana Siddiqui

What We’ve Lost With the Demise of Print Encyclopedias

As the paperless future approaches, certain sorts of publications have inevitably moved into the all-digital realm faster than others. Most of us still prefer paper when it comes to beach novels, for instance, or the cherished volumes of our personal libraries. At the other extreme, scientific journals effectively went all-digital years ago, and thanks to GPS, maps and road atlases are quickly following. Last week saw another milestone: the symbolic funeral of paper encyclopedias, with the inevitable announcement that the Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing print publication.

Encyclopedias, along with other reference works,
would seem particularly obvious candidates for digitization. Paper encyclopedias are large, heavy, and expensive ($1,395 for the final print edition of Britannica). They are nowhere near as easily and thoroughly searchable as their digital counterparts. They cannot be easily updated, still less constantly updated. And they are far more limited in size. The 2002 Britannica contained 65,000 articles and 44 million words. Wikipedia currently contains close to four million articles and over two billion words (this information comes, of course, from Wikipedia).
David A Bell in The New Republic. Here

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Righteous Mind, Reason, Intuition and Islamic Dawah

You’re smart. You’re Muslim. You’re well informed. You think non-Muslims, non-believers are narrow-minded. You can’t understand why people worship statues, cow, film stars, sun, moon and etc etc. You figure they’re being duped. You’re wrong.

William Saletan in his article on the book "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt unravels of the mystery behind rejection and acceptance. Excerpts from his review in The New York Times

In “The ­Righteous Mind,” Haidt seeks to enrich liberalism, and political discourse generally, with a deeper awareness of human nature. Like other psychologists who have ventured into political coaching, such as George Lakoff and Drew Westen, Haidt argues that people are fundamentally intuitive, not rational. If you want to persuade others, you have to appeal to their sentiments. But Haidt is looking for more than victory. He’s looking for wisdom. That’s what makes “The Righteous Mind” well worth reading. Politics isn’t just about ­manipulating people who disagree with you. It’s about learning from them.

The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.
To explain this persistence, Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends.
Many of Haidt’s proposals are vague, insufficient or hard to implement. And that’s O.K. He just wants to start a conversation about integrating a better understanding of human nature — our sentiments, sociality and morality — into the ways we debate and govern ourselves. At this, he succeeds. It’s a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.
But to whom is Haidt directing his advice? If intuitions are unreflective, and if reason is self-serving, then what part of us does he expect to regulate and orchestrate these faculties? This is the unspoken tension in Haidt’s book. As a scientist, he takes a passive, empirical view of human nature.
 William Saletan in The New York Times. Here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sneaky Silkmoths

Last spring, the periodical cicadas emerged across eastern North America. Their vast numbers and short above-ground life spans inspired awe and irritation in humans—and made for good meals for birds and small mammals. Such snacks do not come without cost, however: Cicadas emit extremely loud shrieks when captured. Perhaps the pattern of the giant silk moth Citheronia azteca (right) evolved to resemble a cicada as a form of Batesian mimicry—imitation by a nonpoisonous species of a poisonous or unappetizing one. So Philip Howse speculates in Giant Silkmoths: Colour, Mimicry and Camouflage (Papadakis, $40 paper), in which he and photographer Kirby Wolfe showcase these members of the Saturniidae family.

Wolfe offers notes on collecting and raising silk moths. But the book’s wealth of photographs serves as collection enough: Viewing page after page of stunning moths from all over the world, I felt the guilty pleasure of seeing more of these creatures than one would ever normally encounter. Caterpillars are well represented also.
Anna Lena Phillips in American Scientist.Here

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

‘The Power of Habit,’ by Charles Duhigg

Human consciousness, that wonderful ability to reflect, ponder and choose, is our greatest gift of God. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and fortunately we also have the ability to operate on automatic pilot, performing complex behaviors without any conscious thought at all. One way this happens is with lots of practice. Tasks that seem impossibly complex at first, like learning how to play the guitar, speak a foreign language or operate a new DVD player, become second nature after we perform those actions many times (well, maybe not the DVD player). “If practice did not make perfect,” William James said, “nor habit economize the expense of nervous and muscular energy, he” (we, that is) “would therefore be in a sorry plight.”

But of course there is a dark side to habits, namely that we acquire bad ones, like smoking or overeating. I imagine that most people — save, perhaps, for a friend of mine who said, in reaction to a news story about the dangers of hyper­tension, “I’ve given up all of my vices; please don’t take away my salt!” — would love to find an easy way of breaking a bad habit or two.

Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, has written an entertaining book to help us do just that, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” Duhigg has read hundreds of scientific papers and interviewed many of the scientists who wrote them, and relays interesting findings on habit formation and change from the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology and neuroscience. This is not a self-help book conveying one author’s homespun remedies, but a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.
Timothy D. Wilson in The New York Times. Here

Discussing the motives of the Afghan shooter

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for apromotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearlyand repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

Note, too, that in the case of Sgt. Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification). But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the ony way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending Terrorism.

There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.
Glenn Greenwald in Readexpress. Here

Monday, March 26, 2012

How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries

Adam Savage walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed -- Eratosthenes' calculation of the Earth's circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau's measurement of the speed of light in 1849.

After the storm by Subhradeep Chakravorty

'After the Storm' a documentary by Delhi-based filmmaker Subhradeep Chakravorty highlighting the plight of seven Muslim youngsters falsely implicated by police, was screened at the Deccan College of Engineering auditorium in Darussalam on Friday after the Hyderabad police refused to accord permission to screen it at a public venue.

