Supply Meets Demand: The Repulsive Ramazan-Special TV Shows



Many people have written against the detestable Ramazan transmissions being aired at almost every national television channel this year ( Promoting the culture of greed, the spirit of this month which was intended for self-regulation and self-reflection has been so badly contorted out of shape that no words are enough to lament this obnoxious trend. So I will not even try.

It is definitely the lowest of the lows. That’s about it.

I intend to see as to where does the fault lie and is there a way to reverse this trend.

A lot has been said against the television channels that authorize and celebrate such ridiculous programs, so as to urge them to demonstrate more responsible behaviour in deciding what they choose to show. There is nothing wrong with such appeals because they spring out of the hearts and conscience of deeply concerned, educated citizens. But we all know in our heart of hearts that they are going to fall on deaf ears; and why wouldn’t they? I believe it is somewhat naive to expect socially responsible behaviour from television channels that operate solely on the economic principles of a corporation. Yes, it sounds downright cynical; but serving the public interest does not score very high on the priority list of these commercial TV channels. A television channel, like any business or corporation, is simply a profit-maximizing entity; it is not operating under the mandate of a moral conscience or upon an oath that it will seek to educate and enlighten the citizenry. It does what corporations do best: make money, maximize profits. No peripheral concern. The end.

In fact corporations are perhaps better. They are at least courteous enough to make a pretence of committing to social responsibility with their nice little CSR departments. If the state tells a factory to reduce the amount of waste it’s dumping in a water body, more often than not, it will accede to it. Television channels continue to, unabashedly, dump their waste in our living rooms, and into our brains, without even realizing that there’s something wrong with that.

But can we blame them?

I am not trying to defend the wrongs of electronic media; I’m repulsed by them as much as most of you hopefully are. My point is to highlight that it is unrealistic to expect a television channel to be what it is not. It is definitely not a welfare cause; it is merely a moneymaking project driven by ratings. Rating points, which depend on the audience size, translate into profits. And so the simple formula to heighten the ratings is to maximize the audience size. That is the sole driving force behind every program, every drama serial, every news transmission, and every talk-show: Offer what strikes a chord with most. Who gives the channels the ratings? Audiences: us, the people.

Whose fault is it then that socially meaningful or educationally significant programs bring the channels such dismal ratings that they don’t find it economically viable to continue them? Its basic Econ 101: Supply meets demand. Simply ‘give them what they want’.

No sir, they don’t want to watch a dull snoozefest with perhaps some educative value, a sane perspective, or sophisticated conduct. They demand cheap shenanigans and they are served with it. I say ‘they’ to refer to the majority of the public whose representative sample is mostly in attendance in these shows, slobbering over gifts and goodies, without any trace of shame.

To me, it is not alarming that channels are airing such shows; it is alarming that such incredibly huge numbers of people are actually watching and enjoying them. If there’s no demand, the supply will cease to be. Again, remember a television channel is, at the end of the day, an economic entity.

Hence the downward spiral of mediocrity. Because there is a large demand for mediocrity.

Television channels, therefore, not only capitalize on the intellectual mediocrity of the populace but also perpetuate it in the process.

If this unfortunate cycle is to stop immediately, initiative should ideally come from the media houses, but keeping in view the economics of television channels we’ve considered, it is highly unlikely that it will. The spectre of competition dictates that if one channel launches a money-spinning venture, every other will follow suit, and none will take the risk to lag behind or do away with it to incur a massive loss.

Here’s how the demand will slump: if people stop watching these things.

Here’s hoping that our collective tastes gradually evolve, develop and refine over time so that we can tell trash and quality television apart. Many would believe that good education, with its enlightening power, is often the prerequisite for that – or perhaps a moment of epiphany, for the odds of that, in our case, might be higher.




Seeking Peace Within – The Buddha’s Way

The Buddha said, “Those who rejoice in seeing others observe the Way will obtain great blessing.” A Sramana asked the Buddha, “Would this blessing be destroyed?” The Buddha replied, “It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will cook food and dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the bliss of the Way.”

