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.

Friday, April 13, 2012

ISLAM: misrepresented and misunderstood

A colleague at work recently told me about a chance encounter with a Muslim man who had shaved his head and had grown his beard very long. According to what this man had told my colleague, that weird appearance was a religious requirement for a Muslim! Knowing little about Islam, my colleague believed all the rubbish he had been told. I laughed and gave a reply along the following lines:

"The man you met was crazy. It is a pity that quite a few people in England base their opinion of Islam and Muslims on the antics of a tiny minority of Muslims. Do I or a majority of Muslims that you see around you look remotely like the specimen you describe? Doesn't a ready willingness to draw general conclusions about Muslims, based on the observation of an unrepresentative minority, indicate the prevalence of prejudice against Muslims in Europe?"

My friend conceded that I had a point. As an atheist he was inclined to believe the worst about religion, any religion. I told him that it was a mistake to think of Islam as a religion. It wasn't a religion in the sense that Christianity or Judasim were. Islam's Book of Guidance, The Qur'an, refers to Islam as Deen, a system to be followed in life, which does not require the services of priests. The existence of a Muslim clergy today is not supported by the Qur'an, which does not recognise an intermediary between God and human beings. A person attains nearness to the Power of God through his/her actions while living in this world of matter. Some points that came up in this pleasant conversation were:

1. Life in this world of matter is a preparation for the next stage of our life's journey in the world of non-matter. If our material existence on earth were the only reality, ending in death, then there was no need for us to follow any moral principles. We should live thoroughly selfish and self-indulgent lives, enjoying the good things of life and trampling other people's "rights" underfoot. 

2. The phrase "the world of non-matter" was a bit much for him. Does it exist or is it a figment of imagination? Take any object, I said, and start breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up with the sub-atomic universe of Quantum Physics. Where do electrons and photons come from? 

The current theory is that as sub-atomic particles, which have no mass, pass through an invisible energy field, called Higgs field, they pick up mass, forming electrons, protons, atoms, etc. The particle that gives them mass is called Higgs boson, popularly referred to as "God particle", presumably because it gives shape/size/mass, leading to origin of life. 
[It is said the Higgs boson was originally referred to as "god-damned particle" because it explained many things in theoretical physics but physicists couldn't find it through experiment. Hence the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator in Switzerland, to prove the existence of Higgs boson].

So, matter is essentially created out of non-matter - waves of energy, Power of God - which, if anything, is more real than matter. One of the attributes of God given in the Quran is NOOR, heavenly Light. I happen to think that physics is gradually converging into metaphysics.

3. The tragedy of Islam is that the lives of Muslims are being manipulated by an oppressive clergy, which has no place in Islam. These clerics are obsessed with appearances. They ape the dead Arab culture of some 1500 years ago, and they measure piety in terms of the length of a man's beard. Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, lived his life in accordance with the Arab culture of his time. His outward appearance was similar to that of the people around him, and he did not stick out like a sore thumb as do the clerics who have set themselves up as experts on the "Islamic religion". 

4. The Book, Al-Quran, is for all humanity. The lazy Muslims no longer make any attempt to read it, preferring to  indulge in the many "religious" rites and rituals that the priests of their particular sects have laid down for them. This dead religion is a negation of Islam. Just take a long hard look around you. Today Pakistan is a byword for corruption, and Syria is competing with the Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) for sheer barbarity. 

This post is simply an account of a general conversation I had with a colleague. People who wish to know about Islam in depth can click on the following links to previous blog posts. 

Islam                               metaphysical aspects

The best book about Islam that I know of is Allama Parwaiz's Urdu book اسلام کیا ہے؟ (What is Islam?). He also wrote a book in English called "Islam: a challenge to religion", which can be read here:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

پُتلے کا انجام

یوسف رضا گیلانی - جسے پاکستان کا وزیر اعظم کہتے ہوۓ سر شرم سے جھک جاتا ہے - کی حیثیت گزشتہ چار سالوں سے ایک ایسے پُتلے کی مانند ہے جو زرداری - جسے پاکستان کا صدر کہتے ہوۓ جھکا ہوا سر زمیں بوس ہو جاتا ہے - کے ہاتھوں میں ناچ رہا ہے اور اس کے ہر قابل نفرت فیصلے پہ عمل کرنے کو اپنا مقصد حیات بناۓ ہوۓ ہے- امید ہے کہ پیر ١٣ فروری کو یہ پتلا توہین عدالت کے جرم میں رسوا ہو کر وزارت عظمیٰ کے عھدے کے لئے نا اہل قرار دے دیا جائے گا اور مستقبل قریب میں اس کے لئے یہ ممکن نہیں رہے گا کہ انتخابات میں "کامیاب" ہو کر پاکستان کی قومی اسمبلی میں دوبارہ نمودار ہو جائے. 

