Wisdom: Precious as Pearls

June 23, 2019

Written by Animesh Joshi

 

“Collect as precious pearls the words of the wise and virtuous.” – Emir Abdelkader

 

Abdelkader posits that wisdom is something to be as valued as precious pearls. This may appear obvious, since almost all of us strive to become smarter individuals. But the more relevant question is from whom we obtain the wisdom necessary for our improvement. This is where Abdelkader’s guidance is crucial. “Precious pearls” come from the wise and virtuous. Often, we believe that we know best, but there are many other people out there who know far more. Abdelkader believes that we should learn from those who know more and who are good people at their core. In order to improve ourselves, we must learn from the wise and virtuous and treat their wisdom as valuable as precious pearls.

 

This post will attempt to do exactly that by isolating Abdelkader’s “precious pearls” and analyzing how his wisdom can be used to guide our lives today.

 

“It is with a word as with an arrow– once let it loose and it does not return.”

In this quote, Abdelkader illustrates the deadly effect of our words using a comparison to arrows. Just as arrows can never be stopped once they are fired, words can never be retracted. This dictum is especially important in the modern era. With the advent of social media, it has become easier to communicate with others than ever before. Now, people send each other messages, pictures, tweets, and post without even giving it a second thought. Thus, we must be wary of what we put out onto social media (and also say to others) by realizing that whatever we say, post, or send can never be taken back.

 

“Fear that man who fears not God.”

Here, Abdelkader attempts to prove why faith is important for everyone. When humans cease to have faith in something higher than themselves, they can choose to do whatever they want – without constraint in both war and peace. Faith doesn’t necessarily need to be in God, but some other higher order thing that constrains our actions (religion, ethics, science, etc.)– otherwise there are no limitations on our actions – allowing immortality and injustice to thrive.

 

“If you think God is what the different communities believe – the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others – He is that, but also more. If you think and believe what the prophets, saints, and angels profess – He is that, but He is still more. None of His creatures worship Him in His entirety. No one is an infidel in all the ways relating to God. No one knows all God’s facets. Each of His creatures worships and knows Him in a certain way and is ignorant of Him in others. Error does not exist in this world except in a relative manner.”

This quote represents the largest facet of Abdelkader’s legacy – a respect for other faiths regardless of their beliefs. As he points out, God is much more than whatever a singular person or even a faith can comprehend, God transcends any simple definition or constraint. This idea is especially important in the modern era, where religion often breeds intolerance instead of inclusion. We must all realize, that despite our religious differences, we all believe in a manifestation or idea of God. Faith isn’t about which God we believe in, but rather the idea there is belief in something (that doesn’t even have to be God) which isn’t ourselves. Realizing this would allow us to stop the root of many of the world’s largest problems.

 

After collecting some of these “precious pearls”, what will you do to act on them? Are there any other quotes from Abdelkader that have stood out to you or impacted your life in a significant way? Maybe think of a time where you either heeded or ignored the advice of these dictums previously. What have you experienced that could potentially back up Abdelkader’s advice? Or run contrary to it? Comment your thoughts below!

 

These quotes were collected from John Kiser’s book Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883).

 

 

Animesh Joshi is a junior in high school. His passion for world history  led to him discovering Emir Abdelkader and later, winning the 2018 high school Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize essay contest. In the future, Animesh is interested in studying Political Science and Philosophy. 

June 10, 2019

Written by Reem Esseghir

 

An important aspect of studying history is applying what we learn to our own lives. One way this can be done is by analyzing the traits of historical figures that had such a strong impact on the world. With the case of AEP’s namesake, Emir Abdelkader, there are a multitude of traits we can learn and embody from his example, a few of which are explained below.

 

KNOWLEDGEABLE: One of the marking traits of Emir Abdelkader is his strong education in various fields. During his youth, Abdelkader’s father would send him to cities around the world to learn in the homes of scholars. By the age of fourteen, he had already studied mathematics, history, Greek philosophy, veterinary sciences, and several other subjects. In earning a well-rounded education, Abdelkader became more aware and receptive of other cultures. This aided him later on in his life, when he had to negotiate and work with others from across the globe. It also allowed him to become an outstanding leader, both militarily and civilly. He was able to lead armies in his fight against the French occupation of Algeria but also lead and govern his people for years.

 

JUST: Being “just” is a trait that Emir Abdelkader held throughout his life. For example, during his time in Syria, the Druze began persecuting the Christians because of their faith. Hundreds of them, including women and children, were being chased from their homes and brutally slaughtered. Emir Abdelkader, being someone who always stood up for the oppressed, opened the doors of his home as a refuge to these Christians. He encouraged others to do so, leading to many other Algerians of the city following his example. According to one source, he housed nearly four thousand Christians in his home, telling the Druze, “These Christians are my guests. Try to take one of them, and you’ll learn how well my soldiers fight. We will fight for a just cause, just as we did before!” (Marston, 112).  AEP’s co-founder John Kiser spent many years researching Abdelkader and wrote in his book Commander of the Faithful that the Emir actually housed closer to 10,000 Christians, further demonstrating the compassion of Abdelkader. His continuous fight against the oppression of others was one that became known globally, and one that we should seek to embody in today’s world full of injustices.