Exposing the highhandedness of the police, the narrative resonates with tales of torture and inhuman treatment meted out to the victims in police custody even as family members speak of the emotional and financial burden on them. Every experience recounted left the audience with a sinking feeling about the police machinery.

As for Billah, an engineering student, he was taken into custody in 2008 for 'conspiring to spread terror' in the city.

"I was taken in by the police at gun-point when I was on the way to attend a friend's wedding. From the time I was arrested, the police tried to make me confess in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case. They were not ready to believe me when I told them I had never gone to Mecca Masjid to offer prayers. It was not interrogation but orders to confess," Kaleem narrates in the film. Kaleem's parents were in the dark of his whereabouts until he was produced in court. "When I read the case diary, I came to know that I was accused of supplying SIM cards to the terrorists who carried out the blasts. They also accused my brother, who lives abroad, of handing me 10 kg RDX, which according to them was distributed by meto carry out the blast," he said. However the cases did not stand and Kaleem was acquitted in September 2008 after spending 18 months in prison.

The documentary concludes with each of the seven men voicing their thoughts about the secular fabric and police machinery and ruing how Muslims are picked up and subjected to torture under draconian laws.
A report in Times of India. Here

Team Anna member and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan castigated Narendra Modi for communalizing the state of Gujarat through his propaganda campaigns. Mr. Bhushan was speaking after a documentary film “After the Storm” directed by noted human rights activist Shubradeep Chakravorty, to mark 10 years from the start of the Gujarat pogrom in 2002.

The documentary depicts the tragic victimization of seven Muslim men who were falsely implicated in terror incidents and continued to face discrimination and hardship long after they were acquitted. “Such documentaries put a human face to such stories and help create empathy in the public for such people,” said Mr. Bhushan.
Two circles Here.

The documentary opens with the story of a 49-year-old Mukhtar Ahmed who was taken into custody by the Central Bureau Of Investigation on 3 September 1993 under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act). He was accused of being involved in the Chennai RSS regional headquarters blast case. By the time Ahmed was finally acquitted, he had spent a harrowing 14 years in jail and once out on bail is trying to extricate himself from the false charges. Eighteen-year-old Moutasim Billah was wallowing away time in front of his house in old Hyderabad on 5 March, 2008, when he was caught by the police. Though he was released six months later, the jail experience left a significant bearing on his temperament and the life of his family.

The stories that these men tell sound eerily similar — from the manner in which they were picked up and the delay to produce them in courts, to the way they were treated in jail. Most of the time, the date of arrest was falsely given and the delay in producing the accused in courts was to assess whether a successful case could be fabricated.

This similarity is not coincidental, human rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan points out, highlighting the increasing communalisation of the police force as the root cause of the problem. "This is a consistent pattern across the country. In the garb of terror investigations, the police have been systematically framing Muslim youth in terror cases. They fabricate evidence so as to implicate them. Whenever they failed to catch the real culprit, they'd pick up an innocent Muslim," says Bhushan.

He further blamed the media for operating hand in glove with the police. "Media organisations are embedded with the police and play a crucial role in further defaming the accused. Often journalists know that the evidence is fabricated but go ahead nonetheless. Media people have sold their conscience and ethics. A feasible solution to this problem is to make the police force accountable," he says.
A report in Sunday Guardian.Here 

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleged that police across the country systematically frame Muslims in terror investigations when they can't find the culprits

Team Anna member and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan yesterday claimed that police across the country were "communalised". "Police throughout the country are clearly communalised. Narendra Modi has communalised the entire state through his propaganda campaigns," said Bhushan, speaking after a documentary film show here to mark 10 years of communal riots in Gujarat.
A report in Mid Day. Here

A trailor of the film could be viewed here

Juma Qutba of Moulana Syed Jalaluddin Umari

Paul Graham on writing and speaking

I'm not a very good speaker. I say "um" a lot. Sometimes I have to pause when I lose my train of thought. I wish I were a better speaker. But I don't wish I were a better speaker like I wish I were a better writer. What I really want is to have good ideas, and that's a much bigger part of being a good writer than being a good speaker.

Having good ideas is most of writing well. If you know what you're talking about, you can say it in the plainest words and you'll be perceived as having a good style. With speaking it's the opposite: having good ideas is an alarmingly small component of being a good speaker.

I first noticed this at a conference several years ago. There was another speaker who was much better than me. He had all of us roaring with laughter. I seemed awkward and halting by comparison. Afterward I put my talk online like I usually do. As I was doing it I tried to imagine what a transcript of the other guy's talk would be like, and it was only then I realized he hadn't said very much.

Maybe this would have been obvious to someone who knew more about speaking, but it was a revelation to me how much less ideas mattered in speaking than writing.

Depending on your audience, there are even worse tradeoffs than these. Audiences like to be flattered; they like jokes; they like to be swept off their feet by a vigorous stream of words. As you decrease the intelligence of the audience, being a good speaker is increasingly a matter of being a good bullshitter. That's true in writing too of course, but the descent is steeper with talks. Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader. Just as a speaker ad libbing can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to say it, a person hearing a talk can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to hear it. Plus people in an audience are always affected by the reactions of those around them, and the reactions that spread from person to person in an audience are disproportionately the more brutish sort, just as low notes travel through walls better than high ones. Every audience is an incipient mob, and a good speaker uses that. Part of the reason I laughed so much at the talk by the good speaker at that conference was that everyone else did. [4]

So are talks useless? They're certainly inferior to the written word as a source of ideas. But that's not all talks are good for. When I go to a talk, it's usually because I'm interested in the speaker. Listening to a talk is the closest most of us can get to having a conversation with someone like the president, who doesn't have time to meet individually with all the people who want to meet him.

