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Thursday, March 27, 2014

English Translation of Hamid Mir's column in Jang, 27 March 2014

In the course of some exchanges on Twitter I ended up promising an Indian gentleman to translate parts of Hamid Mir's article on Muhammad Ali Jinnah, published in Jang today. The original article can be read here . I have already posted several blogs relating to Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, most recently here which is relevant in the context of comments Hamid Mir has made.

Jaswant Singh and Muhammad Ali Jinnah


In his article Hamid Mir shows that Jinnah was neither secular nor a maulvi. The main points he makes are:


      Jaswant Singh is one of the founder members of BJP. A few years ago he wrote a book entitled “Jinnah” in which he said that those really responsible for the division of India were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, not Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Hindu leaders could have  worked amicably with the secular and liberal Jinnah but they antagonised him needlessly.
 

This book infuriated the leadership of Bharatia Janata Party because the BJP and Congress had always held Jinnah responsible for the break-up of India. Jaswant Singh was expelled from the BJP following publication of his book. He maintained that he had been expelled because he dared to present some plain historical facts.


    Some BJP members supported Jaswant. In their view he had laid bare the fake secularism of BJP’s political rival Congress. Moreover, by holding the Congress leadership responsible for the division of India the book had actually benefited BJP at the expense of  Congress.


      It was also thought that L K Advani considered Jaswant Singh a dangerous political rival because of his previous experience as Foreign and Defence Minister, which would make him a candidate for the office of Prime Minister. Advani thus manoeuvred to have him expelled from the Party.

     Jaswant Singh’s exile lasted 10 months before he was admitted back into the party. For the 2014 Election Jaswant Singh wanted his party’s ticket for his traditional constituency in Rajasthan but his request was refused. He said he was being punished for declaring Jinnah to be a secular politician. He announced that he would fight the election from his constituency as an independent.

       It is now obvious that Narainder Modi has taken control of BJP and he has pushed aside not just Jaswant but Advani as well. Modi is now the sole candidate for Prime Ministership from his party.

     Jaswant Singh is not the first Indian writer to consider Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah a secularist. Previously, a lecturer in Political Science at Delhi University, Dr Ajit Javed, authored a book “Secular and Nationalist Jinnah” in which he acknowledged the honesty, courage and fearlessness of the founder of Pakistan. He also stated that the demand for the establishment of Pakistan was merely a political ploy to put pressure on Congress. He claimed that Maudoodi [a religious leader active in politics] refused to lead the Janzah prayer for Jinnah and instead performed a prayer of thanks.

     Many claims made in Ajit Javed’s book defy historical facts. Apart from the Indian writers there are also some Pakistani writers and intellectuals who do their best to present Jinnah as secular. Their amazing antics include:
    (a) always quoting a brief excerpt from a single speech of Quaid-e-Azam (one delivered on 11 August 1947),
    (b) taking delight in quoting falsehoods or half-truths contained in American author Stanley Wolpert’s book “Jinnah of Pakistan”, and
    (c) always referring to Jinnah’s wife Ruttie as a Parsee even though she had converted to Islam before her marriage to Jinnah and she was buried in a Muslim cemetery after her death.

       Quite recently, an English language magazine, published in Karachi, showed a picture of Quaid-e-Azam, with a white beard superimposed. An article in the magazine lamented that some people were trying to present Jinnah as a maulvi!

It is true that there are people who look only for Shariat in the speeches of Pakistan’s founder while they ignore references to justice, equality, tolerance and democracy. On the other hand, those people who are hell-bent on proving the Quaid to be secular are guilty of intellectual and historical dishonesty. It is well known that the founder of Pakistan entered politics as a member of Congress but, over the years, his political evolution and maturity took him to the Muslim League. He was neither a maulvi nor a secularist. He was an ordinary Muslim, free of sectarian and religious prejudices. He married Ruttie for love, whose Muslim name was Maryam. Owing to his legal practice and political activities he could not spend as much time with her as the couple would have wished. There were ups and downs in Jinnah’s marriage. When Ruttie died Jinnah was inconsolable and he wept uncontrollably at her grave.




