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Cultural & Social Issues

 

Cultural & Social Issues

A Collection of Articles

 

by

 

Saqib Hussain

 

Copyright © Saqib Hussain 2015

 

                         Shakespir Edition

Author’s introduction

Why I have published this book? There are many cultural and social issues we are faced with today. This book contains useful information on a few of these including identity, needs and wants, mortgages, collective prayer and others.

This book is for everyone with the aim of enlightening and improving the lives of all. It is made up of articles I have written for the Voice of Unity magazine, a very fresh and forward looking magazine which publishes articles on various topics including faith, interfaith, science, culture and social and others. The culture and social section of the magazine can be found on:

http://www.ius.org.uk/vou/culture-social/

I hope all who read this book benefit.

Please also review my other work including:

Sweet Bird – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/566363

Contemplate – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/571344

Narration of the Cloak – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/578624

Saqib Hussain

Contents

Who am I?

I want I want!

Child Pressure

High as a kite?

Let’s pray

In a rush?

Screens, screens everywhere

Mortgages – do your homework!

Who Am I?

 

A question many of us may have asked from time to time, especially whilst growing up. I remember actually writing a poem called ‘Brit ”ish”’ many years ago to describe how I felt then. Despite being born and brought up in England I was conscious of being “different” in terms of my religion and skin colour. However on my visit to Pakistan, the country of my ethnic origin, I still didn’t feel fully Pakistani either despite sharing the religion and skin colour of the majority there. I couldn’t speak the language fully and wasn’t as familiar with the way things work. Essentially I felt neither here nor there, neither fully British nor fully Pakistani.

 

When we consider identity I believe a lot of the confusion comes from considering the concept from a nationalistic or continental point of view; “British”, “Pakistani”, “European”, “Arab” etc., rather than going much deeper in considering the essence of who we really are. Islam cuts through these webs of confusion, interpretations and viewpoints. It tells us we are the creation of Allah (SWT), residing in bodies which will die and our souls will return to Him to be judged on our deeds and rewarded and punished accordingly.

 

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware’ Holy Quran (49:13).

 

Therefore Allah (SWT) wants us to perfect our character and have good, strong conduct. We won’t be questioned on the Day of Judgement about what our nationality was, whether we were “British”, “British Asian”, “Arab” or “African” we will however, be questioned on our conduct thus this needs to be our area of focus.

Excessive pride is a sin and extreme pride in our nationality or ethnic origin can also be deadly. Many wars and genocides have occurred and in some places still occur due to one group of people perceiving themselves as superior to another group. Examples include the Holocaust as well as the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. Political leaders and others with influence used (and still use) nationalistic, ethnic and religious differences to plant the seeds of divisions between communities; fuelling hatred which in turn leads to these horrendous crimes. Of course, the “divide and conquer” strategy has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years to split up communities to make it easier to gain control over them. Therefore, it is imperative that we are careful and view identity from the Islamic viewpoint; i.e. although we are all individuals and have our own personalities and preferences ultimately we are all part of the human race and here to worship Allah (SWT). All people, Muslims and non-Muslims have more in common than differences. We all have good and bad within us; we have hopes, dreams and undergo trials and tribulations in life. Imam Ali (as) tells us that:

 

“[*A person is either your brother in faith or your equal in humanity” *]^1^

 

Furthermore, as human beings we are prone to change; the non-Muslim today could become one of the most pious Muslims tomorrow. Even so, regardless of whether or not they do, as illustrated in the above quote, they would still be our brothers and sisters in humanity.

In general it’s fine to identify ourselves through a nationalistic or continental viewpoint as long as it doesn’t lead to excessive pride, racism and affect our attitudes and actions towards others. We must make efforts to get to know and respect one another.

 

Moreover although we’re all in one sense unique from an individual perspective, we must also strive to feel and foster good relations with the Ummah (community) and society at large. It is essential that we remember we are part of this collective group striving towards all that is good. Society is made up of a collection of individuals, and when they unite for positive change, their force and impact will be significantly multiplied and thus more effective.

 

Identity

Sometimes people ask me where I’m from

As if it was a question on some quiz

Well I was born and raised in Britain

But am also of Asian heritage

 

Here I am known by various names

Asian, British, South Asian, to name a few

Now, which one should I take?

If in this situation – what would you do?