Talks are also good at motivating me to do things. It's probably no coincidence that so many famous speakers are described as motivational speakers. That may be what public speaking is really for.
Paul Graham. Here

How do brains preserve memories?

Our fond or fearful memories — that first kiss or a bump in the night — leave memory traces that we may conjure up in the remembrance of things past, complete with time, place and all the sensations of the experience. Neuroscientists call these traces memory engrams.

But are engrams conceptual, or are they a physical network of neurons in the brain? In a new MIT study, researchers used optogenetics to show that memories really do reside in very specific brain cells, and that simply activating a tiny fraction of brain cells can recall an entire memory — explaining, for example, how Marcel Proust could recapitulate his childhood from the aroma of a once-beloved madeleine cookie.

“We demonstrate that behavior based on high-level cognition, such as the expression of a specific memory, can be generated in a mammal by highly specific physical activation of a specific small subpopulation of brain cells, in this case by light,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT and lead author of the study reported online today in the journal Nature. “This is the rigorously designed 21st-century test of Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield’s early-1900s accidental observation suggesting that mind is based on matter.”
In that famous surgery, Penfield treated epilepsy patients by scooping out parts of the brain where seizures originated. To ensure that he destroyed only the problematic neurons, Penfield stimulated the brain with tiny jolts of electricity while patients, who were under local anesthesia, reported what they were experiencing. Remarkably, some vividly recalled entire complex events when Penfield stimulated just a few neurons in the hippocampus, a region now considered essential to the formation and recall of episodic memories.
Cathryn Delude in Medicalxpress. Here
How to retain Quran in memory
And a video on Preservation of the Quran, Hadith and Human Memory

Six steps to enhance memory

The capacity of memory in the brain to store, process and recall information is truly a wondrous blessing of Allah. We use our memory to gain beneficial knowledge; we also use our memory to recall the mistakes we’ve made in the past and learn from them to become better.

Many associate aging with memory loss, but it doesn’t have to be that way as demonstrated by +80 grandparents who complete memorization of The Qur’an! The following are some tips to strengthen your memory:
• Use it or Lose it 
Treat you brain as a muscle – if you want to keep it fit and agile, you have to use it. Reading books, memorizing Qur’an, memorizing beneficial knowledge, and prayer are all the best way for Muslims to exercise their mind. The sense of being closer to Allah (The Exalted) will also protect us from depression which has negative effects on the mind. If you like, you could also try other academic exercises or mental challenges for fun.

• Brain Food

A well-balanced diet is beneficial to keep your memory at its best. A recent study conducted in France has found that use of olive oil improves visual memory and verbal fluency. The virtue of the olive is also mentioned in The Qur’an, and Allah (The All-Wise) takes an oath by this special food (95:1). Foods that contain high omega-3 content, such as salmon, are also important for the memory and brain function. Furthermore, your memory needs adequate sugar and vitamins that most of that will naturally be in your diet (if it’s not, try honey, dates, blueberries, and almonds).

• Healthy Body for a Healthy Mind

Physical exercises, especially aerobic ones, are beneficial to keep the mind alert and healthy. If you can’t do aerobic exercises, the good news is that a moderate amount of walking on daily basis can keep the mind healthy too. Indeed, walking for most people is pretty easy to maintain as a regular activity (even taking the stairs instead of the elevator exercises your body).

• Rest

Taking a nap improves memory and mood, promotes physical well-being, and sharpen senses. Napping has many benefits so taking a 15-30 minute before or after Zhuhr should significantly affect your intellectual performance, energy level, and plus – it’s sunnah!
Prductive Muslim. Here

Sunday, March 25, 2012

India's Exploding Digital Economy

Let's start with Internet access. Today, India's population of Internet users is 80 million, which equals a penetration rate of just seven percent (or 17 percent of the urban population). That is about to change. The government is rolling out what it calls its National Broadband Plan, a $4.5 billion initiative to build a country-wide fiber optic network that will connect an additional 160 million Indians by 2014. An Indian investment bank, Avendus, projects 376 million Indian Net users by 2015.

Part of what's fueling growth in Net penetration is an explosion in mobility. The Indian government sponsored the introduction of 3G services in 2011 with a $30 billion spectrum auction. Morgan Stanley projects that 3G penetration will reach 22 percent by 2015. Government and the private sector have spent something like $55 billion on related infrastructure. Further, we'll see a roll-out of 4G wireless services across the country in 2012. While there are nearly 800 million mobile subscribers in India, very few use smart phones; most have feature phones that deliver, at best, premium text-based services. As unit economics enable ever cheaper smart phones (the lowest price in the market is now $65), their penetration will rise.

Fueling this explosion is a fact of national culture: Indians love media.
No one aware of the nation's obsession with "ABC" (Astrology, Bollywood, and Cricket) will be surprised to learn that the average Indian consumes 4.5 hours of media and entertainment a day, while 70 percent of the national population spends money on content, both online and off. Time spent online already comes to 40 minutes per capita per day.
Jeffrey F. Rayport in Harvard Business Review. Here

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to have a conversation

Perhaps it was the opium talking, but Thomas de Quincey once wrote that an evening in the company of Samuel Coleridge was “like some great river”. The poet “swept at once into a continuous strain of dissertation, certainly the most novel, the most finely illustrated, and traversing the most spacious fields of thought, by transitions the most just and logical, that it was possible to conceive”.

