A few years ago I gave up reading the news because I felt it was stressing me out, and offered little if any benefit. Today I read a great piece on how there are so many negative effects to reading the news, with so little positive, such as:

  • News misleads
  • News is irrelevant
  • News has no explanatory power
  • News is toxic to your body
  • News increases cognitive errors
  • News inhibits thinking
  • News works like a drug
  • News wastes time
  • News makes us passive
  • News kills creativity

I strongly recommend you read the full article.

I enjoyed reading this article about the home office setups of journalists and editors working for Ars Technica. I thought I’d share mine, largely as a kind of personal history:

(With all photos, click to see full detail)

I’m using Ubuntu Linux, I’ve used linux as my primary OS for a very long time, and am using Ubuntu through laziness on my part. The prayer time widget in the top left hand corner of the left screen is one I developed myself (kprayertime). Below it is a moon phase widget, you can see it was just after the middle of the lunar month when I wrote this (in the blessed month of Ramadan). You can also see a weather widget that tells me it’s raining a lot in Bristol – well, I already knew that. Various items belonging to my daughter and wife are scattered on the desk, every few days I have to ‘send’ things back to their owners, usually by throwing them onto the respective bed. The desk lamp was given to me by my friend Zubair. There’s an uber mouse mat with the map of the world, that is now up-side down. An IKEA clock and Aldi watch can be seen, together with some Kumon homework.

Here you can see my wife’s books, and others about science, the philosphy and history of science and other miscellanea. Notable books for me in terms of my personal development are “Godel, Escher and Bach” and “Complexity, Entropy and the Physics of Information”.

Here we have a distilled collection of IT books. Such is the ephemeral nature of IT books that recently I gave/threw away two thousand pounds worth (well, spent) of IT text books due to lack of space in the flat. Below those is the books I studied during my physics degree, and some travel books below them. In the early 1990s I bought the book “The Science of Fractal Images” at Foyles in London. I spent many Saturday afternoons up and down Charing Cross Rd (also eating far too many pizzas at the Pizza Hut there) and bought my first islamic book at The Middle-Eastern Bookshop at the south end of the road. I think it was ‘The Book of Knowledge’, the first book in Imam alGhazali’s Ihyaa’. I also bought various books by Muhammad Asad including his translation of the Qur’aan. I think it’s fair to say that these books still have a great influence on me. Subhaan Allaah when I look back at my life there are definitely times when I was guided like an arrow to the straight path, in terms of knowledge and people.

This bookcase largely contains miscellanea, including various books about language in general, which is an interest of mine. The maps are there because when I travel I like to keep the maps that I used, as a memento. A number of the linguistics books are my wife’s, whose PhD thesis (in arabic-english linguistics) can also be seen.

Here we have various islamic books and below them some arabic language learning resources. I now teach arabic to beginners and intermediate level, while continually trying to improve my own level of arabic too.

We’re getting on to pride of place now, these books and those you can see below are on either side of me when I am doing my prayers, reading the Qur’aan or meditating on life, the universe and everything :-). There are numerous translations of Imam alGhazali, particularly from his Ihyaa’. A notable book is Searching For Solace, a biography of Yusuf Ali. A sad tale but which somehow sums up the state of the muslim world at the moment. Various books by Charles Le Gai Eaton, who I think writes beautifully about islam and explains it so well to the Western mind. Because he has some heterodox views he is not promoted by the muslims, which is a shame.

We’ve reached some truly great books now. Bottom left in blue and white are some grammar and morphology books by Antoine Dahdah. I love those books. We then have various less technical books about iman and other important islamic topics. Above them we have Sharh wa Tahleel of alHikam al`Ataa`iyya by Dr Ramadan Buti (they’re up-side down too – how did they get like that!) which is an explanation of the great book by Ibn `Ataa’illaahi alIskandariyya. My wife chose many of these books when we came back from Syria. There are the five volumes of Sufficient For Seekers of the Path of Truth which is a fine translation of the great book AlGhunya.