 

And then I think about this word – “identity”

This feeling for wanting to be individual, unique

Identity – is it really that easy to simplify?

To group ourselves into boxes labelled neat?

 

This desire for uniqueness, identity

Can be found in everyone, in every land

And, just like peace, and love,

The search for it is as old as man

 

We all have different life experiences

And different families, upbringing, hopes and dreams

So we are already so individual, unique

And to explain further what I mean:

 

Remember that just as each morning the sun rises

And each second of every day is new

There has never been, and will never be, another me

And there has never been,

and will never be another you

 

I also sometimes feel an amicable affinity

With those of the same culture, language, race

And this shared collective identity gets clearer

As my thoughts begin to gather pace

 

There is nothing wrong with feeling part of

A shared culture, a shared identity

But the largest group to which we belong

Is the group of humanity

 

At the core of our beliefs, our rules of law

Are standards of moral, ethical righteousness

And values, principles, should be the guiding factor

Which guides, brings together and unites us

 

Yes we still keep our individual identity

And yes we have a cultural identity too

But don’t forget our belonging to the human race

So have the whole rather than the narrow view

 

Poem taken from the book “Contemplate” by Saqib Hussain

 

References:

[1] http://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-2-letters-and-sayings/letter-53-order-malik-al-ashtar [_(under “the qualifications of a governor and his responsibilities” section) _]Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53 – Letter to Malik Al-Ashtar

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I want I want!

 

Sounds familiar? Many kids often plead with their parents about what they want; in the past it was toys and now it’s usually more expensive gadgets such as the latest phone etc. As adults, we also sometimes give in to impulses and buy things well beyond our means, perhaps a very expensive car or items of clothing. Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with having expensive items if it is within ones affordability and they are also paying the Zakat and Khums on wealth; however the problem arises when this goes to excess.

 

Alhamdulillah, material needs for people are very few, mainly food, shelter and clothing. However, our wants can be endless – multiple holidays abroad a year, the latest computers, phones etc. Also, when needs are taken to excess, they are actually wants; for example, eating is a need but when we insist on eating at expensive restaurants this is a want; similarly, spending  a lot on designer label clothing, renting/mortgaging property beyond ones means to afford etc. are also  wants if cheaper alternatives are available.

Many of us may throw away food on a regular basis too due to buying too much and/or improper planning. Allah (SWT) has not forbidden the good things in life, but he has forbidden excess:

“O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” (Quran, 7:31)

 

As always the middle way is recommended. We are neither to be too stingy or too extravagant:

 

“And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent.” (Quran, 17:29)

 

As per the ayah above, many people have experienced bankruptcy and home repossession by the bank due to living too extravagantly and beyond their means.

 

The more one tries to fill his or her wants at all costs, the more stress and trouble is experienced. First, there is the constant striving for money and possibly position to facilitate the goal of meeting various desires. This detracts attention from doing everything for the sake of Allah (SWT) and instead the individual is striving to satisfy their own desires. Then with each desire, whether a better car, bigger house, more money, there is desire for even more – an even bigger house, even more money, indulging in more physical desires e.g. eating more and more to try and enjoy the wealth etc. Corresponding to this is a chain of illnesses of the body and heart and, ironically, the emptiness and thirsty desperation actually increases, as in the wise words of our sixth Imam:

 

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, “The example of this world is like the example of [salty] seawater; whenever the thirsty drinks from it, he gets more thirsty, until it (the seawater) kills him.” (Al Kafi[*)*]

 

Before undertaking any major decision in life and also on a daily basis question whether your actions are for the sake of Allah (SWT) or not; be honest and careful not to convince yourself that something displeasing to Allah (SWT) is pleasing to Him.

 

Also, be clear in your purchases in whether something is a need or a want and, if it is a want, then whether it is well within your affordability. Encourage children to have the same attitude so they grow up with positive habits and follow the middle way as prescribed by Islam.

 

 

 

Child Pressure

One of the common expectations, if not the most common, of newly married couples is that they will have a child early on in their marriage.  Of course for some couples this does happen, I know of a couple who were married for only a few months before announcing they were expecting a child. But for some couples the wait could be much longer – I know two couples who were married for over six years before announcing they were expecting their first child.

The pressure in the waiting period before a first child can sometimes be quite intense. There is likely to be pressure felt by the couple’s own desire to have a child as part of their next stage of life, to experience a major life experience. However, sometimes there may be pressure; often from well meaning relatives and friends, who may first start with general casual remarks, and build up to more direct, formal questions like “is there anything wrong? Why haven’t you had a child yet?”

