Books and Documents

Islamic Society

As this paper has sought to show, although the Qur'an and the genuine Prophetic traditions suggest a radically egalitarian social vision, actual Muslim social practice, including in India, points to the existence of sharp social hierarchies that numerous Muslim scholars have sought to provide appropriate 'Islamic' sanction through elaborate rules of fiqh associated with the notion of kafa'a. This was further boosted by distorted interpretations of the Qur'an and the invention of reports attributed to the Prophet that sought to legitimize social inequality based on ethnicity and occupation. In the Indian context, numerous leading 'ulama, almost all from the 'high' castes, have used these arguments to sanction caste and caste-based distinctions, particularly in matters of marriage. Yet, as Nu'mani's case shows, today at least some Indian 'ulama are willing to critically examine the corpus of medieval fiqh and seek inspiration and guidance directly from the Qur'an and the genuine Prophetic traditions instead, in order to recover the original Islamic vision that is robustly opposed to social hierarchy determined by birth, the very basis of the caste system. -- Yoginder Sikand


By Anwar Ali, Advocate, New Delhi



'The veil is a tool of oppression used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom'. 'Nowhere in the Koran does it state that a woman's face and body must be covered in a layer of heavy black cloth'.

Many of my adult British Muslim friends cover their heads with a headscarf - and I have no problem with that. The burkha is an entirely different matter. It is an imported Saudi Arabian tradition, and the growing number of women veiling their faces in Britain is a sign of creeping radicalisation, which is not just regressive, it is oppressive and downright dangerous.

The burkha is an extreme practice. It is never right for a woman to hide behind a veil and shut herself off from people in the community. But it is particularly wrong in Britain, where it is alien to the mainstream culture for someone to walk around wearing a mask. The veil restricts women. It stops them achieving their full potential in all areas of their life, and it stops them communicating. It sends out a clear message: 'I do not want to be part of your society.' Every time the burkha is debated, Muslim fundamentalists bring out all these women who say: 'It's my choice to wear this.' -- -- SAIRA KHAN

In the Sind province, Sindhi nationalist organisations have joined the main Muhajir political party, the MQM, which is now a coalition partner in the Provincial Government, in warning that they will not accept displaced Pakhtuns. The MQM has warned that any influx of refugees into Karachi could lead to ethnic violence. Even before these developments, ethnic clashes between Muhajirs and Pakhtuns had rocked Karachi.

The attitude of the largest province of Pakistan, Punjab has, however shocked many Pashtuns. According to one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists, Rahimullah Yusufzai, even the Punjab Government, which is headed by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has let it be known that it would not provide facilities for camps for internally displaced people in the province and that camps should be set up within the NWFP for this purpose. -- G Parthasarathy

New Delhi: In contrast to predecessor A R Antulay who maintained a studied silence on the issue of reservation, newly-appointed Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has called quota for Muslims a “double-edged sword” which could create “envy, hostility and resistance”. He has instead advocated affirmative action as a tool to “inject an ability to compete” rather than make them “constant beneficiaries of additional help”.

In an interview to The Indian Express, Khurshid said it was time to explore “angles” other than reservation. He said it was his intention to roll out some “quick impact” schemes and fine-tune delivery of recommendations made by the Justice Rajinder Sachar committee. -- Manoj C G

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed's smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history. -- Johann Hari

Nothing is trivial for us Muslims, particularly in the Indian sub-continent. Existential issues abound. We are ready to complain and protest, sometimes violently, the slightest affront, intended or unintended, that some of us may perceive. It would in fact appear that we are on the look-out for slurs and slights to our religion, so insecure are we in our Faith, so brittle is our belief in our Faith. Naturally some of those who dislike us keep provoking us a little and then enjoy the Tamasha of how we besmirch our fair religion’s name further, how we expose the weaknesses of our Faith even more than we already have done before.

Of course, sometimes those who may not have such an agenda also succeed in provoking us inadvertently. Particularly judgements. Perfectly good judgements. Fair judgements. Delivered by avowedly secular judges with a record of fairness and secularism. This happened in the Shah Bano case. This happened in the judgement about non-Muslims misusing Islam for violating the marriage laws of the land, converting to Islam merely to get rid of their first wives and acquiring another. Unexceptionable judgements creating needless controversy. And this has happened now in Supreme Court’s rejection of the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport beard in his convent school. Supreme Court on Monday, March 30, 2009, observed secularism cannot be overstretched and that "Talibanisation" of the country cannot be permitted. "We don't want to have talibans in the country. Tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa, can we allow it," Justice Markandeya Katju speaking for a bench headed by Justice Raveendran observed.

