Social Issues

Time for Government’s ‘Self-Reinvention’?

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /18 October) – Early morning after my short presentation at the ‘terror’ in Marawi forum held last June 30 in Ateneo de Davao University (see “Is ‘terror’ Marawi’s single story?” https://www.facebook.com/mansoor.limba/posts/1739728119661013), I received an unexpected email from one of the forum’s organizers. Part of the message thus reads:

“Upon hearing your presentation, constructivist and postmodern lessons and lectures from my ‘Theories in IR’ class came back to me in waves – and I cannot agree more that indeed, the ‘terror’ in Marawi is a result of a ‘construction’ designed to shape opinions and views. Thank you for reminding me that… to focus only on one aspect of an incident/case/situation is folly… Your insights have awoken a more sensitive Atenean in me.”

More surprising to me, however, was the foresight in this question of one of the young participants during the Q&A session: “After the Marawi Crisis, in what way should the government ‘reinvent’ itself in order to defeat violent extremism?”

Literally means “to produce something new that is based on something that already exists” (Cambridge Dictionary), or “the act or an instance of replacing a product with an entirely new version” (Collins Dictionary), ‘reinvention’ was originally solely used in the field of science and technology. Later on, the concept of ‘personal reinvention’ has found its niche in psychology, particularly in the subfield of personal growth and personality development. Soon after, we also began to see the notion of ‘self-reinvention’ in political anthropology and sociology. In digital media studies, our age is also sometimes dubbed the ‘Age of Reinvention’.

In Islamic philosophy, there is a classic theory of transubstantial motion (al-harakat al-jawhariyyah) by Mulla Sadra (c. 1571-1640), who considers substantial motion to be a gradual existential transformation occurring in the very inner structure of things, and therefore, a thing or substance which is currently in a certain ontological state is undergoing a continuous and gradual inner transformation until it reaches a new ontological state.

Going back to the question, two points must be borne in mind in any attempt to answer it. First, violent extremism is both a social ill and a symptom of other social ills. As a social ill, violent extremism’s ideology as well as its pull factors (what attract a potential recruit) must be truly uprooted. As a symptom of other social ills such as endemic corruption, social injustices, economic deprivations, and moral decadence, among others, violent extremism must be vigorously addressed alongside those other social ills.

Second, winning the battle in Marawi does not necessarily mean winning the war on violent extremism. The former is basically a military fight while the latter is a wide-ranging combat. The victor in the former’s arena is not necessarily triumphant in the latter’s zone. The end of the siege is not a safety guarantee for another city not to be under siege in the near future. Neither the deaths of Isnilon and Omar could preclude the rise of Isnilons and Omars in the days to come.

In view of these two points, the government is supposed to ‘reinvent’ itself in the best possible way in at least six areas, namely: (1) Marawi rehabilitation, (2) violent extremism’s nature, (3) violent extremists’ definition of ‘enemy,’ (4) regional cooperation, (5) military doctrine and strategy, and (6) comprehensive framework on PVE-CVE.

(1) Marawi rehabilitation

In the Marawi rehabilitation program, the government is supposed to faithfully observe the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), particularly Section V on durable solutions (principles 28-30 related to return, resettlement and reintegration); otherwise, the reported new armed group describing itself as ‘Maranao Victims Movement’ (MVM) will eventually turn into a full-blown armed organization (see “New armed group born in Marawi, Lanao Sur,” http://www.ndbcnews.com.ph/…/new-armed-group-born-in-marawi…).

(2) Violent extremism’s nature

The government’s concerned agencies are supposed to understand that violent extremism is an interfaith as well as intrafaith issue. For instance, the ISIS upholds a takfiri ideology which declares other Muslims as non-Muslims and apostates. It is a threat not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims; in fact, most number of their victims around the world, and in Marawi, for instance, are Muslims. In its official English magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, Muslim personalities and entities are vehemently castigated. Hence, what we have here is a war of all against a common enemy.

