Thursday, 30 June 2011

John Muhammad Butt.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
I found this beautiful real life story of a revert on cambridgekhutbas. Alhamdulillah, a really heartwarming story of a brother's reversion and then his study in the greatest Islamic Seminary in the world, Dar al 'Uloom Deoband and his subsequent life. Short and sweet.

By Nadene Ghouri Deoband, India

Forty years after following the hippie trail to South Asia, John Butt is still living in the region, and still spreading a message of peace and love - though now as an Islamic scholar.
As our car turned around the bumpy Indian road, a gleaming white marble minaret came into view. My fellow passenger, John Mohammed Butt, could barely contain his excitement.
"Can you see it?" he asks. "It's like the Oxford University of Islamic learning. For me these minarets and domes are just like the spires and towers of Oxford.

Darul-Uloom Deoband
John Butt is the only Westerner to have graduated from Darul-Uloom Deoband

"It's been almost 30 years since I was last here and I am still getting the same thrill. This is my alma mater."
The alma mater in question is Darul-Uloom Deoband, South Asia's largest madrassa, or Islamic school.
Driving through the madrassa gates, we entered a world rarely seen by Western eyes.
Deoband was built in 1866 by Indian Muslims opposed to the then British rule. Little has changed since - winding streets and tiny courtyards lined with stalls selling fragrant chai, bubbling pots of rice and paintings of Mecca.
Everywhere are the Talibs, religious students, young men with dark-eyed fervent expressions carrying books or quietly reciting the Koran.
And in another scene reminiscent of Oxford, students riding bicycles.
A chai seller recognises John and runs towards him. "John Sahib, John Sahib."
The two had not seen each other in decades, yet the man remembers him instantly. "John Sahib was the only student I ever saw who used to go jogging.
"There was only one John Mohammed - unique," he laughs.
That is perhaps not so surprising, when you learn that John Butt remains the first and only Western man ever to have graduated from Deoband.
He showed me his old dormitory room, a windowless cell where he spent eight years in a life of virtual seclusion, living under a regime of prayer and Koranic study.

Imposing figure
But that is just one facet of this man's extraordinary life.
Aside from his time at Deoband, he has spent most of the past 40 years living among the fierce Pashtun tribes, who inhabit the lawless hinterland between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He went there in 1969, he says, as a dope-smoking young hippie and never came home.
He laughs. "When people call me an ageing ex-hippie, I always reply that I am ageing maybe, but I'm certainly not ex. I'm still a hippie."
John Butt cuts an imposing figure.
At 6ft 5ins (1.95m) tall, he sports a long white beard and alabaster skin that is almost translucent.
Dressed in flowing white ethnic robes, he reminds me of a Benedictine hermit monk or a Victorian explorer, swashbuckling straight out of the pages of an historical novel.
He tells me he adores the Queen, Stilton is his favourite cheese and that football is his passion.
Yet among the border tribes, he is regarded as a native Pashtun and revered as an Islamic scholar.

Home for him, until recently, was a tiny village in Pakistan's Swat valley.
Swat was once a popular tourist destination but is now the scene of regular battles between the Pakistani military and the Taliban.
But back in 1969, the young John was hooked from the moment he saw Swat, describing to me snow-capped mountains, rivers like flowing jewels, forests and alpine pastures.
It was, he says, "like Tolkien's Middle-earth, magical and other worldly" inhabited by tribal people who were "very pleasant, big-hearted, tolerant, easy-going and welcoming".
When his fellow hippies grew up and went home to become accountants and lawyers, John stayed on - becoming fluent in the Pashto language and studying Islam.
But John's world changed in the late 1980s, with the arrival of jihadists, who came to the border areas from all over the world to fight the war against the Russians in Afghanistan.
"I saw the rural, religious Pashtun way of life I had come to love so much being diluted, contaminated and poisoned, in particular by Arabs from the Middle East," he says.
"The way they practise Islam is very different to the tribal areas, but they used money and influence to impose their own set of values."
So he decided to fight for his adopted culture.

Peaceful Islam
In the early 1990s, he joined the BBC World Service Pashto service and helped to set up New Home New Life, a now iconic Afghan radio soap opera, known as The Archers of Afghanistan.
I've hired some of the best Islamic scholars in the region - pious, good and brave men

Six years ago, he set up a radio station which broadcasts across the Afghan-Pakistan border and which tries to promote tribal traditions along with peace and reconciliation.
More recently, John has switched his attentions back to Afghanistan and is spearheading the formation of a new Islamic university in the predominantly Pashtun city of Jalalabad.
"It makes perfect sense. There is currently nowhere in Afghanistan where a young man can do higher Islamic studies. They go to Pakistan, where as we know some of them have become radicalised," he says, emphasising that his university will give a platform to moderates.
But this promotion of peaceful Islam has set him on a collision course with militants. His beloved Pakistan has now become too unsafe for him.
Swat valley 
"Swat is a militarised zone and people I see as foreigners there now treat me like I'm the foreigner, even though I lived there for 40 years.
"It's hard to work out who is who any more - who is Taliban, who is criminal. The waters are very muddy."
Last year, waters of another kind finally put paid to his idyll, when his house was washed away in the floods which devastated the area and killed thousands.
"It was a relief in some ways. When I lost the house, I knew I'd never go back there."
Afghanistan has also become increasingly perilous after Taliban death threats.
The Taliban have delivered so-called night letters - notes hand-delivered in secret and at night for maximum impact - warning students not to study at the university and denouncing John as a Christian missionary or an "orientalist".
Death threats have also been made to his teachers and staff.
"I've hired some of the best Islamic scholars in the region - pious, good and brave men," he says. "They know this is for the benefit of Afghanistan and they insist they will stay working with me despite the dangers."
As I said goodbye, he was planning to travel to Jalalabad on the local bus. We talked about the possibility of him being attacked and he admitted he could easily be killed.
But when I asked if he was scared, he brushed me off with a shrug. "You only die once. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow."
Wa'laykum Salam.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Life Of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

Marmaduke was born in 1875, and when his father died five years later the family sold the Suffolk rectory and moved to the capital. For the little boy the trauma of the exodus from a country idyll to a cold and cheerless house in London was a deep blow to the soul, and his later delight in the freedom of traditional life in the Middle East may have owed much to that early formative transition. The claustrophobia was only made worse when he entered Harrow, whose arcane rituals and fagging system he was later to send up in his novel Sir Limpidus. Friends were his only consolation: perhaps his closest was Winston Churchill.

Once the sloth and bullying of Harrow were behind him he was able to indulge a growing range of youthful passions. In the Jura he acquired his lifelong love of mountaineering, and in Wales and Ireland he learned Welsh and Gaelic. So remarkable a gift for languages impelled his teachers to put him forward for a Foreign Office vacancy; yet he failed the exam. On the rebound, as it were, he proposed to Muriel Smith, the girl who was to become his wife. She accepted, only to lose her betrothed for several years in one of the sudden picaresque changes of direction which were to mark his later life. Hoping to learn enough Arabic to earn him a consular job in Palestine, and with introductions in Jerusalem, Pickthall had sailed for Port Said. He was not yet eighteen years old.

The Orient came as a revelation. Later in life he wrote: ‘When I read The Arabian Nights I see the daily life of Damascus, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Cairo, and the other cities as I found it in the early nineties of last century. What struck me, even in its decay and poverty, was the joyousness of that life compared with anything that I had seen in Europe. The people seemed quite independent of our cares of life, our anxious clutching after wealth, our fear of death.’ He found a khoja to teach him more Arabic, and armed with a rapidly increasing fluency took ship for Jaffa, where, to the horror of European residents and missionaries, he donned native garb and disappeared into the depths of the Palestinian hinterland.

Some of his experiences in the twilight of that exotic world may be re-read in his travelogue, Oriental Encounters. He had found, as he explains, a world of freedom unimaginable to a public schoolboy raised on an almost idolatrous passion for The State. Most Palestinians never set eyes on a policeman, and lived for decades without engaging with government in any way. Islamic law was administered in its time-honoured fashion, by qadis who, with the exception of the Sahn and Ayasofya graduates in the cities, were local scholars. Villages chose their own headmen, or inherited them, and the same was true for the bedouin tribes. The population revered and loved the Sultan-Caliph in faraway Istanbul, but understood that it was not his place to interfere with their lives.

