Thursday, December 15, 2011

Somw wise words of Imam Shafi'i RahimahULLAHU TA'ALA

“All humans are dead except those who have knowledge;
and all those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do good deeds;
and those who do good deeds are deceived, except those who are sincere;
and those who are sincere are always in a state of worry.”

-Imam Shafi'i (rahimullah)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Concussion, It Was...Really!

A couple of days ago, I went to some place with my father. He and I were sitting next to each other on a couch for quite sometime, when a woman ( Let us call her A, for convenience' sake) walked in and stood right beside us. The place was all so crowded. She couldnt seem to find a place to fit herself in. So I moved a little closer to my dad so that she could sit next to me in whatever little space that was thus made available for her. So she sat down relieved, or so i think, at least. We didnt talk to each other for quite a while, because I am usually not the talker when there are a lot of people around, and more so, when they are not even remotely related to me. But then, she asked me something, (I forgot what exactly), and we ended up striking a conversation out of nowhere. She asked me why I was here and who I was with. You know, things like that, to initiate a conversation...Actually we were at a bank, so I answered her as best as I could. And then, another lady came ( Let us call her B), and she too couldnt  find any place to sit, so my father stood up and made way for her. There I was, a young woman, sitting with two mature elderly and motherly women on both my sides. This other woman then asked me what my token number was and who I was with. So I told her and asked hers. She then kept asking me questions like whether my mother was here too, and how many siblings I had. To the former, I answered in negative, and to the latter, I said none. So she was quite suprised and then asked me if my father ever felt upset on not having had a son who would look after him when he got old. Again, my answer was a no. More surprised as she sounded, she apparently tried to make amends for asking such a personal question by telling me that these days, having daughters is far better than having sons. ( Disclaimer: I might be wrong in thinking that she just wanted to make me feel better by saying this......she might be saying this very honestly and without any concerns that she needed to make me feel better by asking whether or not, my dad was too happy to have a daughter as his only child) And then A joined us in our conversation. We remained quiet for a while, and then another woman came and she sat between B and I, so I had to move a little closer to A. And we ( A and I, that is) re-continued talking about the benefits of having a daughter. She told me ( I am yet to check its authenticity, though) that when a man gets a son born to him, Allah Ta'ala Addresses the father and Says that I Have Bestowed you with your arms or something to that effect, but when a daughter is born, He Says that I Have Become your arms from now on. So I was wowed. by this I asked her where she lived in karachi, ( I actually asked her this for the second time, becaue I couldnt locate the place in my mind previously, so I was curious as to where exactly she lived in the city of my origin) She explained it to me again but it went in vain.I, too didnt insist, for I understood that the failure does not lie at her end. Then we moved on to some serious talking. She told me that almost all the Signs of Qayamat have been manifested, and although I knew that yes, some of them are being clearly observed, I still asked her :Really? How come? And then she continued telling me all the different vices that are so prevalent in this day and age. So I was like, yes, you are right! And then she said the society has become so evil-like that I fail to practice fully whatever good that I have learned and whatever I have taught so far. So I said that good education ( taaleem) goes hand in hand with good tarbiyat. Both of them are necessary prerequisites for a morally healthy society. I added by telling her my story that when I was growing up, my parents were always focussed only on my grades and my ranks in academics. They didnt really tell me that I should be pious alongwith being a well-educated human being. So i just told her that it is all due to the ignorance and insufficiency of Knowledge that is keeping people away from following and adapting to the life of a True Muslim. But then she showed me the other side of the coin. She showed me what I have always failed to notice, let alone ignore. She said that yes, I might be right, but what about the parents who tell their children every now and then to be well-behaved?What about them who have actually become weary and exhausted in making their children true muslims but nothing good seems to come out of all their toil and strife?She told me that whenever she explains to her children to do what is right and stuff like that, her children get annoyed, leave their food and walk out on her. She then went on and asked me why do I think suicide attempts  have become matters of common occurence now. And I was like , it was may be due to people's lack of himmat, you know, and she said, that yes, you could be right. But there's another thing that goes with it. Every man values his life as much as everybody else. It is just sheer depression that results from seeing his children screaming every night for food, and his wife telling him every night that there is no ration at home, eid is drawing near and things like that. What does a person do in such circumstances? He takes his life. She was not justifying suicide. She was only making me understand how "real" things are and how not everything's going to be our way. And all we need to do is to just stay put patiently for whatever we didnt have, showing  gratitude to Allah Ta'ala, for whatver we did have.To not show-off for whatever we did have, or to not be envious for whatever we didnt have. She was a teacher at a private school,  she told me. Her husband was a head-master at some government school. He had taken a second wife. And he gave A only 6,000 rupees for food rationing etc, while A gets a meagre 5000 rupees for her monthly salary. She finds it difficult to manage everything, but she doesnt seem to be complaining at all. Not to me, at least. Our conversation was interrupted by my father who wanted me to write a cheque for him for a hundred thousand and something. While I did so, embarrassment crept inside me and overwhelmed me. It has never left me ever since. Wondering why? Me too. I have just spent an hour and a half in narrating this short episode of my life with no real "punch-line" or "motive" in my mind. I wrote this so that I dont forget Hafeezah. That's what A's real name is. And how well it suits her! MashaAllah! And she came from Mach Goth, somewhere near HUB Nadi. May Allah Ta'ala Protect us and Do Hifazah of our Imaan at all times, good or bad! Aameen thumma Aameen!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: "Scattered Seed" by Maisie Mosco