(3) Definition of ‘enemy’

Upholding a particular ideology, these violent extremists have an extended definition of ‘enemy’ or ‘combatants’. As such, civilians are prone to become victims of bombings and kidnappings that may happen in the aftermath of the Marawi Crisis.

(4) Regional cooperation

As the current chairmanship holder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippine government is supposed to forge serious regional cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security threats such as transnational non-state actors. The identification of a certain Malaysian university professor, Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, as the next leader of the remaining ISIS fighters in Marawi – some eight foreigners and 20 locals – certainly shows the urgency for such cooperation.

(5) Military doctrine and strategy

There is really an urgent need for the government to review and revise its national military doctrine and strategy in order to competently deal with non-traditional security threats. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s many inaccurate ultimatums on the end of war in the course of almost five months since the siege obviously show his and his top generals’ lack of real ‘appreciation’ of the intricate spatial-temporal nature of urban warfare in the information age.

(6) Comprehensive PVE-CVE framework

Most important of all, the government is supposed to come up with a comprehensive framework on both preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE-CVE). An ASEAN-wide forum on preventing violent extremism (PVE), for instance, simply misses the point that ‘prevention’ implies that the thing to be avoided or prevented is not yet around. In the case of violent extremism, however, it is already here in our backyard; nay, it has already burned down a whole city. Hence, it requires fire-fighting, not fire-prevention. Nevertheless, in areas where there is no burning yet, fire-prevention is in order.

Moreover, any comprehensive framework to be developed must contain two essential elements that must go hand in hand, viz. all-inclusive development, and tolerance and respect for diversity. It is very difficult to teach tolerance and respect for diversity to a person who is hungry, economically disenfranchised, politically and historically wronged, or ideologically disoriented. In the same manner, for someone to be financially well off is not a guarantee for his being tolerant and honoring diversity. One may be rich and at the same time, intolerant of others. In fact, an affluent that subscribes to an ideology of hate, bigotry and violent extremism is far more damaging than a pauper who subscribes to the same.

Conclusion

To wrap up, what is even more fundamental than this ‘self-reinvention’ by the government is the personal reinvention of each of us along this line. Everybody is supposed to come out of the cocoon of his or her own indifference and passivity, and to morph into an active participant. Everybody must be a gallant warrior in countering the narratives of violent extremism in all arenas and platforms. All reservists are called for duty. Nobody must remain inside the barracks.

Now is the time to enlist. Now is the time to ‘reinvent.’

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Photo via ericbrown[dot]com

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Already a Moot and Academic Question

During the recently concluded international conference on “Japan and East Asia in the Midst of Change: Carving a Path for the Region,” it’s my first time to experience being the last paper presenter in the concluding plenary session.(Panel on Japan and Mindanao: Past, Present and Future Challenges)
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It’s also my first time to experience presenting a conference paper whose main question was rendered ‘moot and academic’ by a supervening event in such a short time.

On April 25, 2017 – that is, almost a month before the Marawi Siege (May 23) – I submitted to the conference secretariat the abstract of my paper “Is There Already ISIS in the Philippines? Its Security Implications Toward the East Asian Region.”

At a time when the military was persistently denying ISIS’ presence in the country (“Bay’ah: The Missing Link in the Military’s Denial of ISIS,”http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-bayah-the-missing-lin…), I can’t blame the leading member of the secretariat who confided to me later that upon receiving the paper abstract, he said, “Anong klaseng abstract ito; panakot!” (“What an abstract is this; it’s terrifying!”)

After enumerating five (5) security implications and briefly discussing each of them, I concluded thus, “The answer to the question – ‘Is there already ISIS in the Philippines?’ – is already moot and academic, with the siege of Marawi City on May 23, as illustriously conveyed by these photos in which the AFP is posed as ‘ISIS Hunter’. Can you hunt something that is not present?”

After my presentation,, a visiting Japanese scholar approached and whispered to me, “Do you think there is already ISIS in Japan?”