Pride of place, of course, goes to the masaahif (copies of the Qur’aan) and tafaaseer (explanations of the Qur’aan). For those who can’t read arabic the red and gold volumes are Tafseer utTabari, an explanation of the Qur’aan largely based on hadith narrated about the meaning of each ayat. The black and gold volumes are Lisaan al`Arab, a wonderful (and huge) dictionary of arabic. There are hundred of thousands of words, often accompanied by arabic poetry (or hadith or ayats) giving an example of the word in use. At the top, physically and metaphorically, are the masaahif, copies of the noble Qur’aan.

Writing the above has made me realise why I cart some of these older books around, even though in a sense they represent a skin that has been shed. They are a part of my history and remind me of the times when I was reading them. They serve as a type of authentication that my islam is not based on an ignorance of the pinnacle of Western knowledge, but as an ascent from it to higher goals.

If you enjoyed this post then please do something similar yourself and let me know!

P.S. my wife is complaining about the mess in the photos, but I wanted it to be ‘as-it-is’ 😉

I love my job of architecting, designing and implementing (programming) IT systems – metaphorically we build elaborate castles in the sky. There is a joy in solving difficult problems and then, after a long period of reflection, analysis and craft, we gratifyingly see the solutions appear before our eyes.

The development of IT systems remains a poorly understood business – it’s unlike other disciplines that seem comparable, such as building bridges or tower blocks. The IT system often takes much longer to develop than expected, and can even fail to deliver anything of use at all. There are many different approaches and there is still great debate as to which one is best. As an individual I feel I’ve learnt a lot about the field, but it’s a type of experience (I’m loath to call it wisdom) that I find hard to explain, regretfully, to new practictioners of the ‘art’. I have established one rule of thumb however, which is that keeping things simple is, truly, the hard part. Unfortunately for me I’ve had to maintain one too many bits of code where the author thought that being ‘clever’ and writing algorithms that were complex and hard to understand, was something to be proud of. On the contrary, it’s crafting simpler-to-understand algorithms which solve the same problem that is an achievement worthy of note.

So, I struggle to express the lessons I’ve learnt over the years. That’s why I’m so delighted having just watched Rich Hickeys lecture “Simple Made Easy”. He articulates many of the important lessons that I’ve learnt over the years, and a lot more. Usually I don’t watch videos as the information content per hour is so low that it just can’t compete with reading a book. However, Rich has managed to beat the information density of most books in his great one hour talk (link below). He elaborates on the contradistinction between simple/complex vs easy/hard. He moves on from a really entertaining philosophical talk in the first 20 minutes into a brilliant analysis of the pros and cons of different approaches in programming languages. Rich, by the way, fairly recently invented one of the best new languages on the block, Clojure.

If you’re a hardened disciple of XP/Agile (i’m just a humble practitioner myself) then fasten your seatbelt. I think this lecture actually kicks off the next debate that IT professionals should be having. Rich formulates a number of philosophical principles and then gives a detailed view on how they apply to the job of programming. You may not agree with everything he says, but you’ll be entertained and ready to discuss the issues in the upcoming round of serious IT debate.

Anyway, on to that lecture:
Simple Made Easy – Rich Hickey

I myself didn’t understand why he thinks switch statements are so bad – if you thing you got it then please explain in the comments!

An interesting essay on how too much focus on a particular `aqeeda can be a negative thing.

I am honored to share the following insightful reflections and observations, on a topic that is usually approached in a divisive manner, from my esteemed teacher Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi. Although this blog normally serves to share my personal writings and work, I feel that in this case,  Dr Akram took the ideas straight out of my heart and expressed them in words I could never have come up with. So I share them here for my esteemed readers, reproduced from the Nadwi Foundation.

Some Reflections on ‘Aqidah

All Rights Reserved.

© Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Oxford

A creed is a special kind of formal statement of religious belief or collection of such statements. A very good and justly famous creed among the Sunnis is the document known as al-‘Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah. I will be discussing it at some length. First I wish to clarify the framework in which I will present…

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A khutba of the husband’s obligations towards his wife,  using summarised extracts from one chapter of the very good book  “The Fragile Vessels” by Muhammad alJibaly


Prior to Islam

In societies that had deviated from the straight path women were considered a tradeable commodity. Similarly during the arab period of jáhiliyya prior to the advent of Islam, the woman’s position was extremely poor, being considered part of her father’s or husband’s property. AlHamdulillaah with the coming of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the right position of women was upheld and established.

With Islam came the sound way for men and women to deal with each other. Before going over the specific rights of the wife over her husband let’s first look at some Islamic qualities that apply especially between a man and a wife:

  • Good manners

Good manners are a distinctive characteristic of the religion of Islam. Abu Hurayrah reported that the prophet said:

“I have only been sent by Allah to complete the good manners” (ibn Sa`d, alHaakim)

He also said: “The best among the believers are those with the best manners” (Ibn Majah)

  • Truthfulness

Allah swt praises truthfulness in many places of His Book, and condemns liars.

  • Humbleness
  • Mercy and Kindness

The two spouses should show utmost compassion and mercy towards each other. They should be quick to overlook faults and forgive each other. The prophet pbuh said:

“The merciful ones are granted mercy by the Most Merciful (arRahmaan). Show mercy to those who are on Earth, and the One above the heavens will show mercy to you”

  • Avoid arguing and quarrelling

Frequent arguing and quarrelling is a sure way to undermine the ties between the married couple and should therefore be avoided. The prophet is reported to have said

“I am a guarantor of a house on the outskirts of Jannah for one who abandons arguing, even if he is right; and a house in the center of Jannah for one who abandons lying, even if he is joking; and a house in the highest place of Jannah for one who has good manners” (Abu Dawud)

The Obligations

Now lets look at the specific rights of the wife over her husband. The prophet  said:
إنّما النّساء شقائق الرجال

“Indeed women are the full sisters of men”

“I strongly admonish you in regards to the right of the weak ones – the orphan and the woman”

“You have rights on your women, and your women have rights on you”

We have traditions from the prophet (peace be upon him) relating to the rights that our wives have in all the following areas:

  • Protection

Security and safety are most important for a human being. One needs to feel reasonably secure in order to function normally and perform one’s regular tasks: Quran 4:34:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَآءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعضَهُم عَلَىٰ بَعضٍ۬ وَبِمَآ أَنفَقُواْ مِن أَموالِهِم

<<Men are caretakers of women, since Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because of the wealth they have spent>>

  • Ghayrah

As a demonstration of a man’s love towards his wife he should have ghayrah for her. Ghayrah is the great concern about her well-being, and the zeal to protect her from anything that might harm her person such as an evil touch, word or look.

  • Avoiding unnecessary suspicion

The prophet said: “When one of you is back from a long journey, he should not suddenly come to his family by night” (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Safeguarding her secrets

It is greatly prohibited for a man to expose is wife’s secrets, especially in matters of privacy that no person would normally know except the husband, such as birthmarks, reaction to some intimate action etc.

  • Financial Support

One of the husbands major responsibilities towards his wife and family is providing financial support. The prophet said:

“They have a right on you – that you provide them with food and clothing in a fitting manner” (Muslim, Abu Dawud)

This support is in accordance with his capability, Allah swt says (2:286):

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفسًا إِلَّا وُسعَهَا‌

<<Allah does not burden a person beyond his capacity>>

  • Self-sufficiency

A man must seriously view his financial responsibility toward his wife and family. He should not look to others for help before he has exhausted all possible means of becoming independent and self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency brings a feeling of security and dignity to the whole family.