بلندیوں پہ نہ آیا  کبھی  خیال  مجھے 
یہاں بھی ڈھونڈھ ہی لے گا مرا زوال مجھے 

قبر کا مقدمہ 

گیلانی نے اپنے آقا زرداری اور مرحوم مالکہ بینظیر بھٹو کے سیاہ کرتوتوں پہ پردہ ڈالنے کے لئے اپنی قربانی دے کر "شہید" بننے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے! گزشتہ دو سالوں سے گیلانی عدالت عالیہ کے حکم کے برعکس سوئتزرلنڈ کی عدالت کو مطلوبہ خط لکھنے سے مسلسل انکار کرتا رہا ہے کیونکہ یہ اس کے آقا کا حکم تھا- زرداری جیسا چالباز شخص NRO سازش کے کیس کو "شہید بینظیر کی قبر کا مقدمہ" کہتا ہے اور وہ ببانگ دھل اعلان کر چکا ہے کہ اس کی حکومت عدالت عالیہ کے حکم کی تعمیل نہیں کرے گی- زرداری نے گویا اپنے آپ کو آئین اور قانون سے بالا ہستی قرار دے دیا ہے! پاکستانی سیاست میں لفظ "شہید" کو جس بیدردی سے مسخ کیا گیا ہے اس کی مثال مشکل سے کہیں ملے گی- آج کے پاکستان میں سیاست دان قتل نہیں ہوتے، "شہید" ہوتے ہیں! اور جب غدار، وطن فروش، نااہل حکمران اپنے قبیح اعمال کی بدولت اپنے منطقی انجام کو پہنچتے ہیں تو "شہادت" کی پرچی اپنے ماتھے پہ چپکا کے عوام کو دھوکہ دینے کی کوشش کرتے ہیں- 

پچھلے دو برس کے طویل عرصے پہ محیط ، حکومت اور عدلیہ کی جنگ کے دوران مجھے یوں لگ رہا تھا کہ عدلیہ اپنی ہار مان کے خاموشی اختیار کر لے گی: 
پیچ ایسا  ہے  پتنگوں کا  کوئی  کٹتی  نہیں
ڈور کا اب تو سرا ہاتھوں سے نکلا جائے ہے 

مجھے خوشی ہے کہ افتخار محمد چودہری صاحب کے ہاتھ سے ڈور کا سرا نِکَلنے سے پہلے ہی گیلانی کی پتنگ کٹنے والی ہے-

خیرات کے لئے پھیلے ہوۓ ہاتھ 

 زرداری اور گیلانی کی غداریوں اور وطن فروشیوں کا حال آپ اسی بلاگ میں یہاں اور یہاں پڑھ سکتے ہیں- NRO کے متعلق آپ یہاں پڑھ سکتے ہیں- آیندہ چند دنوں میں غالباً ان دونوں کی بداعمالیوں  کی حکایات سے اخبارات بھرے ہوں گے- یہاں میں ان کے خیرات کے لئے پھیلے ہوۓ ہاتھوں کے متعلق کچھ عرض کرنا چاہتا ہوں- 
پاکستان میں زلزلہ آے، سیلاب آے یا امریکہ کی جارحیت کے رد عمل میں پیدا ہونے والی دہشت گردی کا طوفان آے، یہ دونوں گداگر اپنا اپنا کشکول اٹھائے دنیا سے بھیک مانگنے اٹھ کھڑے ہوتے ہیں- ان کی اس گدا گری کی عادت سے وطن عزیز کی ناک کٹ جاتی ہے لیکن بھیک کے انبار دیکھ کر یہ فقیر پھولے نہیں سماتے- بعد میں اس بھیک کے متعلق بہت کم معلومات قوم کو دی جاتی ہیں- 

قرضوں کا جال

بھیک کے علاوہ غیر ملکی قرضوں ["امداد"] کی اپنی الگ دردناک کہانی ہے- ہمارے امرا اور جاگیردار براۓ نام ٹکس ادا کرتے ہیں- زرداری کے متعلق کہا جاتا ہے کہ یہ ارب پتی ایک پیسا ٹکس کا نہیں دیتا- گیلانی کی دولت کے مینار سنا ہے پچھلے چار سالوں میں تعمیر ہوۓ ہیں لیکن ان پہ ٹکس محض چند ہزار روپے سالانہ ہے- حکومت کے اخراجات پورے کرنے کے لئے بین الاقوامی مالیاتی فنڈ [IMF] سے جی بھر کے قرضے لئے جاتے ہیں- ایک حالیہ خبر یہ ہے کہ زرداری/گیلانی حکومت نے گزشتہ چار سالوں میں اتنے ہی قرضے حاصل کے ہیں جتنے ماضی میں تمام پاکستانی حکومتوں نے لئے تھے- ان قرضوں کو کس طرح استعمال کیا جاتا ہے اس کے متعلق مکمل تفصیلات دستیاب نہیں- کہتے ہیں کہ ایک اچھی خاصی رقم حکمرانوں - جن میں شہری اور فوجی دونوں شامل ہیں - کی جیبوں سے ہوتی ہوئ ان کے غیر ملکی کھاتوں میں منتقل ہو جاتی ہے- ان قرضوں کی ادایگی کے لئے IMF کی انسانیت سوز شرایط پہ عمل کیا جاتا ہے- عام استعمال کی اشیا پہ ٹکس بڑھا دیا جاتا ہے اور گیس، بجلی، تیل، پانی کی قیمتیں آسمانوں سے باتیں کرتی نظر آتی ہیں- ان بیرونی قرضوں کے جال میں پھنسے ہوۓ غریب عوام کی معاشی حالت بد سے بدتر ہوتی چلی جاتی ہے- 

