Books and Documents

Islamic Society

Pakistan also suffers from another disability: the overweening influence of Punjab in all matters great and small. Punjab’s has been the dominant hand and, more importantly, the dominant thinking in shaping Pakistan. East Pakistan was pushed towards separatism because Punjab could not accommodate East Pakistani aspirations. Punjabi judges, acting in concert with Gen Zia (as his willing accomplices), hanged Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. When Pakistan’s accounts before the final judgment seat are drawn up, Punjabi generals, mandarins and senior judges will have much to answer for.

The ideology of Pakistan is largely a Punjabi artefact. Pakistan as fortress-of-Islam is also, for the most part, a Punjabi concept. Islamabad as Pakistan’s capital is a Punjab idea. For much of Pakistan’s history the Punjabi elites and the army high command have marched to the same tune.

No wonder, Pakistan’s affairs are in such a mess. Through an accident of history Punjab is propelled into a position of leadership and it makes a mess of the whole thing. Punjab and the army are synonymous. Punjab and the ISI are synonymous. Punjab and the threat from India are synonymous. The ideological state dedicated to a very primitive notion of national security—underpinned by huge outlays on defence—which we have created, is a Punjabi invention. The remaking of Pakistan has to begin with dismantling the national security state. Otherwise the sepoy mentality will remain alive and our begging bowl will not break. -- Ayaz Amir

IT was President John F. Kennedy who exhorted Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. This ‘do for your country’ spirit is very much in evidence in Pakistan today, especially among the generation that got the best from it in its youth. It is heart-warming to see that many Pakistanis are now willing to repay the debt they feel they owe their people. And they are doing it abundantly. ...

The need is to tap into this huge reserve of goodwill that Pakistani expatriates have for the country. Some coordination and organisation is needed. It would be so satisfying to see Pakistanis help out their less fortunate brethren in the reconstruction task on a self-help basis rather than our leaders going round the globe with a begging bowl in hand. -- Zubeida Mustafa


Most Muslims would like to believe that the 29 years after the demise of the Prophet (PBUH) was that golden age when severe punishments, faithfully enforced by the state, created an ideal society. If that were true then how do we explain that three of the four pious caliphs were brutally murdered?

My op-ed, ‘Stoning to death’ (Daily Times, September 14, 2010), received appreciative feedback from readers in Pakistan, which surprised me quite pleasantly. I think people are beginning to realise that the so-called Islamic punishments that General Ziaul Haq enforced failed miserably in creating a morally and ethically superior social order. On the contrary, the incidents of heinous crimes such as the attacks on religious and sectarian minorities, women and even against ordinary citizens such as the two brothers in Sialkot who were recently lynched by a mob, are ample proof of the fact that society has been increasingly brutalised. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

IN SHAKURPUR Basti, a teeming Muslim-dominated, workingclass neighbourhood in North Delhi, there is a four-storey building with a mosque on the ground floor. This is the Darul Ujloom Nizamia Ghausul Uloom Madrassa. On the face of it, there is nothing to set this madrassa apart from an estimated 35,000 madrassas in the country. But unknown to the community, the Darul Ujloom madrassa is subverting its foundational pact with both Allah and his followers. In many ways, madrassas are a cornerpiece in Islamic community life. They are seminaries where children go for religious education, and in poor neighbourhoods, for non-formal schooling. Most madrassas in India are affiliated either to the Deobandi, Barelvi or Ahl-i-Hadith sects and are funded by zakat — the com- passionate Islamic practice of people donating 2.5 percent of their income to support hospitals, charities or Islamic schools. Zakat donated to madrassas is meant to pay for maulvis’ salaries and free meals, clothing, books and lodging for children. In keeping with this tradition, the Darul Ujloom Madrassa, set up in 1992 by three maulvis of the Barelvi sect, is supposed to house 150 poor Muslim children and provide them with shelter, education and food. Far from doing this though, in a disturbing twist, TEHELKA found that the Darul Ujloom Madrassa was illegally sending its minor children out to work harrowing twelve hour shifts at nearby factories and sweatshops.-- Neha Dixit