 

There are often various reasons for this; often parents of the couple are keen to have grandchildren, especially if they haven’t any from their other children. This, again, can come from them wanting to move on to the next stage of moving from parents to grandparents, as well as a desire to pass on love, advice and guidance. A desire to see their family line continuing after they have passed away.

 

Of course bearing children after marriage is highly recommended in Islam and, as with all positive aims, we are expected to take the halal steps to achieve them, for example if applying for a job, as well as praying, completing a good application is also important.

However, ultimately we need to always remember nothing happens without Allah’s (SWT) will and permission:

 

Say: “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector”: and on Allah let the believers put their trust.” (Quran, 9:51)

 

As Muslims, we believe everything happens with Allah’s (SWT) will, yes we have free will to make decisions on many things and make efforts, but whether or not these decisions and efforts bear fruit, what kind of fruit they bear etc. is in His will alone.

 

What can couples do if faced with pressure, whether from their partner or relatives and friends?

 

*
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Never blame the other spouse and find fault, publicly or privately

*
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Be patient and remind yourself and others that what we want to happen will only happen if within Allah’s (SWT) will

*
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Continue to make efforts to achieve your goals

*
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Regarding the last point above, we have a saying from Imam Ali Reza (AS) that asking for Allah’s help without making efforts is self-mockery, therefore in all goals personal, work, spiritual, making effort is an essential component:

 

Doing seven things without doing the seven other things is self-mockery: asking for forgiveness from Allah verbally without repenting with the heart; asking for Allah’s help without undertaking any effort; making a firm resolution to do something without taking due precautions; asking Allah for Paradise without enduring the related hardships; beseeching deliverance from the Hell-fire without refraining from lusts; remembering Allah without anticipating to encounter Him.” [Imam Ali Reza (AS)]

 

Therefore couples, families, and friends should endeavour to stay patient and accept Allah’s (SWT) will, and that He will do what is best for us, and that He is the Most Wise and knows what is best for us.

High As A Kite?

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Most if not all of us know someone who has taken drugs at least once in their life or we may have even taken them ourselves. Unfortunately it’s a common problem and many youngsters in school are falling into it. Most commonly the first drug people try is marijuana also known as cannabis or “weed”.[1]

In some schools and colleges cannabis is so common it’s no different to smoking tobacco. The common use of a drug can lead people into a false sense of security, thinking that it can’t be that harmful if so many people do it. However, we hardly hear of the harmful effects of drugs.  The addiction is a bitter reality that engulfs the individual in their personal struggle, amplifying the harm to society too.

 

I once taught a college student who used to sell drugs as well as take them himself; thinking there’s no real harm. In the short term the harm can be limited to damaging their health whilst wasting their money. However, in the long term the repercussions could be harsher. They could develop a dependency, turning to crime to pay for their habit; they could lose work and family, fall into depression and in some instances even face death. The damage is not limited to a personal level, but ripples out to society. They could harm those close to them and their community. It can result in broken homes which would affect children adversely, consequently leaving a scar on the future generation.  The last time I spoke to my student he said he’d stopped dealing and taking drugs but is awaiting his court date regarding whether or not he will be sent to prison. The ripples of his earlier decisions continue.

By the Mercy of Allah (swt) He has given us guidance more precious than we can ever understand to save us from destruction:

 

O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.” (Quran, 5:90)

Knowledge and the desire to follow this verse saved me at university when people around me were experimenting with intoxicants. Whilst at university I knew someone who initially was smoking cannabis and one day came back to the flat with marijuana laced with heroin! Once you start disobeying Allah (swt) in one area and think it’s not so bad, it can soon lead to the next step, then the next and before you know it Allah (swt), Islam, doing good and purifying oneself are the last things on your mind.  It reminds me of the verse:

O you who have believed do not follow the footsteps of Satan. And whoever follows the footsteps of Satan – indeed, he enjoins immorality and wrongdoing…..” (Quran, 24: 21)

Sadly there are Muslims who take intoxicants despite the clear prohibitions in the Holy Quran. I recently heard from a friend about a Muslim couple who divorced because the wife found out after marriage that her husband was a drug addict.

