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Islamic Culture

Open source programme creators cater to the highest standards and give away their work for free, much like Ghalib who wrote not just for money but the discerning reader Mirza Ghalib, the great poet of 19th century Delhi and one of the greatest poets in history, would have liked the idea of Open Source software. ....

As the conflict in Mali intensifies, it is not just the country’s traditional mausoleums and ancient manuscript collections that may be under threat of loss or destruction. The publication of a further appeal for the protection of Mali’s cultural heritage by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, on 14 January has drawn renewed attention to the threat that the armed conflict in the country now represents for its cultural heritage.....

 

Celebrations of the Prophet’s Muhammad’s birthday are purely cultural for most – the holiday is not Islamic per se. The holiday is contested by some as being “un-Islamic” since orthodox religious establishments do not recognise the holiday religiously and say Islam does not require celebrations of any kind on the Prophet’s birthday, unlike the Eid holidays. Nevertheless, in Egypt, the celebrations are usually colourful and sometimes garish....

Thoufeek Zakriya is an Indian Muslim from the city of Cochin who does calligraphy in a number of languages, including Arabic, Samaritan, Syriac and Sanskrit. More interestingly, he is a Muslim who does masterful Hebrew calligraphy. While studying in madrasa, he learned that the Jewish people were considered by Islam to be ahl al-kitab (“People of the Book”), which sparked a curiosity in him to learn more about this religious community.

 

In some Islamic nations, polygyny is relatively common, while in others, including Turkey, Tunisia, and Bosnia and Herzegovinia, the practice is outright illegal. Even in large Muslim nations that allow it, such as Indonesia, the practice is increasingly unpopular. Non-Muslims dealing with Islamic communities should take caution against making assumptions, letting individual Muslims, their families and communities speak for themselves.

 
The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature - Part II
Rakhshanda Jalil
The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature - Part II
Rakhshanda Jalil

In her play Aurat, Rashid Jahan turned the image of the suffering woman on its head and made her a votary of progress. Fatima, a childless woman, is married to Atiq, a maulvi who is bent upon marrying again, ostensibly to beget an heir but actually to get a younger wife, the daughter of a 'devotee' who will also be more pliable. For all his ostentatious piety and dispensing of charms and amulets to the needy, Atiq is a wily, greedy, typically chauvinistic man who does not think twice about cursing and beating his wife when she questions his authority and wisdom.

 
The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature
Rakhshanda Jalil
The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature
Rakhshanda Jalil

Angarey contained five short stories by Sajjad Zaheer, two by Ahmad Ali, one by Mahmuduzzaafar, one short story and a play by Rashid Jahan. Given the provocative title and the deliberate defiance of existing literary norms by the four young writers, the book unleashed a storm of controversies and marked a turning point in the history of Urdu literature. Critics panned it for its crudeness and immaturity. Religious leaders expressed outrage and outright condemnation, some maulvis went so far as to issue fatwas (decrees) against the book and its authors.

 
Cairo:  Beyond the Pyramids
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam
Cairo: Beyond the Pyramids
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Three days later, when the conference gave over, I shifted to a poky little room at my own expense, which I shared with an army of cockroaches and which fitted my modest budget. It was located in the maze of narrow lanes in Cairo’s Old City Deep into the confusing nest of lanes in the vicinity is the Tent Makers’ Bazaar, on Al-Muiz Street, which must not be missed, where, in dozens of little stalls, men churn out leather tents, boots, felt caps, and patchwork embroidery depicting Pharaonic themes and scenes from daily Egyptian life.....

 

“The poets, who talk only about violence, bombs, junky lovers and vulgarity, do it for short-lived fame. They are not poets indeed,” opines Mr Laiq while referring to some poets, who write such songs for Pashto CD dramas and movies that are sold like hot cakes in the local market. A song can’t be termed popular if it has no lyrical message and just appeals to few persons....

 

There are many visible signs of creeping Wahabism in India. Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy says that one obvious sign is the transition of the Muslim greeting from Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz. "Khuda Hafiz was the more accepted form of greeting among Muslims in India. But in the past two decades or so, ever since Indian Muslims began going to Saudi for jobs, Allah Hafiz has become the popular form," says Anand. "This is the subtle assault of an alien culture. Muslims working in Saudi not only send handsome remittances but also bring in Wahabi influences."....

The deal is, I donate $200 a month, which in turn will provide me an annual tax reduction by 60%. Not a bad deal considering, that could amount a saving of as much as $1000 a year. Satisfied with having done a great deal, I was wondering why I haven't spoken to him before. About a month later, the news broke out regarding an investigation and charges against a senior member of this particular foundation for misusing donation fund, amounting to a few million....

 
Islam Is About Real Love
Nazia Parveen
Islam Is About Real Love
Nazia Parveen

Then, four weeks ago, she completed the ‘revert’ process. She said: ‘I underwent the ‘Shahadah’ ceremony of conversion to Islam by repeating a declaration of faith in front of the Imam at my local multi-faith centre. ‘I had several Muslim sisters with me and they bought me a hijab and Islamic books to celebrate. It was wonderful.’  But she admits that her friends have been shocked at her conversion to a religion which is often seen as being oppressive towards women....

Not educating girls is not the only myth about Pashtuns: Pashtun mothers produce sons so that they can send them to war; fathers will shoot their daughters if a stranger sees their faces. Of course, as the myth goes, they also don't want to send their daughters to schools. And why do they need to send their sons to school anyway, if they are born soldiers in an eternal jihad? But there was no evidence of any such Pashtun culture in the Swat valley I had visited the day before our conversation....