Abu Hurayrah may Allah be pleased with him, said that the prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said:

وَاللَّهِ لأَنْ يَغْدُوَ أَحَدُكُمْ فَيَحْتَطِبَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهِ فَيَبِيعَهُ ، فَيَسْتَغْنِيَ مِنْهُ ، أَوْ يَتَصَدَّقَ بِهِ ، خَيْرٌ لَهُ مِنْ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ رَجُلا فَيَسْأَلَهُ ، فَيَمْنَعَهُ ذَلِكَ ، إِنَّ الْيَدَ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الْيَدِ السُّفْلَى ، وَابْدَأْ بِمَنْ تَعُولُ

“By Allah, for one of you to go in the morning, collect firewood, carry it on his back, and sell it to suffice himself and give charity from it: that is better for him than going to a man and asking him – he either giving or denying. That is because the upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (taking) hand. And start (giving) to those for whom you are responsible.”

  • A highly rewardable charity

The messenger of Allah said:

“Whatever a man gives to his wife is a charity (in his record)” (Ahmad)

he also said:

“When a muslim spends on his family, thereby seeking Allah’s reward, it is regarded as sadaqa for him” (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • The best form of spending

A man’s concern should first be about reasonably sufficing his wife and family. It is reported that the messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:

“When Allah gives one of you some good, he should start be spending on himself and his family members” (Muslim, Ahmad)

  • Adequate support is an earned right for the wife

If a man does not financially support his wife in a manner compatible with his financial resources and her needs, she would be justified to take, without his permission, a portion of his money that would suffice her and her children. Aisha rah reported that Hind bint `Utbah came to the prophet and said “Oh messenger of Allah! Indeed Abu Sufyan is a stingy man. He does not give me what would suffice me and my children – except for tht which I take without his knowledge.”

He said:

خذي من ماله بالمعروف ما يكفيك و ما يكفي بنيك

“Take of his money, in a reasonable manner, as much as would suffice you and your children.” (Muslim)

  • The great sin of neglect

The prophet saw said:

“A sufficient sin for a person would be that he neglects those whom he feeds”

  • Providing her with food, clothing and other basic needs

Allah swt says in surat alBaqara 2:233:

وَعَلَى المَولُودِ لَهُ  رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسوَتهُنَّ بِالمَعرُوفِ‌

<<And upon the father is their (the mother’s) provision and clothing according to what is reasonable>>

  • Providing a reasonable dwelling
  • The dowry (mahr)
  • Kind treatment and compassion

Allah says in surat an Nisaa’ 4:19:

<<Live with them (your wives) in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good.>>

  • Understanding the woman’s different and fragile nature
  • Entertaining the wife
  • Fairness and justice

It is an obligation on the husband to treat his wife and family with fairness and justice.

The prophet pbuh said:

“Avoid oppression, because oppression will result in deep darkness on the Day of Resurrection”

  • Equal turns


I’d like to share these beautiful islamic aperiodic patterns with you, created using software researched and developed by two Argentinian brothers (Luis Fernando and Julian Eduardo Molina Abaca) with software / scientific backgrounds.

See more of their research here and here.

You can read more about these patterns and some ongoing scientific research (relating to quasicrystals) at physicsworld.com (requires free registration).

Recently a young Indian CEO died, possibly from lack of sleep, and it caused a lot of comment on a discussion forum that I read regularly (Hacker News). Although this forum is primarily for IT guys, this story generated a lot of interest because these guys, like so many of us, are very interested in maximizing their day, making the most of the time they have. Carpe Diem and all that. Hence they are very interested in techniques to minimise the amount of sleep required, and the possible side effects thereof.
This phenomena of trying to squeeze in as much as possible into the day manifests itself in many areas. Among parents in the UK there is a culture of trying to give your child exposure to so many activities – swimming, language lessons, maths tuition, horse riding – and the parents spend all their free time shuttling their kids from one place to another.
I myself suffer from this same problem of feeling that I don’t get enough done in the day, that too much is neglected. However, is this not the result of having the wrong priorities? As a muslim the most important thing is to do the right thing, not to do as many things as possible, many of which (frankly) have little benefit in this world, and none at all in the next. If we could just slow down and do a few good things well, that would be so much better for us.