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Books and Documents

Spiritual Meditations

A Man From Across the Border
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

A Man From Across the Border
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Despite fifty years of being separated from the land of his birth, his love for it remained intense. He couldn’t ever get himself to hate—much though the Pakistani establishment may have wanted this—the country of his ancestors. And then, he was convinced that all forms of nationalism were bunkum in any case.

The Dharam of the Desert
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

The Dharam of the Desert
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Letting a stranger into your home, feeding him and putting him up for the night was his dharam, the man had said. He had few worldly possessions of his own and he lived in a little hovel, but yet he believed that sharing even these was his dharam. And what about miserable middle-class me? If this man or someone like him—a poor peasant from the desert—ever came to my middle-class home and sought a place for the night, would I even speak to him, leave alone let him in? Might I not, instead, instinctively shoo him away or even report him to the police as a ‘suspicious character’?

The idea of “being crazy with God” has been around for a long time, particularly among Sufis and poets in Muslims lands. South Asia is no exception. Here is an example of such “craziness” as narrated—admiringly—by the poet Mir Muhammad Taqi “Mir” (d. 1810) in his autobiography, Zikr-e Mīr

It is thus that millions of us are almost instinctively led to waste our precious lives in enforced conformity to the religion we have inherited from our parents, not daring to speak our minds about how absurd it is to be forced to believe that our own religion alone is true and how suffocating it is to be compelled to uphold impossible and even patently immoral beliefs simply because these are mentioned in many of our scriptures and are preached by men who consider themselves to be eminent religious authorities.

 
Reflecting on the Purpose of Life
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Reflecting on the Purpose of Life
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Despite claiming to distance itself from religion and to abstain from imposing an answer to the question of the purpose of life, ‘modernity’ is informed by a quasi-religious conviction about life having a definite meaning, although it may not announce it as explicitly as religions do. In contrast to religion, ‘secular modernity’ sees the purpose of life as being geared to material ‘success’—limitless acquisition and consumption and relentless titillation of the ego,...

Political Implications of Religious Beliefs
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Political Implications of Religious Beliefs
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Religious beliefs are concerned with supposedly supernatural entities. The ways in which these entities are conceived of have different political implications. One way of understanding these implications is to categorise religious belief systems on the basis of whether the supposedly divine being/beings or divine force/forces they are centred on are seen as of transcendent or imminent, and then to draw out what this distinction means for people’s behaviour vis-à-vis others who don’t share their religious beliefs....

On religious podiums, similar with what HTI includes in its fliers, many clerics bark: “It is a curse from God. Humanity has been too far away from His teachings. It’s time to reflect and rebuild our belief in Him.” At night, when God is still awake, the clerics sleep tightly and forget how thousands of people are also remain awake because they have no place to go for even just an hour’s sleep....

 

Every Religion Has Two Versions: One Spiritual, For Life As A Minority, Another Predatory, For Life As A Majority
Sohail Arshad, NewAgeIslam.com

However, the most intriguing aspect of the followers of almost all the major religions is that they do not stick to the principles and spiritual values of their respective religions and their interpretations of their faiths change according to their political conditions. Religion to them has become a political tool to further their narrow political interests and in pursuance of their interests, they most often become savages and indulge in bloodshed and mayhem in such a dastardly and heinous way that even the most savage beasts would be embarrassed.

Swami Vivekananda on the Ideal of a Universal Religion:  How It Must Embrace Different Types of Mind and Methods
Swami Vivekananda

Religion is the highest plane of human thought and life, and herein we find that the workings of these two forces have been most marked. The intensest love that humanity has ever known has come from religion, and the most diabolical hatred that humanity has known has also come from religion. The noblest words of peace that the world has ever heard have come from men on the religious plane, and the bitterest denunciation that the world has ever known has been uttered by religious men. The higher the object of any religion and the finer its organisation, he more remarkable are its activities. No other human motive has deluged the world with blood so much as religion; at the same time, nothing has brought into existence so many hospitals and asylums for the poor; no other human influence has taken such care, not only of humanity, but also of the lowest of animals, as religion has done. Nothing makes us so cruel as religion, and nothing makes us so tender as religion. This has been so in the past, and will also, in all probability, be so in the future. Yet out of the midst of this din and turmoil, this strife and struggle, this hatred and jealousy of religions and sects, there have arisen, from time to time, potent voices, drowning all this noise — making themselves heard from pole to pole, as it were — proclaiming peace and harmony. Will it ever come?...