More than half of Gaza's population are children. Though none of them has ever voted for Hamas, they're the designated targets of Israel's military operations and more generally, of the siege imposed upon Gaza. They're resilient children, standing up against a multitude of ailments and obstacles. According to a recent report of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, 52 percent of Gaza's children are anemic and suffer from serious nutritional problems due to the insufficiency of phosphorous, calcium and zinc in their food. The rate of respiratory illnesses they suffer is also cause for concern. -- Vittorio Arrigoni


"Women are attracted to Islam because they want freedom. Islam gives them independence because they do not have to be a slave of any man. Islam is against moral aggression against women. The chastity and honor of women are protected. No illicit relations are allowed. All these things attract women," said Siddiqi.

Islamic law also provides that men may have more than one wife. "This cannot seem to leave Japanese heads," said Siddiqi. "We explain one thousand times that marrying four times is permissible only in certain unavoidable circumstances such as impotency, infertility and so forth. As a result there is no prostitution in Islam. If you need another woman, then marry her, take care of her children."-- Lynne Y. Nakano

25,000 Jews live in Iran. It's the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel. Iranian Jews are not persecuted or abused by the state, in fact, they are protected under Iran's constitution. They are free to practice their religion and to vote in elections. They are not stopped and searched at checkpoints, they are not brutalized by an occupying army, and they are not herded into a densely-populated penal colony (Gaza) where they are deprived of the basic means of survival. Iranian Jews live in dignity and enjoy the benefits of citizenship.

"(Ahmadinejad's) office recently donated money for Tehran's Jewish hospital. It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora - something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organizations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents." -- Mike Whitney

In the 1970s and 1980s close monitoring and farsightedness were the defining features of Libya's education policy. Free state and compulsory education for all children under 15 years of age were introduced. Parents who did not send their children to school were prosecuted – as indeed is still the case. Over the last two decades, however, the standard of education has steadily declined. -- Mustafa el-Fituri


It's midday. Not the 12 o'clock sandwich break at your desk that comes to mind nor the 2pm midday pause button that slows this entire country to a digestive halt for its civilized daily lunch break, but simply a natural breath in the equator of the long day. A young man climbs a spiral set of stairs and takes in the privileged view that spreads out in the valley below him.

He pauses, takes a deep breath and then something happens. Something that hasn't been heard on the skirts of these sometimes snowy mountains in more than 500 years, yet something that once rang out 5 times a day across most of this country for almost 800 years. -- Troy Nahumko

For Muslims in the West, fasting provides a particular challenge. As members of a religious minority, it is a challenge that not all of the faithful are ready and willing to take on. Azima Moustafa and Haidar Omar have lived in Germany for 13 years. As Syrian Kurds they faithfully observed Ramadan every year in their homeland. Now, however, they find it increasingly difficult to do without food and drink in the fasting period. -- Ulrike Hummel


The Chinese government, it is clear, views the influence that local Imams wield in the Kashgar community with considerable anxiety, if only for the reason that this is one public forum over which they cannot exercise complete control. Unlike in Ningxia, Imams chosen by local communities are often replaced in Xinjiang, locals in Kashgar and Urumqi said in interviews, if they are found deviating even a little from the official script.

In April, the local government in the town of Aksu issued a public notice, calling for all religious texts, even those used in local schools, to be submitted for government approval. It also began a monthly inspection of religious sites. “Religious teachers are strictly prohibited from using non-approved texts, and no person may conduct religious activities outside of pre-approved religious sites, or face investigation as an unapproved Imam,” read one regulation. The government has also cracked down on informal religious schools in Kashgar, where young Uighurs like Mahsum would get together to study the Quran. These gatherings are now deemed illegal.