 

People may say they take drugs as a “short-term fix” to problems, however drugs never fix problems. They only increase them. Only putting energies into fixing them can fix them. Drugs may temporarily make you forget about your problems, however, once the effects wear off the problems remain yet the person is left too low and drained of energy to do anything about them.

 

Intoxicants shouldn’t be taken for any reason. As well as the harm they pose, they are also haram (forbidden). Out of Allah’s (swt) Compassion and Wisdom He has made harmful things haram (forbidden) for our protection. Don’t think you’ll just test drugs out and stop later on, or other people have taken them and seem ok, because they’re harmful to your body, mind and soul. Don’t despair of the mercy of Allah (swt), make efforts to rid yourself of the habit and if you know anyone close with the habit don’t join them but don’t abandon them either and guide them to help. May we strive to follow the merciful guidance of Allah (swt) to save ourselves, families, friends and society.

For more information on the types and harmful effects of drugs see the NHS website. [2]

 

If you are taking or know someone who is taking drugs, please access the help available on the drug treatment services section of the NHS website [3] and the talktofrank website. [4]

^1^https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/drug-misuse-findings-from-the-2012-to-2013-csew/drug-misuse-findings-from-the-2012-to-2013-crime-survey-for-england-and-wales

^2^http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/drugs/Pages/Drugsoverview.aspx

^3 ^http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Drug-treatment-services/LocationSearch/340

^4 ^http://www.talktofrank.com/

 

 

Let’s Pray

 

When was the last time you prayed? Not a question we usually ask each other, but one we should probably start asking ourselves, especially given its many benefits.

 

Prayer is important in many religions and collective prayer is also encouraged, as seen with Friday prayers in Islam, Sunday church gatherings, as well as gatherings at temples, gurdwaras etc. during special occasions.

 

However, collective prayer in churches in the UK has been declining for a number of years; in October 2013 approximately 1 million people participated in a Church of England service each week 1  compared to about 1.6m in 2003, and statistics show there’s been a 1% year on year decline over that decade, i.e. very few regular church goers, given the demographics of the country.

Recently, the arrival of immigrants from predominantly Christian countries such as Poland and Romania, as well as immigrants from Africa, have helped boost church goer figures, however, this hasn’t stopped the overall rate of church goer figures from declining.

 

Of course statistics on the number of people who regularly attend mosques and other religious places of worship are harder to find, and statistics on the number of people who pray at home are even more difficult, if not near impossible to ascertain. However, in many mosques there are large Friday congregations and many people do uphold their daily prayers.

 

But what is the importance of prayer and worship? What difference does it make if people attend church and other gatherings less?

O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous” (Quran, 2: 21)

Prayer helps us to attain taqwa – piety and God Consciousness. This which helps us ward off evil, become better people, and live a positively productive life. A decline in churchgoers signifies reduced opportunities for society to increase this piety, and a risk of a more distant society from religion and spirituality. This, in turn, can lead to a feeling of emptiness, as religious and spiritual needs aren’t being met as well as potential increased risk to engage in immorality.

 

Islam places high emphasis on both individual and collective prayer to increase piety. In addition to the five compulsory daily prayers in Islam, other acts of worship such as fasting are also aimed at increasing piety, for example; fasting strengthens the power of self restraint which can help us restrain ourselves from sinning.

O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Quran, 2: 183)

However, it is important to note that piety is also the sole criterion for the acceptance of deeds by Allah (swt):

“…Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him]” (Quran, 5: 27)

 

So not only does prayer and other acts of worship help increase piety, but performing acts of worship from piety, i.e. from someone who wards off evil and struggles towards righteousness, is also the sole criterion for the acceptance of deeds.

 

Making a loud show of prayers in public, acting devoutly etc. does not carry any merit with Allah (swt) and it is the state of people’s hearts that matters:

Do not let their crying deceive you, because piety exists only in heart” (Imam Ja’far al Sadiq (AS), Bihar al-Anwar, vol 70, p 286)

 

It is a great blessing to have the five daily prayers in Islam, Ramadhan, as well as the countless other acts of worship, including supporting oneself and family, reading optional dua’s, ziyarah’s, acts of charity, visiting holy places, assisting orphans, and the remembrance of Allah (swt).

 

All religions have a framework for prayers and collective worship and should be respected as a means of establishing and maintaining a connection with the same God who created and nurtures us all.