Nothing more fulfilling than occasions to repay debts of kindness and friendship: Burmese Leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

“Pandit ji” was a name known to me since I was little past the toddler stage. My mother spoke of him as a revered friend, almost a father figure, both to her and to my father. I had little idea of his importance as a statesman beyond the fact that he was the Prime Minister of India. To my infant mind he was the kindly old man who had provided my father with two sets of uniform, the smartest he ever possessed. In January 1947 my father had stopped in Delhi for two days on his way to London for the Aung San-Attlee talks that were to be the first phase of formal negotiations for Burmese independence....

Miracles in the Quran
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

Miracles in the Quran
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

The Glorious Quran is the last and final revelation which was revealed to the last and final Messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For any book to claim that it is a revelation from God, it should stand the test of Time. Previously, it was the age of miracles; the Quran is a miracle of miracles. After that, came the age of literature and poetry. Muslims and non-Muslims alike say that the Quran is the best piece of Arabic literature present on the face of the earth….

Gamble during Diwali is Cosmic Lila, Divine Play, the Grand Illusion and Maya
Narayani Ganesh

Parvati not only plays dice with the universe, she is engaged in an eternal game of winning and losing with Shiva, her partner. It’s a game spanning the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction, of fragmentation and reunification. It is Cosmic Lila, Divine Play, the Grand Illusion, Maya. Gambling during Diwali is considered auspicious, not the least because it emulates - however weakly - the cosmic interplay of Parvati and Shiva. It’s not about winning or losing but how you play the game….

 

Waris Shah’s Love Story
Sadia Dehlvi

Waris Shah gave it the classical form. Heer became a powerful commentary on the social, cultural and religious customs of the times the two lovers lived in. The verses of Heer are short and have been interpreted in a mystical sense. “Our soul is the tragic heroine Heer, Our body is the lover Ranjha, Our spiritual preceptor is the yogi Balmath, and the five helpful saints are our five senses, who support us in our adventures dread. Truth is our judge.”...

 
Babri Masjid: Opportunity for Muslims
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Babri Masjid: Opportunity for Muslims
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Muslims have gone through a traumatic period in the last several years. They have spent a lot of time in introspection. They have shown great wisdom and maturity in fending off severe and very brazen provocations. One hopes that it is this maturity that is now beginning to be reflected....

This brings me to my main plea—forgiveness. Forgiveness is the essence of both the Muslim and Hindu spiritual traditions. It is the only way out of the vicious and very debilitating grip of bad karma. It is our belief that one has to always pay individual or collective karmic debts in this or any subsequent incarnations or on the Day of Judgement. Both Hindu and Muslim spiritual traditions consider God as the greatest teacher, this world a great school, the events that involve us in this mayajaal (illusionary world) as messages.

What could this Great Teacher be teaching us in this section of the school through the great Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi drama? Perhaps the all-important lesson of forgiveness. It may take us years, decades, centuries or millennia to learn this lesson. But learn we will. There is no escaping. God is a very determined teacher. We have the option to learn the lesson now. Let us exercise it.

Super Storm Sandy and God’s Wrath
Ishtiaq Ahmed

Every time death and destruction result after the ‘normal’ weather pattern is disrupted and hurricanes, typhoons and storms occur or vigorous seismic activity takes place that results in earthquakes and tsunamis, our clerics and even many professionals and intelligentsia describe them as proof of God Almighty inflicting punishment and pain on humanity gone astray. Once upon a time, epidemics such as the plague and smallpox were considered scourges of God who wanted to chastise human beings....

