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Books and Documents

Islamic Personalities

In a lecture delivered at Aligarh in 1910, he posited, “Society is much more than its existing individuals; it is in its nature infinite; it includes within its contents the innumerable unborn generations which, though they ever lie beyond the limits of immediate social vision, must be considered as the most important portion of a living community in the successful group-life it is the future which must always control the present.” He further believes that an ideal society is one that is driven by modern and reconstructed Islamic ideals....

 

Many of the issues Al-Ma’arri raises about dogma, superstition and the abuse of clerical power are just as valid today as they were a millennium ago. Despite being accused of heresy, he was never persecuted and died at the ripe age of 86. One is left to wonder whether he got away with such blasphemous writing because of the more tolerant nature of the time or if he simply got lucky possibly out of pity for being blind....

“Sufis might do more harm than good if they insisted that everything they did had clear warrant in the foundational texts, that it carried the same authority as did the well-established goals of the Shari’a.” Rather than reform Sufism as modernists and some Ulema would suggest, the task is to appreciate that Thanwi “did not have a narrow set of criteria in terms of which to “reform” Sufism or to make it compatible with Shari’a norms. Rather, it was precisely this lack of a narrowly Shari’a-minded vision, so far as Sufism is concerned, that explains his success as a Sufi.”...

 

Many Muslims believe that Muhammad physically ascended to meet Allah and returned within the same night. Muslims also believe that Adam was sent from The Garden to Earth. They also believe that Jesus was raised alive and is yet to return. Jews, Christians and Muslims also believe that God spoke with Moses. It is also believed that when the time comes, the Believers who have been forgiven will be able to leave Earth and ascend to inherit The Gardens, as an ever-lasting reward by Allah the Most-Compassionate, the Ever-Merciful, the Most-Appreciative!....

To the contrary, Islam produced one of the greatest and most enduring civilizations in history and there is nothing in Islam to suggest that Muslims cannot make advances in science, technology, economy, education, urban development or other areas. He rejected the suggestion that Muslims cannot progress in the modern world without secularizing themselves and going through the process of the Protestant Reformation....

 
Syed Maududi: A Contested Legacy
Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah

Religion is not an ideology and its addressee remains primarily an individual who is commanded to “strive for righteous rather than perfect community” and for that right order in one’s soul and the soul of the ruler is a prerequisite and in that task philosophers and mystics have a role that Maududi didn’t fully recognize. The key problem that there is a danger that human interpretation of God’s Word/Law may pose as divinely sanctioned one has been recognized by most modern thinkers....

Meditation, in fact, is the technique to contemplate within. It is but one method to unfold the universe which lies wrapped within. It awakens the advanced form of senses in man, through which he can observe the realities and phenomenon that the material eye cannot observe. He is against any form of discrimination, be it gender, religious or social....

 

Ashari's take on Islam is seen as the opposite of Mutazilis, which is a sort of Islamic rationalism. According to the Mutazilli philosophers, God does not create bad things, and individuals create their own wills and deeds. Following the intermediate school of Abu Hanifa, Maturidi formulated a new theological system that creates a middle ground between Ashari and Mutazilli understanding.....

Ghalib’s personal life was also a series of traumatic events. His father died when he was five years old and his uncle who took charge of the family passed away when he was nine. None of Ghalib’s own children survived beyond infancy. Throughout his life he faced financial difficulties. The early life facts are obscure and we really do not know who inspired him to start writing poetry at the age of 11. Maybe it was just a refuge from personal pain.....

 

Their messages resonate in the subcontinent, particularly Pakistan, but far beyond it. Iqbal’s poems are regarded as the eternal gift to humans of the world and his importance as a Muslim thinker is rising. Iqbal has a partial relevance even in India. On the other hand Maududi has been re-discovered by Western academia along with Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna. Presently, he is seen as a pan-Islamic thinker whose influence has gone beyond the geographical confines of the subcontinent.