 

As well as benefits of these acts of worship in the next life, there are countless benefits in this life too including peace of mind, better health, better relationships, stronger societies, as well as benefits we may not always perceive. For example, recently after Friday prayers groups of people were chatting and catching up when one man mentioned that one of his relatives had passed away, we offered condolences and prayed for the deceased and he was visibly moved by our emotional support and prayers. Similarly recent refugees and immigrants who may otherwise be on the fringes of society due to language and financial barriers, are pulled in and supported at least once a week by the pillar of prayer and can meet people at the mosque who can support them, so there is great wisdom and blessings behind congregational prayers too as well as individual worship. We should strive to uphold our prayers.

^1 ^https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2112070/2013statisticsformission.pdf  (see page 5, executive summary)

^2 ^http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/03/church-attendance-propped-immigrants-study

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a rush?

 

Do you ever feel rushed? Not just sometimes, but most of the time?

Many of us feel there is too much to do and too little time, causing us to always feel behind, stressed and anxious with a constant need to catch up.

Technology has been designed to make life easier with much of technology produced to save time. Take for example inventions such as motor vehicles which help shorten journey times as they do today, as well as high speed trains and aeroplanes. E-mails, texts, Whatsapp, mobile banking etc. are examples of inventions saving us considerable time.

 

The irony is that despite so many technological advancements that in theory should save time, many of us still feel rushed. Why is this? There could be a number of reasons, one of which may be that much of the time we save, we spend on other excessive activities. For example, official statistics collected a few years ago found adults in the UK spent on average over 4 hours a day watching TV^1^. That’s not to mention time spent idly browsing the internet on iPads, mobile phones etc. Thus, just like being financially wealthy doesn’t necessarily mean you have a large bank balance if most or all of that money is constantly being spent. In the same way, time saving technological advancements don’t necessarily free up our time if they are not utilised correctly, with time spent on other less productive activities.

 

Another reason why we feel out of time is that, although we may not be wasting much time, we may be trying to cram in too much into a day. What we may need to do is simplify our life, take a step back and focus on what is important, how much time we can afford to dedicate to these important activities whilst still taking care of ourselves and not neglecting other duties.

 

The side effects of feeling too rushed include, as well as agitation and stress, more vulnerability to accidents and mishaps. For example, many years ago I was with friends on the motorway in a rush to get to my destination and crashed the car, thankfully no-one was injured but it took considerable time and expense to replace the steering wheel with a new airbag, new headlights etc. And of course there are the countless dishes broken, cups of drink spilt etc over the years from losing awareness and rushing.

In fact whilst rushing I have noticed it is difficult to stay aware and mindful, and a slower pace is more conducive to mindfulness. Eckhart Tolle in his book “The Power of Now” asks whether there is joy, ease and lightness in what we are doing. When we are rushing the tendency is that we are just trying to finish that activity off as quickly as possible in order to move onto the next one, and the next one, and the next one which detracts from the enjoyment and appreciation of it and the present moment.

 

As with everything, the middle way is recommended in Islam:

 

And be moderate in your pace…..”[* (Qur’an, 31:19)*]

 

A good disposition, deliberation in work and to adopt the golden means in all affairs, are of the qualities of prophets”(Hadith [2])

 

Reflecting on where and how we spend our time and making adjustments accordingly, not rushing or being too slow but being moderate in our affairs as well as of course improving our character, are actions required in Islam. The more effort we make in these areas the better the quality of life we can attain here and in the hereafter.

^1^http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/media-centre/news/report-reveals-latest-uk-tv-watching-trends-NEWS35

^2 ^http://www.al-islam.org/brief-history-fourteen-infallibles/first-infallible-holy-prophet-islam-muhammad-ibn-abdullah-peace#some-ahadith-holy-prophet  – number 95

 

 

 

Screens, screens everywhere!

 

When I was 15 years old, I got my first mobile phone. At the time it couldn’t do much.  Since then, mobile phones have come a long way and so has our relationship with them.

These devices can save us a lot of time, such as searching for information or shopping . However, they can also waste a lot of time. Many people spend hours and hours on computers idly “surfing” the endless waves of cyberspace. Others spend hours playing games on mobile phones whilst watching back to back episodes of various dramas on TV, doubling our exposure to screens at any one time.