Own Code of Ethics: Ravanayana
Anand Neelakantan

Ravana lived his life according to the tenets of Jabali. Though a devout Shiva Bhakta, he never tried to imitate the ascetic lifestyle of his favourite God. He grabbed life with his twenty arms and drank the nectar of pleasure with his ten mouths. Ravana was someone who lived life fully. Unlike Sri Rama, he had no reverence for his parents. Though a Brahmin, he did not offer any special privileges for Brahmins in his kingdom....

Life Is a Tightrope Walk
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Life Is a Tightrope Walk
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

The word ‘tightrope walk’ was initially coined for an act of derring-do entertainment, that is, a tightrope is a tightly stretched wire or rope fixed high above the ground on which someone walks across in order to entertain people. But the spirit of the tightrope walk, that is, maintaining a balance between two opposites, is a great principle in real life….

 

Unbearable Lightness of God
Yogi Ashwini

When the whole world was living in jungles and leading a nomadic life of hunting and gathering, people living in this part of the planet had developed a highly evolved culture. Their thought process was so unique that it encompassed within it, entire creation; there was no aspect of the physical as well as the spiritual world that was left unattended and un-detailed....

The Quran carried the concept of voluntary giving to an obligatory tax. Called Zakat, it is meant for the poor, the destitute, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, to free those in bondage and those in debt, for helping the stranded wayfarer and to serve God’s purposes. The Gita, too, has stipulated that the gift should be given in the belief that it is duty, that is, it must be given. The Quran also stipulates that the Zakat should be given at a fixed rate on all your assets, your wealth, both visible and otherwise....

With more and more people of lesser dedication than its founders and their immediate clan, following, the atmosphere and environment, in which the rituals took place, became more mundane and intermingled with materialistic concerns. That Allah has stated in His Holy Word, that it is not the blood and flesh of the sacrificial animals that reaches Him, but rather the spirit of those, who offer the sacrifice....

Introspection Can Take the Muslim World out of the Woods
Arman Neyazi, New Age Islam

The need of the hour for the Muslim world is introspection.... Much of the world is cursing the religion, Islam, which has been an abode of peace, brotherhood and equality. The religion which was revealed to unite the whole world, irrespective of religion, region, colour or creed has divided Muslims themselves even further into sects, while their tribal, ethnic, linguistic, racial, regional and other divisions continue to hold sway as before….

The Blessings Of Gratitude: One Who Does Not Thank People Does Not Thank God
Arman Neyazi, New Age Islam

·        The Prophet says: 'Whoever does not thank people (for their favour) has not thanked Allah (properly), Mighty and Glorious is He!' (Musnad Ahmad, Sunan At-Tirmidhî)

Some among us, the 21st century Muslims, consider being ‘thankful’ to our parents, employers, subordinates, kids, neighbours and last but not the least, servants hurtful to our self esteem and dignity. We are prone to take it as our right that they serve.

Durga: The Universal Shakti
Goddess Durga

A Yiddish proverb goes: ‘A mother hears what the child does not say.’ This is demonstrated by the universal Mother, Devi Durga. For instance, after the dreaded Mahishasura is felled by her, she asks the gods to tell her what they desire of her. The gods respond in gratitude that since the demons have been slain by her everything has been accomplished. ‘If a boon is to be granted to us by you, O Maheshwari...

 

Limitations of Binary Thought
Tammy Swofford

We are all familiar with binary thought. Issues come down to right or wrong, do or die, yes and no. “If it is Friday, it is fish for dinner” (Catholics). “If it is adultery, there must be stoning” (Taliban). “If my son brings home a low test score there will be a beating” (A father). We rarely explore our thoughts beyond the black and white of things. And because of it, we miss out on the greatest opportunities to bless others through the gift of our own humanity....

The Prophet, Messenger of Peace
Sadia Dehlvi

Muslims model their entire life around the life of their beloved Prophet. Mercy, peace and compassion are the foundations of the Prophetic Message. Muhammad famously said, ‘The best of Islam is to feed the hungry, and offer (salaams) blessings of peace to those who you know and those who you do not know’. He reminded people that, ‘All of mankind belongs to God’s family’....



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