Most of us have hopefully felt the unmoored elation of staying up all night talking with a friend. But Coleridge was that rare thing, a conversationalist: eloquent, witty, with a seemingly bottomless reservoir of cultural knowledge. Nor was he the only one back then who could claim his company was a performance art. David Hume once engaged in so much raillery at a dinner party he left Jean-Jacques Rousseau clinging to a table leg.

What makes a good conversationalist has changed little over the years. The basics remain the same as when Cicero became the first scholar to write down some rules, which were summarised in 2006 by The Economist:
“Speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.”

John McDermott in FT Magazine. More Here and Here 

US loses AH-64 Apache Helicopter in Afghanistan

America is at war with Afghanistan. It continues to bomb, kill, maim and massacre the innocents Afghanis - men and women, brothers and sisters, young and old - everyday. Afghan brothers and sisters continue to defy the American aggression with all their might. 

As a result America loses its soldiers, sophisticated vehicles, helicopters etc. As media is at the hands of Americans we don't get enough negative news about woundings, crashes and other negative news in the US military in Afghanistan. And the civilised world do not know or care that the US is at war in Afghanistan. 
Here is an video of a APACHE helicopter being crashed in Afghanistan. Here and  Here

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who are the poor in India

The fact is nobody quite knows. There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India, and the counts have been mired in controversy.

This week the Planning Commission said 29.8% of India's 1.21 billion people live below the poverty line, a sharp drop from 37.2% in 2004-2005. (This means means around 360 million people currently live in poverty.) But one estimate suggests this figure could be as high as 77%.

The problem, believe many, is that the new count is based on fixing the poverty line for a person living on 28.65 rupees (56 cents/35p) a day in cities and 22.42 rupees (44 cents/33p) a day in villages.

This was lower than last year's recommendation by the Planning Commission to set the poverty line at 32 rupees (65c/40p) a day which stirred up a major debate across the country.

Last year activists dared the head of the country's planning body to live on half a dollar a day to test his claim that it represented an adequate sum to survive in a country with high inflation and leaky and shambolic social benefits. They concluded that the claim appeared to be grossly unfair and scandalous.

In India, poverty counts are based on a large sample survey of household expenditures. In other words, they are based on the purchasing power needed to buy food with some margin for non-food consumption needs.

Labourers (farm workers in villages, casual workers in cities), tribespeople, Dalits (formerly called low caste untouchables) and Muslims remain the poorest Indians.

But it is not happening fast enough, considering India's reasonably high rate of economic growth. "High growth, though essential," says the India Development Report, "is not sufficient for poverty reduction on a sustainable basis."

If the demographics and social character of the poorest in India is not changing rapidly, what is wrong?

Economists like Arvind Virmani believe that bad governance, misplaced priorities, unchecked corruption and a huge failure in improving the quality of public health and literacy are to blame. All of this is correct. More importantly, does all this happen because the Indian state is inherently anti-poor?

PS: The government's flip-flop over poverty count continues. On Thursday, PM Manmohan Singh told reporters that a "fresh [technical] group has been set up to devise a new method to assess the number of poor". Minister for Planning Ashwani Kumar echoed the sentiment saying there was a need to "revisit" the methods of counting the poor which would be "consistent with current reality". So yes, we still don't know who are the poor in India.
Soutik Biswas in BBC. Here 
See We are the Poorest

The beauty of human body

While studying for my Musculoskeletal exam, I had a bit of an epiphany in the middle of reviewing one of my lectures, and I just wanted to share it here. I'm having trouble trying to describe how deeply I feel about this in words, but I hope you can benefit from it, iA.

I never quite realized the true depth of this before, but after extensively studying the human body and its complex inner machinations, I can't help but feel so completely overwhelmed by how perfectly constructed we are. To study every tissue, bone, muscle, tendon, nerve, blood vessel, organ, and the trillions upon trillions of cells that compose every single part of our being, and to realize that every single one of these cells somehow miraculously maintains its own life and its own distinct purpose.

Our biomechanical and biochemical engineering is so perfectly crafted and so brilliantly designed- every part of our body syncs so flawlessly with one another and integrates with such mind-numbing complexity, and yet… …it operates with such impressive finesse and exquisite beauty that we can't help but feel unappreciative of just how truly amazing our body really is.

Simply look at your own hand, and flex one of your fingers- and realize that for such a simple movement, hundreds of nerve impulses, countless muscles and tendons moving a team of skeletal bones powered by blood pumped from your heart carrying oxygen received from your lungs using energy derived from your body's chemical digestive processes were used. And this is just one finger- imagine yourself running, and now try to wrap your head around just how vast the inner mechanics of your body are and how much internal effort is needed to perform that action.

They say that to prove the existence of our Lord, you need only look at nature to see the untold beauty of His creation. I feel that to appreciate but a mere glimpse of Allah (swt)'s immaculate wisdom and boundless mercy, you don't need to look very far at all- who else but the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Sculptor of the galaxies and stars, and the Master of all creation, can take a single microscopic zygote and from it craft a beautiful human body of such wondrous design and operation?
Dr O in Muslim Medicine. Here

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Butterflies sleep together

When it's time to settle in for the night, red postman butterflies (Heliconius erato) often roost in groups of four or five. To figure out why, researchers hung several thousand fake versions of the insects around the forest in Panama and Costa Rica.
To measure bird attacks, they counted beak marks on the dummies' modeling-clay bodies and wax-coated paper wings. Individuals perched alone or in pairs were more than six times as likely to be attacked as were models perched in groups of five.
The effect went beyond a simple sharing of risk among group members: Each roost of five, considered as a unit, was less likely than a singleton to experience an attack, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The researchers argue that the butterflies' bright markings, which advertise their toxicity to predators, are more effective when amplified in a group.