Scattered Seed,
Maisie Mosco
Harper Collins

When shall we twain,
join hands again,
no more to part,
thou hast my heart?”

Life’s lessons are learnt and not taught, and the medium of learning is the course of life, and every pupil is in himself a school-incarnate. One realizes this and acknowledges many other enlightening phases and modes of life after having read Maisie Mosco’s Scattered Seed, which is the second book of a trilogy about a Russian Jewish family which emigrates to North Manchester, England in early 20th century in order to escape the anti-Jewish riots and pogroms which erupted in pre-Soviet Tsarist Russia in late 1800s and continued till early 1900s.
The assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 for which some hold the Jews blameworthy, provokes a large-scale, massive, violent yet organized anti-Semitic riots and massacres. With the lapse of time, in the early 20th century, despite military interventions, these retaliatory attacks become bloodier and homicidal as the Jews now take to arms to defend their homes, families and property from their Christian assailants. During these pogroms, thousands of Jewish families are torn asunder and reduced to a life of drudgery. With their homes thus destroyed, a large number of Jews seek new havens for refuge which they soon find in England and United States. Unfortunately enough, soon the initial airs of sympathy transform into a general attitude of social estrangement and aversion.
Sara and Abraham’s is one such family which struggles through the initial phases of homelessness and poverty, later stages of emigration and settling in England, and then subsequent alienation and degradation by the British society. This story is a family’s journey through all tinges and shades of life, be it white, black, or grey.  However clich├ęd it may sound, but yes, it is true that once started, the book with its grins and grimaces, meal-times’ discord and weekends’ reunion, and religious festivals and social occupations, glues the readers to it for as long as the narrative lasts. However, brief references to historical and religious details and elaborated and inter-twined kinship ties may often confuse the reader.
All in all, it is a good read for the lovers of religious history in particular and even a better read for the lovers of books in general!

Book Review: "Aleph" by Paulo Coehlo

Book: Aleph
Author: Paulo Coehlo
Publisher: HarperCollins

I’m exaggerating. If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us.
Nevertheless, you have to be prepared for everything. At this point, I make the decision I’ve been needing to make: even if I find nothing on this train journey, I will carry on, because I’ve known since that moment of realization in the hotel in London that although my roots are ready, my soul has been slowly dying from something very hard to detect and even harder to cure.
Routine has nothing to do with repetition. To become really good at anything, you have to practise and repeat, practise and repeat, practise and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive. I learned this when I was a child, in a small town in the interior of Brazil, where my family used to spend the summer holidays. I was fascinated by the work of a blacksmith who lived nearby. I would sit, for what seemed like eternity, watching his hammer rise and fall on the red-hot steel, scattering sparks all around, like fireworks. Once he said to me:
‘You’ll probably think I’m doing the same thing over and over, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well, you’re wrong. Each time I bring the hammer down, the intensity of the blow is different. Sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s softer. But I only learned that after I’d been repeating the same gesture for many years, until the moment came when I didn’t have to think, I simply let my hand guide my work.’
            I’ve never forgotten those words.

