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In general, a language can flourish as long as it remains a functional language, a living language. The scene in present-day India has completely changed, and with the free market economy and globalization, whether one likes it or not, any language and its literature will have to compete for survival in the open market. A language and its literature can no more survive only on state patronage. If it tries to do so, it will perish. Urdu’s case is illustrative. The leadership of Urdu, an admixture of half-baked and superficially ‘knowledgeable’ university teachers and regressive Muslim politicians, is still churning out the same old tired clichés of anti-government policies, and Urdu literature has been going down the same path as Sanskrit. Urdu as lingua franca will survive, Urdu as a written language in dini madaris will survive, but it has already ceased to grow as a literary language. Muslim politics and its proponents have successfully convinced the Urdu-speaking Muslim population that Urdu is a ‘Muslim language’ and that the government and the broad Hindu majority are anti-Urdu. So, they assert, it is their duty to save Urdu as part of their religious duty and most Muslims are convinced by this argument. -- Ather Farouqui

 

I can’t help contrast the pathetic state of affairs among Muslims with the conditions of a community from my own state of Karnataka that I am familiar with—the Lingayats. Once a rather poor and marginalized community, today the Lingayats are among the most advanced communities in Karnataka. This revolution was, in part, brought about because their enlightened and progressive religious leaders worked together with their political leaders to empower their people economically and educationally. Because the Lingayat religious gurus understood the importance of modern education they were able to convert their mutts or monasteries into centres for educational excellence. Lamentably, Muslims cannot cite more than a few ulema across the country who are doing such work. -- K. Rahman Khan

Political awareness, educating Muslims about the importance of secularism and democracy, is really crucial. In this regard, I think the existing Muslim or Urdu media and ‘leaders’ have failed to play the role they should have. Instead of providing sensible advice and properly educating Muslims, the Muslim media and ‘leaders’ have just one job—to protest and complain—against the state, against Hindutva outfits and against other communities. This is a very negative approach. What we need is a positive approach and positive efforts, not negative reactions that cannot change things and that, in fact, make them worse. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Not only in UK, but Urdu poetry thrives across Europe though it could be more popular. Point is that those who want to write haven't got the time to study and put their thoughts on paper. But those who write are being appreciated. A lot of research, reading and writing is required, as poetry isn't easily composed. It's the art of conveying a message or describing a thought in a few lines. Poetry is an abstract statement of humankind, a creation. Every poet is a father, mother and god by this definition. Poetry is what one experiences. When I write a nazm, ghazal, geet or doha, I make sure the listener understands it. My favourite form of poetry is geet. -- Sohan Rahi

 

There is certainly extensive religious education on offer in the mosques, but what is offered is not usually youth-oriented. It is usually dogmatic and preaches a kind of Islam with which many young people don't feel much of a connection. Various empirical studies on the subject have shown that this is why many young people distance themselves from Islam and lose interest in religious issues. They don't want a religion that imposes restrictions on them. What they want is a religion that is there for them, one that understands their concerns. -- Mouhanad Khorchide

 

We have the model of the Prophet Muhammad to explain the correct meaning of the term qawwam. His first wife Khadjiah looked after him when he was in distress. He worked for her, in the business that she ran. He took the advice of another of his wives, Umm Salamah, on many issues, contrary to some Muslim scholars, who argue, without any convincing proof, that a Muslim man may take the advice of his wife but must do precisely the opposite of what she recommends. The Quran also approvingly mentions the case of the Queen of Sheeba, who was the ruler of Yemen. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is a well-known Egyptian Islamic scholar. In 1982, he joined the faculty of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at Cairo University. In 1995, he was promoted to the rank of full professor, but controversies about his academic work led to a court decision of apostasy and the denial of the appointment. A hisbah trial started against him Islamist groups and he was declared a heretic (Murtadd) by an Egyptian court. Consequently, he was declared to be divorced from his wife, Cairo University French Literature professor Dr. Ibthal Younis. This decision, in effect, forced him out of his homeland and seek refuge in the Netherlands, where he now works. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he speaks about his work and reflects on his efforts to promote a humanistic reading of the Islamic tradition. -- Yoginder Sikand

Habib Ali Zain al-Abideen al-Jifri was born into a family of noble lineage extending in an unbroken chain to Imam Hussein, the Grandson of the Prophet (PBUH). Habib Ali is from the majestic city of Tarim in Southern Yemen. Nestled in the ancient valley of Hadramout, Tarim has been a center of learning and spirituality for centuries. Habib Ali received a classical Islamic education from illustrious scholars of Hadramout, embodying a methodology which crystallizes the middle way of Islam, Islamic jurisprudence, a respect for the difference between jurists and a spiritual education drawn from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. – Yemen Times