Throughout his life Pickthall saw Islam as radical freedom, a freedom from the encroachments of the State as much as from the claws of the ego. It also offered freedom from narrow fanaticism and sectarian bigotry. Late Ottoman Palestine was teeming with missionaries of every Christian sect, each convinced, in those pre-ecumenical days, of its own solitary rightness. He was appalled by the hate-filled rivalry of the sects, which, he thought, should at least be united in the land holy to their faith. But Christian Jerusalem was a maze of rival shrines and liturgies, where punches were frequently thrown in churches, while the Jerusalem of Islam was gloriously united under the Dome, the physical crown of the city, and of her complex history.

1897 found him in Damascus, the silent city of lanes, hidden rose-bowers, and walnut trees. It was in this deep peacefulness, resting from his adventures that he worked methodically through the mysteries of Arabic grammar. He read poetry and history; but seemed drawn, irresistibly, to the Holy Qur’an. Initially led to it by curiosity, he soon came to suspect that he had unearthed the end of the Englishman’s eternal religious quest. The link was Thomas Traherne and Gerrard Winstanley, who, with their nature mysticism and insistence on personal freedom from an intrusive state or priesthood, had been his inspiration since his early teens. Now their words seemed to be bearing fruit.

Oddly, then, Pickthall came home in Damascus. The picaresque adventures of his days in Palestine had given way to a serious spiritual and intellectual quest. Like Henry Stubbe, another Commonwealth dissident, he saw in Islam the fulfillment of the English dream of a reasonable and just religion, free of superstition and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, and bearing fruit in a wonderful and joyful fellowship. As the New Statesman put it in 1930, reviewing his Koranic translation: ‘Mr Marmaduke Pickthall was always a great lover of Islam. When he became a Muslim it was regarded less as conversion than as self-discovery.’

If this was his Road to Damascus, why, then, did he hold back? Some have thought that the reason was his concern for the feelings of his aged mother, with her own Christian certainties. This was his later explanation:

‘The man who did not become a Muslim when he was nineteen years old because he was afraid that it would break his mother’s heart does not exist, I am sorry to say. The sad fact is that he was anxious to become a Muslim, forgetting all about his mother. It was his Muslim teacher – the Sheykh-ul-Ulema of the great mosque at Damascus – a noble and benign old man, to whom he one day mentioned his desire to become a Muslim, who reminded him of his duty to his mother and forbade him to profess Islam until he had consulted her. ‘No, my son,’ were his words, ‘wait until you are older, and have seen again your native land. You are alone among us as our boys are alone among the Christians. God knows how I should feel if any Christian teacher dealt with a son of mine otherwise than as I now deal with you.’ […] If he had become a Muslim at that time he would pretty certainly have repented it – quite apart from the unhappiness he would have caused his mother, which would have made him unhappy – because he had not thought and learnt enough about religion to be certain of his faith. It was only the romance and pageant of the East which then attracted him. He became a Muslim in real earnest twenty years after.’

He left Damascus, then, without Islam. But jobs were beckoning. The British Museum offered him a post on the basis of his knowledge of ancient Welsh and Irish, but he declined. He was offered the vice-consulship at the British consulate in Haifa, but this was withdrawn when it was learnt how young he was. His family, and his patient Muriel, summoned him home, and, penniless, he obeyed.

He traveled back slowly, considering the meaning of his steps. As he left the sun behind him, he seemed to leave courtesy and contentment as well. The Muslims were the happiest people on earth, never complaining even when faced with dire threats. The Christians among them were protected and privileged by the Capitulations. The Ottoman Balkans, under the sultans a place of refuge for victims of church wars, had been cruelly diminished by crusade and insurrection, prompted, in every case, from outside. He saw the Morea, the first land of Greek independence, in which a third of a million Muslims had been slaughtered by priests and peasants. The remaining corners of Ottoman Europe seemed overshadowed by a similar fate; but still the people smiled. It was the grace of rida.

Back in London, Pickthall recalled his romantic duties. He paced the pavement outside Muriel’s home in the time-honored way, and battered down her parents’ resistance. They married in September 1896, the groom having fasted the previous day as a mark of respect for what he still considered a sacrament of the Church. Then he bore her swiftly away to Geneva, partly for the skiing, and partly, too, to associate with the literary circles which Pickthall admired.

During his sojourn in the dour Calvinist capital, Pickthall honed the skills which would make him one of the world’s most distinguished exponents both of novel-writing, and of the still underdeveloped sport of skiing. He began a novel, and kept a diary, in which, despite his youth, his mature descriptive gift is already evident. He wrote of ‘a pearly mist delicately flushed from the sunset, on lake and mountains. The twin sails of a baroque and the hull itself seemed motionless, yet were surely slipping past the piers. There was something remote about the whole scene, or so it appeared to me. I was able to separate myself from the landscape: to stand back, as it were, and admire it as one admires a fine painting. I crossed a bridge: starless night on the one hand: dying day on the other. There was a mist about the city: a mist that glowed with a blue spirit light which burned everywhere or nowhere, out of which the yellow lights looked over their dancing semblance in the water watchfully, as from a citadel. The distance of the streets was inundated with stagnant grey light, from which the last warmth of light had just faded. As I penetrated the city it had no other light than that which the street lamps gave it, and the glow from a lamp-lit window here and there. But the sky was still pale and green, with a softness as of velvet. The great round globules of electric light, rising up on the bridge against illimitable space, and their lengthened reflections, caught the eye and blinded it.’

But this landscape concealed a tristesse, the local mood that Byron had dubbed ‘Lemancholy.’ By morning, a thick fog ‘hung over the city, like a veil on the face of a plain woman, hiding blemishes and defects, softening all hardness of outline, soothing with the suggestion of a non-existent beauty. It is a law of nature, as it is of art, that half-revelation is more attractive than nakedness. Unhappily there is another law which forbids a man to rest content until he has stripped his ideal and beheld it naked. Hence the end of most men’s dreams is disappointment. And this disappointment is proportionate to what the world calls success.’

By the shores of Lake Leman, then, the novelist-in-waiting acquired his love of light, which later became one of the strengths and hallmarks of his mature prose. Here, too, he developed that sense of the fragility, even the unreality, of observed nature, and the superficial nature of man’s passage upon it, which enrich his novels, and increased the readiness of his heart for Islam. In all these ways, his writing mirrored the sensitivity of the paintings of his great fellow-converts, Ivan Agueli, and Etienne Dinet. Agueli’s tableaux have a Sibelian sense of misty timelessless; while Dinet’s exuberant Algerian and Meccan paintings recall the Muslim sense that God is present in our daily joys: the utter ubiquity of the qibla. Pickthall’s novels, at their best, resemble a marriage of the two styles, just as he found in Islamic faith the ideal which he had sought in Christianity: a medieval liturgy combined with a low ecclesiology, the hieratic dignity of Laud invigorated by the social passions of Dissent.
Rare is the secular soul that can produce true literature; and Pickthall’s youthful agonies over faith energize the first of his writings to see print: his short stories ‘Monsieur le Président’ and ‘The Word of an Englishman’ both published in 1898. The novel he had begun in Switzerland was never published: it is simple juvenilia, a laboratory experiment that in print would have done him no good at all. Sadly, his first published novel, All Fools, was little better and contained morally problematic passages which were to saddle him in later years with the reputation of a libertine. Even his mother was disturbed by the most offending passage in the book, which used the word ‘stays’, an unmentionable item of Victorian underwear. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, to whom Pickthall unwisely sent a copy, was similarly agitated, and the young novelist lost many friends. Soon he bought up the unsold copies, and had them destroyed.

But by then he had already written much of the novel that was to catapult him to fame as one of the bestselling English novelists of the day: Said the Fisherman. This was published by Methuen in 1903, to spectacularly favorable reviews. A blizzard of fan-mail settled on his doormat. One especially pleasant letter came from H.G. Wells, who wrote, ‘I wish that I could feel as certain about my own work as I do of yours, that it will be alive and interesting people fifty years from now.’ Academics such as Granville Browne heaped praises upon it for its accurate portrayal of Arab life. In later years, Pickthall acknowledged that the novel’s focus on the less attractive aspects of the Arab personality which he had encountered in Palestine could never make the book popular among Arabs themselves; but even after his conversion, he insisted that the novelist’s mission was not to propagandize, but to tease out every aspect of the human personality, whether good or bad. As with his great harem novel, Veiled Women, he was concerned to be true to his perceptions; he would document English and Oriental life as he found it, not as he or others would wish it to be. The greatness of the Oriental vision would in this way shine through all the brighter.