    In 1929 Jinnah defended Ghazi Ilm Deen in court and in 1931 he refused to speak against Bhagat Singh.

    It was Allama Iqbal who persuaded Jinnah to study Islamic laws. Iqbal’s letter to Jinnah, dated 28 May 1937, is extremely significant. In it the great poet-philosopher is telling his friend that putting genuine Islamic laws into practice in a Muslim state will mean each and every individual will have a right to an assured income. This letter also mentions Islamic Sharia. 

Later the same year, on 16 September 1937, Jinnah ensured that a Shariat Bill, concerned with Muslim Personal Law, was passed by India’s Legislative Assembly. When this Bill was introduced in the Assembly it was criticised on the grounds that the shariat followed by each Muslim sect was  different which made the Bill highly controversial. Jinnah overcame that objection by getting Muslim members of the Assembly to agree to a common concept of shariat acceptable to their respective sects.


     In one of his books Mufti Rafee Usmani has written extensively about Quaid-e-Azam’s meetings with his father and other Muslim scholars. He says there were some religious leaders who had issued fatwas of Kufr in relation to Jinnah while other religious leaders (Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, Mufti Muhammad Shafee etc) supported him. They also severed their links with Dar-ul-aloom Deoband.

    Mufti Muhammad Shafee issued a fatwa, declaring support for Congress to be Kufr. On 23 March 1940 it was not just Pakistan Resolution that was passed but also one supporting the Palestinian Muslims. Jinnah worked hard to end sectarian differences among Muslims and to organise a conference of Muslim scholars of all sects. Many religious leaders and scholars supported Jinnah in his efforts to unify Muslims and to establish a separate homeland for them.

    Quaid-e-Azam had met the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Bana and they were in close touch. In his speech on 1st July 1948, at the inauguration ceremony of State Bank of Pakistan, the Quaid spoke about the importance of conducting banking on Islamic principles. It was not a theocracy that Quaid-e-Azam wished to establish but an Islamic welfare state in which non-Muslims had the same rights as those that Rasul-e-Kareem gave to the Jews of Madinah in the Madinah Pact.

    In brief, Quaid-e-Azam was just an honest and sincere Muslim who was neither a secularist nor a maulvi.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

گیارہ ستمبر

آج اخبارات، رسائل اور سائبر خانے، بشمول ٹوئیٹر کی دنیا، قائد اعظم کی وفات اور امریکہ کی بارہ سال قبل کی بددیانتی کے ذکر سے بھرے ہوۓ ہیں- بانئی پاکستان کے متعلق اتنا کچھ لکھا جا چکا ہے کہ میرے لئے کچھ کہنا چھوٹا منہ بڑی بات ہو گی- میرا ارادہ ہے مستقبل قریب میں قائد کی تقاریر سے اقتباسات پیش کرنے کا- فی الحال میں آپ کی توجہ گذشتہ بلاگ کی طرف مبذول کرنے پہ اکتفا کرتا ہوں، جس میں پاکستان اور محمّد علی جناح کے درمیان ایک روحانی تعلق کا ذکر ہے: Jinnah and Pakistan                                            


                             
اب رہی نیو یارک کے جڑواں میناروں کی تباہی، تو ان کے متعلق امریکی حکومت کی غلط بیانی تو سمجھ میں آتی ہے لیکن پاکستانی جس طرح اس جھوٹ کو سچ سمجھ کر دوہرا رہے ہیں اس سے طبیعت سخت مکدر ہوئی- مغرب پرست پاکستانی تو سب کچھ جاننے کے باوجود امریکہ کی ہاں میں ہاں ملانا اپنا فرض سمجھتے ہیں، شائد ان کا اس میں مالی فائدہ بھی ہے- افسوس محب وطن پاکستانیوں کے بیانات پہ ہے جنہوں نے امریکہ کے باطل ڈھنڈورے کو سچ سمجھ لیا ہے- ایک صاحب مضمون ١١ ستمبر ٢٠٠١ کو نیو یارک میں موجود تھے- جواباً میں نے ان کے مضمون پہ ایک مختصر تبصرہ درج کر دیا: 