More in ScienceShots.
Butterflies and the Holy Quran
(O Prophet), whatever you may be engaged in - whether you recite any portion of the Quran, or whatever else all of you are doing - We are witnesses to whatever you may be occupied with. Not even an atom's weight on the earth or in the heavens escapes your Lord, nor is there anything smaller or bigger than that, except that it is, on record in a Clear Book. (Yunus 10 : 61)

There is not a single moving creature on earth except that Allah is responsible for providing its sustenance. He knows where it dwells and where it will permanently rest. All this is recorded in a Clear Book. (Hud 11: 6)

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in The New York Times. Here

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

India and the future of the world

It might seem that India has too much democracy - elections in one state or another every few months, a fragmented political establishment (with more than 40 parties represented in Parliament) and electoral processes that do little to strengthen a stable system built on two dominant parties. Indeed, some look with envy across the Himalayas at India's giant neighbour, China, which, untroubled by the vagaries of democratic politics, is in the process of stage-managing a long-planned leadership change completely from above.
By contrast, India strikes many as maddening, chaotic, divided and seemingly directionless as it muddles its way through the second decade of the 21st century. Another view, though, is that India is a country that has found in democracy the most effective way to manage its immense contradictions. This should be exciting, not alarming.
"India," wrote the late British historian EP Thompson, "is perhaps the most important country for the future of the world. All the convergent influences of the world run through this society... There is not a thought that is being thought in the West or East that is not active in some Indian mind."
India expresses itself in many ways. Its strength is that it has preserved an idea of itself as one land embracing many - a country that endures differences of caste, creed, colour, culture, conviction, costume and custom, yet still rallies around a democratic consensus.

That consensus is the simple principle that, in a democracy, it is not necessary to agree - except in terms of how to disagree. The reason that India, despite predictions of its imminent disintegration, has survived the stresses that have beset it during more than six decades of independence, is that it has maintained a consensus on how to manage without consensus. This is the India that Mahatma Gandhi fought to free, and its turbulent politics is well worth celebrating.
Shashi Tharoor in AlJazeera. Here

The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky: Jhumpa Lahiri

In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. They were not necessarily the same sentences the professors pointed out, which would turn up for further explication on an exam. I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.

I remember reading a sentence by Joyce, in the short story “Araby.” It appears toward the beginning. “The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.” I have never forgotten it. This seems to me as perfect as a sentence can be. It is measured, unguarded, direct and transcendent, all at once. It is full of movement, of imagery. It distills a precise mood. It radiates with meaning and yet its sensibility is discreet.

When I am experiencing a complex story or novel, the broader planes, and also details, tend to fall away. Rereading them, certain sentences are what greet me as familiars. You have visited before, they say when I recognize them. We encounter books at different times in life, often appreciating them, apprehending them, in different ways. But their language is constant. The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.
The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace. Style and personality are irrelevant. They can be formal or casual. They can be tall or short or fat or thin. They can obey the rules or break them. But they need to contain a charge. A live current, which shocks and illuminates.


As a book or story nears completion, I grow acutely, obsessively conscious of each sentence in the text. They enter into the blood. They seem to replace it, for a while. When something is in proofs I sit in solitary confinement with them. Each is confronted, inspected, turned inside out. Each is sentenced, literally, to be part of the text, or not. Such close scrutiny can lead to blindness. At times — and these times terrify — they cease to make sense. When a book is finally out of my hands I feel bereft. It is the absence of all those sentences that had circulated through me for a period of my life. A complex root system, extracted.

Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively. This is why I avoid reading the books I’ve written. Why, when I must, I approach the book as a stranger, and pretend the sentences were written by someone else.
Jhumpa Lahiri in The New York Times. Here

Arranged Marriages

It may surprise many to learn that arranged marriages are not an Islamic requirement. There is no teaching in the Quran or in the hadiths that calls for this practice. It is, rather, a cultural phenomenon that exists in many Muslim countries even as it exists in much of the non-Muslim world from Zimbabwe to China. In fact, it is really the institution of dating that is the new practice which much of the world is struggling to accept. Islam merely regulates the conduct of people who want to form a marriage, whether arranged or by themselves. The three main points to know about Islam and arranged marriages are as follows:
1. Islam does not require it.
2. A woman cannot be forced into a marriage she doesn't want to have.
3. The arranged pair can have an extended engagement and can break it off if either party wishes to do so.
Are women sometimes forced into marriages? Yes, but this abuse goes against the teachings of Islam and is not limited to Muslim populations. If people fail to follow their religion, it is not the fault of the religion. The Bible forbids people to get drunk, yet alcoholism is one of the most serious national challenges facing Christian countries everywhere. So before people blame Islam for something that appears oppressive, they must learn what the religion teaches about it and then condemn the hypocrites who fail to follow their professed beliefs (or the ignorant who follow cultural patterns not knowing they are contrary to their religion's teachings.)
The Companions of the Prophet demonstrated many different ways of finding a mate. Some married for love and sealed their commitment without intermediaries, others were matched by friends, and still others agreed to arranged marriages brokered by relatives.
Compiled From:
"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam, 2nd Edition" - Yahiya Emerick, pp. 276, 277

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What isn't for sale?

Market thinking so permeates our lives that we barely notice it anymore. A leading philosopher sums up the hidden costs of a price-tag society.