His next novel returned him to England. Enid is the first of his celebrated Suffolk tales, reminiscent in some respects of the writings of the Powys brothers. It was followed by The House of Islam, which he wrote while nursing his mother in her final illness, and at a time when his life was saddened by the growing realization that he would never have children. The novel is unsteady and still immature: still only in his twenties, Pickthall could manage the comic scenes of Said the Fisherman, but could not fully sustain the grave, tragic theme which he chose for The House, which described the anguish of a Muslim compelled to take his sick daughter to a Western Christian doctor when traditional remedies had failed.

This productive but sober period of his life ended in 1907. An invitation to St James’s Palace to meet the wife of Captain Machell, advisor to the Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Fahmi Pasha, began with a discussion of his books, and led to an invitation to Alexandria.

Pickthall accepted with alacrity, and soon was back in his beloved East. In native dress again, he traveled through the countryside, marveling at the mawlid of al-Sayyid al-Badawi in Tanta, and immersing himself in Arab ways. The result was a series of short stories and his novel Children of the Nile. It also offered an opportunity to help his friend James Hanauer, the Anglican chaplain at Damascus, edit his anthology of Muslim, Christian and Jewish tales, Folklore of the Holy Land.

1908 brought intimations of the collapse of the old world. At first, the Young Turk revolution seemed to presage a renewed time of hope for the Empire. Pickthall welcomed the idealistic revolutionaries, imagining that they would hold the empire together better than the old Sultan, with his secretive ways. Here, perhaps, is the essence of his apparent remoteness towards Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Quilliam had been a confidant of Abdul Hamid, ‘the Sultan’s Englishman’, his private advisor and his emissary on sensitive missions to the Balkans. Quilliam knew the Sultan as Pickthall never did, and must have felt that his opposition to the Young Turk movement was fully vindicated by the disasters of the Balkan War of 1912, when the Empire lost almost all her remaining European territories to vengeful Christians. More calamitous still was the Unionist decision to cast in its lot with Prussian militarism during the First World War. Pickthall, too, became anxious for Turkey, seeing that the old British policy of upholding the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, which had begun even before Britain intervened on Turkey’s side in the Crimean War, and had been reinforced by Disraeli’s anti-Russian strategy, was steadily disintegrating in the face of Young Turk enthusiasm for Germany.

Coup and counter-coup let much gifted Osmanli blood. The Arabs and the Balkan Muslims, who had previously looked up to the Turks for political and religious leadership, began to wonder whether they should not heed the mermaid calls of the European Powers, and press for autonomy or outright independence from the Porte. Behind the agitation was, on the one hand, the traditional British fear that, in the words of Sir Mark Sykes, ‘the collapse of the Ottoman Empire would be a frightful disaster to us.’ On the other were ranged the powers of bloodsucking French banks, Gladstonian Christian Islamophobia, and a vicious pan-Slavism bankrolled from the darker recesses of Moscow’s bureaucracy.

As the dismal news rolled in, it seemed as though Heaven had finally abandoned the Empire to its fate. In England, Pickthall campaigned vigorously on Turkey’s behalf, but could do nothing against the new Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, who was, as Granville Browne commented, ‘russophile, germanophobe, and anti-Islamic.’ He wrote to a Foreign Office official demanding to know whether the new arrangements in the Balkans could be considered to further the cause of peace, and received the following reply: ‘Yes, and I’ll tell you why. It is not generally known. But the Muslim population has been practically wiped out – 240,000 killed in Western Thrace alone – that clears the ground.’

While campaigning for the dying Empire, Pickthall found time for more novels. Larkmeadow, another Suffolk tale, appeared in 1911, and in 1913 he produced one of his masterpieces, Veiled Women. This follows Saïd in its realistic, often Zola-like depiction of Middle Eastern life, but now there is an undercurrent of polemic. Edwardian imperial convictions about the evils of slavery stood little chance against the charming reality of a Cairo harem, where concubinage was an option desired earnestly by many Circassian girls, whose slave-guardians thanked God for the ease of their lot. Lord Cromer, although generally contemptuous of Egyptian ways, made an exception in the case of slavery, an institution whose Islamic expression he was able grudgingly to respect:

‘It may be doubted (Cromer wrote) whether in the majority of cases the lot of slaves in Egypt is, in its material aspects, harder than, or even as hard as that of many domestic servants in Europe. Indeed, from one point of view, the Eastern slave is in a better position than the Western servant. The latter can be thrown out of employment at any moment. […] Cases are frequent of masters who would be glad to get rid of their slaves, but who are unable to do so because the latter will not accept the gift of liberty. A moral obligation, which is universally recognised, rests on all masters to support aged and infirm slaves till they die; this obligation is often onerous in the case of those who have inherited slaves from their parents or other relatives.’ (Lord Cromer, Modern Egypt, New York, 1908, II, 496-7.). In its portrayal of the positive aspects of polygamy and slavery, Veiled Women was calculated to shock. It was, perhaps for this reason, one of his least popular works.

During the same period Pickthall contributed to the New Age, the fashionable literary magazine supported by Bernard Shaw, sharing its pages, almost weekly, with Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, and G.K. Chesterton. As a literary figure, if not as a political advocate, he had arrived.

Veiled Women gave him the fare to Istanbul. Lodged with a German lady (Miss Kate, Turkicised to Misket Hanum) in a house in the quiet suburb of Erenköy, he gathered material for his dramatic but sad With the Turk in Wartime, and his The Early Hours, perhaps the greatest of his novels. He also penned a series of passionate essays, The Black Crusade. During this time, despite the Balkan massacres, Christians went unmolested in the great city. He recorded a familiar scene at the Orthodox church in Pera one Easter Friday: ‘four different factions fighting which was to carry the big Cross, and the Bishop hitting out right and left upon their craniums with his crozier; many people wounded, women in fits. The Turkish mounted police had to come in force to stop further bloodshed.’ It was a perfect image of the classical Ottoman self-understanding: without the Sultan-Caliph, the minorities would murder each other. The Second Balkan War, which saw the victorious Orthodox powers squabbling over the amputated limbs of Turkey, looked like a full vindication of this.

Pickthall returned to an England full of glee at the Christian victories. As a lover of Turkey, he was shattered by the mood of triumph. The Bishop of London held a service of intercession to pray for the victory of the Bulgarian army as it marched on Istanbul. Where, in all this, was Pickthall’s high Anglicanism?

It was the English mood of holy war which finally drove him from the faith of his fathers. He had always felt uncomfortable with those English hymns that curse the infidel. One particular source of irritation was Bishop Cleveland Coxe’s merry song:

‘Trump of the Lord! I hear it blow!

Forward the Cross; the world shall know

Jehovah’s arms against the foe;

Down shall the cursed Crescent go!

To arms! To arms!

God wills it so.’

And now, in a small Sussex village church, Pickthall heard a vicar hurling imprecations against the devilish Turk. The last straw was Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘For the Mahometans’:

‘O, may thy blood once sprinkled cry

For those who spurn Thy sprinkled blood:

Assert thy glorious Deity

Stretch out thine arm thou triune God

The Unitarian fiend expel

And chase his doctrines back to Hell.’

Pickthall thought of the Carnegie Report, which declared, of the Greek attack on Valona, that ‘in a century of repentance they could not expiate it.’ He thought of the forced conversions of the Pomaks in Bulgaria. He remembered the refugees in Istanbul, their lips removed as trophies by Christian soldiers. He remembered that no Muslim would ever sing a hymn against Jesus. He could stand no more. He left the church before the end of the service, and never again considered himself a Christian.

In 1913, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, the Sutherland heiress and traveller, tried to convert him during a dinner at Claridges, explaining that the waiters would do perfectly well as witnesses. He politely demurred; but he could marshal no argument against hers. What he had seen and described, she had lived. As an English Muslim woman familiar with the heart of Asia, she knew that his love for Islam was grounded in much more than a Pierre Loti style enjoyment of exotica. And so, on 29 November 1914, during a lecture on ‘Islam and Progress’, he took the plunge, joining countless others of his kind. From now on, his life would be lived in the light of the One God of Islam. Muriel followed him soon afterwards.