Apparently the judge here is merely showing off his ignorance of both Islamic culture and the execrable phenomenon of Talibanisation. Judges in India revel in making unrelated, ignorant comments. You are bound to do that if you habitually use 3,000 words to say what can be said in 300 words. Clearly they have had no training in the art of writing with precision and meticulousness. Anyone who reads judgements knows that. Legal analysts have made this point before, but to no effect.

I hope the opinion leaders of the Muslim community will take this fairly well-known propensity of our judges into account and try not to see a provocation where there is none. The judgement itself is perfect, accords well not only with the law – who will know that better than Supreme Court judges – but also common sense. If you want to join a private institution in whatever capacity you have to abide by its rules and if you run a private institution of your own you should be allowed to make its rules. Since the institution in question in this case is a minority institution, Muslim minorities should have been particularly, even in a tactical sense - to protect the rights of their own minority institutions too - supportive of its right to make its own rules and expect the students to abide by them.

Are these poor Muslims not orthodox because Islamic organisations have not tried hard enough? The truth is that neither Jamaat-i-Islami nor Jamaat-i-Ulema-i-Hind is keen on advocating fundamentalist lifestyles. They have no interest in sponsoring madrasas that teach only Arabic and the Quran. Instead they have set up schools that provide secular education, and there is one such even in Naroda Patiya where Hindu violence was at its worst in 2002. These schools are not a ruse for Islamic organisations, or clerics, to pump religious fervour into Muslim kids.  

On the contrary, these Muslim institutions are clear that they want the boys and girls in their care to learn secular sciences and skills and heave themselves out of parental poverty. The curricula in these schools are so designed that they conform to the requirements of the state education board. There would be some religious instructions in these institutions, but they would be on the side, and a minor matter. -- Dipankar Gupta

The attachment of the Muslims with dates is due to the recommendation of the Qur’an and the instruction of Saheb al Qur’an. As dates move faster to the liver and are converted more quickly than any other nutrients, particularly if they are moist, the liver accepts their contents more readily and hastens their distribution to the rest of the body, which is thirsting for energy. Without any doubt, Dates are the perfect food for Ift’ar, as they quickly supply the body with the energy it needs. Dates are also rich in natural fibers and the eating of them helps to fight many of the ailments with which we commonly suffer today. Dates also surpass other fruits in the sheer variety of their constituents. They are the most wholesome food among fruits because of their hot and moist substance. Rasulullah (S) used to eat all varieties of dates. - Qazi Dr. Shaikh Abbas Borhany

Dear Sultan Shahin Sahib,
All of us in South Asia seem to suffer from some delusion that if we are of Arab/Iranian/central Asian or Pathan descent we are superior to other Indian Muslims. This article highlights this problem. Like the Sri Lankan Muslims many communities on the east and west coast of south India i.e. the navayats, the mappillas, the labbes are of Arab descent. Arabic is even taught as a second language in Kerala. The conversion of the population of Malaysia and Indonesia to Islam was due largely to the efforts of these Indo-Arab traders. The madrasa at Ponani in Kerala was a centre for missionary activity from at least the 10th century A.D. but the indo-Arabic communities today speak Tamil, Malayalam, Konkani or whatever at home and do not call themselves Arab as the Sri Lankans do. Why then should the Tamil Muslims of Sri Lanka be more Arab than our Indo-Arab communities. It makes no sense and is based on a stupid sort of race pride.
Shama Zaidi, Mumbai, 24 February 2009

"....Who are the Sri Lankan Muslims? Are they Tamil converts or had they arrived in the island from far. Why do they mistrust the Tamils – especially Jaffna Tamils? This article attempts to answer some of these questions..." -- Shan Ranjit

Imran Khan’s view of Darwin’s life work captures the essence of Muslim backwardness

In a sense, Imran Khan’s view of Darwin’s life work captures the essence of our backwardness. By rejecting a vast body of scientific research and analysis as ‘half-baked’, he exposes his own ignorance. He is, of course, entitled to his own opinion on any subject under the sun. But as he is a role model for many young Pakistanis, he has a duty to choose his words with greater care. He may refuse to accept the consensus behind Darwinian theory in the international scientific community, but to dismiss it out of hand risks influencing impressionable young minds into following him. As it is, there is not a single world-class university or research institute in the Muslim world. The reason for this is not hard to find. By refusing to accept and internalise the rational method of empirical research and analysis, we discourage and suppress scientific and objective scholarship. -- Irfan Husain

Why The West Craves Materialism & Why The East Sticks To Religion

By Imran Khan

The problem of caste among Indian Muslims is gaining increased scrutiny after a series of political and judicial events–the most recent being the Supreme Court's notice to the Union government on the status of 'low-caste' Muslims of Maharashtra. The traditional response of the Muslim community has been to shove the issue under the rug and charge those who dare to challenge the status-quo as indulging in anti-Islamic activity.

In the past decade, however, attempts have been made to shine the light on this uncomfortable aspect of India’s Muslim society.