"آپ نے جو کچھ دیکھا آپ کی نگاہوں کا دھوکہ تھا- جہازوں کے میناروں سے ٹکرانے سے پہلے ہی ٹی وی کمپنیوں کو خبر ہو گئی تھی اور انہوں نے کیمرے ایستادہ کر لئے تھے تا کہ تباہی کے مناظر فلماۓ جا سکیں! یہ ایک سازش تھی، افسوس کی بات ہے کہ ہم پاکستانی امریکہ کے خوف سے منہ سی کر بیٹھے ہوۓ ہیں-" 

امریکہ کے فاشسٹوں کو جو عروج ٩/١١ کے بعد حاصل ہوا تھا وہ ہنوز برقرار ہے- اس سے کچھ فرق نہیں پڑتا حکومت ریپبلکن پارٹی کے ہاتھ میں ہے یا ڈیموکریٹ پارٹی کے پاس- اصل طاقت ان ارب پتیوں کے ہاتھ میں ہے جو امریکی معیشت پر چھاۓ ہوۓ ہیں اور دونوں پارٹیوں کو دل کھول کر چندہ دیتے ہیں- ریپبلکن جارج بش کے بعد ڈیموکریٹ اوباما صدارت کی گدی پر بیٹھا ہوا ہے لیکن اس کے کرتوت دیکھ کر بش مقابلتاً اچھا لگنے لگتا ہے- ٩/١١ کی شعبدہ بازی کے ساۓ میں اسلامی ملکوں کی تباہی اور تیل، گیس اور معدنیات کے ذخایر پہ قبضہ کرنے کی شدید خواہش نے امریکہ کی تمام اخلاقی اقدار کو تار تار کر دیا ہے- انسانی خون کی جو ندیاں "مہذب" امریکیوں نے بہائی ہیں انہوں نے خونخوار چنگیز خان کی یاد تازہ کر دی ہے-

حقیقتاً ایسے لوگ انسانیت کی سطح سے گر چکے ہیں جو اپنے ہی ملک پہ حملہ کر کے ہزاروں لوگوں کو محض اس لئےموت کے گھاٹ اتار دیں کہ انہیں غیر ممالک (افغانستان اور عراق) پہ حملے کا جواز مل جاۓ- پچھلے دنوں سیریا (شام) میں کیمیائی ہتھیاروں کے استعمال کو بشار الاسد کی حکومت سے منسوب کیا گیا تھا تا کہ امریکہ کے فاشسٹوں کو شام پہ حملے کا بہانہ مل سکے- اب خبریں آ رہی ہیں کہ کیمیائی ہتھیاروں کا حملہ اسد کے خلاف لڑنے والے باغیوں نے کیا تھا جن کو ہتھیار امریکہ کے ہمنوا سعودی عرب کی وساطت سے ملے تھے! افسوس کہ امریکہ کے فاشسٹوں کی شیطنیت میں  سعودی عرب کی بادشاہت بھی شامل ہے- رہے اسد جیسے ظالم حکمران تو ان کا وجود ایک لعنت ہے جس سے گلو خلاصی حاصل کرنا مسلمانوں کی اولین ترجیح ہونا چاہیے- 

رگوں میں وہ لہو باقی نہیں ہے    وہ دل، وہ آرزو باقی نہیں ہے 
نماز و روزہ و قربانی و حج   یہ سب باقی ہے تو باقی نہیں ہے 
[اقبال]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

JINNAH & PAKISTAN : some amazing facts


INTRODUCTION.  Dr Safdar Mehmood is a retired Pakistani civil servant who writes a regular column in the Urdu newspaper ‘Jang’.  In his column published on 16 August 2013, Dr Safdar Mehmood presented some remarkable dates linking the creation of Pakistan to events in the life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of Pakistan Movement and the country’s first Governor General (he was bestowed the title Quaid-e-Azam, the Great Leader). Dr Safdar Mehmood says some people might treat these facts as no more than mere historical coincidence but for many others these contain a profound reality. Judge for yourself.