Pickthall was now at his most passionate:

‘Objectivity is much more common in the East than in the West; nations, like individuals, are there judged by their words, not by their own idea of their intentions or beliefs; and these inconsistencies, which no doubt look very trifling to a British politician, impress the Oriental as a foul injustice and the outcome of fanaticism. The East preserves our record, and reviews it as a whole. There is no end visible to the absurdities into which this mental deficiency of our rulers may lead us. […] Nothing is too extravagant to be believed in this connection, when flustered mediocrities are in the place of genius.’

This bitter alienation from British policy, which now placed him at the opposite pole from his erstwhile friend Churchill, opened the next chapter in Pickthall’s life. Passionate Khilafatists invited him to become editor of a great Indian newspaper, the Bombay Chronicle, and he accepted. In September 1919 he reached the Apollo Bunder, and immediately found himself carried away in the maelstrom of Indian life and politics. When he arrived, most of the Chronicle’s staff were on strike; within six months he had turned it around and doubled its circulation, through a judicious but firm advocacy of Indian evolution towards independence. The Government was incandescent, but could do little. However Pickthall, who became a close associate of Gandhi, supported the ulema’s rejection of violent resistance to British rule, and their opposition to the growing migration of Indian Muslims to independent Afghanistan. Non-violence and non-co-operation seemed the most promising means by which India would emerge as a strong and free nation. When the Muslim League made its appearance under the very secular figure of Jinnah, Pickthall joined the great bulk of India’s ulema in rejecting the idea of partition. India’s great Muslim millions were one family, and must never be divided. Only together could they complete the millennial work of converting the whole country to Islam.

So the Englishman became an Indian nationalist leader, fluent in Urdu, and attending dawn prayers in the mosque, dressed in Gandhian homespun adorned with the purple crescent of the Khilafatists. He wrote to a friend: ‘They expect me to be a sort of political leader as well as a newspaper editor. I have grown quite used to haranguing multitudes of anything from 5 to 30,000 people in the open air, although I hate it still as much as ever and inwardly am just as miserably shy.’ He also continued his Friday sermons, preaching at the great mosque of Bijapur and elsewhere.

In 1924, the Raj authorities found the Chronicle guilty of misreporting an incident in which Indian protesters had been killed. Crushing fines were imposed on the newspaper, and Pickthall resigned. His beloved Khilafatist movement folded in the same year, following Atatürk’s abolition of the ancient title. Although he effectively left political life, he was always remembered gratefully by Gandhi, who was later to write these words to his widow:
‘Your husband and I met often enough to grow to love each other and I found Mr. Pickthall a most amiable and deeply religious man. And although he was a convert he had nothing of the fanatic in him that most converts, no matter to what faith they are converted, betray in their speech and act. Mr. Pickthall seemed to me to live his faith unobtrusively.’

His job was gone, but Pickthall’s desire to serve Islam burned brighter than ever. He accepted the headmastership of a boy’s school in the domains of the Nizam of Hyderabad, outside the authority of British India. This princely state boasted a long association with British Muslims, and had been many years earlier the home of one of the most colourful characters in India: William Linnaeus Gardner (1770-1835), a convert who fought in the Nizam’s forces against the French in 1798 before setting up his own regiment of irregulars, Gardner’s Horse, and marrying his son to a niece of the Moghul emperor Akbar Shah.

In the 1920s, Hyderabad resembled a surviving fragment of Moghul brilliance, and the Nizam, the richest man in the world, was busy turning his capital into an oasis of culture and art. The appointment of the celebrated Pickthall would add a further jewel to his crown. Pickthall’s monarchist sympathies were aroused by the Nizam, who had made his lands the pride of India. ‘He lives like a dervish’, Pickthall reported, ‘and devotes his time to every detail of the Government.’ It was his enthusiasm and generosity that enabled Pickthall to launch the journal Islamic Culture, which he edited for ten years, and which continues to be published in the city as one of the Muslim world’s leading academic journals. Under his editorship, a wide range of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars published on a huge variety of topics. A regular contributor was Josef Horowitz, the great German orientalist. Another was Henri Leon, now writing as Harun Mustafa Leon, who contributed learned articles on early Arabic poetry and rhetoric, on Abbasid medical institutions, and a piece on ‘The Languages of Afghanistan.’

Pickthall also directed the school for Hyderabadi civil servants, encouraging their attendance at prayer, and teaching them the protocols to observe when moving among the burra sahibs of British India. Prayer featured largely in all his activities: as he wrote to a friend, after attending a conference on eduction:
‘I attended prayers at Tellycherry. The masjids are all built like Hindu temples. There are no minarets, and the azan is called from the ground, as the Wahhabis call it. When I mentioned this fact, the reforming party were much amused because the maulvis of Malabar are very far from being Wahhabis. I stopped the Conference proceedings at each hour of prayer, and everyone went to the adjacent mosque. I impressed upon the young leaders the necessity of being particularly strict in observance of the essential discipline of Islam.’

In the midst of this educational activity, he managed to find time to write. He wrote a (never to be published) Moghul novel, Dust and the Peacock Throne, in 1926, and the following year he composed his Madras lectures, published as The Cultural Side of Islam, which are still widely read in the Subcontinent. But from 1929 until 1931 the Nizam gave him leave-of-absence to enable him to complete his Koranic translation. As he noted: ‘All Muslim India seems to be possessed with the idea that I ought to translate the Qur’an into real English.’ He was anxious that this should be the most accurate, as well as the most literate, version of the Scripture. As well as mastering the classical Islamic sources, he travelled to Germany to consult with leading Orientalists, and studied the groundbreaking work of Nöldeke and Schwally, the Geschichte des Qorans, to which his notes frequently refer.

When the work was completed, Pickthall realised that it was unlikely to gain wide acceptance among Muslims unless approved by Al-Azhar, which, with the abolition of the Ottoman post of Shaykh al-Islam, had become the leading religious authority in the Muslim world. So to Egypt he went, only to discover that powerful sections of the ulema considered unlawful any attempt to render ‘the meanings of the Book’ into a language other than Arabic. The controversy soon broke, as Shaykh Muhammad Shakir wrote in the newspaper Al-Ahram that all who aided such a project would burn in Hell for evermore. The Shaykh recommended that Pickthall translate Tabari’s commentary instead, a work that would amount to at least one hundred volumes in English. Other ulema demanded that his translation be retranslated into Arabic, to see if it differed from the original in any respect, however small.

Pickthall published, in Islamic Culture, a long account of his battle with the Shaykh and the mentality which he represented. He included this reflection:
‘Many Egyptian Muslims were as surprised as I was at the extraordinary ignorance of present world conditions of men who claimed to be the thinking heads of the Islamic world – men who think that the Arabs are still ‘the patrons,’ and the non-Arabs their ‘freedmen’; who cannot see that the positions have become reversed, that the Arabs are no longer the fighters and the non-Arabs the stay-at-homes but it is the non-Arabs who at present bear the brunt of the Jihâd; that the problems of the non-Arabs are not identical with those of the Arabs; that translation of the Qur’ân is for the non-Arabs a necessity, which, of course, it is not for Arabs; men who cannot conceive that there are Muslims in India as learned and devout, as capable as judgment and as careful for the safety of Islam, as any to be found in Egypt.’

The battle was won when Pickthall addressed, in Arabic, a large gathering of the ulema, including Rashid Rida, explaining the current situation of Islam in the world, and the enormous possibilities for the spread of Islam among the English-speaking people. He won the argument entirely. The wiser heads of al-Azhar, recognising their inability to understand the situation of English speakers and the subtle urgencies of da‘wa, accepted his translation. The former Shaykh al-Azhar, al-Maraghi, who could see his sincerity and his erudition, offered him these parting words: ‘If you feel so strongly convinced that you are right, go on in God’s name in the way that is clear to you, and pay no heed to what any of us say.’

The translation duly appeared, in 1930, and was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘a great literary achievement.’ Avoiding both the Jacobean archaisms of Sale, and the baroque flourishes and expansions of Yusuf Ali (whose translation Pickthall regarded as too free), it was recognised as the best translation ever of the Book, and, indeed, as a monument in the history of translation. Unusually for a translation, it was further translated into several other languages, including Tagalog, Turkish and Portuguese.