Communist Party members — who dominate government positions — are also discouraged from being believers. Those who are found attending mosques will likely lose their jobs, says Mahsum. One advertisement for a job position in the Xinjiang government's education department openly calls for candidates “who do not believe in religion” and “do not participate in religious activities”. – ANANTH KRISHNAN

Amineh [not real name] divorced her husband, just two months after marriage, as she found him to be drug addict. She said when she went to the Sharia judge for a court order allowing her to divorce her husband, the judge in usual Islamic dress, proposed her to spend few nights with him for such order. She said: "I had to virtually turn into a concubine of the judge for several weeks, till he settled my divorce issue. I even became pregnant, while the judge managed for abortion in a government hospital, secretly, just by using his official status accorded by Mullahs in Iran."

Amineh appealed to Iranian women in the world, who might be reading this interview to do anything possible in ending the devil regime of Mullahs. She said: "If you can do this, I will kiss your feet and hand." -- Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Saturday will mark the 30th death anniversary of Mohammed Rafi, India’s singing legend who was loved beyond the borders of South Asia. Though he was paired with many playback singers over a career spanning four decades, his more memorable songs were rendered with the iconic female vocalist, Lata Mangeshkar. Rafi was a Punjabi Muslim, Lata a Maharashtrian Hindu. Their love songs still inspire millions. -- Jawed Naqvi


It would be obvious to proclaim that no place is safe from the brutality of terrorism in Pakistan. There are no safe havens here where the barbarians can’t and won’t strike. However, over the last couple of years, what was once the most troubled city has remained nervously quiet (if not entirely peaceful).

As suicide bombers go off with audacious frequency right across Khyber Pakhtun-khwa, Punjab and Islamabad, comparatively speaking Karachi has remained largely peaceful, save politically motivated targeted killings. Karachi has always been known as the only truly cosmopolitan city in the country with strong liberal and pluralistic overtones. But ironically, till 1984, it was also the only major city where fundamentalist political/ religious groups such as the JI and the JUP enjoyed their finest electoral hours...

Though still one of the most complex and diverse cosmopolitan entities, Karachi’s relatively peaceful decorum in the face of the havoc being perpetrated by extremists elsewhere is due to some admiring compromises that the people and politicians of this city have struck in the last few years. A delicate but promising compromise was struck between the secular political expressions of Karachi’s mohajir, Punjabi, Pakhtun, Baloch and Sindhi populations, namely the MQM, the ANP, and the PPP. - Nadeem F Paracha


All kinds of target killers seem to have landed in this country of pious people. You name them and there they are holding a gun in their hands and ready to take a shot at the target any time they wish. Every location in the country has different brands of target killers with different aims and objectives. At domestic level, we have target killers that mostly target women in the name of honour and feel pride in successfully accomplishing their tasks. At city level, we have target killers hunting the people belonging to certain ethnic, political, and sectarian communities. -- Mohammad Nafees


Hashem al-Madani made it possible for some southern Lebanese to do what film stars usually do in front of the camera: kiss. As this was more socially acceptable with a partner of the same sex (some people preferred this anyway), it resulted in a whole series of photographs of women – or men – homing in on each other, nose to nose... It is obvious that from the very beginning of photography, the Arab bourgeoisie worked to establish codes of its own: amorphous, oriented sometimes towards a European viewpoint, sometimes against it – but always self-aware. -- Mona Sarkis


For Pakistanis with a feudal or tribal mindset, who believe power can be retained by maintaining the status quo and controlling people through archaic rules, an education that teaches questioning is irrelevant. Education is a mere ritual for their scions as they have seldom, if ever, used their education to bring the benefits of progressive thinking to their people and have almost never challenged their own false sense of entitlement. While they pay lip service to human rights at international forums, at home they demand unquestioning servility from their oppressed tribesmen.

Politicians from tribal or feudal backgrounds have repeatedly shown with their actions, and even voiced, their support for parallel justice systems like the jirgas which continue to pass verdicts despite being outlawed in Sindh and elsewhere. This system is so ‘rigged’ against the poor that it has yet to give a verdict condemning powerful land-grabbers, rapists and murderers. So to expect such persons to endorse a value system based on the principles of equality, justice and rule of law would be a tall order. When education is in conflict with a retrogressive world view, how can a degree be more than a piece of paper that, if needed, can perhaps be bought to further feudal goals in the corridors of power. ...