 

It’s even common for people to “double screen” or even “triple screen”: watching TV, whilst using both a mobile phone and a tablet. In fact, a study by GAME found double screening has become the norm for 80% of Brits ( www.dotrising.com). The amount of time we spend on computers, phones, tablets etc. is a large chunk of most of our lives. To some extent it is almost unavoidable in some situations, such as at work, and can become excessive. In fact, for many of us, this could mean the time saved by using these devices is often outweighed by the time wasted on them.

 

So what could be the consequences of this? We usually use these devices sitting down, which can contribute towards a sedentary lifestyle, lack of time spent on exercise, and over straining the eyes, i.e. adverse health implications. Another is the impact on relationships – talking to someone whilst staring at the TV or phone, especially if they have something important to tell you, is unlikely to help clarify issues and provide comfort.

 

Relationships, like anything else, require attention to grow and strengthen. If our attention is always on a screen then we cannot strengthen relationships as much. There is a hadith from our beloved Prophet (PBUH) [*“The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” *]Being good to your family includes giving them the attention and time they deserve.

One of the ironies of our time is that whilst we have all these devices to save time, as well as other technology such as microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers etc., we still feel so rushed, as if we haven’t got enough time. Part of this may be because the time we work so hard trying to save, we waste so easily on excessive time spent on phones, tablets and other technology. They are very useful if used correctly, but of course like everything, as long as it is in moderation.

 

Tips to avoid spending too much time on screens:

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Set yourself time limits – for example, if you want to research the web, only give yourself 20 minutes, which can stop you from unproductive surfing

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. When talking to someone, give them your full attention and put your phone away

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Avoid excessive amounts – it can be easy to watch episode after episode with TV on demand, but be firm with yourself

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Make time for your family – organise trips out, visit family and friends, play games as a family etc. You will be surprised at how much fun you can have without a screen!

 

Staring at some screen

Tap tap on the keyboard

Click click on the mouse

Been doing this all day now

Not stepped out of the house

 

What have I been searching?

What websites have I been on?

I can’t actually remember

And the whole day has gone!

 

I still have so much work to do

It feels like such a load

But first I’ll sit in front of the TV

And catch up on a few episodes

 

(A few years pass like the above):

Still not much done, got so much to do

One thing I’d like to know

Please can you help me understand

Where does all the time go?

 

(50 years later):

I can’t talk much of what I’ve done

Who I’ve met, where I’ve been

To be honest most of my life

I’ve been staring at some screen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mortgages – do your homework!

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Saving Money – Property

One of the largest decisions many of us may face is whether to buy or rent a property. In some circumstances renting can be more convenient than purchasing property, particularly if you want something temporary or if you don’t wish to be tied down to a location. However, in the long term it might not be the best move to make financially, since renting effectively means you are paying someone else’s mortgage. They will most likely price the rent at more than their monthly mortgage payments in order to make a profit.

Renting can also be seen as “dead money” as you have nothing to show for it at the end. I rented on and off for 7 years spending tens of thousands of pounds with no property in my name at the end of it. On the other hand, purchasing property with a mortgage means that although you are still making monthly payments, these may be even lower than the average rent prices and you will own a property once the mortgage is paid off. Furthermore, it can also be seen as an investment since the value of the property is likely to increase considerably with time.

One of the main hurdles faced when purchasing property is raising enough money for a deposit. Despite some offers handed to first time buyers 1 allowing them to only put down a 5% deposit 2 ; given property prices in some areas such as London, even raising 5% of the house value can prove to be difficult. There is no doubt that saving enough money for a deposit requires disciplined saving as well as potentially asking for help from family.

But what about interest rates? In Islam caution is required when it comes to interest. However, Ayatullah Sistani permits taking out a mortgage provided the intention is not to take a loan and pay interest despite you knowing you will have to pay this, (see last question on this reference 3). Rather, your intention should be mainly to provide a home for yourself and your family and making a long-term financially sound decision.

Initially when planning to take out a mortgage the main things to consider are:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Amount to be borrowed - How much are you going to borrow from the bank? The more you put down as a deposit the less you need to borrow. For example if a house costs £250,000 and you put down a 5% deposit, that means you've put down £12,500 and you will need to borrow £237,500.

Your Loan to Value (LTV) (this is the loan amount divided by value of the house, multiplied by 100 to convert to a percentage) is then 95%. However, if you put down 10% i.e. £25,000 your LTV is only 90% and you only need to borrow £225,000.