From The Sutra of 42 Sections

Took these photos in Islamabad Statues of Buddha

Emanating Peace  Emanating Peace  Statue of Buddha  Statue of Buddha  Outside Khaas Gallery Islamabad  Statue of Buddha

Contemplation opens the gates of the mind and soul

Unconventional Wisdom of the Hedonist Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton



Let’s feel the beauty of words on our skins, if not in our hearts.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – I might have read it sometime long ago because many things struck me as vaguely familiar when I accidentally stumbled upon this novel a few days back. And how immensely glad I am that I did. It is an absolutely fascinating and powerful work of art. And not ‘quite useless’ as Oscar Wilde sees all art to be. It made me happy; it can’t be useless.

I compiled a list of my favourite extracts from the novel, most of which are words of the hedonist par excellence Lord Henry “Harry” Wotton. His unconventional, libertine (even misogynist at times) worldview certainly drove Dorian to contaminate his soul and kill himself eventually, but well, Wotton is a conversational wizard and you cannot take that away from him. He is scandalous, but he’s charming. He is definitely the bad guy in this novel, I could still not hate him enough. As Dorian himself would say, “You are quite incorrigible Harry; but I don’t mind. It is impossible to be angry with you.” and refers to his opinions as “fascinating, poisonous, delightful theories.” Certainly, they are. Very much so.

You’d certainly not go to Harry for marriage advice. Puts an interesting new spin on a lot of old things, if I may say.

(Click on the image where text is too small)


Basil speaks too. Oh, Basil.

2 3

Exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.

Henry, again.

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This one is a killer.

12 13 14 15

And then some literary criticism.

16 17

Humanity takes itself too seriously.

18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25


Lord Henry speaks in Dorian Gray.


And then back to Harry.

27 28 29 30 31 32

Notion of fidelity in love has taken a serious hit.

And then of strong women.

33 34 35

Henry talks to Duchess Gladys.

36 37 38 39 40 41 42


So Dorian thinks of the woman he has loved and left.


Of course she cried and all that, but she never begged Dorian to stay. She was too proud to beg. For anything.



After all was said and done, Henry, the Prince of Paradox, expressed in passing that his life is not entirely happy. The more you seek pleasure, the more happiness eludes you. You get the pleasure, but do you really get the happiness? As he himself asks by the end, what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

I asked a friend if ‘always’ really is a dreadful world as Lord Henry wants us to believe.

I was told that it might be an interesting take on things but we might want to remain on our side of it, even though it might look elusive. What us our side? Hang on to hope, somewhere there might be an always, waiting to happen, that does not think itself quite dreadful.

But don’t you think hope is a dangerous thing, I asked; it drives people mad.

Because we are so sane as things stand? she mocked.

Certainly not sane. It’s difficult to make your choices. When life pushes you into a frightful chaos, you find yourself craving for an order. When there’s too much order you tend to find it too tedious for your taste.

But as one dear old long forgotten friend used to say “Who said life was going to be easy?”

Nonetheless there is priceless wisdom in Lord Henry’s lessons you would concede and take delight in his dangerous, poisonous theories, just as I did.


A Critique of Maududi’s ‘Human Rights in Islam’

(In the interest of humanity, I have decided to start uploading my term papers that I’ve written over the last four years for my undergrad. Knowledge, like joy, increases when shared. I know; you’re welcome humankind!)