Maulana Maududi also challenged contemporary ideas of Secularism, Socialism and Capitalism. He supported what he called “Islamisation from above “through an Islamic state in which sovereignty would be exercised in the name of Allah and Islamic law would be implemented....

Glimpses from the Life of Ghaus-e-Azam Abdul Qadir Mohiyuddin Jilani - the Head of All Sufi Masters
Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
Glimpses from the Life of Ghaus-e-Azam Abdul Qadir Mohiyuddin Jilani - the Head of All Sufi Masters
Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam

In later days when someone asked Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam what brought him to his high spiritual level, he replied, “The truthfulness which I promised to my mother”.  Sarkar Ghaus-e-Azam was the authority, the imam, in religious matters, theology and law, and the leader of the Shafi’i and Hanbali groups of Islamic Jurisprudence. All the Sufi Masters and common people of his time profited from him. His prayers were immediately accepted. Through the authentic chains of narrations we come to know that he performed many miracles. He devoted his entire life to remembrance of Allah, meditating, thinking, taking and giving lessons…..

Looking around at her home, she said, “I was reflecting on the story of Moses the other day and when I heard that God granted his people, after he saved them from Pharaoh, Mano Salwa, I thought that Mano Salwa is a symbol of all of God’s blessings — the food, the clothes, the knowledge and so forth. We must see and acknowledge and be grateful with a humble heart. I have learnt that nothing is about me, my children and family — it is about humanity.”….

 
Iqbal and Colonial Legacy
Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah

For Iqbal the sectarian debate on Fiqh schools, on illegitimacy of Sufism, prevalence of  negative attitude to the world, to reason, to science in the name of Islam/Sufism, fossilization of Madrasa curriculum, reluctance for absolute Ijtihad, suspicion of egalitarian democratic spirit are all legacies of imperialism, Western and others. Education in the sense Iqbal conceived it is almost absent today in Indian subcontinent, both in religious and secular schools. What the poets conceived and built in his dream has been ruined by the politician as he himself had feared....

 
Vision of Allama Iqbal
Reema Shaukat
Vision of Allama Iqbal
Reema Shaukat

The depth of love, affection and respect among the Turkish people and leadership for Muhammad Iqbal is visible today because of his immense services for Islam and contribution to Turkish causes including during the Balkan wars and Turkey’s War of Independence. It was quite a moment of pride with nostalgia that we as a nation are so blessed that Allama Iqbal was our visionary leader, whose wisdom, poetry and foresightedness is still a vigil for us after many decades….

 
Iqbal’s Lenin
Mahir Ali
Iqbal’s Lenin
Mahir Ali

Among those keeping a keen eye on the Soviet experiment was Allama Muhammad Iqbal. I am reminded in this context of the Pakistani journalist with the pen name Meem Sheen, a devotee of Iqbal, who insisted that communism plus God essentially summed up the sub-continental poet’s philosophy….

 

It is in this context that we can look at Sir Syed’s approach to science and religion. One of the foundational principles he laid out for his Tafsir stated that, “nothing in the Quran contradicts the law of nature”. For him, the “Work of God” cannot contradict the “Word of God” (Sir Syed used these English words in his Urdu Tafsir). Any contradiction is apparent, according to him, and he provides a detailed framework for interpreting the Quran in any such circumstances. For example, he blamed the adoption of Greek astronomy into the commentaries of the Quran for the resulting Islamic opposition...

 

There were lots of objections against Sir Syed. It was said of him that he was an Anglophile and that his attitude in response to Western thought was merely apologetic. These objections still persist even today. The objections were of two types. Firstly from the fundamentalists there were Fatwas of him being infidel and so on. Secondly, the nationalists called him a lackey of the British: that in his passion for the adoption of new thoughts and visions, he had become a great ally and propagandist of the British government; and had come to appear as an Anglophile to an extreme degree in order to pave the way for British strategy and decision-making....