It begins with a confession of one’s repetitive failed attempts to be perpetually connected to one’s soul. It traverses along symbols, signs, intuition and adventure. It ends with a rendezvous with one’s inner self, one’s own soul. Like Paulo’s international bestseller, “The Alchemist”, his newly published “Aleph” has a journey within and without oneself for its salient feature, with the mere difference that in this recent work of his, the author presents himself as the protagonist. This is not to say that the “Aleph” has nothing new or worst still, nothing at all to offer to its readers as far as its story-line is concerned. Being a hundred-percent autobiographical account of the author’s journey across the Trans-Siberian Railway, which passes through seven different time zones and is one of the longest railway networks in the world, the book is marked with even the slightest detail related to the train ride, ranging from the constant lurching of the vehicle and the racket caused by the wheels rubbing against the rails, to the bothersome occasions of a sleep disrupted by the tumultuous halts and departures coupled with the constant jerks, which are a matter of common occurrence for a train-traveller. These and all other elaborate paragraphs, nonetheless, fail to bore the reader, let alone dissuade him/her to put the book down for even a fraction of a second. On the other hand, they only add to the reader’s already-growing interest for the 300-page memoir.  As the author sets out, a curious reader might as well intend to embark on such a journey himself, only to find later than there is no such need, for the reader already accompanies the author on the ride, and the journey thus under-taken by the latter is, in effect, the former’s too.  
            Having said this, one needs be reminded that this journey is not without a purpose, and to understand fully ( or even partially ) the author’s primary objective which underlies this decision of his. is an ardous exercise in itself, for, like Paulo’s other literary masterpieces, the “Aleph” is also inundated by philosophical and spiritual ideas which are often difficult to comprehend, despite the simplicity of words used to describe them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcoming "Me" to "My Life"

I am back and this time with a bang ( hopefully). I had been busy...there was always something or the other on my mind, in my hands, around me, over me and within me to pre-occupy "Me" and hence, distract me from engaging in writing activities.......something I always wanted to pursue as a lifelong occupation ( not profession, really )...something which is the crux of "My Life". I am not as prolific and knowledgeable a writer as my dear friend Urooj Malik, but I too want to use ink and paper and not face and voice to etch my thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and grievances about life into our very own words. And what could be a better medium than to do just that ? So sit back and I beg you to not crouch before together we embark on a journey through and across a narrative, yet to be named. I would appreciate if you all kindly encourage me to stick around for a longer time this time, at least for the narrative's narrator's sake....I badly need  your duas and wishes to help me don the writer's cap for as much as my narrator of the story desires. I leave you here.....

By the way, any guesses for who the narrator is? 


It is...

Yours truly, 



In the words of (Moulana) Hakeem Akhtar (Saheb):