No student of Political Islam, whether he likes it or not, is able to deny the momentous influence of Syed Abul Ala Maududi in the aforesaid area. He is known to have written extensively on Islam and how Islam should shape every aspect of human life.  It would be safe to term him to be the most influential theologian, leader and Islamist thinker of India in the last century. The fact that his ideas have held such widespread impact makes it likely that his legacy will live on for generations to come. For the purpose of this paper, from his voluminous magnum opus, I have chosen to discuss and critique his pamphlet ‘Human Rights in Islam’ in detail. This document puts forth a doctrine which is a guideline for many Muslims who happen to be Maududi’s adherents, hence in large numbers. Human Rights is an important and widely contested issue in today’s globalized world politics. It is a generally held perception, mostly among Western audiences, that Islam is not only incompatible with human rights; rather it actively opposes the application of universal human rights. It is as though there is a tug of war going on between Islam and the West to vie as to who was the earliest indisputable pioneer of the introduction of human rights on the world stage. West tends to claim the roots of human rights in the Occidental tradition whereas Islamic thinkers seek to trace human rights back to Quran and Sunna. On one hand it is true that the ideas of ‘liberty, fraternity and equality’ emerged out of Enlightenment and French Revolution, which concurrently came about with the loosening grips of religion. On the other hand, we also see how Thomas Jefferson invoked God in the Declaration of Independence to establish the rights of humans: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …” Later on in West’s history, such divinely inspired claims of justice provided primary motivation for numerous progressive movements, be it the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln as a step towards abolishing slavery, or the civil rights movement by Martin Luther King to eliminate segregation and secure equal rights for African Americans. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that it was in fact Islam that not only introduced the idea of huquq al-insaniyya i.e., the Rights of Humans 1400 years ago, but it is till date the greatest, unparalleled proponent of human rights. The idea of invoking God as a means to achieve the ends of justice is, therefore, not new. But perhaps what irked Maududi, and other Muslim theologians, was the fact that the same powers which colonized, subjugated and plundered weaker nations at some historical juncture, now claim to be the biggest champions of equal human rights and dignity, and simultaneously malign Islam as a hindrance in reaching their ‘noble’ goals. Therefore he provided his commentary to expound on his perspective of human rights in Islam, and apparently to exonerate Islam from the charge that it is incompatible with human rights. But as an Islamist ideologue, it does not come as a surprise that his position is not one that human rights ought to determine Islamic beliefs, rather, he believes Islam should help to determine human rights. In the course of our analysis, we will examine this position and also critique the validity of the claims put forth by Maududi in his article ‘Human Rights in Islam’.

It is interesting to note that any reader who has read Maududi elsewhere, for instance his articles ‘Al-Jihad Fi al-Islam’, ‘Islamic Law and Constitution’ etc. will easily notice that Human Rights in Islam is a watered down, somewhat altered version of his otherwise rigid views on women, freedom of religion, death penalty for apostasy, individual’s rights as a citizen and so on. There appears to be an uncharacteristic clemency in his tone in this article which does not agree with his definitive, unyielding style in his other writings and statements. This could be because of two reasons. Firstly, intended target audience: Richard Bonney cites Ishtiaq Ahmed whereby he accuses Maududi of dishonesty on the question of freedom of belief in the pamphlet under discussion (207). Since this article was published in the UK, and was directed towards the Western audience, Maududi made no mention of the doctrine of apostasy, rather emphasized on the Quranic injunction that proclaims no coercion in matters of faith. Ishtiaq Ahmed notices, that in the aftermath of anti-Ahmedi riots of 1953, Maududi declared before the Court of Inquiry that apostasy was punishable by death in Islam. Secondly, political evolution: Sam Houston notices that the totalitarian, communitarian aspect of Maududi’s philosophy gradually toned down according to the exigencies of time. For instance, in ‘Islamic Law and Constitution’, which was published in 1941 before the inception of Pakistan, Maududi provided Islamic rationale for an all-powerful executive (amir) and for total subjugation of the individual to the state. Pakistan’s creation was followed by anti-Ahmedi protests spearheaded by Maududi’s party, which led the government to clamp down on the agitators; Maududi was put on trial, found guilty of sedition and sentenced to death (later the verdict was reversed). These experiences made Maududi a stakeholder, and therefore personally concerned and interested in the protection of individual rights, due process of law, and freedom of political expression. It is clear that these circumstances led to Maududi’s disillusionment with the centralization of power in the executive, thus his newfound advocacy for the importance of protecting individual freedom of conscience. At this particular juncture, he penned the pamphlet under discussion.

Like every other work by Maududi, the starting point of this essay, too, is severe condemnation of the West. The argument reminds the reader, of the logical fallacy of tu quoque which is defined as an attempt to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position. Maududi asserts that West attributes every good thing to its own conception, even though there was no Western concept of human rights before the 17th century. In same broad strokes, he also paints UN, as well as UNHR, to be a farce that has no effective moral sanctions behind it. Accusing the other of hypocrisy does not truly help buttress one’s own position; instead it only serves to make ones arguments less objectively valid and more suspect. He goes on to claim that, on the contrary, Islam ensures unalterable human rights that have been conferred by God and hence they are “applicable to every believer” and that they are not subject to “scope for any change”. This raises two important questions. Firstly, the claim that ‘human’ rights in Islam are applicable to every ‘believer’ leads one to ask whether Maududian philosophy deems non-believers to be non-humans and hence not worthy that the applicability be extended to them regardless. Secondly, the assertion that any right given by God has no scope for change assumes no scope for expansion either. These kinds of claims which discourage evolution and adaptation with changing epochal circumstances cast doubts over the claim that Islam is a religion which is meant for all times to come.

