Quran on Interfaith Relations

Quran on Interfaith Relations:

“And to you We have revealed the Book containing the Truth, confirming the earlier revelations and preserving them. So judge between them by what has been revealed by God, and do not follow whims, side-stepping the truth that has reached you. To each of you We have given a law and and a way and a pattern of life. If God had pleased He could surely have made you one people. But He wished to try and test you by that which He gave you. So try to excel in good deeds. To Him will you all return in the end, when He will tell you of what you were at variance.” (Quran 5:48)

-Differences in faith, when distilled with enlightened education and not bigoted indoctrination, will eventually emanate the victory of peace and coexistence. I have a dream that one day, equality, humanity and sanity will prevail in my country.

Amateur Artwork : Me

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Women’s Empowerment: A Western Conspiracy or a Muhammaden Idea?

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It is a distressing case of identity crisis that many Muslims like to believe that anybody who talks about human rights, and women rights in particular is a pawn of the West in its giant global conspiracy to impose its evil agenda of Women’s rights upon the world. Be it the Burka Avenger or Malala Yousafzai, if someone speaks up for educational equality or women’s emancipation, there must be a foreign hand behind the propagation of such subversive ideas. It is a shame that the revolutionary ideas for which Prophet Muhammad was persecuted for standing up for, are so repugnant to many Muslims of today and are renounced as ‘Western’.

We all know that Islam took the lead in introducing inheritance and property rights for women at the time when they were considered to be no more than unwanted objects by the society. This measure intended to improve the financial standing of women and make them autonomous and capable individuals. Of course, the Prophet faced the worst kinds of opposition by the people who were so set in their ignorant ways.

In her memoirs, Aisha repeatedly reports that Muhammad was not the kind of husband who wanted subdued, unopinionated wives. Rather he encouraged them to disagree and argue with him as they pleased. He not only sought their advice in times of crisis, but counted on them for their support and suggestions.

Quoting one instance among many: At Huddaibiyah, when the Muslim pilgrims were not allowed to enter Mecca by the Quraysh, most of the Muslims were incensed, got rebellious and refused to obey Muhammad when he commanded them to pray, return and come back again for pilgrimage next year. The Prophet was bewildered and confused, and waited for a revelation to descend. It did not. In despair he retreated to his tent and talked to Umm Salamah, his wife that he had brought along with him. What on earth could he do? he asked her. She judged the situation perfectly and asked Muhammad to go out, and without uttering another word, start praying, and others would melt and follow. Prophet did as she said, and stated it was exactly the right decision. Seeing their Prophet come out silently and start praying, their stubbornness thawed down, prayed behind him and went back peacefully. That’s the kind of importance Muhammad attached to the counsel and judgement of his wives. He considered them wise enough to discern solutions during troubled times.

Prophet Muhammad never forbade his wives to move freely through public spaces and debate in all current matters. The Arabs were of course very hostile to the kind of equal treatment and empowerment Muhammad guaranteed to the women. But what a lot of people are not familiar with is that even many companions of the Prophet including Umar were severely resentful of the kind of freedom Muhammad had allowed his wives and constantly nagged him to try to be restrictive towards women. Umar confronted Aisha at several occasions when he came across her walking in the street and told her that he found her confidence disdainful and that Muhammad had allowed them far too much liberty, and vowed to convince Muhammad to curb it.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) not only laid down his cloak on the floor for his daughter to sit down upon as a symbol of affection and respect, he also made sure to have no doubts when he declared that education is an obligation, not just a right, an obligation, upon both men and women.

Read the objective view of Islamic history and many of us would be pleasantly surprised to see how resolutely Muhammad stood for the rights of women, among many other things. It was his this resolution of equality that threatened the preexisting rotten social order that he came to reform, and that turned the Arabs hostile towards him.

This brings me back to the question that I posed earlier. What is this whole fuss about ‘Malala is talking about women’s education, she’s speaking the language of the West’ or ‘This or that university conducts a we-need-feminism campaign on the International Women’s day, these guys must be the agents of the West’ or ‘Burka Avenger depicts a female superhero fighting the extremists to promote women’s education, it must be funded by the West’ ?