 Two reviews by Ayub Khan and Arshad Amanullah of a New Urdu book:

1. Hindustan Me Zaat Paat Aur Musalmaan (Caste System In India And The Muslims)

Author: Masud Alam Falahi

Domestic violence is common in Muslim marriages and has often been viewed as a permissible act by Muslims and non-Muslims alike due to misinterpretations that Islam supports the "subordination of women." Misinterpretation of Qur’anic passages have undoubtedly led to many misunderstandings about abuse in Islam. Western stereotypes have only enhanced those misunderstandings in a post 9/11 world. "Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition," said Shaikh Junaid Kharsany of Inglewood’s Jamat-E-Masijidul Islam. "Allah mentions,’ And those women you fear their mischief, then counsel them, and distance from them in the beds and hit them, if they obey then you don’t have a path to them.’ (Qur’an, 4: 34). This applies when the wife of a person is guilty of major religious transgression such as adultery or theft and she is out of her bounds. A man is first advised to counsel her, then distance himself from her and finally to hit."

KARACHI: If a Karachi police surgeon is to be believed, on an average 100 rapes take place in the port city of Karachi alone, and mostly working women are the victims. He said because of the "lengthy medical process and delayed justice system in Pakistan", only 0.5% of rape cases are reported to the police.

Arab men face a great dilemma: who should they marry, an educated woman or an uneducated one. Like all dilemmas this is virtually intractable. Yemen Times considers the subject important enough to publish a 6-part series of articles on the subject by a Yemeni journalist and scholar Majed Thabet Al-kholidy. We present all the articles together.


KABUL: A reality TV show broadcast in Afghanistan has encouraged Afghans to start their own enterprises, stirring entrepreneurial spirits in a country that has been ravaged by three decades of war.


JEDDAH –A first-year student at the College of Business Administration, Ala’a Al–Mizyen, has recently been selected as Saudi Youth Ambassador for the Middle East Youth Initiative. Ala’a, 18, is also the founder president of the on-campus student organization Saudi Arabia’s Women of Tomorrow. A report by By Sabahat F. Siddiqi, Saudi Gazette.


RIYADH: Coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan, the Kingdom has launched an intensive anti-smoking campaign in the holy city of Makkah. Worshippers are being urged to make the holy city smoke-free. A reort by Mohammed Rasooldeen of Arab News.


So what victim-meets-victim programmes do is make me angry — because I am yet again labelled as the victim. I resent the reminder of victimhood being foisted on me. Ayesha Khan”s plea to civil society to just let her be.


Muslim women demanded the abolition of triple talaq that had left many stranded, with no maintenance...What also came through were stories of women, who were fighting against discrimination and injustice, recognition of inter-religious marriages and dowry-related issues.


SUKKUR, Aug 26: Seven men were arrested on Tuesday after police foiled an attempt to give three innocent girls in marriage to settle a dispute following a karo-kari incident on the order of an illegal jirga held in Pano Akil on Monday...an illegal jirga, held Amanullah Jatoi guilty and ordered him to give three daughters of his elder brother — Sumaira, one and half years, Miran, 2, and Mukhtaran, 4, in marriage to Mansoor Jatoi to resolve the dispute. Waseem Shamsi's report in The Dawn, Karachi.


Women have been among the most significant factors behind the success of Islamic empires since the 7th century. Their faith, intelligence, influence and beauty have been central to Islamic history. Their role in religious, military and social affairs was acknowledged as early as during the time of the Prophet.

Why then is so little known about these extraordinary women? Asks

Badriya Yasmeen Dowe in Yemen Times.


Sana’a university's Adnan Ahmed went on to say, “Also in the 2006 report, we addressed the issue of favoritism, which is a very common problem in Yemen. Most graduates can’t find jobs because those with social or political power install their relatives in government positions instead of others.”

As Mejalli stated, “Yemen’s Ministry of Higher Education and the Civil Services Ministry should have a strategy of cooperation so that college graduates will be able to find jobs. This also would help dispel the many unacceptable phenomena that are growing in this country, one of which is terrorism.”


Because of tradition, many girls start wearing veils right from their teenage years.

Little Muslim girls often are obliged to enter the world of female veiling due to societal traditions and/or family oppression. But how do they view the world through this black-colored niqab (a thin cloth worn over the head and face)? And what is society’s view regarding such a phenomenon? Is it sympathetic toward their childhood or are girls in Yemeni society obliged to look like adults as early as possible in order to experience early marriage? This report by Yemen Times Staff Taiz Bureau seeks to answer these questions.


Over 11 percent of Arab population is adolescent youth. Although it varies from one Arab country to the other, most teenagers admit they have not had any kind of proper sex and reproductive health education during their growing years and especially during puberty, writes Nadia Al-Saqqaf in Yemen Times.

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