Expanding on the ‘right to life’, Maududi states that it is not permissible for anyone to kill another human, except through the due process of law (Quran 6:151). A clear case can be made that even though he did not explicitly say it, for reasons explained above; this ‘law’ is the Shariah, according to Maududi’s understanding of which, its rules about apostasy make it possible to sentence people to death. In celebrating the righteousness of Islam, Maududi does not forget to, again, revile the West terming its declarations to be hypocritical in that they are, according to him, interested in protecting the lives of their own citizens or the white race alone (he gives multiple examples such as the destruction of Red Indians in America).

Whereas Maududi has written a separate document on women: Purdah and the Status of Woman, it is interesting to note that in his pamphlet on human rights, the only right mentioned related to a woman is ‘respect for the chastity of women’. He maintains that the chastity of a woman must be respected and protected regardless of her nation or religion. Not mentioning the actual women’s rights is, again, a sign of unwillingness to broach the subject and raises the question as to whether Maududi does not reckon women important enough to be considered as bearer of basic rights. He has made his views clear in his writing whereby he believes that equality of women, such as in modern secularized societies, only leads to promiscuity and loosened family values. Riffat Hassan condemns this chastity-obsessed approach, as though chastity is the only thing worthwhile about a woman to be protected, and as though Islamists are not worried about protecting men’s chastity. Protection of chastity does not qualify as a human right; it is neither a civil nor a political right. On the contrary, it has been used as a justification by conservatives and fundamentalists like Taliban to deny women personal freedom that they are entitled to enjoy, and to keep them restricted to chaadar and chaardiwari – housebound and in purdah.

Maududi goes on to claim that the sanctity of chastity of women can be found nowhere except Islam. This is a historically flawed, sweeping claim. Kautaliya wrote Arthashastra, no later than the 2nd century AD, to illustrate the Hindu political philosophy, in which he forbids, and lays out severe punishments for, violating the chastity of female slave girls. This text was written long before Islam’s advent, but this regulation has to be among the most liberal in history, in that how it protects the chastity of female slaves; whereas Islam explicitly allowed a master to have sexual intercourse with his slave women. Maududi writes that while Western armies have always raped and abused women of their conquered lands, such thing was not perpetrated by any Muslim army. This is a flimsy argument. Mayer terms this argument by Maududi to be a “curious, contrary-to-fact assertion” and writes that “there is no evidence that Muslim armies have historically conducted themselves any better in their treatment of women… and that prostitutes have not served the needs of soldiers in Muslim armies over the centuries” (101).Crimes against women in wartime are not allowed under any legal or moral system; violations in reality have little to do with what is theoretically permissible.

            When promulgating the individual’s right to freedom, Maududi starts a long exposition of how it was originally Islam, and not the West, that abolished slavery, by commanding to set the slaves free and treat them humanely. He then narrates, at length, how brutally the Europeans and Americans treated slave labour and now, with all their shameful record, they have the audacity to denounce Muslims for recognizing the institution of slavery. Slavery has now been abolished all over the globe and these kinds of arguments lack any theoretical or practical value. It is true that Islam guaranteed the lives of the slaves, but they had no property right; and Maududi’s claim that Islam has superiority over the West in abolishing slavery does not stand up to historical scrutiny. An-Na’im writes that since slavery was a norm at that time, Shariah recognized it as an institution and despite its encouragement for emancipation, “slavery is lawful under (traditional understanding of) Shariah to the present day “(172). Denigrating Western accomplishments by referring to its deviation, at different historical junctures, from modern human right standards, is akin to holding the golden age under the Prophet responsible for the malpractices that various Muslim societies over the centuries developed. This kind of smokescreen obfuscates the actual problems of oppression in the Muslim world and reflects the unwillingness to deal with them. Every civilization makes its positive contributions to the humanity and there should be no shame in recognizing West’s intellectual debt in terms of formally, legally, and irrevocably prohibiting slavery- certainly the lowest point in the history of human rights.