Pickthall, now a revered religious leader in his own right, was often asked for Hanafi fatwas on difficult issues, and continued to preach. As such, he was asked by the Nizam to arrange the marriage of the heir to his throne to the daughter of the last Ottoman caliph, Princess Dürrüsehvar. The Ottoman exiles lived in France as pensioners of the Nizam, and thither Pickthall and the Hyderabad suite travelled. His knowledge of Ottoman and Moghul protocol allowed Pickthall to bring off this brilliant match, which was to be followed by an umra visit, his private hope being that the Caliphate, which he regarded as still by right vested in the House of Osman, might now pass to a Hyderabadi prince yet to be born, who would use the wealth of India and the prestige and holiness of the Caliphate to initiate a new dawn of independence and success for Islam. Delhi’s decision to absorb the Nizam’s domains into independent India made that impossible; but the princess devoted her life to good works, which continue today, even after her ninetieth birthday, which she celebrated in January 2004.

In 1935 Pickthall left Hyderabad. His school was flourishing, and he had forever to deny that he was the Fielding of E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India. (He knew Forster well, and the charge may not be without foundation.) He handed over Islamic Culture to the new editor, the Galician convert Muhammad Asad. He then returned to England, where he set up a new society for Islamic work, and delivered a series of lectures.

Despite this new activity, however, his health was failing, and he must have felt as Winstanley felt:

‘And here I end, having put my arm as far as my strength will go to advance righteousness. I have writ, I have acted, I have peace: and now I must wait to see the Spirit do his own work in the hearts of others and whether England shall be the first land, or some other, wherein truth shall sit down in triumph.’ (Gerrard Winstanley, A New Year’s Gift for the Parliament and Army, 1650.)

He died in a cottage in the West Country on May 19 1936, of coronary thrombosis, and was laid to rest in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood. After his death, his wife cleared his desk, where he had been revising his Madras lectures the night before he died, and she found that the last lines he had written were from the Qur’an:
Whosoever surrendereth his purpose to Allah, while doing good, his reward is with his Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.’
Taken from Shortened.

Wa'laykum Salam.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

From Tajikistan to Tragickistan.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

The impoverished Tajik Government is trying some new tactics in order to become progressive.
These include banning men less than 18 years of age from the mosque, preventing parents from giving their children Arabic names(the Tajik President calls them scary names), forcibly closing hundreds of mosques, preventing long beards and calling back students studying in Madarsahs outside Tajikistan. Perhaps they feel that this game of repression that they are playing will be able to stem the tide of Islam in that country? If they do, then they are very, very wrong. The same people who are today banning our children from the mosque will dangle from street lamps at every corner of the Capital soon with their entrails hanging from their slit bellies, Inshallah.

Conclusion: Mr President, if you want to tangle, then get ready to dangle.

Wa'laykum Salam.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Importance Of Time.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

The following is a collection of Qur'anic Verses and Prophetic Ahadith on the importance of Time in order to dispel the notion in the Muslim Ummah that time is of no importance:

Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority): He covers the night as a veil over the day, each seeking the other in swift succession: He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, (all) governed by laws under His command. Is it not His to create and to govern? Blessed be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds!  
The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year) - so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: this is the ever-true law [of God]. So wrong not yourselves therein, and combat the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.  

Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and nor do they learn a lesson (from it).  

He it is Who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a light, and ordained for it phases that you might know the computation of years and the reckoning [of time]. Allah did not create it but with truth; He makes the signs manifest for a people who have knowledge.

We have made the Night and the Day as two (of Our) Signs: the Sign of the Night have We obscured, while the Sign of the Day We have made to enlighten you; that ye may seek bounty from your Lord, and that ye may know the number and count of the years: all things have We explained in detail.

He will say: "What number of years did ye stay on earth?"  They will answer: 'We have spent there a day, or part of a day; but ask those who [are able to] count [time]..." He will say: "You stayed not but a little, - if you had only known!  Did you, then, think that We created you in mere idle play, and that you would not have to return to Us? " 

By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily mankind is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "Grab five things before five others: your youth before your decrepitude, your health before your illness, your wealth before your poverty, your leisure before your work, and your life before your death." [al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak]

He(saws) also said, "Lose no time to do good deeds before you are caught up by one of seven calamities awaiting you: a starvation which may impair your wisdom; a prosperity which may mislead you; an ailment which may damage your health; an old age which may harm your senses; a sudden death; the Dajjal (Antichrist); or Doomsday, which is indeed the hardest and most bitter." [Tirmidhi, Baihaqi]

The Holy Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "If one becomes worried, he hurries up, and if he hurries up, he sooner reaches his destination." [at-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim]

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhe wa sallam) always demanded that work should start early in the morning. On the authority of Sukhr Al-Ghamidi: "The Prophet said, 'O Allah, bless my nation's early rising.' If he dispatched an army or a division, he did that early in the morning." [Abu Dawud, Ibn Hibban]

‘Aisha reported; the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, " Rise early to earn your living and do your affairs, for it brings about blessing and success." [at-Tabarani]

Fatima, the Prophet's daughter, said that when he saw her still lying in bed one morning, he told her, "My daughter, get up and witness your Lord's bounty, and do not be among the indifferent; Allah distributes daily bread between the break of dawn and sunrise." [al-Baihaqi]

According to at-Tabaraani, whenever any two Companions of the Prophet sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam met, they would not part, until one of them had recited to the other Soorah Al-`Asr and then delivered Salaams upon him. Ash-Shaafi`i said: "If the people were to ponder on this Soorah, it would be sufficient for them." (Ibn Kathir)

Wa salamu 'alaykum.

The Salam Deficit.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
The salam deficit


Narrated `Abdullah bin `Amr (RA): A man asked the Prophet (SAW), “Whose Islam is good, or what sort of deeds of Islam are good?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “To feed others and to greet those who you know and those who you do not know.”

(Bukhari, Book of Beliefs)

On that account, why is it that whenever we go anywhere, we only greet the people we know, without saying a thing to the other Muslims that walk by us? Or if you're in a masjid and people are ‘salaming’ each other, they only go to the people they know, and even if you pass on the salams to them with a ‘how are you?’, they give you an odd look, ignore you and walk away, or say 'are you talking to me?'

“Yes, I’m saying Assalamu alaikum. How are you?” They look at me like they don’t understand Arabic or like they don’t know how to say ‘salam’ or ‘how are you?’ Then they just give me this really odd look and walk away.

I think to myself, “why bother? I did my part.” Then I wonder, “was it my clothes? Were they wrinkly? Did they have a good scent or a bad scent? Was my hair showing or not showing for her not to respond? Perhaps she doesn’t like speaking to people that wear hijabs, or maybe it was because of my Bell’s Palsy. Perhaps she didn't know about my situation or maybe she didn't want to talk to a nice person like me because she thought I was a freak or something…”

Yeah, it hurts. But that's a part of life.

That happened to me for a reason. Allah's testing me to see how committed I am to Him and if I'm still remembering Him and believing in Him. Yet, yes still, I am. Others are being tested too by Allah to see how they handle this, and how they treat me, as to how I treat others with this test and to see how patient I am in dealing with it. It happens, and it's only for a little bit of a struggle.

But still, I would like people within my community, especially the aunties and uncles, to make me feel welcomed when I come to the masjid. Instead of me sending out a great greeting of salams, I would like a great greeting in return, instead of a silent nothing where they just mumble a ‘oh hello’ or say something like ‘Khuda Hafiz’… ‘OK, bye bye, go now...’

Whenever this happens, I remember this hadith (quoted above), and how we should greet people we know, as well as greet the ones we don't know. Because after all, the people you do know, you didn't know them before, and by you talking to them, you now know them. By greeting the ones you don't know, you make them feel welcomed, as well as follow the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) in being kind towards your Muslim brothers and sisters.

Insha'Allah we can all remember this and benefit from this. The next time someone sends you  salams in a mall, on the street, at a halal restaurant, at a masjid or anywhere else, return their salams, whether you know them or not, as a smile is 100 times more pleasing than a sour face.
Allahu Alam.

