Books and Documents

Islamic Society

How long will terrorists and rapists be released simply because the prosecution system is weak? The provinces with the reversal of devolution have undone the prosecution reform started in 2002. We also need judicial reforms in lower and superior courts of Pakistan — way beyond the goals of the national judicial policy of 2009. Let Mukhtaran Mai’s defeat become an opportunity for mobilising for reform. Mai: We are ashamed, but will not give up. -- Raza Rumi  

Photo: Mukhtaran Mai

I think it is crucial to read into the silence of the ‘Muslim' community on this issue in the period 1988 (the constitution of the Jamia Act) to 1997 (when the aforementioned resolution was adopted). What was the discursive rupture that necessitated the emergence of this concern around the ‘minority character' in 1997? One tentative suggestion could be that this discourse was in 1997 a response to the Indra Sawney (Mandal Judgment) by the Supreme Court in 1993 which made it mandatory for the Central Government institutions to reserve 27% seats in public sector jobs for the OBCs (incidentally, in addition to Hindu lower castes, about 80 Muslim lower caste groups, constituting more than 80% of total Muslim population in India, are also included in the Central OBC list).-- Khalid Anis Ansari

Face-Veil Ban: Mixed Muslim Reactions
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Complicating the Muslim response to the face veil ban are multiple voices, each claiming to authoritatively speak for Islam, revealing that there simply is no consensus on what precisely is the single ‘authentic’ Islamic position on the matter. It is true that some Muslims insist that the face veil is mandatory when Muslim women step out into public space. That, for instance, would be the position of conservative and viscerally patriarchal mullahs, such as those affiliated to the Wahhabi, Ahl-e Hadith, and Deobandi schools of Sunni ‘Islamic’ thought. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Although the Muslims’ direction of prayers is the Kabah in Mecca, it is hard to take the holy land as an example of democracy and human rights. By contrast, whereas other Muslim countries, such as Turkey and Indonesia, have advanced in blending democracy, secularization, and local Islamic characters, the kingdom remains kingdom.

An ongoing wave of democratic protests in the Middle East has hit Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya. The sacred land remains sacred. -- Al Makin


Aijaz Ilmi on Indian Muslim 'Leadership' and role of ulema in ghettoisation of Muslims
Q: To return to the question of the maulvis, it is argued that they are an impediment to the spread of modern education among Muslims. Do you agree?

 A: Yes, almost entirely. Many ulema, explicitly or otherwise, oppose the spread of modern ideas. They act as an impediment to the emergence of a progressive social consciousness.  They fear this will undermine their hegemony. They have never taken any interest in wider social, economic or governance issues, or in helping Muslims be part of the mainstream. Nor have they encouraged Muslims in that direction. On the contrary, they have only further contributed to the ghettoisation of the Muslims. So, I would say, the ulema are equally, if not more, responsible for Muslim backwardness as government apathy. The ulema have never mobilised the community for modern education or for economic empowerment. They take to the streets and whip up Muslim sentiments only on narrowly-conceived identity related issues. ...

A related issue is the mindset of the ulema class, which is definitely not conducive to coming to terms with the realities of modernity. By and large, theirs is a very ritualised understanding of, and approach to, Islam. What was a very simple religion has been projected as an enormously ritualised and complex one under the watchful eyes of the ulema. I refuse to buy the argument that we need a certificate of righteousness from the maulvis to be considered to be proper Muslims. For the maulvis to claim that they have the right to issue such certificates is to arrogate to themselves some of the authority of God, which is tantamount to the crime of shirk or associationism, a blatant violation of Islamic teachings. As a Muslim, I am answerable for my faith, beliefs and actions to God alone, and not to any maulvi. I do not need his approval at all. I refuse to pander to the maulvis, who self-righteously regard all others but followers of their own sect as kafirs. This narrow-mindedness of the maulvis is really troubling. It is also responsible for the backwardness of Muslims. When the maulvis of the different Muslim sects simply cannot dialogue, and when they brand each other as kafirs and apostates, how on earth are they going to be able to dialogue with non-Muslims? If the maulvi's intolerance rules out intra-Muslim dialogue, how can we have meaningful inter-faith dialogue? -- Aijaz Ilmi, Chairman, Board of Siyasat Jadid, Lucknow, talking to Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com

Sixty-three years old and suffering from grave identity crisis. Sixty-three years old and still requiring hoards of people to continue knee-jerking their way across a number of hyperbolic patriotic clichés and chants. This is Pakistan...