FORGIVING: A trait that Emir Abdelkader held that struck many was his ability to forgive. After years of persecution, war, and violence against Algerians, Abdelkader decided to propose a deal to the French in 1847. He promised to stop fighting them so long as they secure him, his family, and his supporters, safe passage to either Palestine or Egypt. The French initially agreed, but quickly broke their promise and instead imprisoned the travelers. Abdelkader and his people were imprisoned in France for five years, being transferred from prison to prison across the country. During this time, they faced severe sickness and loss. However, even after all this difficulty, the Emir always found logical reasons and excuses for the French to commit such actions. This wasn’t a sign of his weakness, but rather of his forgiveness. His message of forgiveness and mercy spread and the streets of France were full of people celebrating his freedom when he was released.

 

It is incredibly important to implement and practice what we learn in our daily lives. After reading about the magnificent traits of Emir Abdelkader, how will you apply what you’ve learned to your own life? What correlations can be drawn between the events that occurred at the Emir’s time and today? How should we act amidst such events? Comment below what you think!

 

Marston, Elsa. The Compassionate Warrior: Abdelkader of Algeria. Indiana: Wisdom Tales, 2013. Print

 

If you would like to read more about Emir Abdelkader and his legacy, check out AEP’s bibliography page. For an in-depth look at his life and the events that unfolded, check out Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883) by John Kiser.

 

Reem Esseghir is a 2017 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize winner and active member of the AEP Youth Initiative.

May 12, 2019

Written by Michaela Hill

 

Abdelkader’s personal identity was inseparable from his spiritual identity. He viewed himself as a devout Muslim above anything else. One of the most defining aspects of his personality was his unshakeable devotion to Islam. The Islamic faith has played an unmistakable role in global affairs since its genesis. In particular, North Africa, Abdelkader’s homeland, was redefined politically and socially after the coming of Islam. Upon realizing the effects that Islam had on the vast region of North Africa, one must wonder how Islam entered these distant lands? Religious movements are almost always catalyzed by some zealous prophet or an extraordinary occurrence. In this case, it was both.  Perhaps the most charismatic and influential bearers of Islam was King Mansa Musa of Mali. In many ways, Mansa Musa is largely responsible for spreading the knowledge of Islam across North Africa. Masa Musa was one of the most extravagant and well-known kings in all African history, and I am sure that Abdelkader knew something of this mighty king’s reign and influence on Islam.

 

 

King Mansa Musa was one of the wealthiest kings to ever live, and his net worth is nearly unimaginable today. He would certainly outshine our modern-day billionaires. Mansa Musa became ruler of the Empire of Mali after its former king, Abu-Baker, was lost on a seafaring journey. Mali was a rich territory with an abundance of natural resources like salt and gold, as well as a fertile soil. In addition, the Empire of Mali was an empire of warriors and determined leaders. Musa’s empire expanded to inhabit most of West Africa, encompassing the trading routes along the coast, the mysterious Timbuktu, and the outlying edges of the Sahara Desert. With the expansion of his territory, Mansa Musa’s wealth expanded as well. Mansa Musa ruled over a prosperous and unified kingdom. He was a devout Muslim and most of his subjects practiced Islam. Mali was a thriving empire of economic stability, religious contentment, and peace (Morgan).

 

In 1324, King Mansa Musa decided to make the ultimate pilgrimage; he would go to Mecca like a truly devout Muslim. The journey from Mali to Mecca was no small undertaking, and Musa would make it in no ordinary way. Legend has it that King Mansa Musa made his pilgrimage with 60,000 warriors, 500 slaves, and 100 camels laden with gold. Along his way, he stopped in Cairo to pay tribute to Al-Malik AL-Nasir, where he gave away such costly gifts that the cost of gold in Egypt was deflated for over a decade. Once Musa arrived in Mecca, he reveled in his destination. Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage changed his life forever and altered the social destiny of North Africa. When he journeyed home to Mali, his faith had experienced a revival and he was ready to put his inspiration to work. He enticed Muslim clerics and teachers to return to Mali to lead his people spiritually. King Mansa built a series of exquisite mosques and Islamic libraries and schools. Celebration of Islamic holidays and prayer became common place. Islamic fervor and interest grew rapidly across Northern Africa, partly to King Musa’s incredible pilgrimage, but mostly due to the resulting effects of his return. People gave Islam great respect because the mighty and influential Mansa Musa was a follower. King Mansa Musa’s sincere dedication and adoration of Islam captivated his subjects and the rest of Africa. His example soon set the pattern for the rest of Africa. Years after Mansa Musa’s death, the European world became fascinated by his pilgrimage. The decadence and mystic of his journey’s purpose gave Europeans an enchanted and respectable outlook on Islam. It is worthwhile to note that King Mansa Musa never used violence to spread influence. He believed his people should be free to practice whatever religion they desired (Harms, 137-138).

