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Books and Documents

Books and Documents

Indian Muslims have fought and laid down their lives for the land and the idea of India. Brigadier Mohammad Usman and Havildar Abdul Hamid are names that stand out among a legion of martyrs....

 

Islamic history is usually taught to us as a kind of closed universe, unlike Judaism or Christianity where world empires loom large and historical personages such as Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Alexander make appearances. But even with Islam, we sometimes get hints of a subtext....

 

Reflecting Khan’s understanding that spirituality isn’t something cut off from daily life, but, rather, deeply rooted in it, this book is framed around anecdotes from the lives of people (famous as well as ‘ordinary’), aspects of Nature, key events in the history of countries, reports in newspapers and so on....

 

... a thin, neatly dressed young man wearing a floral patterned shirt approached him from the pavement. He put his hand through the open window (of the car), and the nearly blind Mahfouz, thinking it was one of the many well-wishers who still congratulated him for his Nobel, reached out his own hand to shake it. But instead of grasping Mahfouz's hand, the youth thrust a long switchblade knife (twice, according to one of the surgeons who treated Mahfouz), very hard, into the eighty-two-year-old writer's throat....

In the patriarchal world of South Asia, women have to act tough or risk being toppled by men. In a sense, this applies universally, as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was often said to be “the only man in the cabinet”. Sheikh Hasina is authoritarian and harsh, bordering on cruel....

 

When you want to put a lock on the collective mind, you embrace “ideology”. This is a recipe for creating a uniform mind but you have to add a bit of punishment to make it hold. Religion comes in handy because it allows you to punish deviation....

 

Barren sandy desert, extremely hot climate, and scarcity of water resources made the heartland of the Arabian Peninsula an inhospitable abode for man since ancient times. Its original people were pagans, except for some Unitarians (ahnaf) who contemplated on the Oneness of God. In the post Judeo-Christian era, pockets of wet fertile land attracted Jewish and Christian settlers from the adjoining regions, and became isolated centres of trade and commerce. However, the vast stretches of the desert heartland that only sustained a nomadic life, remained in a primitive state until the advent of Islam. The nomadic tribes had preserved their ancestral paganism, with each tribe having its own idol; and the Ka‘ba, a cubical shrine at the heart of an ancient sanctuary (Haram) in Mecca, was the centre of idol worship. The nomadic Arabs were largely unlettered, had no notion of central state or kingdom, and their social and moral norms were based on traditions (Sunnah) and dictated by the struggle for survival. .....

This precariousness, this sense that one can quickly be cast out of a community, is something that appears regularly in this collection, whether the expulsion is from a Western society, caused by an unwelcome opinion....

 

My ideological adversaries hastily call me non-religious (rather than irreligious or anti-religion). They wish to possess the sole right to explain what religion is and express their own opinions about it. They also want to decide what action needs to be taken concerning matters religious.....

 

Since the second half of the 20th century, “Political Islam” has gained a momentous place in academic circles—its genesis, its intellectual figures, and their influence and contribution globally. It is defined variedly, and depends on the scholar’s approach as well as on the context in which they use it....

 

Muslim communities also take flak for their patriarchal values – but there’s a twist. Khan assures us that Islam isn’t the reason Muslim women are oppressed. The real problem lies with patriarchal “cultural interpretations of (the) faith”. ...

 

“Aristotle’s Way” carefully charts the arc of a virtuous life that springs from youthful talent, grows by way of responsible decisions and self-reflection, finds expression in mature relationships, and comes to rest in joyful retirement and a quietly reverent death....

Swami Agnivesh’s reminder that ‘true spirituality is not the exclusive preserve of any particular religious tradition, but the common heritage of the human species,’ is very pertinent, as is his advocacy of a spirituality that is ‘a call to practise justice and to liberate the oppressed’....

Quranic Encyclopaedia consists of eight volumes in which 5000 topics have been covered. The list of the topics covered is on 400 pages, the abstract of these topics are covered by eight volumes...

 

..and it will indeed prove helpful to students and scholars of Islamic Studies and Philosophy/ Sufism....

 

While the authors recognise some of the things their faiths have in common, they also refer to aspects in their respective religious traditions that radicals have misused to foment violent conflict ....

The author is convincing when he says that a large section of Muslims do not try to understand the significance of certain events which took place during the Prophet’s lifetime in the context of the 20th or 21st century. ...

 

The animating spirit of Judge Faqih, and of this engaging film, is the possibility of reforming that society from within. She expresses no desire to lessen the role of religion in everyday life, but she does call for re-interpretation and evolution. “I’m shocked at our religious education,” she tells a group at the Women’s Ministry. “In the Quran verse about the devil, they put a picture of a woman. Where does that leave us?”...

 

“Here then is the problem that we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war? There lies before us, if we choose continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”...

Jewish people to this day have three daily prayer services, or tefillah.. The first is the Morning Prayer, or Scacharit, then the afternoon prayer, or Minchah and the evening prayer, or Maariv. The background and the philosophy of the three daily prayers are found in the Telmud but the references can be found in the Hebrew Bible, and are traced back to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Kneeling (Ruku) and prostration (Sujud) are considered signs of humility before God and part of the rituals of the Muslim prayers....

 

The process of working for global peace must start with the individual, the Dalai Lama rightly indicates. In this regard, he quotes the well-known saying: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” The primary cause of violence, he points out, are negative emotions. These need to be overcome by inculcating a positive state of mind. Instead of criticising others, the Dalai Lama advises, we should strive to change ourselves....

 

In 1996, Pakistan’s retired Air Force chief Asghar Khan wrote a letter to the then chief justice of Pakistan alleging that the then President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Army Chief General Aslam Beg, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani and ex-Habib Bank Sindh chief and Mehran Bank owner, Younis Habib, had doled out Rs 140 million among several politicians ahead of the 1990 polls to ensure Benazir Bhutto’s defeat....

 

It is interesting to note that throughout the book, Iqbal mentions or quotes great thinkers of the past and present from both East and West, thus accommodating intellectuals of all types be it agnostic giants like Nietzsche, Russel etc or religious ones like Ghazali, Ibn-al-Arabi etc. However, one extremely vital message for Muslims of 21st century is found in the Preface’s ending where he says, “there is no such thing as finality in philosophical thinking....

 

Few have inspired the Movement for Black Lives as much as James Baldwin. His books that plumb the psychological depths of U.S. racism, notably Notes of a Native Son (1955) and The Fire Next Time (1963), speak to the present in ways that seem not only relevant but prophetic. However, Baldwin’s renewed status as a household name, cemented by the critical success of Raoul Peck’s 2016 film I Am Not Your Negro, makes it easy to forget that for several decades Baldwin fell from public favor.

Her being able ‘to embrace all cultures and religions’, as she puts it, probably made her ideal for this. Another area where she made major practical contributions, and which she recounts in considerable detail, are peace-building and working with Muslims to oppose terrorism in the name of their faith.  This is a fascinating account of a very eventful life, one rooted in faith and remarkably open to various traditions and cultures.  It is a story of a life led with meaning and purpose, seeking to creatively and sensitively respond to some of the most pressing concerns the world is beset with today....

 
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