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Books and Documents

Islamic Society

Reclaim the Lost Heritage of Islam
Saif Shahin is a research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin and a regular contributor to New Age Islam.
Reclaim the Lost Heritage of Islam
Saif Shahin, New Age Islam

Shunning science as a “Western” pursuit means that any attitude of scientific inquiry is disdained as unIslamic; any attempt to build a society based on scientific thought is tarnished as sacrilegious. If you speak in favour of democracy or women’s rights or even basic human rights, you are simply told that these ideas are “Western” and therefore “not for us”. If you try to reason, you are declared a deviant, perhaps even an infidel, for reason itself is now “anti-Islamic”….

Another Sad Madrasa Tale: Several Torture, Brutal And Excruciatingly Painful Punishment By Madrasa Teachers
Sabeer Lodhi is an editor in the online industry and a freelance writer
Another Sad Madrasa Tale: Several Torture, Brutal And Excruciatingly Painful Punishment By Madrasa Teachers
Sabeer Lodhi

They were ‘severely tortured’ by none other than their own madrasa teacher, after being made to lie on the floor with heavy bricks on their chests and legs, only to be beaten by sticks. What was their crime to deserve such brutal and excruciatingly painful punishment? They merely plucked flowers for a female teacher of theirs. All illegal Madrasas should be demolished. …

Burn the Burqa, and the Beard
Saif Shahin is a research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin
Burn the Burqa, and the Beard
Saif Shahin, New Age Islam

FOR some time now, the burqa and the beard have been the most telling pronouncements of Muslimness. You spot a woman in a burqa anywhere in the world and you know that she is a Muslim. Beards are not quite as exclusively Muslim just yet, but the luxurious untrimmed ones, particularly when accompanied by a clean upper lip, are close to becoming so. There is nothing essentially Islamic about either of them. …

In the book 100 Cats Who Changed Civilisation: History’s Most Influential Felines, American author Sam Stall has a chapter titled Muezza: The Cat Who was Mohammed’s Favorite Cat. Explaining why cats are esteemed in Islam, Stall writes: Felines owe this exalted status to Muezza, the adored pet of the Prophet Mohammed. … 

 

….why do our collective thought processes work in such devious ways that twisted logic, perverse defence of patently criminal acts and misplaced sympathy for the guilty, find easy accommodation in our legal and moral universe? This is not an idle question in a society where vocal support for, or partisan silence over, suicide bombing, faith-based murder, massive corruption, open defiance of the law, or even making fun of the superior courts is not uncommon. …

 
Personality Cult or DUALISM of Muslims
Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
Personality Cult or DUALISM of Muslims
Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam

There is a buzz word called “pluralism’ lately among the enlightened Muslims scholars, who wish to distance themselves from the insularism that comes with the word Islam as it conjures up the Arabnised religion of Muslims, and therefore it negates the very fundamentals of Pluralistic society of mankind that is given in 2-4 etc as one’s ‘Belief’, ordained some fourteen centuries ago….

First, he inducted Hindus in the state structure and integrated them socially and culturally on equal basis. Secondly, he welcomed the Iranians to his court who were excellent administrators and literary people. Thirdly, he Indianised the Mughal culture by adopting Indian customs, traditional festivals and celebrations. These efforts brought Muslims and Hindus together. …

School syllabi demand it, but even then few young Pakistanis want to study science subjects and still fewer want to become scientists. Many generations have found science so odiously dull that they are now indifferent — even hostile — to a subject that stands at the very pinnacle of human understanding and progress. Contrast this with India. Surveys show that school students see science as the most prestigious and glamorous career to pursue. For them Einstein, Stephen Hawking, black holes, genes, etc. is the way to go. ...

Kyon ke bachay tau pal hi jatey hain!!!….. palnay wala tau woh (Allah) hai (children get brought up somehow or the other …. Allah looks after us all)’. But most unfortunately when it comes to having children, the overwhelming majority of our “faithful” population defies all forms of logic and leaves it all up to the divine powers. The argument here is certainly not about having more or less number of children. ...

Muslims are not ostensibly against science and development, yet many a times they do not accept science on religious basis. They also link every scientific achievement and technological advancement with the blessing of Allah Islam is an old religion which originated more than 1400 years ago while other divine religions are older. In view of modernity, the Muslims are not ostensibly against science and development, yet many a times they do not accept science on religious basis. ....