“I haven’t come across any news or information about its presence there.”

I was almost tempted to tell him also, “But there is already an entity in Japan, as elsewhere, which is tougher than ISIS – that is, the MISIS (wife)!”

Yet, I refrained from doing so, as I was afraid he would answer me, “That revelation of yours is also ‘moot and academic’!

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Photographers

It has been always a wholesome way of ‘giving back’ to snap photos of our photographers who would passionately capture significant moments of our training workshop.

          

Photographers – professional or not – are truly unsung heroes of events and occasions.

They are gallant warriors whose formidable weapons are camera lenses and right angles.

          

They are zealous missionaries whose lofty mission is to capture non-retractable moments and instances in our lives.

          

They are ardent lovers who are infatuated with imagery, enamored by panorama, and enchanted by vista. Their favorite serenade is “Ready, one, two, click!”

         

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Tougher to Negotiate With

The second module we had studied during the Asia-China Peace and Leadership Training-Workshop (Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, July 14-23, 2017) was about International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and for this two-day module, we were lucky enough to have PROF. GUY OLIVIER FAURE as our facilitator or resource person.

Dr. Faure is currently a Visiting Professor at CEIBS, Shanghai, China; Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Sorbonne University, Paris; and Director of International Conflict Resolution Center, The Hague, Netherlands.

Having done extensive works in international negotiations and conflict resolution, particularly in the domains of Long-term Strategic Forecast, Terrorism, and Business Security, Prof. Faure has lectured in a number of renowned universities and institutions including the Harvard Law School and the New York University.

He has authored, co-authored and edited 19 books and over a hundred articles, and one of those books is entitled “Negotiating with Terrorists: Strategy, Tactics and Politics” (Routledge, 2008).

During the second and last day of the module, as the time for lunch was approaching and everybody seemed to be already imagining to hold a spoon, instead of ballpen, I posed a question:

“Sir Olivier, taking into consideration your wide array of experiences in negotiation, both as a theoretician and a practitioner, which do you think is tougher to negotiate with: the ISIS, or MISIS (“wife” or “madame” in Filipino)?

After an unprecedented laughter, Sir Olivier retorted, “Of course, it’s the MISIS because they personally know our soft spot!”

How I wish, Sir Olivier’s next book project will be entitled, “Negotiating with MISIS: Strategy, Tactics and Politics.”

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The Gulf between the Science and Practice of Politics

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /3 June) – At the opening ceremony of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference held last month in Cebu City, the keynote speech – “The Problem of a National(ist) Method” – was delivered by Prof. Dr. Patricio N. Abinales of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

During the Open Forum, I asked the keynote speaker, thus:

“The Asian Institute of Management is located in the Philippines, training hundreds of managers here and abroad for many decades. Now, the PPSA is celebrating more than 50 decades of its existence. On the other hand, we all know the state of political management and governance in the country. My question is: what practical steps will you advise the PPSA to continue closing the gap, or relatively closing the gap, between the science and practice of politics in the Philippines?”

Eager as I was to listen to his answer, I was surprised to receive his extremely economical response which was something like this: “I will give you the answer in a karaoke tonight!”

Amused by his thrifty remark, I just remained silent afterward.

In Panel 2B “Reframing Justice” of the conference, a young lady professor from Keio University, Japan, presented a paper entitled, “The Multiplicity of Violence and Divided Political Perceptions by the Extrajudicial Killings: Why President Duterte Could be Popular in Muslim Mindanao.”

At the outset of her presentation, my impression was that she has undergone field research in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In her presentation proper, however, she made the following points: (1) In the ARMM area, to have a rifle in every household is just normal; (2) The Muslim community is described as one which is composed of ‘Muhajirun’ and ‘Ansar’, and ‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists while ‘Ansar’ are those who help the jihadists; and (3) President Duterte’s federalism agenda is an example of political violence.