When Maududi talks about the right of equality of human beings, he claims that Islam enjoins absolute equality between ‘men’ irrespective of any distinction of colour, race or nationality. He cleverly evades the issue of discrimination based on gender and religion by avoiding mentioning equality in these two categories. Delling analyzes that by sidelining the rights of women and religious minorities, Maududi resorts to a “hypocritical way of allowing these discriminations to continue” (37).  These two categories are omitted, in this document, in an attempt to avoid answering sensitive questions; while Maududi has made his beliefs clear elsewhere that Islam, according to him, does not deem non-Muslims fit to administer state affairs, and prohibits women to participate in public life. Bielefeldt observes that by not including gender and religion in the criteria of nondiscrimination, and by not acknowledging the conflicts between Shariah and modern human rights, Maududi has reduced his essentialist, i.e. rigid and unchanging approach to a “superficial and uncritical ‘Islamization’ of human rights” (104). Maududi opines that superiority of one man over another is “only on the basis of God-consciousness, purity of character and high morals”. This is to say that Islamic standards of virtue and duty can lead people to claim a higher degree of dignity than those who fail to meet the religious standard. Bielefeldt maintains that “such dogmatic type of reference to a divine foundation of human dignity leads to a concept that … serves as a vindication to human inequality rather than justifying universal equality of all human beings in dignity and freedom” (104).

As we have discussed before, direct confrontation with the state of Pakistan led Maududi to begin advocating certain positive freedoms such as the right to participate in the affairs of the state, and the right to protest against government’s abuses. He also stipulated certain negative freedoms such as restricting the authority of the state with respect to interfering in the sanctity and security of private life. One wonders if Maududi and his party were in a position of state power and authority – instead of the victims of it – would he still tone down on his totalitarian inclinations and declare that state cannot encroach on the privacy of individual’s life, when we are all familiar that the underlying pillar on which whole Maududian philosophy stands is his concern with shaping all the aspects of human life according to the principles of Islam. Maududi maintains that government pries on the lives of citizens who are dissatisfied with its official policies. He claims that Islam terms this to be the root cause of all mischief in politics; it makes it difficult for a common citizen to speak freely. Again, as an example of ‘mischief’, Maududi sticks to his tradition of pointing out something Western; he refers to the evil of FBI agents meant to spy on the affairs of men, which Islam is strictly against. We can argue that if prying on people’s personal lives is reprehensible, it should by extension, also render preaching and censuring others on the basis their personal morality (‘forbid evil’) in their private lives unnecessary.

Maududi takes pride in declaring that Islam allows freedom of speech, expression, and association on the condition that it is used to propagate virtue and “not for spreading evil and wickedness”. This assertion is highly problematic in that Maududi does not, at all, define the open-ended terms ‘evil’ and ‘wickedness’. This deliberate loophole opens on the state the occasion to abuse power by making easy for it to define ‘evil’ to suit its own purposes. For example Houston and Oh note that government can prevent others’ religious activities terming them ‘evil’, or a discussion group gathered to debate religious issues or the proofs of the existence of God could be labeled as spreading ‘evil’ (6). Infact any party or organization that the government deems not in its favour can be proscribed under the pretext that it is spreading ‘evil’. Maududi maintains an air of superiority in claiming that Islam’s right to free speech is better than its Western counterpart because the former categorically prohibits evil. In my opinion, the latter is more functional in that the limits on the Western freedom of speech are relatively clear and precise i.e. hate speech and libel. Whereas the lack of a concrete definition of broadly vague term ‘evil’ in Maududi’s conception can lead to significant implementation problems. Perhaps, his aim is to remain open to the limitations Shariah rules bring about with reference to blasphemy. Mayer notes that using Islamic standards of virtue to organize public life, without giving the exact meaning of the qualification, leads one to “think of Islam as a curb on rights” (76), whereas Maududi is trying to make us believe the opposite. Although Maududi encourages toleration but he also stresses upon the necessity to “enjoin good and forbid evil”. It is not difficult to foresee that by allowing all Muslims to forbid each other from evil not only leads to self-righteousness galore, but the forbiddance would tend to manifest in the most violent forms. Irene Oh notes that these two injunctions (tolerance and the duty to forbid evil) lead to inevitable tensions, and Maududi fails to provide guidance as to which principle takes precedence if the two come into conflict, for instance, when a Muslim denounces Islam (4). Moreover, forbidding evil, for most part, necessitates prying on people’s personal affairs which, as already established, is prohibited by Islam. Taking the principle of forbidding evil too far, in the modern world, seriously undermines Mill’s idea of Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Maududi includes two articles maintaining “freedom of conscience and conviction” and “protection of religious sentiments” in which there is a palpable contradiction. On one hand he claims that Islam forbids harassment of the ‘people of the book’ and coercion towards them to convert to Islam. On the other hand he does not address the question of whether we can extend the right of freedom to religion to include, also, conversion from Islam to another religion. Like the rights of women, Maududi chooses to conveniently evade this contentious issue. He chose not to confess that he supported killing those who convert from Islam, to avoid undermining the credibility of his human rights scheme.