This is a generation that was born and raised in the post-Cold War world. A world where Communism had been defeated and in which a mixture of consumerism and the resurgence of faith collaborated to turn everything, from entertainment to information to faith itself into an industry. An industry squarely catering to a highly depoliticised market of young people in a scenario where the state was eroding, where politicians had delegated much of their roles to multi-national corporations, to the NGOs and to a new set of preachers who had turned religion into a media-savvy enterprise. -- NADEEM F PARACHA

The New Arab Low
Muhammad Ali Siddiqui

As the Algerian war of independence gained momentum, there were military coups in a number of Arab countries, the bloodiest being in Baghdad where the Hashemite dynasty came to an end, King Feisal II and Crown Prince Abd al-Ilah being killed and Prime Minister Nuri Said lynched. Learning from the Iraqi trauma, most Arab countries either nationalised the oil industry or secured better terms. Nasser’s Cairo then became the headquarters for no less than a dozen African liberation movements, and then by aligning himself with such neutral greats as Soekarno, Nehru, Tito and Nkrumah, the Egyptian leader became an icon for the entire Afro-Asian world, and this won him categorical support from communists from China to Cuba. The 1967 war was a disaster from which Nasser never recovered, but that made no difference to the Arab world’s continued leadership of what would later be called the Third World. -- Muhammad Ali Siddiqui


When expelled Samajwadi Party leader Naseem Usmani argued that modern education had no place in Darul Uloom, he was roundly rebuffed by the rest: “Do you even know that ilm [knowledge] is the third most recurring word in the Koran? Find us the passage in the holy book that tells Muslims not to broaden their horizon.” I raised the Modi issue and was instantly put down: “We are not saying that Muslims should forgive Modi or forget 2002. But all of you in the secular media want the Gujarati Muslim never to get out of his grieving. Hindu or Muslim, the Gujarati is a businessperson, and that is what Vastanvi was trying to say.”The words stung but they were true. The Congress and the secular media wanted the Gujarati Muslim forever to fight Mr. Modi but neither was there to protect him. In any case, unbeknown to most of us, the debate seemed to have progressed beyond the rights and wrongs of supporting Mr. Modi. There are some student firebrands who make a lot of noise, but “most of us have tired of the jalsa-jaloos [procession-protest] politics of the Muslim leadership,” Mr. Shahnawaz said. He was awfully proud of his cousin Saba Karim, who was training to be a pilot in Patna — the first to do so in two decades. “There is no disputing that deeni taleem [religious education] is the foundation of Darul Uloom. But being computer illiterate or not knowing English is not the solution. Right now we cannot even fill up a form,” said the young man, who made a stunning parting remark: “Do you know the Islamic revelation started with the word, Iqra, which means to read?”Muslims have long given up on government. On the plus side, the terrorism label has started to come off, and the sense of siege over identity and security has given way to aspiration hopes and dreams. Naturally there is anger with the old Muslim leadership and its crass opportunistic politics. Time will tell whether Mr. Vastanvi is just another political player or a reformer. For now, an unlikely Mohtamim seems to have become a metaphor for change. -- Vidya Subrahmaniam


With a population of just over a million, the Dawoodi Bohras are ethnic Gujaratis, mostly small traders. Last month, when 3,000 Dawoodi Bohras gathered at Udaipur for their 14th world conference, the thrust was on galvanising the ongoing movement against what the organisers described as the draconian rule of their spiritual head or dai-e-mutlaq, Syedna Burhanuddin. The Dawoodis are one of the many branches of the Ismaili Shia sect. Throughout their history, the Ismailis have faced dissensions over succession to the post of Imam, whom they believe to be appointed by God as the Prophet’s deputy. The Dawoodis believe that their 21st Imam, Tayyeb, who resided in Yemen, went into seclusion, and that in his absence he had appointed a dai-e-mutlaq, a deputy with absolute powers over his followers, to control the community.-- Yoginder Sikand

The political survival of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya's strongman for 42 years, is under serious threat. Much of this has to do with the transformation of the opposition, now closing in on the capital Tripoli. It had started an unarmed campaign for change but, in the face of excessive State violence, has transformed itself dramatically into an armed revolutionary movement.

