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Islamic Personalities

Today radical Islamists and clerics of South Asia especially in Pakistan refer to Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi’s religious thoughts in an attempt to justify their intolerant ideology. Even in this day and age, Shaikh Sirhindi’s opposition to Akbar's policies which he declared inconsistent with Islamic Shariah, is used as a stimulus for radical and extremist movements of the sub-continent. Therefore, it would be quite interesting to objectively discuss the religious thoughts and reformation works of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi who is viewed as an ‘Islamic reformist’ as well as a ‘Sufi’ among Muslims in Indo-Pak……

Carefully consider the 12 translators who apparently think that the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”. It includes scholars of every sect and some of them are major influencers such as Thanvi, Tahir ul Qadri and Raza Khan Barelvi. If according to them the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”, then how can they or their followers refute the ideology of the “Jihadists”?  And how do they reconcile 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and 109:6 “To you (peaceful Kafir) be your way and to me mine” with what they think the Prophet was fighting against? The fact is that the Prophet and Quran are far above what these people attribute to the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh)…..

In the case of Prophet Yunus (pbuh), there was stiff opposition to begin with and Prophet Yunus left in anger without the permission from Allah for which he was punished. He returned to his people and everyone (some hundred thousand) believed....

When a Prophet is given the command to leave with his band of believers, it is a sign from Allah that no more people will believe even if the Prophet spends more time with them. The Prophet leaves with his band of believers and the rest are destroyed by an act of God....

The stories of prophets oft repeated in the Quran during the first 13 years of the Meccan period are the stories of Noah, Lut, Moses, Hud, Salih, and Shoaib (pbut).  What is common in each of these oft repeated stories is that those who actively opposed the Prophets and tried to harm them and their followers or were intransigent rejecters of the Message were utterly destroyed by an act of God....

 

Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of the Prophets and the Quran is the last among the revealed scriptures. The Quran narrates the stories of several of the important Messengers individually and the story of the rest collectively in the form of parables. The last Message or the Quran is also cumulative in that it confirms what came before and is built on the previous experience of the Messengers and the People....

Perception of Women
Taha Akyol
Perception of Women
Taha Akyol

The traditional type of women who had accepted the superiority of men in the many centuries in the past, and thus had taken her place in social harmony, is changing through the modernization process: A new type of woman is developing who has recognized that she is “equal,” who is aware of this, regardless of her life style and political view. If Turkey is to reach the income per capita level of $30,000, if it is going to be a leading country, it will be this new woman who takes us to this national target; because it is not possible to go ahead as a country while at the same holding half of society back....

 
Lack of Personalities or Lack of Awareness?
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
Lack of Personalities or Lack of Awareness?
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam

 It is common for communities to consider some of their key figures in the past to have been larger than life. They commonly project an exaggerated image of them. Sometimes, they go to the extent of according them a legendary status. This is something that present-day Muslims also do—and on a massive scale…..

Rumi’s poetry continues to touch hearts across countries and cultures more than seven centuries after his death. A Muslim theologian, who turned to mysticism, he is regarded as the finest Persian poet of all time and among the greatest in the Sufi tradition....

 

My story commences upon Creation and the call that all souls received to acknowledge Divine Unity. It continued throughout my life and the awe of Allah that I always sensed in my soul. While my Maker made me a Muslim, my parents made me a Catholic Christian, and blessed be they for doing so for I could easily have been raised as an animist, a polytheist, an agnostic, a secular-liberal relativist or even an atheist. The path was not perfect but I was indeed well advanced on the path, having been raised as a monotheist who recognized, loved, and followed Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, along with all the other prophets and messengers who came in between…..

 

The Hindus lovingly address Lal Shahbaz as “Jhule Lal”, Lord of the Indus River. Even now, at the annual Urs, one of the old caretakers, a Hindu, performs the inaugural ritual for the annual festivities. Despite the Partition of India, the environment of Sehwan Sharif is an extraordinary demonstration of Hindu-Muslim syncretism of the subcontinent….

 

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) epitomised his teachings of tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, co-existence and compassion towards the adherents of other religions. Conforming to the spirit of this glorious universal characteristic of the Prophet (pbuh), Muslims today must give up peddling hatred towards others, people of other religions or even atheists and wantonly declaring their own co-religionists Kafir (infidel) and Gumrah (misguided). ....

Abul Ala Maududi: An Existentialist History
Abul Ala Maududi(1927)
Abul Ala Maududi: An Existentialist History
Nadeem F. Paracha

In all the noise that Maududi's career as a scholar, ideologue and politician generated, what got lost was the crucial fact that unlike most of today's Islamic scholars and leaders, Maududi did not emerge from an entirely conservative background. His personal history is a rather fascinating story of a man who, after suffering from spats of existential crises, chose to interpret Islam as a political theory to address his own dilemmas. He did not come raging out of a madrasa, swinging a fist at the vulgarities of the modern world.......

An objective study of Indian Sufi literature, surprisingly enough, reveals that many early Islamic figures of India who were spiritually-inclined and inspired by Sufism, are mistakenly taken today as the ideologues of Wahhabism in India. Regrettably, our collective negligence and intellectual stagnation have concealed the pioneering contributions of great Indian mystics in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, human welfare and common goodwill. .....

Abul Qasim al Junayd of Baghdad
Sadia Dehlvi
Abul Qasim al Junayd of Baghdad
Sadia Dehlvi

Abul Qasim al Junayd of the ninth century is one of the most famous of early Muslim mystics. They called him “Peacock of the Poor”, “Lord of the Group” and “Master of Masters”. A central figure in many Sufi orders, Junayd is considered the greatest exponent of the sober school of Sufism. …..