It is a curious fact to notice that in the section of ‘Rights of citizens under an Islamic State’, Maududi presents fifteen articles, some of which we have discussed; none of them deals specifically with the rights of non-Muslims under an Islamic State. Although he does mention in passing that the lives and properties of dhimmis are as ‘sacred’ as those of Muslims, and that they have the same rights as Muslims. This is a misleading statement which does not accurately reflect Maududi’s views on the subject, which he expressed in other publications. In Islamic Law and Constitution Maududi explicitly stated that non-Muslims are ‘not fit to administer state affairs’ and so they cannot be employed in government posts. He corroborates his stance by adding that if it was desirable to induct non-Muslims in state machinery, then Prophet Muhammad would have set an example by doing so. That the Prophet did not even keep one non-Muslim member in his Shura convinces Maududi to deem non-Muslims unfit to administer state affairs. This argument is again invalid, because the Prophet’s life preaching Islam spanned only over 23 years, which is a very short period of time to set examples for practically every issue that has to arise until the end of the world. If something was not the need of the hour 1400 years ago and was not implemented, does not entail that it is prohibited. I would argue that it has been historically documented that Jewish, Christian and pagan communities living in Medina were termed as part of the ‘umma’ in the first constitution scribed by the Prophet after consultation. Umma in this context held a wider connotation that signified the idea of a community living together in association (Faruki 14). If contemporary political rights are to be determined by following the examples set in Prophet’s time, will the Muslims of today be willing to also follow this example set during Prophet’s time?

            The lip service of ‘equality of rights for non-Muslims’ is essentially negated when non-Muslims are denied the equality of opportunity, and are relegated to an inferior status. It is equivalent to saying that ‘we recognize your rights, your freedom of religious belief, as long as you do not meddle with the matters of the state under which you live, and remain confined to your menial jobs’. Elsewhere, Maududi also advocates the reimposition of jizya tax on non-Muslims. In Jihad in Islam Maududi writes that Islam will not interfere with the faith and rituals of non-Muslims. And then he also adds that Islam will ban usury, gambling, prostitution and all activities that it deems immoral. It will make it obligatory for even non-Muslim women to observe modesty in dress as required by Islamic Law. Does this not interfere with the rituals and norms of the non-Muslims? Maududi is silent on these matters in his Human Rights pamphlet.

Before summing up, it is important to note a palpable irony visible in Maududi’s framework: despite his bitter criticism for Western ideas, he unavoidably borrows western vocabularies to show that Islam has institutions comparable and equally ‘advanced’ as those in the West; he “ultimately mirrored those very Western paradigms he sought to oppose” (Houston 8).  This tendency arises out of what French scholars have called concordisme pieux (pious harmonization), the practice involving “strained attempts by Muslims to project modern intellectual developments that have emerged outside the Muslim world back into Islamic past” (Mayer 171). Islamic scholars are inclined to do this to preserve the credentials of their religion as a ‘comprehensive ideology’ which anticipated all value achievements of modern civilization.

Moreover, Maududi’s excessive reliance on extensive quotes from the Quran indicate that his approach is to use text of Revelation as a permanent guide to law-making, not reason and the exigencies of time. Khadduri maintains that reliance on a Divine Legislator, God, who is not communicating to people through prophets anymore, to make contemporary law, makes human rights in Islam static (79). Moreover, the making of derivative laws was also prohibited by the theologians of 10th century AD which further made Muslim legal system entirely static.

As a way forward, I would propose the approach put forth by people like Mahmoud Mohammed Taha and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im in the area of human rights in Islam. They honestly maintain, unlike Maududi, that instead of concealing the contradictions between Shariah and modern human rights, one should candidly confess that the contradictions exist, and strive to make an evolved and reformed Islamic law. It is possible that the proposed reform may diverge from the traditional interpretation of Shariah in its attempt to keep in line with the current times, while also maintaining its Islamic legitimacy in order to be effective in changing Muslim attitudes and policies.