With the uprising raging, and eastern Libya already under opposition control, the regime's survival is now almost out of the equation. Mr. Qadhafi no longer has influential friends within and outside Libya who can bail him out. The question now is how will he go, and what will replace him? Will the regime collapse suddenly, the end brought about by a coup, or will it disappear after a brief civil war, when the debilitating ranks of Mr. Qadhafi's loyal forces, make their last stand to defend Tripoli? Alternatively, could there be an unlikely sting in the tail, which might reveal itself in a war of attrition, between Qadhafi-loyalists, whose numbers and commitment the world has underestimated, and the opposition forces, now rapidly advancing along Libya's eastern Mediterranean coastline towards Tripoli? -- Atul Aneja

In 1989 the collapse of the old order started in the ‘satellite’ countries, not in the Russian heart of the Soviet Empire, just as the current revolt against the Arab status quo began in Tunisia and is now inching towards the centre

It was the Egyptian Army’s statement that brought it all back: “To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people... have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people.” In other words, go ahead and overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. It’s all right with us.

The risks for the Arab world are comparable: Short-term economic decline, civil war, and the rise of new authoritarian regimes, probably fuelled by Islamist ideas. Nothing’s perfect. But what we are now witnessing in Tunisia and Egypt, and may also see elsewhere, is a great liberation not just from dictatorship, but from decades of corruption and despair. That’s worth a lot. -- Gwynne Dyer

The Future Of The Arab World
Asghar Ali Engineer

The developments in Tunisia and Egypt are indeed breath taking. No one expected such explosive developments in these countries so all of a sudden. But those who keep an eye on the ground situation may not be surprised. There are scholars and analysts who always debunked Islam as anti-democratic and supportive of dictatorial regimes whereas fact is that it is western regimes who supported dictators in the Islamic world for their own interests.

Nothing can hold back the surge of people in Middle East. Also time has come for Palestinians to liberate themselves. Israel is also shaking. Two events the Turkish Flotila which went to supply essential commodities to Gaza and on which Israel made crucial mistake to fire, and the Egyptian revolution have done for Palestinian cause what their fight could not do for decades. This also shows that peaceful methods of fighting can do in short time what violence cannot achieve even after decades. Bravo for peaceful and non-violent agitation. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Pune Imam: Preaching to Papa
Mohammed Wajihuddin

A Unique project in Pune imparts secular English education to the children of Muslim religious leaders in the hope of changing the rigid mindsets of the imams

 "I carefully heard their Friday sermons. Invariably every imam spoke of real and imaginary injustices done to Muslims globally. The root of most of their anger and despair was their own deprivation," explains Inamdar whom many of the imams today understandably see as a messiah. Imams needed to be purged of this sense of persecution, he felt, and one way was to give them hope of a better future for their children. The project paid off. Today, even the ambience of the homes of the Pune imams, including the lives of their better halves, has changed remarkably. -- Mohammed Wajihuddin

The extent and the intensity of the protests in Egypt have surprised many people both in Egypt and abroad. Were the Egyptians not a peaceable, almost phlegmatic people, whose last great rebellion took place against the British in 1919? Considering the events of recent years and their consequences, the question must be as to why the powder keg did not ignite much earlier. Historic events are subject to contingency. The direct catalyst was certainly the Tunisian coup. Foundations were laid via online networks, primarily via Face book. Events then took on a momentum of their own – a momentum that was significantly boosted by media dissemination.