Photo: Habib Ali Zain al-Abideen al-Jifri

 

Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri is the Pakistani Islamic scholar who recently made headlines with the publication of his 600-page fatwa prohibiting suicide bombing. Ul-Qadri is one of Pakistan's most prominent clerics, and he believes that his fatwa represents a complete theological rebuttal of every argument used by Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In his fatwa, Dr. ul-Qadri asserts that terrorists do not go to heaven but instead are bound for hell, and he utilizes Quranic references, hadith, and scholarly interpretations to reinforce his opinion. Dr. ul-Qadri told Asharq Al-Awsat that he hopes his fatwa will have an affect on the ground and prevent Muslim youth from becoming brainwashed by terrorist ideology. -- Mohammed Al Shafey

Photo: Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri

As for the repeated denunciation at our convention of the terrorism of groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Lashkar-e Tayyeba and so on, is concerned, it is our Islamic duty to speak out against them. We Shias believe that what they call ‘Islam’ is not Islam at all. Nor are their actions that of true Muslims. They are giving Islam a bad name. They are enemies of Islam. They are also viscerally opposed to Shias — they have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Shias in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. -- Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar, President, All India Shia Personal Law Board

The madrasas that were newly founded through the colonial power, the so-called "Aliya" madrasas or high madrasas, served to educate Persian-speaking civil servants so that Muslims could also later be integrated into the administrative apparatus and the English would have access to their language. As a reaction, the Muslims in Bangladesh established their own so-called "Qaumi", or people's madrasas, in an effort to provide an alternative to the British educational system. The "Qaumi" madrasas are still today the dominant tradition throughout the subcontinent. They are largely insulated from any State influence. In colonial times the English already left the "Qaumi" madrasas alone to do as they pleased. They have never been subject to any controls. The government of Bangladesh still has no control mechanisms with which to register these schools. -- Shaheen Dill-Riaz

 

WHY I CRITICISE ISLAM?

I criticise Islam because I was born in it; I could observe it closer.

- Samira Makhmalbaf, Iranian film-maker

You know, the Quran talks so beautifully about marriage and about relationships. I'd to love to find the day when you know, we hear an 'Obedient Husbands Club' I've never heard that one, but yes, there are women who do believe that .. I think that's down to some conservative interpretation. I think the fact that they've set it up, to prevent their men from straying, from having affairs, really is placing the onus on women, rather than saying "Look, as a man, you should be controlling your base desires, that you need to change your attitude," when really in this day and age, both men and women have the responsibility in ensuring that a marriage is a good one. And the tranquility between the hearts of a man and a woman within a marriage. And that's what should govern a marriage, it's a very beautiful way that God talks about relationships. -- Ms Sara Khan spoke to Sen Lam

We are not talking of a Bangladesh that has emerged as a cricketing nation, one with a Nobel laureate, and ironically, as one where terror is finding roots. We are talking of the 1971 war, the Mukti Bahini and the influence of Bengali culture. Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age, which won this year's Commomwealth Writers' Prize for the Best First Book, is on the phase of the country when it was finding its free soul. Aparna Nair talks to the author of A golden age.

When Tahmima Anam went home to Dhaka to cast her vote in the now-postponed election, she found a nation in chaos, tormented by corruption and brutality. We publish her impressions.

 

She's a Canadian feminist Muslim whose book The Trouble With Islam Today has become an international bestseller, but is banned throughout the Middle East. A fierce critic of her religion, she lives behind bulletproof glass. Geraldine Bedell, The Observer, London, meets the woman being compared to Martin Luther.

BJP leader L.K. Advani tells  N. Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, New Delhi : "Hinduism is not the name of a religion. It’s more of a national connotation. I was just reading an old book by that famous historian of philosophy, Will Durant… For him, Hindu and Indian are totally synonymous.

I was telling you about Deendayal Upadhyaya, who has been the greatest influence on me, in terms of conduct as well as in terms of my thinking. He said: ‘In independent India, we want India to be a secular country in which all citizens are equal. Hindutva should be equated to Bharatiyata. Bharatiyat is a Hindu. Indianness and Hindutva are synonymous. Don’t make a distinction between the two. It should mean nationalism essentially.’ Therefore it is that I grew up with cultural nationalism."

 
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