طلوع سحر

جس طرح طلوع سحر سے پہلے تاریکی بہت گہری ہوتی ہے، شاید پاکستان کی تاریک رات بھی ایک شفاف اور امید افزا صبح میں بدلنے والی ہے- خیال ہے کہ عام انتخابات اسی سال ہوں گے- یہ پاکستانی قوم کے لئے ایک سنہری موقع ہے اپنے بد باطن سازشی حکمرانوں (اور حزب  اختلاف کی شکل میں رال ٹپکاتے ہوۓ سابق حکمرانوں)  سے چھٹکارہ حاصل کرنے کا جو جی بھر کے عوام اور قومی خزانے کو لوٹ چکے ہیں اور غیر ملکی حکومتوں سے وطن کی عزت اور آزادی کا سودا کرتے رہتے ہیں- پاکستان کو ایک ایماندار، خود دار، انصاف پسند اور جرات مند حکومت کی ضرورت ہے- اگر ہم نے ہوشمندی سے کام لیتے ہوۓ زرداری، گیلانی، اسفندیار، شریفوں، چودھریوں وغیرہ سے نجات حاصل کر لی تو یہ ایک بہت بڑی کامیابی ہو گی-

تری زندگی اسی سے،  تری آبرو اسی سے
جو رہی خودی تو شاہی، نہ رہی تو روسیاہی

اگر ہم نے بد کردار، جرائم کے مرتکب لوگوں کو دوبارہ ووٹ دے کر کامیاب کر دیا تو ہم اپنے پاؤں پہ خود کلہاڑی ماریں گے-

آندھیو جاؤ اب کرو آرام 
ہم خود اپنا دیا بجھا بیٹھے


Monday, January 2, 2012

Light at the end of the tunnel

For much of the year 2011 Train Pakistan had been hurtling through a dark tunnel. As the year drew to a close, however, it was possible to glimpse light at the end of the tunnel. The twin-headed monster of Zardari-Gilani, primarily responsible for pushing the train into the dark tunnel, is rapidly losing its strength and may well be in its death throes.

It seems the traitorous duo of Zardari-Gilani has fallen into its own trap and may be unable to escape this time. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has established a commission to investigate the so-called “Memogate” act of treachery by Pakistanis in highly influential positions. The first casualty has been Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s erstwhile ambassador to the USA, who liked to defend USA interests with great vigour. Not for nothing was he known as the USA’s ambassador residing in Pakistan’s embassy in Washington. He is the prime suspect in a plot to make Pakistan’s nuclear capability ineffective and to force Pakistan’s armed forces to serve American government’s interests. He is said to have instigated this act of treachery against his own country at the behest of his “boss”, generally believed to be a reference to Zardari -  who claims he is untouchable because, as President, he has “immunity” under the constitution of Pakistan.

Let’s await the findings of the judicial commission, which is expected to complete its investigation by the end of this month. If Zardari is nailed, it will then be a no-holds-barred contest between the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the criminal Government of Pakistan. Will the noble Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, be able to cut off the head of the monster threatening the very existence of Pakistan? If he wins then Train Pakistan will indeed emerge into brilliant light.

As the Train comes to a stop it will be time for a new driver to step up and take charge. Standing on the platform is the intrepid Imran Khan, the most popular man in Pakistan at the moment, ready to take charge when it is time for the Train to move on. Will these two valiant men be enough to save Pakistan from the web of conspiracies being hatched by in-house traitors and external enemies?

I think we need a third presence. You may be surprised by my choice. Some may accuse me of eating my own words. The fact remains that, following USA/Nato military’s cowardly attack on one of Pakistan’s border posts on 26 November 2011, which ended in the cold-blooded murder of 24 men and officers of Pakistan’s army, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of Pakistan’s army, is a changed man. He immediately blocked the flow of supplies through Pakistani territory to the USA/Nato troops stationed in Afghanistan, and he finally summoned the courage to tell the Americans that their drone attacks on Pakistani territory would no longer be tolerated. Better late than never. So far he has stood firm against tremendous pressure being exerted by the Americans. General Kayani needs the support of the entire Pakistani nation in the courageous stand he has taken against Pakistan’s back-stabbing “friends”.

So, looking to the immediate future, I think that the three men I have mentioned above will be, at least initially, the architects of a New Pakistan, self-reliant, proud and truly independent.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

General Ashfaq Kayani

Imran Khan, chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

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