Works Cited

An-Na’im, Abd Allāhi Aḥmed. Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 1990. Print.

Bielefeldt, Heiner. “”Western” versus “Islamic” Human Rights Conceptions?: A Critique of Cultural Essentialism in the Discussion on Human Rights.” Political Theory 28.1 (2000): 90-121. Print.

Bonney, Richard. Jihād: From Qurʼān to Bin Laden. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.

Delling, Malin. “Islam and Human Rights.” Thesis. Goteborg University Department of Law, 2004. Print.

Faruki, Kemal A. The Evolution of Islamic Constitutional Theory and Practice: From 610 to 1926 /by Kemal A. Faruki. Karachi-Dacca: National-House, 1971. Print.

Hassan, Riffat. “Are Human Rights Compatible with Islam? The Issue of the Rights of Women in Muslim Communities.” The Religious Consultation. University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Houston, Sam. “The Contours of Conscience: Maududi, Freedom of Conscience,and Comparative Religious Ethics.” Southeast Regional Meeting. American Academy of Religion, Greenville, SC. 16 Mar. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. < >.

Kautalya. The Arthashastra. India: Penguin, 1992. Print.

Khadduri, Majid. “Human Rights in Islam.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 243 (1946): 77-81. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. Human Rights in Islam. Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 1976. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. Jihad in Islam. Lahore: Islamic Publications (Pvt), 1990. Print.

Maududi, Syed Abul A’la. The Islamic Law and Constitution. Lahore: Islamic Publications (Pvt), 1990.

Mayer, Ann Elizabeth. Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics. Boulder, Co.: Westview, 1991.

Oh, Irene. Islam and the Reconsideration of Universal Human Rights. May 2005. Essay by Assistant Professor. University of Miami, Florida, USA.



Parveen Shakir: The Bold, Brilliant and the Beautiful

Originally wrote this article for Youlin Magazine published here:


Yeh kaun loge andhairon ki baat kartay hain?

Abhi tou chaand teri yaad kay dhallay bhi nahi

(Who are these people speaking of the dark?

When the moons of your memory have not waned still)

“Death lies on her like an untimely frost, upon the sweetest flower of all the field.” – Shakespeare.

In a society tainted by stale traditions and muffled voices, Parveen Shakir’s advent was like a breath of fresh air. Where a large part of the society deems an expressive woman to be ‘immodest’, it is not hard to imagine the challenge women must face in voicing their feelings and satisfying their creative impulses. Making her mark as a romantic poet here required an act of courage.

After Parveen’s untimely death, Parveen Qadir Agha established the Parveen Shakir Trust to pay homage to her dear late friend. This trust continues to organize yearly events to promote Urdu literature, the most recent of which was the Urdu Literature Festival held in Islamabad on May 30, where contemporary poet Amjad Islam Amjad commemorated Parveen Shakir and described her as a “beautiful blend of tradition and modernity” and the quintessence of “a new thinking woman”.

Parveen was a multi-faceted lady: a celebrated poetess, a professor and a civil servant. She held a Masters degree in English literature from Karachi University and one in Public Administration from Harvard.  Interestingly, when she appeared for her Civil Services Examination, she found a question about her own poetry in the Urdu literature section.

Parveen’s soul-stirring poetry has been compiled in multiple collections: Khushbu (Fragrance), Sad-barg (Marsh Marigold), Khud Kalami (Soliloquy), Inkar (Denial), and Kaf e Aina (The Mirror’s Edge). All of these were well-received and earned her various accolades for outstanding contribution to Urdu literature.

Parveen introduced feminine syntax – the use of first person feminine pronoun – in Urdu poetry which was not a norm before.

Javaaz dhoond rahaa tha nayi mohabbat ka

Woh keh rahaa tha kay main uss ko bhool jaaun gi

Sama’aton mein ghannay jungalon ki saansein hain

Main ab kabhi teri awaaz sunn na paaun gi

(To make grounds for seeking love once again

He said that I was going to banish him from my thoughts.