             Two photographs of young Jinnah





 1.     Pakistan was created when division of India took place at midnight between the 14th and 15th August, 1947 in the Islamic month of Ramadan. The night of 14th August was the 27th night of Ramadan, which is a key date in the Islamic calendar. It is the night when God’s abundant Mercy descends on earth for those who have fasted during the month and observed the specified moral restraints: Lailatul-Qadr, the Night of Grace and Power, when Muslims try to stay awake during the night in prayer and reflection.


2.     When a new day dawned, Pakistanis celebrated their first Independence Day on 15 August 1947, which happened to be the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, known as Jumatul-vida’.


3.     In 1948, and subsequently, the Day of Independence could have been celebrated either on 14th August or on 15th August. Across the border in India, the Hindu seers recommended to their government to declare 15th August as the Indian Independence Day, which they considered an auspicious day. Quaid-e-Azam, however, opted for 14th August as Pakistan’s Day of Independence, which gave rise to some astonishing coincidences relating to a number of dates.

Muhammad Ali & Ruttie Jinnah

4.     Quaid-e-Azam’s two loves were Pakistan and Ruttie Dinshaw, a young Parsi lady who converted to Islam and married Jinnah in 1918 when she was just 18. Exactly 28 years before the creation of Pakistan, the Jinnahs’ daughter, Dina, was born in the night falling between 14 August and 15th August, 1919. When the first day dawned for the infant Dina it, too, was a Friday.





5.     Quaid-e-Azam’s date of birth falls on 25 December. He died on 11 September 1948. His right hand man in the freedom struggle, and Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan (LAQ), died on 16 October some years later.


6.     Each year Pakistan’s Independence Day, Quaid-e-Azam’s dates of birth and death, and the date of death of Liaquat Ali Khan consistently fall on the same day of the week. Dr Safdar Mehmood has produced a table to draw attention to this coincidence:

Year
Pakistan’s Independence Day, 14 Aug
Jinnah’s date of death, 11 September
Jinnah’s date of birth, 25 December
LAQ’s date of death, 16 October
2004
Saturday
Saturday
Saturday
Saturday
2005
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
2006
Monday
Monday
Monday
Monday
2007
Tuesday
Tuesday
Tuesday
Tuesday
2008
Thursday
Thursday
Thursday
Thursday
2009
Friday
Friday
Friday
Friday
2010
Saturday
Saturday
Saturday
Saturday
2011
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
2012
Tuesday
Tuesday
Tuesday
Tuesday
2013
Wednesday
Wednesday
Wednesday
Wednesday


Dr Safdar Mehmood says one might take the aforementioned facts as mere coincidence if one wished. However, he himself and countless other Pakistanis, see these as Nature’s way of indicating the latent potential of Pakistan and the greatness of Jinnah, who succeeded in winning a homeland for the Muslims of India against stiff resistance from the British and the Hindus of India. Those who only go by outward appearances tend to see the current combination of internal unrest and foreign interference in the affairs of Pakistan - conspiracies, intrigue, espionage and direct invasion by way of drone strikes or border incursions - as lethal to the very existence of Pakistan.  However, to those who see a deeper reality at work these troubles provide a necessary training ground for Pakistan to achieve its true potential as an Islamic state: a haven for suffering humanity, free of oppression and bigotry, where social justice and welfare prevail within an Islamic economic system which restrains greed and excess.