Let us realize that Women’s Rights is as much a Mohammaden idea in origin, as much as it is considered a Western idea in the present times. Let’s try to get the history right and do not renounce the few good things about our legacy as foreign.

Meaningful introspection: A concept lost on us

Note: This article was first published in The Express Tribune Op-Ed on July 13, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/576078/meaningful-introspection-a-concept-lost-on-us/

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The Abbottabad Commission Report recently leaked by Al Jazeera has put Pakistan’s state machinery in an embarrassing position and for all the right reasons. It is increasingly distressing to watch the blame-games and finger-pointing theatricals being broadcast on television. The civilian leadership is insistent upon hurling all sorts of accusations; while the representatives of the military, euphemistically known as the defence analysts, appear eager to elucidate that the civilian authorities are equally responsible for the colossal debacle.

It is a very simple principle to understand that the act of not owning one’s mistakes is equivalent to a gravely stubborn impasse which defeats the purpose of a thorough inquiry in the first place. In order to redress a failure, improve a system, and avoid similar disasters in future, it is absolutely imperative as the first step to own the fault. How can a mistake be corrected if no one is even willing to accept that they have made it?

Future stability at the cost of temporary humiliation is not an irrational trade-off at all, if larger national interests are as sincerely considered as fervently as patriotic sentiments are brandished. In order to break the pattern of national humiliations, there must be a consensus upon placing the future above the past, and national prestige above personal egos.

I have always found finger-pointing habits ingrained deep in our culture and character. There are numerous instances when we have absolved ourselves from our self-committed faults and allocated all energies towards external conspiracy-laden explanations. To note two recent examples: nine foreign tourists were brutally massacred near Nanga Parbat, and some of our well-known anchorpersons and analysts began to say that perhaps India may be involved in this. Similarly, in the case of the bombing of the Ziarat Residency, there was an almost immediate uproar about a foreign hand.

Surely with evidence, a foreign hand in any of the incidents can be proven, or disproven. But the point is that it is far more important for us and our state to own up to the blame that we proved incompetent in the case of the May 2 raid. Even in the case of the Ziarat Residency, the incident should, more than anything else, prod us to reflect upon how our own stubborn negligence bore separatist movements in the first place. But unfortunately, meaningful introspection is a concept lost on us as a nation.

For our pathological selective blindness, the diagnosis of the root-cause is not as elusive as the remedy. Most of us have been brought up, educated, and socialised to believe that we can do no wrong. Take for instance, Pakistan Studies which indoctrinates us with a conflict model of history through which we choose to portray ourselves as the innocent victim while the ‘wicked bloodthirsty Hindus’ incessantly ravaged our existence. Similarly, government textbooks emphasise the villainous role of the Indian army that led to the creation of Bangladesh, instead of displaying even a shred of regret at the way West Pakistan treated its eastern counterpart.

Our history lessons tell us that our country, our nation, has never been the aggressor in any war or conflict. That the provocative attack has always been launched first by the evil ‘Other’, is an idea embedded so deep in our minds that we fail to accept the objective view of history that might tell us a very different tale. My point is that, we as individuals and as a nation, find it practically unthinkable to see ourselves at fault, as a result of such indoctrination during formative years.

And therein lies the problem. Patriotism or loyalty to institutions should not mean blindfolding ourselves to our glaring failures, and to our history’s fiascoes. Love for one’s country must go beyond hollow sloganeering. A crumbling society cannot afford the luxury of blame games. Let us encourage among ourselves and also invite our rulers to develop the positive culture of introspection. The only hope of reformation and betterment lies within this noble habit of accepting our faults.

Let it be known that there is no treason in speaking up the truth.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.