Considering the events of recent years and their consequences, the question must be as to why the powder keg did not ignite much earlier. -- Stefan Winkler


For some reason, which I cannot fathom, sections of Urdu Press seem to be sensationalising the ongoing student protest and succession dispute in the Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband, and are fervently backing what appears to be a mounting wave of opposition to the newly-appointed rector of the institution, Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi. Hamara Samaj and Daily Sahafat (published simultaneously from Lucknow, Mumbai and Delhi), in particular, continue to publish sensationalist and even possibly baseless allegations against Vastanvi, and continuously repeat with banner headlines on the front pages the claim, which Vastanvi has refuted, that he has praised Narendra Modi. The paper goes so far as to even suggest that Vastanvi is an ‘RSS agent’, without providing any substantial proof at all. Below I have summarized and translated some of the latest news about the ongoing tussle in Deoband, as reported in the 25th January issue of the Delhi edition of the Daily Sahafat. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Photo:  Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, newly-appointed rector of Dar-ul-Uloom, Deoband.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani actress Veena Malik has mounted a fiery defence of her appearance in the controversial reality show 'Bigg Boss', taking on clerics who had criticized her. Malik took Mufti Abdul Kawi to task for calling her "baigharat" (immoral) on a talk show on television and said if she were in the wrong, so was he because Islam doesn't permit a man to cast a second look at a woman who isn't his relative. "One can be punished for looking at a woman a second time, you should be punished," Malik, clad in a black sleeveless dress, told the Mufti on Express News' Frontline show. "What is your problem with me? You tell me your problem!" an angry Veena Malik asked the Muslim scholar, who accused her of insulting Islam. Malik's outspoken defence of herself received widespread support from Pakistani liberals and civil society activists on social networking websites like Twitter, which were flooded with messages praising her and quotes of her witty repartee with the Mufti.– PTI report

Please click next clips for subsequent parts of the television show.



Islam, Family and Modernity
Asghar Ali Engineer

Sometime ago I happened to go to Turkey for an international conference on Family. I wrote an account of my journey to Turkey but here I want to talk about my presentation in the conference. It was an impressive international conference from around 50 countries and 300 scholars, social scientists and activists. Several papers were read and discussed on various aspects of family. The common concern was that the institution of family is getting weakened and family being the very foundation of our civilization, it must be saved from disintegration. I was asked to talk about Islam and institution of family. In fact the Prophet of Islam did not approve of life of celibacy except in some situation. He also disapproved of renunciation of world (ruhbaniyyah) and preferred living in the world and facing all the situations. Various pronouncements of the Qur’an relate to family life, marriage, divorce and children. Qur’an also says if you have no means to marry and sustain your family lead pious life until Allah gives you necessary means. Also, Qur’an prescribes punishment for illegitimate sex fornication, rape and adultery. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

As numerous studies, most prominently and recently the Sachar Committee Report, have pointed out, Muslims are among the most economically, educationally and socially backward sections of Indian society. Undoubtedly, the Report is immensely useful for understanding the magnitude of this problem, as are many of the suggestions that it provides for ameliorating it. Critics of the Report are, however, not found wanting. One of the problematic aspects of the Report, as I see it, is that it has paid insufficient attention to the role of individuals and organizations that claim to represent the Indian Muslims in perpetuating the overall marginalization of the community, or large sections thereof, and of doing precious little by way of working to address it. The Report thus places the onus for addressing the problem largely, though not entirely, on the state. While, admittedly, the state and its agencies do have a central role in both perpetuating as well as addressing Muslim marginalization, the responsibility and role of Muslim organizations that claim to represent the Muslims of India, and to be spokesmen of Islam, in this regard cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the Report does not seem to give this issue the attention and importance that it deserves. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Br. Ziyad Motala has reminded me of an article that I filed away a few days before the Hajj season began. I filed it away because I intended, at some point in the near future, to come back to it with a hard hitting commentary on what struck me as an apartheid-like (or old south segregationist-like) practice in the land of the Qur'an. Motala (Ziyad Motala, Law professor, Howard University School of Law) beat me to it....

While Almighty ALLAH has mandated that every able bodied Muslim (with the means to do so) perform Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime - the Saudi position is, if we have a problem with you, you will not receive a visa to answer God's call! (How blind and foolish can one twisted regime be?!)