The link to Dr Safdar Mehmood's article is:  http://jang.com.pk/jang/aug2013-daily/16-08-2013/col3.htm 











Monday, February 4, 2013

Democracy Today - in Pakistan, the USA and the UK


PAKISTAN
The latest news from Pakistan is that Pakistan’s National Assembly and the four Provincial Assemblies will be dissolved on 10 February and a caretaker government will be installed for a brief period while the Election Commission of Pakistan will vet candidates contesting the forthcoming  elections (probably to be held in May). On the face of it this sounds very good news until you scratch the surface to see what lies underneath.

Fakhruddin G Ibrahim
The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), is an eighty four years old retired judge, who is respected for his honesty and integrity. Great. But will he have the energy to look into all the scandals and wheeling and dealing which, by all accounts, have been going on for years and will grow worse during the election campaign? It seems to me that an alert and energetic Chief Election Commissioner is an important  

requirement because the other four election commissioners do not enjoy quite as good a reputation as the CEC Mr Fakhruddin Ibrahim. Judging from his images on the internet, however, he does look in robust health.

Pakistan’s National Assembly and the Provincial Assemblies are bursting with dishonest people who are experts at manufacturing fake academic degrees, paying no tax and submitting no tax returns, engaging in criminal activities ranging from raiding the national treasury and washing it clean through money laundering, siphoning off funds from state enterprises, dealing in illegal drugs and, believe it or not, ripping off people performing the Haj to Makkah. If anyone stands in their way they will stop at nothing, including murder. Many of these law breakers – the term “legislators” ceased to apply to them long ago – hold dual nationality, mostly American or British. They owe their rise to power to the governments of the USA and the UK, which were instrumental in getting the discredited dictator Musharraf to sign a presidential decree, the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which pardoned all the criminals and the murderers (Bhutto, Zardari, the Sharifs, and hundreds of others) and allowed them to keep their illegally acquired wealth. These people are nothing but traitors to Pakistan, their first allegiance is to the governments of the USA and the UK.

A popular and outspoken Pakistani journalist, Hassan Nisar, has been exposing the financial crimes of Pakistan’s rulers in his regular columns for the Urdu newspaper Dunya. He has quoted extensively from Raymond Baker’s book “Capitalism’s Achilles Heel : Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System” which gives, among other things, the details of the wealth amassed by Bhutto, Zardari and the Sharif family. The book can be read/downloaded here:


Imran Khan
The all-important question today is: will Pakistanis be able to have a free and fair election or will it again be manipulated by the governments of the USA and the UK? The criminals that were put in power in Pakistan as a result of foreign manipulation show neither shame nor remorse for their crimes. Currently they are distributing millions of rupees to buy off voters and supporters. The one consolation for Pakistanis is that the most popular politician today is Imran Khan, an honest and upright politician, who holds just the Pakistani nationality and whose loyalty to his country is beyond suspicion. For obvious reasons, these qualities do not endear him to the king makers sitting in remote Washington and London.

The foreign powers may try to manipulate elections by offering covert support to discredited political figures of the past. Among them could be Musharraf and, possibly, Tahirul Qadri, a sort of religious priest-cum-politician who acquired Canadian citizenship some years ago. Last month he suddenly descended on Pakistan and held a "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad, which shook the coalition of crooks that rules Pakistan. He has now announced holding a series of rallies all over Pakistan, starting from 15 February. On the face of it the things he says are quite sensible - what is not clear is where he is getting the funding to cover his very high costs. Are there sinister motives behind his sudden emergence close to the elections?

USA
Business and politics have become interwoven in the United States.  To run a political campaign the presidential candidate needs to be stupendously rich or he/she requires rich backers. The campaign itself is little more that a mud slinging contest in which the truth is the chief casualty. So far as the electorate is concerned the primary issue is economic – the people want to be well off and they don’t care what their government does to make their material lives tolerable.