 
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's Contribution and Relevance Goes Much Deeper
Yasmin Saikia
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's Contribution and Relevance Goes Much Deeper
Yasmin Saikia and M Raisur Rahman

Anecdotes point against the narrow understanding of Sir Syed whose liberality and cosmopolitanism warrant a deeper look to rethink and appreciate his contribution and relevance in our times, as India embarks on the path of joining the community of developed nations. Sir Syed is one the 19th century leaders who paved the way for this transformation of India into an enlightened member of the global human community....

“This man (Sir Syed) is erring and causes people to err. He is rather an agent of the devil and wants to mislead Muslims. It is a sin to support the college. May God damn the founder! And if this college (MAO College which in 1920 was converted into Aligarh Muslim University) has been founded, it must be demolished and its founder and his supporters thrown out of the fold of Islam,” declared the Imam of Mecca in his fatwa against Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. On the 200th birth anniversary of this great educationist and social reformer, particularly in the context of the current wave of aggressive nationalism, an effort should be made to understand his vision of India....

.... Mirza Ghalib essentially asks him such questions: “What worth is there in these ancient texts? Why are you engaged in worshipping the past and nourishing the dead? Come out of it and see the variety of amazing scientific inventions the savants of the West have pioneered like the ship, the electric wire, the matchstick, steam-powered machines and even greater than these a code, a law and a system!”....

 
Invoking Bibi Zainab (RA)
Invoking Bibi Zainab (RA)
Dr Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Bibi Zainab’s (RA) sermon also highlights the gendered nature of violence as she narrates the ways in which Yazid and his armies humiliated the women of the Prophet’s (pbuh) family:

“O progeny of the freedman of the Prophet (pbuh)! Is this your justice? Your daughters, your slave girls, your dear women are all sitting behind the curtain and the daughters of the Prophet (pbuh), in shackles, unveiled, stand before you. Your men take us from town to town where all sorts of people, whether they be residents of the hills or of riversides have been looking at us.”....

 

Requesting Imam Hussain to let him fetch water, he fought his way to the banks of the Euphrates, and despite the scorching heat of the Iraqi desert and the toll the battle had taken on him, he refused to drink until the women and children were satiated. However, as he was returning to the Hussaini camp, Hazrat Abbas was ambushed by the Syrians, who were under orders to prevent water from reaching Imam Hussain. The enemy cut off both his hands, and upon finding Hazrat Abbas wounded Imam Hussain is quoted to have said, “My spine is broken”.....

 
Reunifying Rumi
Farahnaz Zahidi
Reunifying Rumi
Farahnaz Zahidi

There are many versions of the legendary first encounter between Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi and his spiritual mentor Shams of Tabriz. Most describe the moment as Rumi, the religious scholar, sitting by a pond, immersed in his scholarly reading, when Shams, a stranger to him, comes by and asks him what he is doing. “You will not understand,” Rumi is reported to have replied, upon which Shams throws all of Rumi's books in the pond. But the books spring back up dry, defying the laws of physics. At this point, Shams is reported to have said, “But you do not understand.”  This was the moment, then, when Rumi began fathoming Allah not just with the mind but also with the heart....

 
Let the Life of Imam Hussain Guide Us
Dr Syed Areeb Uddin
Let the Life of Imam Hussain Guide Us
Dr Syed Areeb Uddin

Same were the circumstances at the time when the Imam thought to raise voice against it and blessed history with the example that it’s better to die of dignity rather than living in suppression. They were just a hundred people in front of the Lakhs of armed men sent by Yazid yet Imam defended his viewpoint and maintained the dignity of his view that was backed up by several others who requested him to come to Kufa....

 

In a world that is becoming more and more materialistic and aspirational by the day, material desires are mounting and the inability to realise them leads to frustration. Do people flock to Dargahs, ashrams and even retreats seeking the fulfilment of desires, or does Sufism offer something more? As someone who does visit Dargahs, I would like to examine the relevance of Sufism in our time....

 
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