Listen dear friends to the story of Moulana Rumi
Who was generally involved with teaching.
While being unaware of the ways of the path (Sulook).
Being involved with external knowledge at all times,
His lecturing pursuits had become famous all around,
While for him hard was the contact with the path.
For arrogance through knowledge keeps the men of knowledge
Far away from recognizing the truth.
For the main object of all knowledge is to attain Divine Love
Apart from that all is mere conceit.
But him on whom Allah's Grace shines,
One day or another he will become Allah's favorite.
In this way Allah's Grace shone on Moulana Rumi
And from the unseen, Allah's help reached him.
All achievements come about through Divine Grace
And without His favor nothing comes about.
From the unseen world Rumi was chosen.
As Shamsh Tabrezi prayed to the Lord:
"Lord, this fire of love burning in my heart,
This restless longing which lies in me,
This fire of truth which is buried in my heart
And all that was granted to me.
O Lord, let there be such a bondsman of Thine
Who in true fashion will be suitable to inherit.
That his heart may become filled with truth
And that I may fill his being with pearls of wisdom.
Let me find such an heir who will be able
To bear the burden of the fire of love in him.
For the burning love within myself
Is like the Mount Toor of love in the heart.
Lord, near indeed is for me the time of parting
To whom shall I leave this trust? O, Beloved."
Page 22 of 197
From the unseen came the immediate reply:
"O Shamsh Tabrezi, hasten towards Rum.
Go and make Moulana Rumi the Master of Rum.
Let him become unoccupied with the affairs of Rum.
“Thus at the command of the unseen Shamsh proceeded
Towards Rum as commanded from on High.
As he cast his sight upon Moulana Rumi,
Unconscious he fell down on the path.
Forgotten were the robes of knowledge.
Hungry and thirsty was he to be successful on the path.
At one time Moulana Rumi was known
As a man of dignity and splendor.
The one endowed with the special connections of Khwarizm Shah
And also endowed with being a Master of knowledge.
Whenever he had to go anywhere,
Speedily was brought for him the royal sedan' .
And ready for him were soldiers, servants and students
Who in honor and respect accompanied him.
He was used to having his hands and feet kissed
And on all sides he used to be crowded.
Today he fell down unconscious.
Through Divine Love he discarded all signs of pomp and splendor.
What a glance was thrown on him by Shamsh Tabrezi
And through that he became a leader of the Path.
When the Pir of Rum regained consciousness,
He followed the footsteps of Shamsh Tabrezi
Taking his Sheikh's bedding on his head as he walked
Having bought the humility of Love.
When does Divine Love keep a transitory world,
All that became lost in the dust.
For the honor of Divine Love is everlasting honor
And its ecstasy is ecstasy forever.
And upon Jalaluddin Rumi there was
The full effect of the influence of Shamsh Tabrezi
And Shamsh Tabrezi filled the heart of Rumi
With burning love and yaqeen.
From the hands of the Sheikh whatever bounty he found
The Mathnavi is filled with gratitude for that.
Look from what to what Shamsh transformed Rumi,
Through their liaison and company wonders resulted.
It is through the spiritual bounty of Shamsh
That without fear Rumi could dance around with turban tied.
Such an effect was had on the Pir Rumi
As he explains in Mathnavi without any fear.
That Shamsh Tabrezi was a light complete.
He was the sun and he was the lights of truth.
Page 23 of 197
In the Mathnavi, the fire of Tabrezi burns.
The meanings are Tabrezi, the words Rumi's.
What did Rumi acquire from the hands of Tabrezi (R.A.)?
Ask this of Rumi himself.
But I say, o my friends,
Search for it yourself in the Mathnavi.

( Copied from " A Commentary of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi's Maarif-e-Mathnavi" by Maulana Hakeem Akhtar Saheb (damat barakatuhum))

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: "My Life With The Taliban"

My Life with the Taliban
by Abdul Salam Zaeef, translated from the Pashto and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and
Felix Kuehn
Columbia University
Press, 331 pp., $29.95

They told me very smugly
that “we will be in Afghanistan for a long time. We will root out the
Taliban and Al Qaeda, and we will bring democracy and freedom”.
I could only laugh at them. “That may be your opinion, but I do not
Then, patronizingly, they would ask: “So, what is your opinion?
What will happen?”
In reply I would hold out an outstretched hand, all five fingers
“Here is where you are right now”, I told them. “But in three years
it will be like this”. I contracted my hand into a claw. “If you are not
complete idiots you will understand. Otherwise, in six years it will be
like this”. And I made my hand into a very tight fist. “It would be
good if you use your brain at this point. Otherwise, in ten years everything
will be out of your control. You will have an embarrassing failure,
and we will have a disaster”.
But they treated my words like those of a child. They told me that I
did not understand. But I told them, “I am an Afghan. I know this”.( 223 )