Patiala Gharana: The Saga of the Raga
Dr Mohammad Taqi
Patiala Gharana: The Saga of the Raga
Dr Mohammad Taqi

The association of the early Patiala masters with the Chishti Sufis is reflected in the lyrics of their many compositions but perhaps most clearly in what to me is their magnum opus, the raga Ram Saakh. The legend has it that performing the Khayal ‘piya tore nain’ in the elaborate, ornate and highly complex Ram Saakh, the Patiala pioneer Ali Bakhsh Khan beat a sarangi player Mirch Khan — so named for his fast pace — at the Maharajah’s court....

 
Ghalib Was the Greatest Of Mughal Indian Minds
Rakhshanda Jalil
Ghalib Was the Greatest Of Mughal Indian Minds
Rakhshanda Jalil

My sense of historical linguistics led me to believe that Urdu is at the heart of India's lingua franca, structurally being akin to Hindi and Hindustani, my faith in the composite cultural genius of Urdu never faltered. Unfortunately, Urdu had been the victim of politicization and communalization. This has created difficulties for Urdu in India, but Urdu being a dynamic language has been coping rather well with the changing reality….

 

Trapped in a medieval mindset, most madrasas in India abhor change. Little wonder then that the state government’s recent proposal to bring madrasas into the mainstream through monetary aid is set to be rebuffed, especially by the Deobandi group. Overloaded as it is with Islam—Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic philosophy, Quran and Hadith—the madrasa curriculum turns students into Maulvis who are largely unemployable and unemployed in the mainstream job market....

More than the ulema and the clerics, it was the Sufi saints who made the foremost social contribution to the spreading of Islam in the region. The saints’ interpretation of Islam was more accommodating. Consequently, over the centuries a largely permissive culture of devotional music and indigenously cultivated rituals began taking shape around and inside the shrines....

A leaf from a Persian manuscript of Sa’adi’s Golestan (Rose Garden) signed by the famous Mahmud Mozahheb and dated 968 (1560-1561 A.D.) rose to a gigantic £313,250, more than doubling expectations. A painter and illuminator from Herat, Mahmud had been forcibly taken by the Uzbek invaders to Bokhara, the seat of their Sheybanid dynasty. The Sheybanid ruler was eager to build the Central Asian city into an up-to-date Iranian-style capital of the arts....

 
All This Singing Just One Song!
Raheel Raza
All This Singing Just One Song!
Raheel Raza for New Age Islam

An Israeli born musician alternately played the acoustic guitar and a Bansuri (flute) accompanied by two gypsy folksingers who played the Harmonium, Table and traditional Rajasthani instruments called Khirtal, Bhapand & Morchang .  This was Shye Ben Tzur with Kutle Khan and Chugge Khan straight from the deserts of Rajasthan singing Quawwali (a form of Sufi devotional from South Asia) in Hebrew and Urdu as they performed for the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto – their first performance in North America....

 

The only Begum Akhtar I was aware of, and here I feel like kicking myself for my imperfect education, was the queen of such old Ghazals as “Diwana banana hai tu, diwana bana dena...” Then last week, travelling the net, the addiction of our times, I stumbled across a concert performance of the Begum singing Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Aaye kuch abr kuch sharab aaye, uss ke baad aaye jo azaab aaye” and I have been in a trance ever since....

 
Arab Graffiti: Vandalism or Art?
Mohamed El Hebeishy
Arab Graffiti: Vandalism or Art?
Mohamed El Hebeishy

Whether it is Arab, American or Asian, this still largely clandestine medium of expression remains one of art's most controversial forms. While Arab graffiti are moving towards becoming an acceptable form of art in Tunisia, they are fighting a tougher battle on the streets of Cairo and are still considered unwelcome in other Arab countries, if not judged as an act of outright vandalism....

 
Sufism and Pakistan’s Cultural Norms
Sultan M Hali
Sufism and Pakistan’s Cultural Norms
By Sultan M Hali

In accordance to a revelation by the angel Gabriel to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the Sufis believe that they are practicing Ihsan (perfection of worship), as Gabriel had decreed to the Prophet: “Worship and serve Allah as you are seeing Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.” Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God”....

 
Vegetarianism Is Not Contrary To Arab Culture
Joseph Mayton
Vegetarianism Is Not Contrary To Arab Culture
By Joseph Mayton

With Ramadan on the horizon, followed by the Eid al-Adha holiday, including the sacrificial slaughter of sheep by millions of Muslims worldwide, it is important not to underestimate the importance meat has, and has had, in Arab/Islamic culture. The ancient Egyptians, for instance, kept cows in one of the first massive domestication efforts. Another aspect of meat culture in the Arab world is social class....

The belief that this ‘religious linguistic propriety’, which includes the introduction of ‘Allah Hafiz’ and ‘Ramadan’ in Pakistan’s lingual fashion, began with Zia’s campaign of cultural Islamisation does hold some truth. It has inevitably led to these (words, phrases) to be seen symbolic of the infamous general’s Islamification drive or ‘Saudisation ‘of Pakistan;....

Reviving an Urdu Storytelling Tradition
Raksha Kumar
Reviving an Urdu Storytelling Tradition
By Raksha Kumar

In the 1800s, crowds regularly gathered on the steps of the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi to enthusiastically watch a “Dastango,” or storyteller, narrate tales of fantasy without props, music or theatrical action. The magic that held the audience was created with his voice and the stories themselves, which were mainly told in Urdu. The art form almost died out in the 1900s, the victim of radio, film and television....

 
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