The lower your LTV is, the better your mortgage deal will be as the amount of interest you pay is partly based on your LTV.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Terms of loan - How long are you going to spend paying the loan back? Most people opt for a 25 year or 30 year mortgage term. The advantage of a long- term mortgage is that your monthly payments will be lower however overall you will pay a lot more interest in comparison to paying your loan back in a shorter amount of time.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Interest rates – The higher your interest rate the more interest you pay back. Your interest rate depends partly on your LTV and partly on what type of mortgage deal you go for 4.

The main types of mortgage are:

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p<>{color:#000;}. Fixed Rate – Your interest rate stays fixed for a period of time, e.g. 2 years or 5 years. This means that if the Bank of England increases their interest rates your interest rate stays the same for your fixed rate period, i.e. your interest rate is not affected by the increase. The longer you fix for the higher the interest rate you pay as you’re passing more of the risk to the bank.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Tracker - This tracks the Bank of England base rate so as long as this rate stays the same (currently very low at 0.5%) then your mortgage rate stays the same but when the Bank of England increases the interest rate then your monthly payments also increase. Tracker mortgages are usually quoted, for Bank of England base rate +1.5% (BBR +1.5%) so currently your interest rate would be 0.5% + 1.5% = 2% but if the Bank of England increase the base rate to 0.75% then your interest rate goes up to 2.25%.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Variable Rate – On this rate your bank can change the rate whenever they wish, whether or not the Bank of England changes their rate, thus it is generally seen as the riskier option.

Fixed Rate Offset
It may also be worth considering a fixed rate offset mortgage. This is where the bank calculates the interest on your mortgage on the net of the loan and savings in your bank account without you needing to actually use your savings to pay the mortgage^11^.

Important note about interest rates

When you take out a mortgage, although the interest rate may seem low, in reality you will pay back a lot more than you may initially think. For example, say you borrow £200,000 over a period of 25 years and your interest rate is 5%. You may do a normal percentage calculation (£200,000 * 5% = £10,000) and assume this is the amount of interest you'll pay back. However, if you input these details into a repayment calculator 5 you will see the interest you'll pay back is over £150,000! Consequently, in total you will pay back £350,000 altogether: £200,000 loan + £150,000 interest i.e. 75% interest.

But why is the interest paid much higher than you initially thought? Well, it’s because banks using a different formula for working out interest repayments, which can include multiplying by the power of the number of years of the mortgage. Before signing up to a mortgage deal make sure you get a Key Facts Illustration 6 [*(*]KFI) document which should state for example “For every £1 you borrow you will pay back £1.75”. It will give you a much clearer idea of what you should expect to pay.

If you choose an interest only mortgage it means you only ever pay the interest each month and are expected to pay back the full amount borrowed at the end of the term. However, a repayment mortgage is the most common type. It is less risky and is where your monthly payment pays off both the interest and capital. 7

Even with a repayment mortgage, in the early years most of each month’s payment is just paying the interest for that month, as the interest is so high. Over time a greater percentage of the monthly payment goes towards paying off the capital.

So, how can you save money and pay off your mortgage earlier?

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p<>{color:#000;}. Borrow less – The less you borrow the less interest you pay and the quicker you can pay back your loan. In Islam we are encouraged to be moderate and not overstretch ourselves, so if you are only a couple there is no need to stretch yourself so much and try to buy a 4 bedroom house near Central London if it is going to be too much of a financial burden.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Borrow over a shorter term – If you can, try to choose a 25-year payment term instead of a 30-year one, or a 20 year one instead of a 25 year one, as the shorter the term the less interest is paid overall.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Get the lowest interest rate possible – This is partly determined by your LTV but you also need to shop around. You should also check your credit report, if your address history is incomplete or you aren’t registered on the electoral register or even registered at two different councils; your credit rating can be adversely affected. This means your preferred mortgage deal could be rejected and you may need to end up taking a more expensive one. Check your credit report before applying for a mortgage; you can get a free report from Experian 8 using their 30-day free trial before the end of which you have to cancel it to avoid the monthly fee.

So the amount, term and interest rates discussed earlier all need to ideally be low.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Make overpayments – Say your bank asks you to pay £1000 per month, in the early years most of this will go towards interest and a small amount towards the capital (the amount actually borrowed) however, every pound you pay on top of the normal monthly payment will go towards the capital. This is due to the fact that the interest for that month has already been paid thus you will not be paying interest on that amount again over the whole term of the mortgage. So if you pay £1200 instead of £1000 you take an extra £200 of the capital and save a significant amount of interest.