In the Open Forum, the lady moderator announced that she will only entertain two questions due to time constraint. Although I was raising my hand from the very beginning, a professor from Manila was recognized. After him, the lady moderator said that for the sake of gender equality, she will entertain a lady from the audience. But afterward, without any explanation, the moderator surprisingly broke her own rule and entertained another lady from the audience. I was about to say, “For the sake of gender equality, to entertain yet another male questioner – 2 males and 2 females – is just fair,” but I decided not to pursue.

If only given the chance to ask, I would have raised the following points:

Rifle in every household

“A cousin of my wife lives in Mamasapano (Maguindanao) and I know for a fact that there is not a single rifle in her house, nor in any of the five houses surrounding hers! Is your claim based on a reliable study? Have you really gone to every house in the whole ARMM area?

“If your claim is really true, then Babu Monera (an old lady resident of Mamasapano who momentarily became popular due to her interview by GMA News TV) could have used her rifle against the SAF heroes who enjoyed looting her small sari-sari store!

“Have you contemplated on the logical consequence of your claim in terms of loose firearms? Can you imagine the huge quantity of such hypothetical loose firearms and how the Philippine government could deal with it?”

‘Muhajirun’ means jihadists

“Madame Professor! Please show to us any Arabic-to-English dictionary which defines ‘Muhajirun’ as ‘jihadists’ or ‘those who perform jihad’.

“’Muhajirun’ means ‘emigrants’ and please do not confuse it with the word ‘mujahidun’ (those who perform jihad)!”

The fact is that the Muslim citizens of the Islamic State in Madinah were composed of the ‘Muhajirun’ – the emigrants from Makkah who were driven away from their homeland – and the ‘Ansar’ – literally, the ‘Helpers’ which refers to the Muslims of Madinah who helped and gave shelter to the oppressed ‘Muhajirun’.

Federalism equals political violence

“As I see it, federalism can be considered a form of political violence if and only if it is arbitrarily imposed on the entire nation without any referendum or similar process or processes. But it is not so, in the case of the present government’s federalism agenda.”

Besides, my take is that to view federalism as a form of political violence has the unintended tendency to overstretch the meaning of the word ‘violence’, and chances are, if everything is a form of violence, then the word ‘violence’ itself would be reduced to meaninglessness – a situation which may be regarded by some people as linguistically ‘violent’.

So is the concept of security in International Relations. When everything is securitized, this state of affairs renders empty elegance and unmeaning futility to the word ‘security’ itself.

In the closing session in which the names of the ten newly elected PPSA board of directors were announced after a secret balloting, I was imagining the crucial role of the association – the largest group of political scientists in the country – in trying to close the gap between the science and practice of politics.

The fact that blatantly inaccurate information such as ‘muhajirun equals mujahidun’ is disseminated in its annual international conference shows that closing this gap is indeed a herculean task on the part of PPSA.

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Mediating Negotiation, Negotiating Mediation

donkey

MAKATI CITY (20 September) – Following ‘Id al-Qurban last week, some 30 Moros from various sectors – revolutionary fronts, legal profession, civil society organizations (CSOs), local government units (LGUs), and the academe – gathered not to form a political party or anything of that sort, but to attend a four-day training on negotiation and mediation at Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City.

In partnership with the Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations) and UNDP Philippines, the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG) and the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) organized the “Training-Workshop on Negotiation and Mediation as Instruments for Conflict Settlement” with the aim of providing the participants with the necessary skills sets that could “hopefully help them identify, discuss, and achieve common grounds on various issues confronting the Moro society and negotiate better”.

As his opening salvo, one of the two training facilitators introduced the Onion Model of Negotiation and Mediation, which identifies three essential elements that a negotiator or mediator should know. They are ‘positions’ (outer later), ‘interests’ (middle layer) and ‘wants’ (core). As Wilbur Perlot of Clingendael, a world renowned think-tank involved in the training of diplomats and negotiators the world over, was explaining each element of the Onion Model, I cannot help but look at it through IR theoretical lenses – both positivist and post-positivist.