One hears some rather astonishing, even bizarre, claims. Ranger-guarded Karachi University — which resembles more a detention camp than a university — allegedly belongs to the world’s top 200 universities. Whoever believes this must also believe in tooth fairies. Pakistan’s university teachers and researchers have roughly the same ethical standards as its politicians, generals, judges, and shopkeepers. ...

Pashtuns are believed to be the largest segmentary lineage society in the world today. They have been living in their defined homeland areas since ages, in a social order loosely defined by the code of Pashtunwali. They believe in the myth that they are children of one common ancestor, Qaise, who converted to Islam once he met the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  -- Asad Munir

Scared of the clergy and their mindless flocks, sexual education in Pakistan has already been rechristened as Reproductive Health Education but even then it is not being imparted where it is most needed: to our youth. Even today, this education is not even touching the ‘taboo’ subject of sexuality but merely focusing on the physical aspects of change. Why are we scared to teach our children what they must know? -- Mohammad Malick

Islam And Economic Justice
Asghar Ali Engineer

Mecca was, as we all know, centre of international trade and finance and various tribal chiefs had formed inter-tribal corporation to monopolis we this international trade and were accumulating wealth and neglecting tribal morality to look after weaker sections. In other words, like in our own times, globalization and liberalization of economy allows few people to accumulate wealth, in Mecca too, before rise of Islam, polarization between rich and poor had greatly increased leading to social tensions. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

This statistic seems even more horrifying if the Peace Prize winners are excluded from this list which leaves it with only two Nobel laureates in the field of science namely Dr Abdus Salam in Physics and Ahmed Zewail in Chemistry. Moreover, Dr. Salam was hounded and persecuted in his home country on account of his Ahmedi faith and is not even considered a Muslim. His numerous achievements were never acknowledged. In fact the word “Muslim” was officially erased from his gravestone. On the contrary, Jews who make up 0.20 percent of the total world population at 13.2 million have had 178 Nobel Prize winners. -- Aftab Zaidi

Becoming victims of such criminality and exploitation is a constant risk. The situation for marooned Afghans in Greece is so bad that the Afghan government plans to open an embassy in Athens to help deal with tens of thousands whose dreams of moving deeper into Europe have turned into a nightmare. For a passage to Australia, another popular destination, the smuggler offered an all-expenses-included trip for $11,500. -- John Boone

Every single Muslim in the subcontinent believes s/he is of Arab descent. If not direct Arab descent, then the illustrious ancestor had come from either Iran or Bukhara. Interestingly, the ancestor is always a great general or a saint. Never ever have we heard anyone boasting of an intellectual for a forebear. We hear of the progeny of savage robber kings, but there is no one who claims Abu Rehan Al-Beruni or Ibn Rushd as a distant sire. Most of us are the progeny of converts. In their need to escape the discrimination of the so-called higher castes, our ancestors converted to a religion that in theory claimed to profess human equality regardless of colour or caste. I use the words ‘in theory’ because even as the Arabs converted our ancestors to Islam, they discriminated against them for being “Hindis” as we learn this from Ibn Batuta’s own prejudices. And he is not alone. -- Salman Rashid

Sauntering Through the Sahara (Part Two)
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Set behind forbidding walls, these vulgarly huge complexes were built on what would otherwise have been stunningly beautiful beaches. They were geared to rich European and Gulf Arab tourists, besides the few Egyptians who could afford them. Siwa was definitely no longer a remote idyllic oasis cut off from the larger world that my guide-book touted it as. Five mineral water bottling plants had just been set up on the outskirts of the town—a heavy burden on the oasis’ precious water resources, Hasan complained. ‘We never faced water shortage in all our history,’ he went on, ‘but now, with this craze for earning money at any cost becoming an obsession, and these plants consuming our water indiscriminately, bottling it and sending it off to Cairo, we don’t know what the future might hold.’-- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

 
Sauntering Through the Sahara (Part One)
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

I trudged up a knoll to the Qala, the fort inside which the denizens of Dakhla lived till just a few decades ago before the new, ‘modern’ town came up. Labyrinthine lanes wound their way up to the summit, criss-crossed with shaded passageways lined with mud houses, now all in a state of woeful ruin. Only a few of these were still inhabited, presumably by families that could not afford to shift to the ‘modern’ town below. The tough walk to the crest of the fort was well worth the effort, for the panoramic view that it afforded: Of an enormous stone ridge, below which nestled hundreds of homes huddled, and on the other three sides a vast sandy ocean, whose enormous untouched dunes stretched for unknown hundreds of miles, to the Sudan in the east, and to Mali, Libya and Chad in the south and west—pure, virgin, uninhabited Sahara. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