Over the years the US administrations have progressively adopted foreign policies where the legitimate interests and aspirations of non-Americans are ignored. An American government has no qualms giving support to the most heinous dictators, and suppressing people's struggle for freedom and true democracy (in Pakistan’s case, when the USA’s support for a dictator became untenable the US administration managed to give the country a false democracy). This can be more clearly seen if we look at recent history.

Without going as far back as Vietnam, let’s use a reference point of 9/11. The most powerful weapon in the hands of US administration today is that of propaganda and veiled threats. It was these that persuaded people to accept that a fugitive living in backward Afghanistan could launch a sophisticated operation such as the four-pronged attack on mainland USA. No open trial of murderers behind that atrocity ever took place. The remains of the destroyed aircraft were quickly removed and they simply vanished. Many lies were repeated ad infinitum until the world came to accept those lies as truth. The sheer volume of propaganda hid from the world the offer of the government of Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country for a fair trial.

The presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is both immoral and illegal. The intense propaganda about 'Taliban' hides the fact that the Pashtun Afghanis are also fighting against foreign occupiers of their land. The USA has now as good as lost the war and is preparing for negotiation with the despised Taliban before it withdraws its troops next year.

Then there was Iraq and the Great Lie of WMD (weapons of mass destruction). Saddam Hussein, who was a dear friend while he was dropping napalm on his own people, had become a foe because he had grown too big for his boots and needed to be put in his place. Both in Afghanistan and Iraq the underlying reasons for the savage destruction of human lives was the greed and madness of power-crazed Americans in high places, and their collusion with corrupt politicians. The “democracy” we have today is incapable of producing honest and fearless leaders. The best it can do is serve up second and third rate politicians such as Obama and Bush in USA, and Cameron and Blair in the UK. These unprincipled politicians cling to power, living in constant fear of the electorate. 

The blood-thirsty western governments have not learnt from their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Pakistan the illegal attacks by USA’s pilot-less drones have killed thousands of innocent people and the western governments appear hell-bent on teaching Pakistan and Iran lessons for not being entirely submissive. Apparently, the civilian Pakistani government accepts instructions from Washington but the military is less submissive – see   Wkileaks revelations 

UK
As in the USA the democracy here has given us a string of greasy politicians. The signs are that the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is just as adept at fraudulent political manoeuvrings as Tony Blair was. This is very well covered in an excellent article that appeared in The Guardian last week. Glenn Greenwald lays bare the loathsome support that the western governments extend to various evil regimes in the world. Here is the link to the article - there is little need for me to add anything further:



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Killing human beings is a game of PlayStation and Xbox!

The maverick Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, has been dispensing gems of wisdom on his return to Britain after a four-month spell of duty in Afghanistan. Here are some examples:

"I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox so, with my thumbs, I like to think that I'm probably quite useful".

"Take a life to save a life that's what we revolve around, I suppose. If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game, I suppose".

In Afghanistan Harry was referred to as Captain Wales, to protect him from harm from Afghans fighting against foreign occupation. To the valiant prince, working in Afghanistan was "as normal as it's going to get". As a game of PlayStation or Xbox, maybe? He might have thought differently if he had to meet an Afghan Pashtun fighter on the battlefield face-to-face. Bless his magical thumbs and fingers which sufficed to kill many Afghans. In one British newspaper, the main news item on the front page had this heading: I've killed Taliban fighters, says Harry.

Just before his departure for Afghanistan the maverick Prince was in the news for his naked antics in a  Las Vegas hotel. Ensconced in a £5,000 a night suite, he invited friends to his room for a game of "strip pool". Photographs of the naked prince with a girl similarly attired were circulated around the world, in newspapers and on the internet.