Amid the tangle of these dense forests

I will never be able to listen to your voice again)

In Parveen Shakir’s poetry, an oft-expressed theme remains the feminine perspective on love and what love entails: beauty, sacrifice, romance, intimacy, separation. With unmatched elegance, she writes about pining with unrequited love, committing one’s heart to a reciprocated one, and discovering the depths of love after the hour of separation. The last being expressed aptly by this couplet:

Hum tou samjhay thay kay ik zakhm hai bhar jayega

Kya khabar thi kay ragg-e-jaa’n mein utar jayega

(I thought it’s just a wound that would heal at last,

Little did I know it would spread out to every part of my existence)

On one hand, Parveen’s poetry is imbued with shades of loyalty, a fulfillment found in love and reciprocity, the desire for a love that lasts:

Dil ko uss raah pe chalna hee nahin

Jo mujhay tujh se judaa karti hai

(My heart refuses to go down the path

That tries to separate you from me)


Kaanptay honton pe thi Allah se siraf aik dua

Kaash yeh lamhay thahar jayein thahar jayein zarra

(My quivering lips continue to utter just this prayer

That the time stops, that these moments freeze forever)

On the other hand, there is palpable disillusionment with the idea of love that can last a lifetime. Her poems make repeated allusions to skepticism of men’s steadfastness in love, touching upon themes of pain, betrayal and separation.

Tum ne tou thakk kay dasht mein khaimay lagaa liye

Tanhaa kattay kisi ka safar tum ko iss se kya?

(Fatigued by travel, you have halted to respite in the desert

What do you care if someone is left all alone to continue this journey?)


Tu badaltaa hai toh be-saakhta meri ankhain

Apnay haathon ki lakeeron se ulajh jaati hain

(Whenever you change, my eyes unwittingly

Wander over my fate in the pattern of my palms)

This contrast is not a contradiction but a reflection of different shades of human emotion. Parveen paints a painfully realistic story of realization, growth and evolution which anyone with an ability to feel can find relatable.

Her words reflect the undying love of a woman who, when she loves, does so with unparalleled passion. She ends up hurt but she is not scared of loving, selflessly. What is impressive about her approach is that, despite the hurt of betrayal and parting, she leaves no trails of bitterness, vengeance or self-pity in her poetry.

She has no hatred to spew:

Tera pehloo teray dil ki taraah abaad rahay

Tujh pay guzray na qayamat shab-e-tanhayi ki

(I wish for you a well-pleased life, a contented heart,

And a hope that you never have to suffer the agony of loneliness)

She is unapologetically sure of herself:

Kon chahay ga tumhe meri tarah,

 Ab kisi se na mohabbat karna

(No one will love you the way I did,

 So do not fall in love again ever!)

Her thinly-veiled confidence in herself gives her grounds for a lucid optimism even amid darkness:

Tujh ko kho kar bhi rahuun khilwat-e-jaa’n mein teri

Jeet paayi hai mohabbat ne ajab maat kay saath

(I lost you but in your hours of solitude, you always feel me by your side

My love suffered a defeat, yet strangely it emerged victorious)

Apart from ghazals that mainly revolve around the themes of romance, Parveen also broached bolder societal taboos in her free verse. Additionally, she wrote about other social issues and expressed concerns for the poor in her writing.

Charagh bujhtay rahay aur khwaab jaltay rahay

Ajeeb tarz ka mausam meray watan mein rahaa

(The lamps continued to smother; the dreams continued to burn

A strange season of gloom had descended upon my country)

Characterized by a rhythmic flow and soulful lyricism, her expression was a balanced blend of ornate and simple language. She also occasionally juxtaposed English phrases in her Urdu free verse, introducing a degree of creativity and originality in her style. At places, there are also mild shades of sensuality set forth with a natural grace. She also used metaphors and personifications making her poetry more profound and vibrant, as illustrated here:

Abr barsay to inayat uss ki

Shaakh to sirf dua kerti hai

Masla jab bhi utha chiraghon ka

Faisla sirf hawa kerti hai

(The cloud pours at its own will,

The branch can only pray for it to rain.

It is only the wind

That gets to decide the fate of the lamps’ flame)

Parveen Shakir parted from us young and at the peak of her brilliance, but she left indelible words for us to remember her by. We keep her memories alive; we utter her verses in our regular conversations without our realizing (baat tou sach hai magar baat hai ruswayi ki, for instance), ensuring she continues to live amongst us.