 

Even if Abdelkader had never encountered Mansa Musa’s fabulous story or the important work he did for the Islamic faith, Abdelkader still emulated all these virtues in his own life. It is remarkable, that a King from Mali, long, long ago in the 1300’s was sowing seeds of Islamic devotion that would inspire our Algerian hero, who has impacted our present lives so greatly!

 

Morgan, Thad. “This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History.” History.com. March 19, 2018. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://www.history.com/news/who-was-the-richest-man-in-history-mansa-musa.

Harms, Robert W. Africa in Global History: With Sources. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

 

Michaela Hill is a 2017 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize winner and is currently at Sam Houston State University, studying History and Business. She hopes to attend law school  and become an environmental lawyer.

April 28, 2019

Written by Nadia Elamin

 

When Does Ramadan Occur?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is very a significant time for Muslims all over the world. Ramadan officially begins with the sighting of the new moon and then lasts about 29 to 30 days. If you were wondering why Ramadan begins on a different day each year, it is because holidays based on the lunar calendar rotate every year.

 

What is Fasting? Who is Required to Fast?

During this month, healthy and able adult Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. Muslims not required to fast include those ill (either physically or mentally), pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those traveling. Beginning with the morning prayer at dawn and ending with the evening prayer to sunset, those fasting abstain from all food and drink (no, not even water!)., Fasting involves more restraints, including refraining from sinful acts such as cursing, lying, bad intentions, and more – all are believed to possibly negate the validity of a person’s fast (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica).

 

Fast begins with a meal before dawn, called suhoor, which follows the tradition of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him), but it is not required. Most people break their fast with loved ones at home or at their local mosque. During this month, many mosques provide food (thanks to generous donors and sponsors). Those in need, even if they are not Muslims, are able to come and eat. This meal is referred to as iftar. It is common for Muslims to break their fast with dates, based on the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is said to have broken his fast with dates. Even though you may have a big appetite, people often find it difficult to eat a lot during this meal, because their body has gone so long without food.

 

Why Do Muslims Fast?

Ramadan is a religious, annual observance that is considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam and, therefore, obligatory for those who are able to participate. Its significance in Islam stems from the understanding that the Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica).

 

Muslims also fast in order to appreciate the blessings they have been given by temporarily tasting the hunger of the poor. Those fasting are learning the concept of self-restraint and self-discipline– think about how many times you reach for food or a drink in a day without thinking about it. In fact, the word sawm in Arabic means “to refrain”. In addition, Ramadan is supposed to be a month of generosity and giving, in terms of charity, therefore relieving the circumstances of the less fortunate.

 

Most importantly, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to focus on prayer, reflect on one’s life and behaviors, increase one’s religious knowledge (for example, through reading the Holy Qur’an), cultivate thankfulness for life’s many blessings, and many more productive activities.

 

Exclusive to Ramadan, Muslims observe a night prayer, called Taraweeh. They observe these prayers as often as they can, hoping to pray on the exact day that the Holy Qur’an was revealed. It is speculated that this day, referred to as the “Night of Power”, or Laylatul al-Qadrin Arabic, lands on the 27thnight of Ramadan.

 

How Can You Help a Muslim While They Fast?

With 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, it is likely that you will come across a person observing Ramadan. In fact, you may be working with Muslims who are refraining from food and drink during the work day. Think about having to work without any food, or even caffeine!

 

There are several things you can do to possibly help:

1) give your Muslim co-worker or friend space to pray, if needed

2) ask any and all questions about Ramadan in a respectful and kind manner

3) understand that most Muslims won’t be uncomfortable or angry if you eat in front of

them – simply give them their space

 

Fasting while working or carrying out daily activities can be quite challenging. Understanding the importance of Ramadan and the physical and mental challenges that come along with it, is one way you can help your Muslim friends/co-workers. Ramadan begins in the United States on Sunday, May 5th, 2019, according to most calculations. Please wish Muslims you know “Ramadan Mubarak!”, meaning “Blessed Ramadan!”

 

References

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (Ed.). (2019, January 30). Ramadan. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ramadan

 

 

Nadia Elamin is a 2017 Abdelkader Global Leadership prize winner. She has recently graduated with a Master of Public and Non-profit Management at the University of Pittsburgh.