Taken from:

'Alaykum Salam Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Raping Rukhsana With Impunity.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

Impunity in disposing off rape case of a Muslim girl

Malegaon: The rape and murder of Rukhsana of Partur Hathdi, Jalna district, is dreadfully gruesome. She was pregnant and was raped by some unidentified Hindus. From the gory details of the circumstances it is clear who had raped her. The police Patel of the village Sadashiv Jurekar and the sarpanch (village head) Ramesh Shyam got the death of Rukshana registered as suicide and then burnt her dead body in the Muslim graveyard of the village.
What can be inferred without any doubt is that both administrative officials of the village tried to cover up the matter. They could not be so naïve as to believe that Muslims burn their dead in their cemetery! The rural Muslims are the most penurious of our population. Their being indigent helps them survive at the sufferance of the Hindus. Crimes committed against them have little chance of seeing the light of day let alone registration in any administrative office of the state. The way her body was disposed off shows that the rapists and killers were not from the Muslim community. The deafening silence of their identity is eloquently telling the story of that identity. The hand to mouth existence of the rural Muslim makes it unthinkable that they would ever have enough to grease the palms of the officials.
However, some Muslim leaders came to know the murky circumstances. One of them was Abu Azmi who condemned the event and spoke about the plight of the rural Muslims. But on Saturday April 9, 2011the Maharashtra Assembly legislative council member Hussein Dalwai entered the hall with an earthen pot containing the ashes and bones of Rukhsana. He along with other leaders like Manikrao Thakere protested.
That forced Home Minister RR Patil to pacify them that an inquiry by the crime investigation department would be conducted and the guilty would be brought to book.
This case of rape and murder of a Muslim girl could not have drawn even this much attention in the legislative council but for the sudden change in the time schedule. Two important matters were on the agenda but the concerned members and ministers were absent when the assembly session began. The third item was the case of Rukhsana. The Home Minister casually assured that an inquiry would be conducted. The matter was hushed up. But Dalwai came to know of it in a hospital of Mumbai. He rushed to the assembly hall and along with the congress party president Manikrao Thakre forced the speaker to restart the debate on the issue. Hence, the dramatic entry of Dalwai!
Sachar commission says Muslims constitute majority in the prison population of India. However, some crimes like rape have become so expensive that they are beyond the reach of some. In the absence of a healthy civil society and strict adherence to the rule of law the women and the minorities suffer alike. But for women from the minority it is virtual hell. Even the dead body gets no peace (courtesy Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God).  The mainstream papers have no space for the Rukhsanas as they are preoccupied with the weighty matters of corruption.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Olive Oil Can Prevent Stroke?

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
A diet rich in olive oil may reduce the risk for stroke in older adults, new research suggests.
In roughly 7600 elderly adults, higher olive oil consumption at baseline was associated with a lower incidence of stroke over roughly the next 5 years, after controlling for numerous confounding factors, including lifestyle and nutritional factors, stroke risk factors, and blood lipids.
Cecilia Samieri, PhD, from University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France, reported their findings online June 15 in Neurology.
"The high prevalence of stroke in older subjects emphasizes the need for primary and secondary prevention in this age group," they conclude. "Showing a strong association between intensive olive oil use and lower stroke incidence, our study suggests a novel approach of dietary recommendations to prevent stroke occurrence in elderly populations."
But the authors of a linked commentary caution against jumping to any conclusions, noting that the putative health benefits of olive oil, and a Mediterranean-style diet, are complex.
Dr. Samieri and colleagues examined the association between olive oil intake and stroke incidence in 7625 people aged 65 and older from Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpellier, France. They are enrolled in the ongoing, population-based French Three-City Study, which is looking at vascular risk factors for dementia.
At baseline, 1738 (22.8%) participants reported no olive oil use, 3052 (40.0%) reported moderate olive oil use, and 2835 (37.2%) reported intensive olive oil use.
The authors note that moderate and intensive olive oil users (relative to nonusers) were younger than nonusers; they also had lower values or frequencies for several stroke risk factors, weighed less, had lower triglycerides and lower total/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio. They were also more apt to be regular exercisers and ate fish, fruits, and vegetables and omega-3–rich oils more often than nonusers.
Over a median of 5.25 years, 148 incident strokes were recorded (115 ischemic, 28 hemorrhagic, 5 undetermined).
After adjusting for sociodemographic and dietary variables, physical activity, body mass index, and risk factors for stroke, the researchers observed a lower incidence of stroke with higher olive oil use (P for trend = .02). Compared with participants who did not use olive oil, those with intensive use had a 41% lower risk for stroke. No other dietary variable was significantly associated with stroke incidence.
In their commentary, Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, New York, and Luc Dauchet, MD, PhD, from Institut Pasteur de Lille in France, comment on the study and the state of research on this topic.
They make the point that exploration of the relation of the Mediterranean-type diet with neurologic diseases has started "only very recently and has suggested potentially beneficial associations for Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, cognitive decline, essential tremor, Parkinson disease, and stroke."
Although the current study suggests a protective effect of olive oil in stroke, the authors caution against drawing any firm conclusions from this study, until the observations "withstand the trial of randomized intervention."
They point out that covariate adjustment "can never be complete." Additionally, other potentially beneficial effects of olive oil, not considered in the analyses, may be mediating the association.
They also note that olive oil is not consumed in isolation but with a whole host of potentially healthy foods. "To add further to the complexity, the potentially beneficial biological elements of olive oil are not clear."
Wa'laykum Salam.
(The article has been shortened).


Forbesganj brutality and the shocking silence of Muslim leadership of Bihar

By Soroor Ahmed,
Even as the civil society in general and Muslim organizations, activists and academics outside Bihar and in foreign countries in particular were outraged by the brutality in Forbesganj, especially after a video footage showing a policeman stomping over the body of an injured youth (who subsequently succumbed to his injuries), the minority community leadership of the state remained largely silent and the Urdu media have little or no space for it––at least in the initial few days.
The incident took place in front of the senior police officers of Araria district but the Nitish Kumar government, till date, has not taken any action against them. It just got the home-guard jawan involved in it arrested, and a case under Section 302 has been instituted against him.
But that is not the news. The tragedy is that for a whole week none of the Muslim leaders and Urdu newspapers openly dared to condemn the highhandedness of Araria district administration and the manner in which the state government handled it. The state Home Secretary, Amir Subhani, who visited the spot, ruled out any compensation to the victims till the inquiry is over.
Yes, some of these community leaders––there is no need to name them as they are nationally known personalities––chose to open their mouths only after film director Mahesh Bhatt and social activist Shabnam Hashmi held a Press conference in Patna on June 10, exactly a week after the killing of four people belonging to the Muslim community in Bhajanpur village. This includes a six-month old boy and a five month pregnant woman.
No, these towering Muslim religious leaders––barring that of Jamat-e-Islami––were not encouraged by the presence of Mahesh Bhatt in Patna. They came out with their statements only after the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, left the state for New Delhi to be on way to China as a part of the country’s goodwill mission to that country.
Even then not all the community leaders have spoken out. There are only a couple of them who issued statements and got space in Urdu dailies.
There is no denying the fact that media is in complete control of the Nitish Kumar government, thanks to enormous amount of advertisements they are getting from the government. Besides, there is palpable fear of arm-twisting from the state government. In spite of the fact a couple of relatively small television channels dared to show the clipping and openly debated the issue.
But the national television channels and newspapers remained largely silent. They have more time and space to cover Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare or even UP police crackdown in Noida over land acquisition sometimes back. But the trampling of a body by a policeman in front of senior cops is no big news for them.
Their silence is understandable as they have gone too far ahead in giving certificate to the present government of Bihar, though some atrocious incidents have taken place in the state in the recent months.
Never in the country’s history a sitting MLA had been stabbed to death by a woman, who happens to be a 42-year old principal of a school, simply because she was under constant pressure to withdraw a case of repeated rape by the Legislator and his aide. The slain MLA of Purnea was BJP’s Raj Kishore Kesri and the killer is Rupam Pathak. What is more shocking is that within hours of the incident the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, dubbed the woman a blackmailer, thus giving clear direction to police how to pursue the case.
Perhaps never in the history the daughter-in-law of a national poet (Rashtriya Kavi), Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, had to sit on dharna outside Rajghat in Delhi simply because the ancestral house had allegedly been occupied by the nephew of the deputy chief minister of the state, Sushil Kumar Modi. The widow daughter-in-law along with her son had to do take this step because the chief minister himself refused to show any interest in the issue when she personally met him at the Janata Darbar.
And never in the post-Bhagalpur riots Bihar (Oct-Nov 1989) had the people of the state to see such a disgusting photo showing a cop indulging in barbarism in a village near Forbesganj sub-division of Araria district.
The national media may have their own compulsion, but what about the Muslim leadership of Bihar? Do they have any business interest in keeping silent for so long over such a tragedy.
But this is not the first case of police atrocities against common people in general and minorities and Dalits in particular, in the last six years. There are innumerable such instances. One such incident took place in Kahalgaon in Bhagalpur district more than three years back, over power shortage. A local TV channel showed it but none of the Muslim leaders and newspapers had the courage to take it up.
But those incidents were relatively less serious, therefore, could not attract national and international attention.
The only silver-lining, so far Muslims are concerned, is that a news portal – no, not in Urdu but English – – followed the story from day one. The video footage on its Home Page more than justifies the saying that a photo says a thousand words – perhaps billions and trillions.
Better late than never. Muslim community leaders and Urdu media have started speaking out during the week-long absence of the chief minister. They have followed Mahesh Bhatt, Shabnam Hashmi and the likes of Rupesh, Vinod and Manish Shandilya, human right activists, and many others cutting across caste and religious lines.
They have followed the Muslims of Delhi who took to streets on June 13 and the Council of Indian Muslims, United Kingdom, which wrote to the chief minister strongly denouncing the incident.
The Nitish government might have done nothing for Muslims of Bihar. But it has done one thing. It has been generous towards Khanqahs and Urdu newspapers––one of them got almost double amount of advertisement than national English dailies in the financial year 2010-11. The complete list of advertisements procured from the RTI, is available on the news portal
The bottom-line of Forbesganj incident is: the whole community leadership can be silenced by a loaf of bread.