The degree debacle in parliament has shocked us by reminding the nation of Pakistan’s rotting public examination system and high threshold of tolerance for criminal behaviour. In today’s examination centres invigilators and examiners are terrorised with weapons and muscle, and hard-working and honest students are short-changed by influential cheats. Some parents are found to be a party to this fraud as was shown on a TV news report of a raid on Karachi examination centres during matriculation exams. A media scandal broke loose when a politician was caught in Rawalpindi for sending his cousin to replace him in the examination hall. Such widespread malpractices have spawned a cottage industry of fake degrees, surrogate candidates and cheating facilitators.-- Niilofur Farrukh


After yuppies and puppies come the Muppies or Muslim upwardly mobile professionals who appear to be increasingly on the high road to white collar jobs and comfortable lives and demonstrate a desire to leave the ghetto real and metaphorical of the past behind.
Just weeks after minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said that minority recruitment to public sector jobs has risen from 6.9% in 2007 to 9.24% in 2009, TOI correspondents from across the country reveal that the Muppie really does exist in India today. Across the country, large numbers of young Muslims are realizing their dreams through professional education. And as we report from Hyderabad, their families too are able to realize delayed, if cherished dreams of improved lifestyles through their childrens achievement.
The Muppie is breaking the stereotype. In just three years, the minorities share of government jobs went up 24%.
The Muppie looks to be here to stay...Read on.

We find the violent and coercive ways of the Taliban distasteful, but want the law to chop heads and hands, and order men and women (preferably the latter) to be stoned to death. Of course, we have no clue as to who decides who is an adulterer or an apostate, or what Islamic school of thought (among the many present in this country) to implement while enforcing these pleasant punishments.

According to the said survey 89 per cent Pakistanis say they think of themselves first as Pakistanis, rather than as members of their ethnic groups; yet the country is always standing on the edge of ethnic, sectarian and inter-sectarian strife. We like to call ourselves moderate Muslims, yet our thinking is clouded by fantasies of a violent religious order emerging from artificially induced memories of some glorious mythical past of a Utopia. -- Nadeem F Paracha

One of the more insidious doings of the 18th Amendment has been to seal off the office of prime minister to non-Muslims by declaring that the post will be held by a Muslim. The presidency has, since 1956, already been reserved for Muslims alone. The original justification given for this was that the post was a symbolic one. While in the kind of state we live in today, there was little practical possibility of someone from a minority religious community moving into the office of prime minister, the existence of the theoretical possibility was important. Indeed it is ironic that this opening has been closed just as real authority has been shifted to the prime minister. It is also ironic that a measure aimed at strengthening democracy should reserve the most important political office in the land for a specific community. The exclusion of all other citizens is, after all, most blatantly undemocratic. -- Kamila Hyat

The many prophets sent by God to guide humankind, the last of who was the Prophet Muhammad, did not make regime change or the capture of political power their aim. Rather, their primary focus was the reform of individuals, who, when suitably reformed, could form a society inspired to follow God’s teachings. Only then could a government that would rule according to the teachings of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have declared, ‘Those who rule over you will be just as you are’ (kama ta kununa kazalika yoammaru aleikum). In other words, people get the government or rulers they deserve, because the representatives of people emerge from and are chosen from among them. This clearly indicates that it is only through gradual and sustained reform at the level of individuals that society, and, then, the system of governance can be reformed. This is the natural system of bringing about social transformation. -- Maulana Waris Mazhari

So, this essay is largely to disseminate information about the construction industry mafia that ruthlessly and relentlessly exploits South Asian workers, whose labour has created all those skyscrapers, including the tallest in the world, the Burj Dubai, penthouses, luxury apartments, 7-star hotels, golf courses and what not. Now, of course, Dubai has been badly hit by the global financial crisis but it only magnifies the utter disregard that the Arab sheikhs have for all the millions of workers who live in their kingdoms as virtual slaves.