There are some things money can’t buy—but these days, not many. Almost everything is up for sale. For example:
A prison-cell upgrade: $90 a night. In Santa Ana, California, and some other cities, nonviolent offenders can pay for a clean, quiet jail cell, without any non-paying prisoners to disturb them.
The services of an Indian surrogate mother: $8,000. Western couples seeking surrogates increasingly outsource the job to India, and the price is less than one-third the going rate in the United States.
Not everyone can afford to buy these things. But today there are lots of new ways to make money. If you need to earn some extra cash, here are some novel possibilities:
Sell space on your forehead to display commercial advertising: $10,000. A single mother in Utah who needed money for her son’s education was paid $10,000 by an online casino to install a permanent tattoo of the casino’s Web address on her forehead. Temporary tattoo ads earn less.
Serve as a human guinea pig in a drug-safety trial for a pharmaceutical company: $7,500. The pay can be higher or lower, depending on the invasiveness of the procedure used to test the drug’s effect and the discomfort involved.
 We live in a time when almost everything can be bought and sold. Over the past three decades, markets—and market values—have come to govern our lives as never before. We did not arrive at this condition through any deliberate choice. It is almost as if it came upon us.
As the Cold War ended, markets and market thinking enjoyed unrivaled prestige, and understandably so. No other mechanism for organizing the production and distribution of goods had proved as successful at generating affluence and prosperity. And yet even as growing numbers of countries around the world embraced market mechanisms in the operation of their economies, something else was happening. Market values were coming to play a greater and greater role in social life. Economics was becoming an imperial domain. Today, the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone. It increasingly governs the whole of life.

The years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 were a heady time of market faith and deregulation—an era of market triumphalism. The era began in the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher proclaimed their conviction that markets, not government, held the key to prosperity and freedom. And it continued into the 1990s with the market-friendly liberalism of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who moderated but consolidated the faith that markets are the primary means for achieving the public good.

Today, that faith is in question.


The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society? What role should markets play in public life and personal relations? How can we decide which goods should be bought and sold, and which should be governed by nonmarket values? Where should money’s writ not run?

Even if you agree that we need to grapple with big questions about the morality of markets, you might doubt that our public discourse is up to the task. It’s a legitimate worry. At a time when political argument consists mainly of shouting matches on cable television, partisan vitriol on talk radio, and ideological food fights on the floor of Congress, it’s hard to imagine a reasoned public debate about such controversial moral questions as the right way to value procreation, children, education, health, the environment, citizenship, and other goods. I believe such a debate is possible, but only if we are willing to broaden the terms of our public discourse and grapple more explicitly with competing notions of the good life.


This nonjudgmental stance toward values lies at the heart of market reasoning, and explains much of its appeal. But our reluctance to engage in moral and spiritual argument, together with our embrace of markets, has exacted a heavy price: it has drained public discourse of moral and civic energy, and contributed to the technocratic, managerial politics afflicting many societies today.

A debate about the moral limits of markets would enable us to decide, as a society, where markets serve the public good and where they do not belong. Thinking through the appropriate place of markets requires that we reason together, in public, about the right way to value the social goods we prize. It would be folly to expect that a more morally robust public discourse, even at its best, would lead to agreement on every contested question. But it would make for a healthier public life. And it would make us more aware of the price we pay for living in a society where everything is up for sale.
Michael J Sandel in the Atlantic. Here 

Beauty Tips from Imam Ibn Taymiyyah

Millions of rupees are spent every year by people on beauty products throughout the world with the hope to enhance their beauty or erase some of the unwanted features the may have on their face and other parts of the body. The pressure to spend on beauty products in this age is higher than ever. Traditionally it was the women folks who spend hours looking for that 'right' life changing beauty product (but in reality none of them really does the job), however, now, the idea of the “metrosexual” male has gained global approval, with the majority of consumers worldwide agreeing that it is acceptable for men to spend time and money to enhance their appearance. Around 78% of consumers worldwide agree that it is “ok” for men to spend time and money on their appearance.
Although purchasing beauty products is allowed, as Muslims we are taught that beauty comes from within, literally! Our scholars have mentioned in their writings that when a person commits a sin against Allāh and that person is persistent and adamant upon sin his/her face darkens. The opposite is also true, when a person observes the Taqwa of Allāh and perseveres in Allāh's path his/her face is illuminated with the light of īmān (faith). So although the Fair&Lovely or Fair&Handsome may try and make people believe that they are pretty etc while they commit sins, in reality, those who are upon the truth and observe the Taqwa of Allāh their face is radiant with the light of īmān. It is only the believers who appreciate and discern this light.

See below a comment by Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah on this issue. He رحمه الله may not be giving direct beauty tips to people, especially our young brothers and sisters, however, I believe this is the best and most healthy beauty advice one can give.

Imām Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله wrote:

“The person who is righteous and honest, his honesty is manifest from the radiance on his face, and his honesty can be known from the glow that is on his face, likewise the (opposite for the) sinful one and the liar. The older a person gets, the more this sign becomes apparent. Thus a person as a child would have a bright face, however if he becomes a sinful person, adamant on committing sins, at the older stages in his life, an ugly face would manifest that which he used to internalize, and the opposite is also true.

It has been narrated that Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه said,

`Indeed righteousness illuminates the heart, radiates the face, strengthens the body, increases provision, and produces a love in the hearts of the creation for that person. Whereas sinfulness darkens the heart, greys the face, weakens the body, and produces hatred in the hearts of the creation for that person.'