As I was suspecting from the beginning, the model is indeed based upon liberalism and its basic assumptions on cooperation and drive for gains, as can be deduced from the facilitator’s answer to a lawyer participant who asked about the place of ‘motives’ in the model – ‘motives’ being equated with ‘wants’ which constitutes the ‘core’ in the model.

Contrary to the positivist liberalism which identifies ‘wants’ as the element on which the ‘interests’ and ‘positions’ depend, social constructivism – a midway post-positivist tradition – introduces an ‘inner core’ element – that is, ‘identity’. It propounds that one’s positions and interests are not dictated by his wants but rather by something which is continually shaping his wants. That is his ever-changing identity. Accordingly, not only one’s positions and interests that can be negotiated, but also his wants, provided that his identity also changes accordingly.

As Alexander Wendt would blurt, “Positions and interests are what negotiators make of them!”

Interestingly enough, the lecture sessions were interspersed with mind-bending exercises that simulate actual negotiation and/or mediation, while the refreshment breaks were peppered by spontaneous narration by MNLF and MILF negotiators of critical episodes of actual experiences negotiating with the Philippine government in the past.

The exchange of pleasantries and laughter among the participants, and at times, with the two facilitators as well as members of the secretariat, would remarkably defy the wide age disparity among the participants – from mid-20s to over 70 years old.

As part of the debriefing on “bargaining on the merits,” the other facilitator and mediation expert in both theory and practice, Mark Anstey of South Africa, told us the tale of two donkeys who finally found a win-win agreement on how to deal with two separate fodders. Instead of simultaneously consuming their respective fodders which is impossible to do given their being tied together, donkey A and donkey B agreed to consume together fodder A first and then fodder B. Within the framework of liberalism, it is as simple as that – the two parties agree together to come up with a win-win situation for them both.

But it is not so with structural realism which, like liberalism, is also a positivist tradition, but at the other end of the spectrum. Structural realism does not only settle with an apparent agreement but also questions the intention of each party and even entertains the possibility of deception on the part of one or both parties. Accordingly, after the two donkeys agree to consume together the two fodders, it is not unlikely that after consuming together the fodder A, donkey B is deceiving its counterpart as it intends to kill it so that it could consume fodder B by itself alone.

After undergoing the last exercise which was a simulation of tedious multilateral negotiation involving a concerned citizens’ group acting as the mediator, a central government, a regional police, a group of old protesters with specific constituencies, and a group of young protesters with particular constituencies, one realization I had is that mediating is doing a sort of negotiation while negotiating is undeniably inseparable with mediating works.

In short, mediating is negotiating, and vice versa.

 

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Media Studies 2.0 in Presidential Debate 2.0

Media Studies 2.0

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) – Not too long ago, the study of media would deal with the post-Gutenbergian mass communication through a small number of key forms like the printed books, newspapers, cinema, radio, and television. It was characterized by the writer or reporter shaping the ideas and opinions of the recipient or reader about the events.

This is what mass communications students call ‘Media Studies 1.0’.

With the advent of the computer technology and the paving of the information superhighway, there is now a murky distinction between the news producer and receiver. Gone are the days when the news production owners had the sole monopoly of the creation and production of the events’ narratives.

Through social networking sites, for instance, the ‘conventional’ news receiver could easily react to the news, thereby shaping the opinion of other ‘receivers’. Most often, the news of an event would shape the trend and even the outcome of that event.

In a speech a few years ago about the moral burden of the journalists or media people whom I described as the ‘modern-day poets’, I cited the case of a septuagenarian wife whose fellow septuagenarian husband was reported in the main news outlets to be missing. After sometime, the missing old man was found through the voluntary efforts of young netizens who had helped in locating him throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding towns.

This ambiguity concerning the news producer-versus-receiver and event-versus-news divide is dubbed ‘Media Studies 2.0’.