The enslavement process begins in South Asia at the time of recruitment. Impoverished families somehow manage to raise money to send a young man to Dubai — it could be any other country in that region as well. It involves selling whatever land or other possessions they have, borrowing from relatives and so on. The agent charges an exorbitant sum for arranging the passport and visa. Upon arrival in Dubai, the worker’s passport is confiscated and he is sent to a camp where he lives with thousands of other workers. The documentary showed that in a small dirty room some eight to nine people ‘live’; for some 45 people there are one or two latrines, which are filthy and nauseating. Once inside the camp the new arrival becomes practically a slave, working 12 hours a day, six days a week. The wage that is paid is one-half or one-third of what was promised. The construction firms that own the labour camps strictly regulate who comes in and who goes out. In short, the South Asian workers live in camps that are similar to a POW camp where soldiers of a defeated army are kept. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed

Photo: Indian workers in Dubai

The Prophet invited non-Muslims to his home and accepted their invitations to visit their homes. He would visit non-Muslims when they were ill to inquire about their health, join their funerals, and exchange gifts with them. When the notorious hypocrite Abdullah Ibn Ubay died, the Prophet went for his funeral. When his body had been laid in his grave, he placed his own shirt on it. According to Jabir Ibn Abdullah, the narrator of this report, the Prophet did so because Abdullah Ibn Ubay had provided the shroud for the Prophet’s uncle Abbas when he died in the battle of Uhd. Thus, the Prophet repaid Abdullah Ibn Ubay for this deed. This action clearly suggests that we must repay goodness with goodness, even if it relates to someone who is an inveterate foe, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. -- Maulana Waris Mazhari

While many Islamic countries claim to have been victimized by the "war on terror", it is interesting to note that since September 11, 2001, three of the six individual Nobel peace laureates have been Muslims. Their area of recognition has spanned from human rights activism (Shirin Ebadi, 2003) to nuclear vigilance (Muhammad El Baradei, 2005) to micro-credit entrepreneurship (Muhammad Yunus, 2006).

What is perhaps even more astonishing is that in the 108-year history of the Nobel peace prize there are only two other Muslims who have been so honored. Anwar Saadat (1978) and Yassir Arafat shared the prize with Israeli leaders for highly variable and controversial contributions to building peace in the Middle East.

Out of more than five hundred Nobel laureates in the sciences, only two have been of Muslim lineage. Pakistan can claim one of them: Abdus Salam, who shared the prize in physics in 1979, and memorably wore a shervani and turban to the award ceremony in Sweden. However, as a member of the Ahmadiya community, he was regrettably spurned at home as a non-Muslim and died in 1996 without fully being able to contribute to science education in Pakistan, despite his noblest intentions. Dr. Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian-American chemist based at the California Institute of Technology received the prize for chemistry in 1999 and is the Muslim world's sole Nobel science star. He is clearly in high demand for this singular status and has also been appointed by President Obama as one of his "science envoys." -- Saleem H Ali


The by-product of the judiciary's increasing power will be plenty more cases such as the Facebook ruling, where the court system tests its limits and tries to eke out further control. But troublingly, the amendment removes from the constitution a clause that mandated regular intraparty elections, and it does nothing to address the power of party heads to remove rogue legislators. This means that Sharif -- who remains head of the PML but has been barred from holding elected office because of criminal charges against him (until the 18th Amendment changed this rule in order to get the PML vote) -- could dismiss parliamentarians of his party who do not vote as he directs on a range of issues. Although Zardari has been divested of much of his official power, he and his 22-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto, remain co-chairmen of the PPP. It is unlikely that Gillani, now technically the most powerful PPP member in parliament, will take up legislative matters that Zardari doesn't approve. Nor will the PML cross Sharif. Without internal democracy, the major parties will remain conduits for personal power and new ideas will be crowded out. Progress on Pakistan's most pressing problems will remain stalled, as Zardari and Sharif continue to clash. Unfortunately, this sets the government up for a collapse and military similar to those of 1977 and 1999. -- Kathryn Allawala

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