Recently, there was a case out of London involving one of the deviant, but wealthy member of the Saudi clan. He was captured on an elevator mounted video assaulting his male "servant," who later tuned up dead in their hotel suite. The homosexual nature of their relationship ended up being the salacious focus of the media - but this was not the thing that caused me to experience visceral outrage. It was something else...something much deeper. -- El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan

It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centrepiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on. The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very centre of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government. “It is the commercialisation of the house of God,” said Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who founded a research centre that studies urban planning issues surrounding the Haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.--Nicolai Ouroussoff


Abdullah al-Ghathami came out to criticize liberalism in Saudi Arabia, during an open lecture he gave at the King Saud University in Riyadh....In his book that deals with the story of modernity, Al-Ghathami recalls an occasion when traditionalists, modernists and media representatives participated in the Al-Janadriyah Heritage and Cultural Festival in 1988. At this time, the conservative critic Mohammad al-Malibari had announced his opposition to the term and indeed concept of modernism, saying that if a more appropriate concept was found, then he would not have a problem with the modernists. This prompted journalist Muhammad Sadiq Diyab to propose to rename this concept, and after much discussion he proposed to rename this "imaginary realism." Thus, we saw a new term coined, and an old term rejected, in the hope of ending the problem and stopping the criticism and attacks by the anti-modernists. However, of course, this did not happen, because the issue was not a problem of names and terms. These names were just a terminological construct veiling the real dispute regarding modernization and reform, amongst its supporters and opponents. -- Mshari Al-Zaydi


A spate of recent religious opinions and court rulings ranging from the bizarre to endorsement of mutilation issued by prominent Saudi sheikhs and judges highlight the difficulty King Abdullah faces in clamping down on fatwas and codifying the kingdom's largely unwritten Islamic legal regulations...

Lawyers and analysts say the recent spate of controversial fatwas constitute an attempt to thwart Abdullah's efforts by his opponents within the royal family and conservative clerics who fear that they could undermine Saudi Arabia's puritan interpretation of Islamic law as well as the independence of judges by making them adhere to written rules and regulations. "The traditional establishment is by nature against these reforms. So it's going to take time to implement them," said Riyadh-based lawyer Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh. -- James M. Dorsey


The first time Allah Hafiz was used in public was in 1985 when a famous TV host, a frequent sight on PTV during the Zia era, signed off her otherwise secular show with a firm ‘Allah Hafiz.’ AS MOST Pakistanis over the ages of six and seven would remember, before the now ubiquitous ‘Allah Hafiz’ came ‘Khuda Hafiz’. The immediate history of the demise of Khuda Hafiz can be traced back to a mere six to seven years in the past. It was in Karachi some time in 2002 when a series of banners started appearing across Sharea Faisal. Each banner had two messages. The first one advised Pakistani Muslims to stop addressing God by the informal ‘Tu’ and instead address him as ‘Aap’ (the respectful way of saying ‘you’ in Urdu). The second message advised Pakistanis to replace the term Khuda Hafiz with Allah Hafiz. -- NADEEM F. PARACHA

Many Pakistanis can be seen jumping and shouting and going hoarse in the throat discussing India and the United State’s nefarious designs in the region, but the same people then go all quiet (if not downright sheepish), when some psycho flag wavers of faith and jihad take responsibility of an appalling act of terror. As most of us then go about like zombies spouting meaningless pearls of delusion, such as ‘it can’t be us’ or ‘these can’t be Muslims’, the many monsters that clearly lurk among us and are Muslims, go about their business thriving and planning their gruesome acts in our mountains, hills and cities. -- Nadeem F. Paracha

Arab slaughterhouses overflowed with sheep-toting Muslims on Tuesday, the first day of Eid, when people not only celebrate by eating meat but must purchase an approved animal for sacrifice, such as a cow, camel, sheep or goat....

 In the tiny emirate of Abu-Dhabi, some 150 butchers augmented the regular staff of the slaughterhouses to deal with nearly 4,000 animals. Muhammad Al-Marzouqi, head of the slaughterhouse department in Abu-Dhabi's Health Ministry told the Emirati daily Al-Itihad that about 15,000 animals were due to be slaughtered during the 4 day long holiday. 
In Israel, where about 20% of the population is Muslim, an appliance store offered a free sheep with every purchase of a refrigerator and had the animals gathered in a parking lot for the customer to choose from until health authorities put a stop to it. The mass killing of sheep has aroused the ire of animal right activists in Australia, which this year supplied 800,000 sheep worth $92 million to the Gulf. -- David E Miller

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