It is possible that a person may not intentionally lie; he may even be a person who makes great effort in ibadah (worship) and has zuhd (abstains from pleasures of this life that are lawful). However he has false, incorrect `aqidah regarding either Allāh, His deen or His Messenger ﷺ or His righteous servants. And what is on the inside affects what is on the outside. Thus, this false, incorrect `aqidah (belief and incorrect practices) that he thought was true and correct reflects on his face, and his face would be dark in accordance with the level of falsehood he possesses.

As it has been narrated that `Uthman ibn Affan رضي الله عنه said,

`No one ever hides evil within themselves except that Allāh makes it manifest from his facial outlook and the statements his tongues utters.'

Hence some of the salaf used to say,

`If a person of innovation were to dye his beard every day, the dye of innovation would remain on his face.'

On the Day of Judgment this would be very clear as Allāh says,

“And on the Day of Resurrection you will see those who lied against Allāh their faces will be black. Is there not in Hell an abode for the arrogant ones?” (Surah Zumar, 39:60)

He also said:

“On the Day when some faces will become white and some faces will become black; as for those whose faces will become dark (to them will be said): “Did you reject Faith after accepting it? Then taste the torment for rejecting Faith.” (Surah 'Ali Imran, 3:106)

Ibn Abbas and others have said regarding this verse,

`The bright faces will be ahlus-sunnah, and dark faces will be the people of bid'ah and division.'`Al-Jawab As-Sahih' (Vol.4, pg. 306-307)

So you want to get that look or develop those biceps and triceps? Try and visit the Taqwa shop more often than the Body Shop!
Abdullah Hasan in Muslimmatters. Here

Monday, March 19, 2012

Who killed Baby Falak?

The two-year-old died a horrible death because the system did not care enough to want her to live.
A child died and we collectively mourn. She was just two years old. And she fought bravely, but the tubes and wires connecting her to life support in the AIIMS Trauma Centre were no match for the systemic failures that carried this baby to her death. For the truth is that Falak never really stood a chance.

What we know of Falak's life are odd fragments from media reports. A 15-year-old girl brings an unnamed baby to a hospital. The baby has human bite marks on her body, and has been beaten, almost to death. It turns out the teenager is not the mother, and has herself been abused by a partner who dumped the baby on her just months ago. Some days later, the real mother is found — 22-year-old Munni, trafficked across many State borders, from Bihar to Delhi and sold into a second marriage in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, forced to leave her three children to the mercy of strangers who promise to look after them but never do. Names of several men pop up along the way — Shah Hussain from Bihar, Munni's husband, who sold her; Sandeep Pandey, husband of the teenager's friend Pooja, who raped her, then tried to sell her in marriage to an old man in Etah in Uttar Pradesh, and then passed her on to a taxi driver Rajkumar; Rajkumar, the teenager's current partner and pimp; Jitender Gupta, the teenager's father who beat her so badly that she ran away into the arms of these pimps. There are other odd fragments — a man named Manoj and his wife Pratima, arrested from Patna — they are the ones who eventually handed the baby to Rajkumar and to the 15-year-old, leading finally to Falak's death.

Confusing human dots
How do these confusing human dots really join? There is much we might never know. All we really know is that the desperate, violent lives of Munni and a 15-year-old girl unknowingly crossed, and a little baby girl went from the arms of a helpless, trafficked mother into the care of a raped, abused, and disturbed teenager.

These tiny fragments are like a million shards of broken glass, which when pieced together create a hideous distorted mirror. A mirror to what we are — a nation with no state or social safety nets for the most desperate. Falak, Munni and the unnamed teenage girl were in free fall through every crack in our system. Their lives tell a thousand stories.

Girls in India are often born unwanted, if they are born at all. The decline in the child sex ratio (0-6 years), from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 914 females per 1,000 males in 2011 — is the lowest since independence. Falak was probably among those unwanted, devalued girls, easily dispensed with. And had she lived, she may have been among the malnourished millions, among the 42.3 per cent of under-fives in India who are underweight or the 58.8 per cent who are stunted (The HUNGaMA report, Naandi Foundation, 2012). As a girl, she was at the lowest end of this malnourishment ladder. Perhaps if she were stronger she would have survived the abuse.

And what of the young 15-year-old teenager who first battered and then tried to save Falak? A run-away from the slums of Sangam Vihar, right in the heart of the capital. Her mother died and her father abused her, and so she ran for security to her would-be pimps. They prostituted and raped her, again and again. And yet this frightened young girl did not reach out to any system for help.

Should she have gone to the police? Could she have? Rape, it seems now, is such an everyday occurrence, and justice so elusive, it may have made little sense. For where would she go from the police station after lodging her FIR, with no family backing, no one to take her in? Where does she stay, how does she live as she fights a rape case? No support before, during or after. We offered her nothing but rape laws and a gender blind criminal justice system. Although the NCRB claims a conviction rate of 26.5 per cent in 2010, (marginally up from 26.12 in 2003), these figures are hugely misleading. According to legal activists, given the number of convictions overturned in appeals, a better approximation would be a 5 per cent rate of conviction in rape cases. So did this underage, runaway girl from a slum stand any chance of help through the courts? The rules of evidence, the procedural hurdles, a hostile police, the lack of community and public support to a rape survivor, and the enormous social stigma — these are the odds she would have been up against. What she did have was a damn good chance of being called a liar or a disobedient slut and being sent right back home. The truth is that we failed to give this young disturbed abandoned girl a choice more “real” than the one she sought in a violent abusive relationship. Today she probably needs psychiatric care more than the bars of a prison cell, but even that it seems is not on offer.