 

EVERY human being is connected with Allah spiritually. However, in this material world, we also get ourselves connected with other entities, such as parents, family, community, society, country, etc. As time goes by, new connections are added at every new stage in life. Islam encourages us to maintain happy relationships with other fellow beings. It urges civility, humility, tolerance and straight dealing with our fellow beings. These values subordinate the self and emphasise the others and are essential for cordial and peaceful coexistence in society. Islam is a religion of peace which can only be realised when an individual has happy relations with others. -- Amin Valliani

Dubai is a place where there are more nightclubs than mosques. Here, alcohol is a ready consolation for all and sundry. “We Dubai people, we do this every day. We get tired of clubbing and partying; we take our cars over the sand and have some desert fun.” To put it in the words of the huge bouncer who refused me entry, while encircling his head with his hand to imitate the Palestinian checkered scarf on my head: “You can’t go where there is free distribution of alcohol with that thing on.” -- Nuvaira A

“The mourning ceremonies of Ashura are of course an important way in which we demonstrate our love affection for Imam Hussein, and through him, the Prophet. I am committed to the notion that identification with the redemptive suffering of the imam is a key aspect of Shi’I piety. And I would add two other elements:  in the mourning, we have to be sure to continue to honor the sanctity of the human body, which is after all the creation of God. So in my own personal reckoning, I would prefer to see taking stories to heart, shedding of tears, and even the striking of one’s chest gently with one’s hand. I would suggest avoiding any action that would lead to shedding of blood (using knives, etc.) or leaving bruises (such as chains). -- Dilshad Ali

 

A community of Muslims on the other shore of the great divide of sectarian schism will express its unbridled sorrow in the streets of their towns and in their houses of worship during the next few days; commemorating the events that took place fourteen centuries ago and culminating in the legend of the martyrdom of the grandson and great grandson of the last messenger of God; at Karbala in Iraq --at the hands of a fellow Muslim’s army; who was contending for the glory of State Power! There is a parallel to this passion in another comparative Religion, namely Christianity, where the event of over two thousand years ago, is also similarly commemorated at Easter, on Passover day. In the context of Muslims, the legend of Muharram and ‘passion of Imam Hussein’, can one ask or discuss this dispassionately, rationally and historically in the context of Quran amongst the two main sects of Muslims? Erroneously called Shia and Sunni sects of ‘Islam’! Erroneously because Islam derives its code – ad Deen from Quran and it says in verse—6-160: As to those who split up their religion (Deen) and become sects, have thou (Muhammad) nothing to do with them: their affair is with God only. Here after He shall tell them what they have done. – Rashid Samnakay, NewAgeIslam.com

Masjid, literally the place where one prostrates, is commonly described as a house of God, a notion of place, fixed and definite — fixed in function and definite in its orientation. Dargah, or what is insufficiently translated as shrine, on the other hand, is a threshold in literal terms. Imagined as a crossing over of space and time, it is at once a place and space, marked respectively by a presence and an access. The mosque in principle is open to all, but its alignment with a particular sect or religious denomination is seen as a restricting factor. Alignment is achieved only in relation to other specified positions. Shrines are also aligned, producing thereby a significantly selective relation across different ritual points in space. It is possible to read these lines of relation in pilgrims’ ritual itineraries, in legends, miracles and hagiographies, and more importantly in pilgrims’ accounts of their experiences, dreams and visions. -- Omar Kasmani

Whenever I hear the word ‘prostitute’ the first image that comes to mind is an inappropriately dressed woman standing in filthy streets waiting for a client. The discussion on the issue how cruel the profession is to women – their empty, hungry stomachs forcing them to sell their bodies in order to buy bread for the family. But let’s think for a moment; what about all the men, the children, and the teenagers that engage in such acts? A child prostitute of 14 years can be easily bought with the meagre sum of three to five thousand rupees. Male child prostitutes – ranging from ages 15-25 – are thought to be cheaper than their female counterparts. Similar to prostitution is the practice of ‘bachabazi’ which exists in Pakistan mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is thought to refer to older men keeping young boys as their sexual partners with the former becoming responsible for the education, clothing and general care of the latter in return for ‘sexual favours.’ -- Aneka Chohan

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