 
Manto on Iqbal
Saadat Hasan Manto

For the honour of presiding over this maiden sitting of Iqbal Day which you have bestowed upon me, I should be thanking you formally, but I am not bound by the immutable laws and formalities of nature. However, I’m perplexed visualizing the presidential chair, for so long I have been abused and criticized and today….but what didn’t the Allama Iqbal himself had to contend with? In his own time, he had to face repeated curses, in addition to charges of infidelity and heresy. When I think of this, I am somewhat relieved but the next moment I am perplexed by another conundrum which is that my love of poetry is akin to Mahatma Gandhi’s love of films. Anyway, I should take advantage of this opportunity which you all have given me.....

 
Allama Iqbal: The Man, and the Existential Quest
Sir Muhammad Iqbal
Allama Iqbal: The Man, and the Existential Quest
Murtaza Razvi

Iqbal’s identification with and his concern over the fate of all colonised nations of the East—not India alone—by mighty powers of the West called for a wider shift in the entire power paradigm that was in place in his time. This he sought by transcending the relatively smaller canvas of India, which had historically shown itself to have been intellectually and militarily docile in the face of foreign aggression century after century. With the entire Muslim world under virtual colonisation of the West after the debacle of the Turkish caliphate, and considerable weakening of the Persian Empire that struggled between Russian pressure exerted from the north and British protectorates to the south, it was the Muslim East—once a formidable power and a civilization—with a history and idiom of its own, that Iqbal invoked as a counterweight to western hegemony.....

 

Perhaps it is because Imam Husain symbolises devotion and divine love that the forces propagating hate are so opposed to the remembrance of his martyrdom.....

 
Sir Syed and Paradigm Shift
Haqqani Al Qasmi
Sir Syed and Paradigm Shift
Haqqani Al Qasmi, Tr.New Age Islam Edit Desk

When Sir Syed laid a great emphasis on philosophy and said that philosophy will be in our right hand and science in our left hand, there was a great hue and cry because he had raised this political voice in a very obscurantist society where philosophy and logic were considered akin to atheism. To the community that had the tradition of burning down the writings of Avicenna and Ikhwan us Safa, the community that had punished Ibn-e-Habib with death for teaching philosophy, the community which perpetrated grave atrocities on Fakhruddin Razi only because he was a great philosopher, the community which forced the great philosopher Ibn-e-Rushd into exile for ‘atheism’, the community that forced Mohammad Bin Ahmad to remain out of his house for almost fifty years only because he was a rationalist, the community which stones and immolates rationalists, speaking of philosophy and science was not less than an atomic explosion. A Galileo could not have taken birth in such an obscurantist society. In an atmosphere when the Ash’aris and Ashraqis are in plenty, it was natural for the liberal, modernist and radical concept of Sir Syed to come under fire. That’s why Sir Syed was also called a Mutazilla.

Notwithstanding all this, if a small section of Muslims of the time accepted Sir Syed, it can be said to be a farsighted and liberal section and supporter of change. It can be said that these Muslims were aware of the changes taking place in the world. They had realized that if the Muslims did not change their attitude and outlook with the changing times and did not confront the challenges of the contemporary world, backwardness will be their destiny in every field…..

To the Muslim community Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was and is like the eye which weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body. The sufferings of the community worried him. He took an oath to reform, educate and empower the Muslim community and was successful to a great extent in implementing it despite strong opposition from a section of the Muslim community which hated the British and their language. ....

Farid’s Bani is indicative of “Vairagya” — detachment from the false world which is only a mirage. One has to “turn away” or to do “Tauba” from worldly desires. According to him, the detached person is the wisest. He describes the true Faqir as the one fully detached: “On the bank of pool in the moor, the swan has come to alight. But he does not dip his beak to drink, He is eager to fly.”….

 
Abu Yazid:  The Drunken Sufi
Sadia Dehlvi
Abu Yazid: The Drunken Sufi
Sadia Dehlvi

Abu Yazid of Tayfur of Bistam, Iran, who lived in the 9th century, was popularly known as Bayazid. He founded the “ecstatic” or “drunken” school of Sufism in Persia. This “drunkenness” meant to be intoxicated with the love of God. This expression did not go down well with the orthodoxy and they hounded him……

 

Single-handedly, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817 – 1898) led the Muslims of the Subcontinent towards a modern Muslim identity. Inspired by his visit to the University of Cambridge in England, he set up a University for Muslims in Aligarh. From this institution came leaders, prime ministers, policy makers, historians, scientists and so forth. In the colonial time when there was deep suspicion of “the Other” especially after the bloodbath of 1857 when Muslims were being persecuted some Muslims were distancing themselves from all that was foreign, especially British education, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan encouraged Muslims to progress and not to hold back but to educate themselves, learn English, and develop better relations with the other in order to create deeper understanding and better communication…..

'The Second Master'-Abu-Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
'The Second Master'-Abu-Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

Al-Farabi’s philosophy is based on the teachings of Plato and Aristotle as they were interpreted in the school of Baghdad in the tenth century. Like all writers in Arabic he assumed there were no essential differences between the two, but he preferred the metaphysics of Aristotle, as interpreted by Neo-Platonist. He uses a Neo-platonic emanationist theory crafted within the structure of Ptolemaic cosmology to account for God’s power of creation. However, God, or the First Being (al-Awwal), does not, like “the One” of the ancient philosopher Plotinus….

 

God had once more tested the Prophet (peace be upon him) through his humanity and his mission. He had lost so many loved ones- companions, his wife Khadijah, three of his daughters, and his sons. His life had been crossed with tears, but he remained both gentle with his heart and firm in his mission. It was this chemistry of gentleness and firmness that satisfied the Most Near.....

 
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