The Little Mosque On The Tundra.

'Little mosque on the tundra' opens

One of the world's most northerly mosques has opened in Inuvik, N.W.T., where the Arctic town's growing Muslim community is celebrating its new place of worship.
Affectionately being dubbed "the little mosque on the tundra," the Midnight Sun Mosque and community centre officially opened at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
The beige mosque has made a 4,000-kilometre journey by road and river from Manitoba, where it was built, through two provinces and the Northwest Territories to the Arctic town.
While not the first mosque in Inuvik, a town of about 3,200 people, the new building is a significant improvement from the small one-bedroom trailer local Muslims prayed in during the past decade.
"It's a very personal achievement for all of us because we were in a small building, the old one, and now we have this one," Ahmed al-Khalaf, who helped organize fundraising efforts for the mosque, told CBC News.
"For the whole town of Inuvik, it's another new building in town, and everybody's welcome here," he added.

More room for prayer

The new mosque sits next to a 10-metre minaret topped with a crescent moon.The new mosque sits next to a 10-metre minaret topped with a crescent moon. (CBC)

The 1,554-square-foot mosque has room for a kitchen, a library and a children's playroom. Unlike the old trailer, the new building has a room for women to pray in.
The main prayer hall, which is divided into sections for men and women, has a luxurious red carpet, which was donated by a man in Dubai.
News of the mosque's arrival inspired Fathallah Faragat, a carpenter from St. Catharines, Ont., to travel to Inuvik to help with final preparations to the building.
Faragat even designed and built a 10-metre-tall minaret, with a crescent moon on top, next to the new mosque.
Dozens of Muslim families in Inuvik have had to send their children to live elsewhere in Canada because there was no mosque or Islamic education centre in town.
While Inuvik's Islamic community is small — only about 100 members — it is growing, prompting the need for a bigger mosque.
The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, a Manitoba-based Islamic charity, raised more than $300,000 to build and ship the structure north. That saved Inuvik's Islamic community tens of thousands of dollars in labour and material costs, which tend to be higher in the North.
In September, the completed mosque travelled by flatbed truck through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, then up to Hay River, N.W.T., where it was put on the last barge of the year and floated down the Mackenzie River to Inuvik.

A remarkable story:
Inuvik is an arctic town in Canada's Northwest Territories with a population of about 3,500 people. It's located right at the tip of North America facing the Arctic Ocean. With a polar climate and harsh living conditions, one wouldn't expect to find a town there, let alone a town with Muslims.But there is a Muslim community there and a growing one, too.So much so that the trailer that was being used as the mosque ran out of room and this community now needed a new masjid. Building a masjid in the Arctic, however, is far more complicated than it is anywhere else. The scarcity of skilled labour and material makes the cost of such a project skyrocket and this undertaking is simply impossible for a small community of a 100 people. Their situation is akin to that of the Muslims in Edmonton, who despite all odds managed to erect Canada's first masjid in 1938.
With faith in God anything is possible.
At a time like this, the Inuvik Muslims could have simply prayed for a masjid to be shipped over. And that's exactly what they were about to get. Enter, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is a charity based out of Manitoba. The remarkable individuals at this organization decided to give the Inuvikans a hand and took it upon themselves to ensure that the masjid got built. After evaluating the cost of locally building the masjid, they came up with a plan which at first sight would easily be dismissed as insanity. Build the masjid in Winnipeg and ship it 4,000 kilometres away to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. As insane as that may sound, this was the most economical way of getting the masjid built. Part of the masjid's journey was going to be on roads (2400km) and part on water (1800 km).
The goal was to get the mosque on to the last barge heading towards Inuvik for the season. Not only was this going to be a logistical nightmare but it was to be a race against time as well. With receding water levels in the Mackenzie River, the shipping company decided to push up the departure date by 3 weeks.
Wa'laykum Salam.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Blood Donations Again.

Approximate Muslim Population In India.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.

Wa'laykum Salam.


Al Salamu 'Alaykum.


There are some evils associated with the medical profession.
One of them is that when a patient goes to a doctor, whether known or unknown there is a distinct possibility of ending up being cheated. You might ask: “Cheated! How?”
Well, there are many ways. Today I want to discuss what is known as CUT PRACTICE.
Dr Lemon Khan is a Unani practitioner. He did his BUMS from Bihar/UP/Poona and has set up a clinic in Kurla. Patient 123 walks in with abdominal pain. Dr LK: Yaar, jaldi jaa ke admit hoja. Tujhe appendix hai. Ye le letter…….Galakaatu Hospital mein Dr. Chor-e-Awwal bahut bada surgeon hai. Fauran jaa. Patients and relatives run to the hospital and get admitted. By that time, Dr LK has called the surgeon, “Have sent Patient 123. Told him he has appendicitis. Open him up and remove the appendix, whether he has it or not. The patient’s relatives are rich. Empty his pockets. Same terms as before – 50%.”
In some places, the share of the patient’s misery is 60%. The doctors who are doing this are not criminals, not outlandish louts..many of them are practicing Muslims with Sunna beards. They stand in the Fajr salah in the front row. They go for 3 days Jamaat every month. But they see nothing wrong in the Dhulm that they subject their trusting patients to. Those patients who have to sell off their furniture or their wives’ paltry jewellery or give up their children’s school fees…its monstrous….and it’s true. But dare you not say a word against it…..because as they say…it is Jaayiz in Islam….they have a fatwa from Deoband, Bareilly, Ahl Hadith….whoever….take your pick……everyone apparently has said that it is allowed.
To hell with all those who tell Consultants to compromise, to bend a little, to give in to the trend, to bow to the wind. I will sell bananas on the road but I will not sell my Eeman for a few pieces of bread.
Hasbunallahu wa ni’mal Wakil.
Wa salam.

To Kill A Mocking Tongue.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
Kill that Mocking Tongue:
Al-Ma'roor ibn Suwayd narrates that he once saw Abu Dharr – radi Allaahu ‘anhu – wearing a beautiful shawl. His slave standing next to him was wearing a shawl exactly like it, warm and beautiful.
Ma'roor said to Abu Dharr, "Perhaps you could take the shawl of your servant and give him another (less expensive) one.""Never," said Abu Dharr, "for I once had a servant whose mother was not Arab and I cussed him and his mother. That servant went to the Messenger of Allah complaining of the words I had said."
"When Rasul Allaah saw me he commented, ‘O Abu Dharr, you are a man who still has Jahilliyyah (Pre-Islamic Ignorance) in him.'"