This dim witted member of the British Royal family has done immense harm to the image of the Royal family and to the security of British forces in Afghanistan. The lesson of history is that the hardy Pashtun Afghans have always fought foreign occupiers and defeated them, the Russians in recent history and the British before them. Harry's irresponsible statements will simply inflame tempers. Since the Pashtun fighters do not possess sophisticated weapons which enable the killer to sit in safety and blithely destroy the "target" in a computer game, they may come to see foreign forces as no better than cattle to be slaughtered. 



Harry finds another use for his magical thumbs and fingers


Captain Wales, co-pilot gunner




  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ramadhan in the British summer

Many years ago I had the opportunity to observe the lifestyles of a group of friends when Ramadhan fell mostly in June and the beginning of July, the height of the British summer when the days are long and the nights are short. The group comprised middle aged post-graduate university students from Pakistan and a couple of self-employed British market traders of Pakistani origin. The visiting Pakistanis were well informed on what passes for the “religion” of Islam and they managed to convince the British Pakistanis that they needed to deny their bodies food and drink from shortly after 2 am to well after 9.30 pm. There was an awkward question: if fathers were going without food and drink for well nigh 20 hours, would they be able to discharge their duties to their children? Apparently, the fathers didn’t need to worry about their children because they were the mothers’ responsibility! In that group, the mothers were full time housewives and didn’t go out to work so they had a neat solution:

In the evening the men gathered in the house of one of the Pakistani traders and ended their fast upon sunset, past 9.30 pm, with some light refreshments; next they performed their Maghrib prayers behind the Pakistani doing his PhD in some Islamic topic – I never understood the point of coming all the way from Muslim Pakistan to complete one’s Islamic studies in a "kafir" university! – and they then turned their attention to the elaborate food dishes prepared by the wife of  the host. Having gorged on the sumptuous food, they got up for Isha prayers behind the same bloke, who was generally accepted as the imam of that group. Then they would stay up chatting and laughing and eating until it was time to begin their saum shortly after 2 am. Then the guests would depart and the host would get ready to sleep, presumably after the Fajr prayers on his own. The wife of the host was free to go to bed at any time she wished once she had served the Iftar food and eaten herself. She had to because she had the responsibility of looking after the children when they got up early in the morning. The men were able to have uninterrupted sleep for some 7 hours and they opened their shops later than the usual times.

That arrangement worked well for that particular group. On one occasion I joined their Iftar party although it was well known that the length of my saum lasted between 13 and 14 hours (usually ending by 6.30 pm). I marvelled at their ingenuity to arrange their lifestyles around the mullah’s interpretation of Islam.

I have fond memories of that group though I was never able to make them see that they were  following the sunnah of the mullah, not the Sunnah of Muhammad Rasul-Allah, Rehmatul-lil-aalameen, the length of whose saum did not extend to such long periods. One needed to discharge one’s responsibilities on earth, which included earning a living in diverse circumstances and extending love and care towards the family. We should be careful not to turn Ramadhan into an instrument of self-torture, which may give us an illusion of “performing religious duties” but at the cost of neglecting the rights of our family and other people around us (in Islam those rights, haqooq-ul-ibad حقوق العباد , take precedence over religious rituals). I tried to make them see that my own circumstances were very different from theirs and it was simply not possible for me to follow their particular lifestyle. It was to no avail. They all stared at me with an air of incomprehension, probably inwardly declaring me to be a dead loss, one who had left the fold of Islam!

This year – as in recent years and during the next few years – we find ourselves observing Ramadhan during the British summer months. I know quite a few Muslims who have turned their backs on Ramadhan because “they cannot do it”. This blog may help them see that they can, only they don’t have to accept the mullah’s interpretation of how it should be done.

Lastly, the obverse of Ramdhan in the British summer is Ramadhan occurring in the British winter, when the denial of food and drink to the physical body will last, perhaps, 8 hours! Again, I find it difficult to accept that. Saum is supposed to train our Self, and help us become better human beings, with greater control over our physical and emotional urges. An 8-hour fast in the winter tends to greatly reduce the hardship element in the saum and seems to go against the spirit of Ramadhan.

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