In fact using an overpayments calculator, 9 if you have a £200,000 loan at 5% interest over 25 years your monthly payments are around £1,168. However, if you increase your payments to £1,368 you save £41,749 of interest and pay off your mortgage over 6 years earlier! This £41,749 would be a complete saving, as the capital would have had to be paid anyway. A significant number of homeowners have overpaid in recent years ^10^.

However, before taking out a mortgage check if your bank allows you to make overpayments, as some do but have limits. For example, First Direct allows you to pay 10% of your outstanding loan balance back in overpayments each year, which is easy to stay within during the early years but not towards the end of the term.

Before taking out a mortgage deal always ask if they calculate the interest daily, monthly or yearly. Ideally you want your bank to calculate the interest on your mortgage daily or monthly. This is so that when you overpay in your monthly payment or even just pay the normal amount the interest for the next month is a bit lower as it takes this reduction of loan outstanding into account. If your bank only calculates interest yearly then you only see the benefit of the overpayments after a year.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Shop around - Even if you recently bought your house and have barely dented your loan, you could still get a better deal due to your LTV decreasing. For example, say when you bought your house it was worth £250,000 and you put down a 10% deposit of for example £25,000 so you borrowed £225,000. Your Loan to Value would then have been 90% (loan of £225,000 divided by £250,000 value, * 100 = 90%).

Now let’s say that after 2 years you only pay off £10,000 of capital because most of your monthly payments are covering interest. If your house value increases to £300,000 your LTV will significantly decrease. That’s because your LTV is now an outstanding loan of £215,000 divided by the value of the property of £300,000 which would give you an LTV of 71.7% compared to the previous LTV of 90%. It’s significantly lower mainly due to the increase in value. The lower your LTV the lower your interest rate, deals are normally quoted at 95% LTV, 90% LTV, 85% LTV (i.e. in bands of 5%) so you could get a 75% LTV deal or overpay and/or wait for the value to increase to bring your LTV down to 70% and get a better deal.

Note- If you are on a fixed term deal such as 2 year fixed or tracker you are likely to have to pay a penalty fee for coming out of the deal early. Your best option here would be to work out if it’s worth it or not. If you are near the end of the deal it is always worth shopping around to see if you can benefit from your lower LTV.

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p<>{color:#000;}. Do your research – Ensure you do some thorough research before deciding on whether to buy or rent and which mortgage to take out etc.

Overall although mortgages can be very expensive, you can still save a lot of money by following the tips above. If you are sensible in terms of the amount you borrow, shop around for the best deals, as well as try to regularly overpay by fixing your standing order higher than the amount the bank asks for, you can save a lot of money and pay years earlier. Also by the time the loan is paid off, you will hopefully own a property that has risen significantly in value. In an area where house prices are rising quickly you may find your yearly mortgage payments are much lower than the rise in your home value so you could actually be making money on the property from your first year. Sound financial decisions are important in Islam. We work hard to earn halal money so should be careful to spend it in the right way and save where possible.

1 http://www.moneysupermarket.com/mortgages/first-time-buyers/

2 http://www.knowyourmoney.co.uk/5-percent-deposit-mortgage/?gclid=CjwKEAiA1JuyBRCogJLz4J71kj0SJADsd6QRm7prqq0K4Bs6OVyhQvSI7csXTHLUJEOVIrSWT-DvlBoC217w_wcB

3 http://www.sistani.org/english/qa/01256/

4 http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-1583960/Fixed-rate-vs-tracker-variable-SVR-mortgages.html

5 http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/mortgages/repayment-calculator

6 https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/keyfacts-documents-explaining-your-mortgage

7 http://moneyfacts.co.uk/guides/mortgages/repayment-and-interest-only-explained/

8 http://www.experian.co.uk/

9 http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/mortgages/overpayment-calculator

10 http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/apr/09/take-years-off-your-mortgage-overpaying

11 http://www.moneysupermarket.com/mortgages/what-is-an-offset-mortgage/

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Cultural & Social Issues

  • ISBN: 9781311649058
  • Author: Saqib Hussain
  • Published: 2015-12-27 15:40:07
  • Words: 7430
Cultural & Social Issues Cultural & Social Issues