Falak's mother Munni was apparently sold and trafficked across two State borders from Bihar to Delhi to Rajasthan. Year 2010 saw 3,422 incidents of crime related to human trafficking reported compared to 2,848 in 2009, an increase of 20.2 per cent (NCRB, 2010). Clearly our men in uniform didn't manage to see or stop these traffickers. And this year they will add Munni to their statistic. But will we do anything to offer her a better life? Where are the “rehabilitation” programmes for women like Munni? As Munni went from a husband who sold her, to a pimp who re-sold her, did she have anyone to turn to? Look at the condition of the Nari Niketan shelter homes we have in India for women in distress, where abuse is the norm rather than the exception. Central schemes consist only of Swadhar and badly run short-stay homes.

Not an aberration
The tragedy is that neither the abused teenager nor Munni is an aberration. According to NFHS III (2007), one in three Indian women aged 15-49 years has experienced physical violence; and one in 10 has experienced sexual violence. Nearly two in five married women have experienced physical or sexual violence by their husband. Sixteen per cent of never married women have experienced physical violence since they were 15 years of age by a parent, sibling or teacher. One in four abused women have never sought help to end the violence. Two out of three abused women have not only never sought help, but have also never told anyone about the violence. Abused women most often seek help from their families. Very few abused women seek help from institutional sources. (Quoted in Psychosocial Care for Women in Shelter Homes, UNODC & NIMHANS, 2011)

And as for Baby Falak — child abuse remains among the most rampant and hidden forms of everyday violence in Indian homes. Systematic data, information and services on child protection are still not easily available. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights set up in March 2007 is a beginning. But there's a long way to go. In the meantime, a child has died a horrible death. She was just two years old. And she died because we didn't care enough, and we didn't care in time. She symbolises many. Let us plug every hole in our safety nets for women in distress and for victims of child abuse, so that her death does not go in vain.
Farah Naqvi in The Hindu. Here

(The author is a writer ; activist, and a member of the National Advisory Council. Views expressed here are personal. Email:

They gave them their houses back and their smiles too!

Muhammad Marakada of Udipi is not an unknown name in Tamil Nadu. He came all the way from Karnataka to Trichy to render his services as a volunteer in First Tamil Nadu Conference of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Recently he came once again to give a helping hand in the relief activities being carried out for the hapless victims of THANE. He is attached with HRS(Humanitarian Relief Society Karnataka). HRS has constructed more than 100 home alongwith IRW (Ideal Relief Wing Kerala) and TNRC(Tamilnadu Relief Committee).
Here is a brief video (just 4 mnts) of the relief activities.

Sardar jokes, Sikhs and a ten rupee note..!

During vacations some college boys from south India came to Delhi. They rented a taxi for sight-seeing. The driver was an old Sardarji and boys being boys, they began cracking Sardar jokes, just to tease the old man. To their surprise, the old fellow remained unperturbed.
At the end of the sight-seeing tour, they paid the cab hire charges. The Sardar returned the change and he gave each one of them a ten rupee note extra and said, "Sons, since morning you have been telling Sardar jokes. I listened to them all and let me tell you, some of them were in bad taste. Still, I don't mind because I know that you are young and are yet to see the world. But I have one request. I am giving you ten rupees each. Give it to the first Sardar beggar that you come across in this or any other city."

Years later, one of the group of boys recounts, "That ten-rupee note is still with me. I could not find a single Sardar begging anywhere."

Sikhs contribute:
33% of total income tax
67% of total charities
45% of the Indian Army
59,000 plus Gurudwaras serve langar, free of charge, to over 60 lakh people every day!
And all this when Sikhs form only 1.4% of the Indian population.
Vijendra Gupta of New Delhi in Khushwant Singh's column in Hindustan Times. Here

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Strategy: An Executive’s Definition

The question “What is strategy?” has spurred numerous doctoral dissertations, countless hours of research, and hearty disagreement among serious management thinkers. Perhaps this is why many executives also struggle with it. Nonetheless, decision makers seeking to steer a business to sustained success need a succinct and pragmatic response. After all, it can only help executives to have a shared definition of strategy when they are creating, communicating, and implementing a strategy for their business.

So, what is a business strategy? Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, priorities, and plans. It is the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.
Ken Favaro, with Kasturi Rangan and Evan Hirsh in Strategy business. Here

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wings That Beat 500 Times a Second

The mosquito beats its wings some 500 times a second; human beings can manage to wave their arms to a very limited extent in the same amount of time. If scientists could ever build such a powerful mechanism, it would soon burn up due to the intense friction. And yet a mosquito accomplishes this feat for as long as it lives, flying at a high speed in the direction it chooses and for as long as it desires. In addition, it has been endowed with the most perfect maneuvering and landing abilities.

A mosquito requires a high level of oxygen to beat its wings at this speed. Therefore, it has a special respiratory passage that immediately reaches every cell in its body. Since this passage is directly connected to the outside air, its cells engage in oxygen exchange without the need for any intermediate substances. As a result, a mosquito never becomes tired.

Creating such a wing in a creature that is less than1 cm(0.4 inch) in size, together with a respiratory system that makes this possible, is a display of Allah’s astonishing artistry. No coincidence can give rise to such a perfect mechanism in such a complex life form and endow it with perfect functioning, or give it a pair of wings that can beat 500 times per second simultaneously. Such a flawless creature and its amazing wings could not have come into being through random stages, as proposed by Darwin:
Verily whoever dwells in the heavens or the Earth belongs to Allah. Those who invoke others instead of Allah, associating them with Him in His Divinity, only follow conjectures and are merely guessing. (Surah Yunus, 66)
Harun Yahya in Radiance weekly. Here


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