While I was reading through The Kite-Runner and later, A Thousand Splendid Suns, both by the same author, I felt an urge in me to probe further into the historical facts and diplomatic fiction about post-Soviet Afghanistan in general and the Taliban movement in particular. The first question I wanted somebody to answer for me happened to be why the Bamiyan statues had to be blown away when there were other possibly better and politically “safer” ways to get rid of them. Why couldn’t the Talibans hand over Osama Bin Laden and avoid being invaded by the Americans, was another query I wished to be replied by a plausible explanation of the matter. It was only a week ago when I landed myself into a crash course on Afghanology which quenched three-quarters of my ignorance regarding Afghanistan’s dreary past, simultaneously giving rise to more curiosity and doubts as to its future and what lies in store for it in days to come, if at all.
Yes, I gotten my hands on a book called “My Life with the Taliban” which sufficed for doing all of that for me.  Originally penned in Pashto by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef ,who served as a former Afghan Deputy Defence Minister and Deputy Minister of Mines and Industries, and later as an ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, the story is a narrative of the author’s journey through, into and out of Afghanistan across various socio-political changes that simultaneously occurred at home and abroad over the past three decades.
He starts his tale from his own beginning and then sets out to sketch the details as to the  framework of pre-and post-Soviet Afghanistan so as to paint the broader picture for the readers’ understanding and perception of the dire need for the initiation of the Taliban Movement, a name which was only unscrupulously tagged on a group of a few tens by the careless tabloids, making it sound a political phenomenon in stead of the religious connotations which the word “Taliban” actually consumes.
Before reading through the passages on the societal circumstances which led to  the inception of the now most dreaded militant organization, I often wondered if killing hundreds of innocent people in a bloody rampage, blowing away historical monuments , or even taking one’s own life along with several others’ in a suicide bomb attack were tactics good enough and “Islamically” permissible, in an attempt to perform the much-used and –abused jihad, and better yet, to establish the veracity and supremacy of Islam over all other religions. This book forced me to imagine how the recurring waves of frustration, social chaos and mistrust, and political unrest, accompanied by an acute deprivation of the basic amenities of life which the Afghans were and continue to be plagued with to this day, followed by the various groups’ bid for power for nearly three decades now, could give rise to small factions of illegally-armed men who would kill their own country-men in order to continue to retain their power in and around their respective “check-posts”.  And yes, they would abduct, rape and kill for money too.
This “local” narrative brought to my notice the fact previously unknown to me that the founders of the Taliban Movement waited patiently for quite sometime for the then-prevalent corruption and social unrest to subside before undertaking the responsibility of trying to create a peaceful and conducive-to-living environment. Also, I learnt that they only resorted to arms when they failed after a series of negotiations to convince the several groups of dacoits and thugs from among the mujahideen groups ( who had fought along with the Taliban against the Soviet ). Moreover, the Taliban’s unprecedented and successful feat to put an end to the cultivation of poppy and opium and the implementation of the Islamic Shariah Law preceded the notoriuos events of the Hazara massacre and the removal of the Bamyan statues were later episodes in the 5 year reign of the Taliban regime. As a matter of fact, the gods of the world deliberately maintain their silence with regard to the facts and fiction related to these events.
Yes, one can by no means deny the blameworthy character of our very own Pakistan in all the fiasco and hype created by the inherently “terrorist” natures of the Talibans. And so couldn’t the author either.  He has highlighted his disappointing experiences with the then Pakistani government officials, army personnel and diplomats while he was here as an Afghan ambassador to the country in a melancholy tone as if he was saddened by the evil ways a Muslim government treated its counte-rpart , even though it shared with it the same faith and same culture, at least in some places of the country.His painfully thorough description of the Pakistani and Afghan prisons and the Guantanamo camps rejuvenated the images of the enslaved Black Africans and their brutal treatment at the hands of their “masters” which had arisen in my mind during my perusal of Alex Hailey’s “The Roots” nearly a year ago.
The epilogue is one great literary piece which needs to be read aloud to all the diplomats currently serving in Kabul and Washington, in general and to those in Islamabad in particular. Although the writer does not end his story by providing the readers with a myriad of solutions to the social and political mayhem created by the infamous “War on Terrorism”, he asserts that a continued increase in the number of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan is not a viable solution either. In stead, he says, it will lead to more bloodshed on both the Afghans’ and the Americans’ sides. However, he suggests that the US should revise its war policy by beginning a campaign of peace.
Strangely enough, the author simply refuses to affirm his much-expected close links with the Al-Qaeda group. Thus, it is safe to assume that there is yet a lot to be said and heard about the associations between the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. The truth, of course. It is interesting to note that the translators of the book have spent quite some time in Afghanistan ascertaining the facts and figures, so blatantly posited on numerous occasions in the books. This gives the narrative more credibility, at the same time adding to the viciousness of the truth so defiantly revealed by a Talib.
Having said all this, one thing that runs parallel to the author’s jihadic adventures and his political pursuits is his assiduity in acquiring religious knowledge and an urge to act upon it: a real, true and traditional occupation of a Talib which subsumes every other responsibility or occupation for that matter.
All in all, the book is a good read despite frequent occurrences of not-so-interesting details and rare occasions of spelling errors.