Because of these painful words, Abu Dharr – may Allah be pleased with him - would always dress his servants in the exact same garments that he would wear.Allah is disobeyed most with our tongues!! There is a sin that sweeps amongst us, a sin that many take lightly, a sin that is laughed at, a sin that could very well pull someone to Hellfire: It is the sin of insulting others.

Read carefully this following verse. It is a commandment of Allah that begins with a call to those who claim to have Eemaan. Allah ta'ala says in the Qur'an [49/11]:

O you who believe let not one group of people make fun of another, perhaps the (one's being made fun of) are better then them. And let not women make fun of other women perhaps the (woman being made fun of) is better then them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by (offensive) nicknames. Wretched is the name (i.e. mention) of disobedience after (one's) faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the Dhaalimoon (the wrongdoers).

Perhaps the one that is being made fun of is more beloved to Allah. Subhaan Allah, let us remember this if we ever try to make fun of someone, perhaps Allah loves them and does not love us. Didn't the Mushrikeen make fun of Rasul Allah and we know Allah loved him and not them. Didn't the Munaafiqeen make fun of the Sahaabah – and we know Allah loved the Sahaabah and not them.

Rasul Allah – – said, "Verily a person will speak words from those that Allah hates, paying no heed to what he is saying, and with those words he will plummet in to hellfire." [Bukhari]

There are different reasons why a person would want to insult, make fun of and ridicule other community members:

Firstly: They have weak Eemaan and their fear of Allah is poor. This is one of the major reasons.

Secondly: They spend a lot of their time in gatherings that bring no benefit.

Thirdly: They themselves may want others to praise them. Sadly, when there is a student or a community member that insults others, often it is they that want to be the ‘cool' one. How can they be ‘cool' if they are doing something that Allah and His Messenger hate?

Fourthly: They forget the punishment for those that make fun of others. Imam Al-Bayhaqee narrates in Shu'ab al-Eemaan, that Rasul Allah – sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam – said, "Verily those people that make fun of people – for them a gate of Jannah will be opened. It will be said to them: Come (and enter). That person will come with all their anguish and depression – but when he gets close, the gate will be closed in his face. Then another gate (to Jannah) will be opened and it will be said: Come (and enter). So that person comes with all his anguish and depression. But when he gets close, the gate will be closed in his face. This will keep happening to him until it gets to the point where it will be said: Come (and enter), and he will not come from the despair of ever entering paradise."

Fifthly: Those that make fun of others may do so out of love for the Kuffaar and a love to imitate them. How many times do we see the comedians mocking people and everyone laughing? Indeed, mocking others and insulting them is a characteristic of Jaahiliyyah and kufr, and it is never a characteristic of a believer.

Allah ta'ala shows us in Surah Al-Mutaffifeen [83/29] how this characteristic of laughing at others is a characteristic of the Kuffaar:

"Indeed, those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed."
The seriousness of this sin varies in accordance to the subject being insulted:
On the highest level of seriousness is to make fun of Allah or His Ayaat or His Messenger – .

A group of Munaafiqeen started joking one day about their Qurr'aa, i.e. the Companions of Allah's Messenger. They described in ridiculing terms that they were large in stomachs, having lying tongues and being cowardly. Allah ta'ala tells us in the Qur'an [9/65-66]: "And if you ask them, they will surely say, 'We were only conversing and playing.' Say, 'Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?' Make no excuse; you have disbelieved (i.e. rejected faith) after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you – We will punish another faction because they were criminals."

To ridicule and make fun of the Sahaabah
In the incident just mentioned, the comment that the Munaafiqeen was actually directed at the Sahaabah. The Qur'aan shows us that this was a direct ridicule of Allah, His verses, and His Messenger.

Shaykh Al-Uthaymeen – rahimahullaah – said: "Thus it is understood that someone who curses and ridicules the Companions is a Kaafir. This is because cutting their honor is in reality an attempt at ridiculing Allah and His Messenger and His Sharee'ah."

To ridicule the pious believers
For example, if someone were to ridicule a pious believer because of his practice of the Deen, such as ridiculing a brother's beard or to mock a sisters Hijaab, etc. Doing this – i.e. mocking a Muslim because of his Islam – may very well expel someone from the fold of Islam.

Allah ta'ala says in Surah Al-Mutaffifeen [29-30]:

"Indeed, those that committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed."
As reported in Tafseer At-Tabaree, the Munaafiqeen were once sitting back watching the charity that the believers were giving. To those that gave much, like AbdurRahmaan ibn ‘Owf, they said, "he only gave it to show off". For those that gave little, they said, "Verily, Allah has no need for his petty offering."

And so Allah ta'ala revealed in Surat At-Tawbah [9/79]:

"Those who criticize the contributers among the believers concerning their charities and (criticize) the ones who find nothing (to spend) except their effort, so they ridicule them – Allah will ridicule them, and they will have a painful punishment."

To ridicule humans in general

This applies to the God-fearing and the Fussaaq, a believer should not humiliate people and or use derogatory nicknames for them, nor should they ridicule their creation.

Allah ta'ala says [49/11]:

"O you who believe let not one group of people make fun of another."

And Rasul Allah said, "It is enough sin for a person that they would ridicule their Muslim brother."

Abdullaah ibn Mas'ood – radi Allaahu ‘anhu – used to say, as narrated by Ibn Abee ‘Aasim, "By Allah whom there is no god but He, there is nothing more worthy of a prolonged incarceration then one's tongue."

Abu Moosa – radi Allaahu ‘anhu – said: I asked Allah's Messenger, "Who out of the Muslims is the best?" He replied, "Those whom the other Muslims are safe from his tongue and hands." [Agreed Upon]

The mockingbird, native to the western hemisphere, has a very interesting name. The mockingbird gets its name from its ability to mimic the sounds of other animals.

It combines song notes of it's own with sounds from other birds, doing so in almost a mocking way. It is an endangered species, and we hope - in sha Allah – that the mocking it got its name after will become endangered in our communities too.

Al-Hasan Al-Basree – rahimahullaah – said, "Whoever does not guard the slips of their tongue has not understood their Deen."
Dear brothers and sisters, one of the saddest things is to see the regulars of the masjid, or the leaders of the Muslim youth, being the ones who mock others. So many youth groups and Halaqahs are built on this notion that in order to be cool you must ridicule and mock others.

In other places, I know personally people that abandoned the local Masjid because they did not want to be ridiculed by the Muslims. They felt more comfort and compassion in the character of the disbelievers. What will Allah ta'ala think of someone that does this to the Muslims, someone who is an obstacle for others to come closer to Allah?

If we find a gathering of Muslims to be like this, it is our duty to command the good and forbid the evil and demand that this ridiculing stop once and for all.

The questions that begs to be asked is: What is the cure for this disease of the tongue?

One: We should know that it is a major sin. In fact, a person may make a single statement – not paying any heed to it – by which he may slip in to Hellfire.

Two: We should follow what our tongues are saying and not allow ourselves to stoop to vain talk.

Three: We should distance ourselves from those long useless gatherings where nothing is done for hours except laughing and chatting. Instead, we should replace our gatherings with the remembrance of Allah and good speech.

Four: We must glorify this Deen and make enormous in our hearts the commandments of Allah ta'ala. If Allah says do not make fun of one another, our reply should be nothing more then: "we hear and we obey".

Five: We should warn others of the sin of insulting other people and making fun of them. Let us not allow ourselves to be as a silent Shaytaan listening to others being insulted. Let us speak up and say it clearly that this is not something loved by Allah and His Messenger. Say that if Allah and His Messenger hate it, then so do I.

Six: If you feel yourself that you just have to insult someone, ask Allah to protect you from the Shaytaan and this satanic act. As Allah ta'ala says [7/200]: "And if an evil suggestion comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, He is Hearing and Knowing."

Seven: And of course, if anyone of us should fall into this sin, we should be swift in turning back to Allah in Towbah. Say Astaghfirullaah wa ‘atoobo ilayh, O Allah I ask You to forgive me and I return to You.

Allah ta'ala says in the Qur'an [49/11]: "And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the Dhaalimoon (the wrongdoers)."

Finally, if there is one thing that you remember from this article let it be this following commandment of Allaah ta'ala, memorize it and teach it to at least one other person:

"O you who believe let not one group of people make fun of another." ...
Wa'laykum Salam.