 

Parts Omitted from the published version of the article 

Four points were edited away from the published version, due to “space and/or policy” reasons. But since these words came right out of my heart and are close to it, I’d want to share them with here anyway:

  • “Since nobody is carrying the load of charge, the matter gets beyond the grasp of human mind, as to what genies are then responsible for harboring Bin Laden within Pakistan for nine long years.”  – a clarification that as much as I find May 2 to be a shame, knowingly or unknowingly providing safe havens to OBL for a decade is equally or perhaps more reprehensible.
  • “In our early Islamic Studies lessons, Islamic supremacist ideas are drilled deep in our heads; Islamic history is taught in a way that most of us end up believing that Muslims are inherently unsullied by crimes or moral wrongs.” – this point was supposed to follow the Pakistan Studies’ point.
  • “Finger-pointing and allegation games, are therefore, not exclusive to the civil or military authorities as mentioned at the outset. Rather they are the product of a certain kind of socialization and indoctrination that make us blind to our own failings. This makes it easy to understand why a large majority believes the drone attacks to be the primary cause of terrorism on our soil. It is convenient to blame the ‘Great Satan’ USA and its unmanned aerial vehicles for all ills than to realize that extremism is like a cancer that has seeped into all segments of our society. For that we have no-one but ourselves to blame. Unlike grumbling about security lapses, it is difficult to realize that every individual and household that condones hate-mongering or fails to inculcate the values of tolerance and humanity in his child is complicit in the spread of extremism.” – It’s an important thing to realize, I wish there was enough space to accommodate this.
  • “A great deal of false consciousness has been propagated to declare that too much of in-depth critical analysis about certain state matters hurts the warm patriotic atmosphere. It’s a myth. ….. By not imparting balanced education, we are robbing our children of the ability to think critically and to introspect. It’s a huge disservice to a nation making it devoid of self-analysis and therefore incapable of self-transformation.” – Period.

The Gujrat bus tragedy: Children burnt to death in a country that just doesn’t care

Note: This article was first published in The Express Tribune Blogs on May 29, 2013

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/17466/the-gujrat-bus-fire-burnt-children-in-a-country-that-just-doesnt-care/

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Glimpses of mothers wailing, the smoke from burning school bags and the funeral of at least 16 innocent angels still haunt me. They lost their precious lives when their school van caught fire – an indescribably agonising accident in Gujrat. The tragedy hasn’t left my mind since and my heart still weeps. 

We live in a country where bomb blasts and terrorist activities have made us collectively immune as a nation to the routinely-played episode of blood, terror and death. Every life is equally important, its loss, equally lamentable and its enemy equally reprehensible. But there is something immensely unsettling about watching dozens of little school children devoured in a ghastly fire, and yet having no one to blame. No closure to move on.

However, it brings some contentment to my soul as a concerned citizen to find a few news channels exhibiting newly-developed morals to discuss this heartbreaking accident. Channels are prioritising the Gujrat incident in those hours of the evening usually allocated to shameless, uncouth and unnecessary shows.

But is this much attention enough? Is it enough to paint a picture of the van driver as a criminal who intended this to happen? How can a sole person be responsible for something he wasn’t even aware of; the driver did not know the van would explode when he switched from gas to petrol.

Certainly, this accident is not an isolated event which points to the negligence of one driver. It highlights, yet again, the miserable state of affairs in a country operating without any proper enforcement of safety regulations.

A civilized country, for instance, takes prompt measures to ensure the security of its citizens above all other concerns. This might even mean launching fighter jets to escort aeroplanes perceived to have trouble onboard – these countries will do whatever it takes to ensure citizen safety. I envy their efficiency and often wonder if Pakistan will ever be able to reach even the most basic levels of such civilization.

The state is responsible when children are burnt alive. It is responsible for the helpless person who resorts to jumping out of a burning plaza in an attempt to avoid being burnt to death. 

Millions of lives lost because of negligence reflect the failure of the state’s machinery.

Instead of promising Rs 500,000 to every bereaved family each time they lose a loved one due to the state’s negligence, the powers that be should invest in building an effective crisis-management system to prevent such accidents in the first place.

How hard is it to stop wasting funds in pork-barrel gimmicks, mindless projects and extravagant campaigns, and to start putting money to good use?

How hard is it to prioritise and invest in the services that matter?

How hard is it to genuinely care?