Once again, Media Studies 2.0 can be gleaned from the second round of Presidential Debate held in Cebu on March 20, 2016. Liberal Party Presidential Candidate Mar Roxas’ “Muslim na mananakop” (“Muslim invaders”) remark provoked various reactions from the social media.

For instance, immediately after the debate, Iyyah Sinarimbo, a young Muslim netizen posted at 10:41 pm (March 20) her “Open Letter to Mar Roxas” in her Facebook page. And it has instantly gone viral. So far, the post has already earned at least 500 ‘Likes’ and 6,796 ‘Shares’.

Then the social media reactions soon turned into another news item in both the print and online media platforms: “Pro-BBL Roxas Hit for ‘Muslim na Mananakop’ Line in Debate” (Rappler, March 21, 2016), “Mar Roxas Hit for ‘Trumped’ Muslim na Mananakop Remark” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 21, 2016) “Roxas Blasted, Defended for ‘Muslim na Mananakop’ Term in Presidential Debate” (Kicker Daily News, March 21, 2016), “Roxas Defends Self Over ‘Anti-Muslim Slur’” (Sun Star, March 21, 2016), “Mar Hit for ‘Muslim’ Remark” (Bandera, March 22, 2016), and “Must Read: An Open Letter from a Muslim Netizen For Mar Roxas Goes Viral on Social Media!” (Cebu and Davao Journey, March 22, 2016).

In a nutshell, Media Studies 2.0 deals with a news story (by the news ‘producer’) that may incite reaction (of the ‘receiver’) which may become another news story (news ‘receiver’ becoming ‘producer’) which, in turn, may elicit yet another reaction (by another ‘receiver’ to the news ‘product’ of the earlier ‘receiver’).

Be that as it may, the Election Day will tell if this online reaction would turn into an offline vote.

(Source: http://www.mindanews.com/mindaviews/2016/03/28/marginalia-media-studies-2-0-in-presidential-debate-2-0)

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Newly-wed Couple’s Travel Provision

30.21

Allow me to open this short message by quoting Chapter 30, verse 21 of the Qur’an, which lays down the philosophy of marriage:

WA MIN ĀYĀTIHI AN KHALAQALAKUM MIN ANFUSIKUM AZWAJĀ – “And among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves…”

LITASKUNŪ ILAYHĀ – “…so that you may dwell in tranquility with them”

WA JA‘ALA BAYNAKUM MAWADDATAWWA RAḤMAH – “…and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).”

From this short Qur’anic passage, certain principles could be derived:

1 – Man and woman are of the same nature – KHALAQALAKUM MIN ANFUSIKUM AZWAJĀ – they only differ in functions as well as duties and responsibilities
2 – One purpose of marriage is to find peace of mind and tranquility of the heart – LITASKUNŪ ILAYHĀ
3 – Under the bond of wedlock, love and mercy are put into our hearts. What is interesting here is that the Arabic word for ‘love’ in this passage is not ‘ISHQ or ḤUBB which also means ‘love’. Instead, what is used here is MAWADDAH, which means ‘mutual love’; that is, a two-way traffic love.

After quoting this passage, let me leave you these reminders:
• Marriage is a religious-social contract which must be abided by both parties in letter and spirit as much as we can.
• Marriage does not mean union of identical personalities, but a celebration of differences and living together with those differences.
• To be in love does not mean looking at each other eye-to-eye, but to look toward the same direction.
• The best way to have the ideal wife is to try to be the ideal husband yourself; in the same manner, the finest method of having the ideal husband is to strive to be the ideal wife yourself.
• Lastly, as you are the earth and moon to each other, don’t forget to revolve together around the same Sun – which is your Ultimate Beloved.

We wish you the best of luck in your new stage of life journey!

RABBANĀ HABLANĀ MIN AZWĀJINĀ WA DHURRIYYATINĀ QURRATA A‘YUN, WAJ‘ALNĀ LIL-MUTTAQĪNĀ IMAMĀ (Our Lord! Grant us comfort in our spouses and descendants, and make us imams of the God-wary). (Q 25:74)

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