Monday 30 April 2012

Can Turkey Make Its Mosques Feminist?

A campaign to make Istanbul's roughly 3,100 mosques more welcoming for women could set off a gender revolution in Turkey's places of Islamic worship - and one that may not be uniformly welcomed. "This is about mosques being a space for women," declared Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Istanbul's deputy mufti, the city's second most powerful administrator of the Islamic faith. "When a woman enters a mosque, she is entering the house of God and she should experience the same sacred treatment. In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion."

As part of the "Beautification of Mosques for Women" project, Erdemli sent 30 teams to visit all of Istanbul's mosques and report back on the facilities for women. What the teams found was shocking, she claimed. "Many of the mosques have no toilets for women, no place for women to wash before praying," Erdemli recounted. "Most of the places allocated for women were used as storage places, and those that weren't were usually filthy and freezing cold in winter."

Istanbul's mosques are now under strict instructions to clean up and provide equal facilities for both men and women by February 2012. But it's not only a push for cleanliness and improved sanitation that is underway. The way mosques are arranged is also being changed, according to Erdemli. "In most mosques, the women's area was divided by a curtain or a wall, and this is not fair," she elaborated. "They are sacred places and women have the right to take advantage of their spiritual feeling as well." "In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion"

 Unlike men, women are not required under Islam to attend a mosque; their presence is allowed, but, traditionally, female Muslim believers have prayed more frequently at home. Practices, however, can vary from country to country, and from mosque to mosque. In Istanbul's mosques, to reflect the beautification project's goal of equal worship space, "all the curtains and walls are coming down," Erdemli said. "But segregation will remain; men and children will pray in front of women."

 Starting in late December, inspections will start to check if mosques are complying with instructions. Since the program began in March, Erdemli has addressed over 5,000 of the city's imams and religious staff to explain the theological reason for why mosques are for women as much as they are for men. On the streets of Istanbul, there appears to be broad support for the program among religious women.
"Sure, it would be beautiful. It would be much better," said one 30-year-old woman, who gave her name as Münevver. "In some places, the spaces for women are clean, but in others they are filthy."

 The Diyanet, the state-run administrative body for Turkey's mosques, has not only given its complete support to the project, but also provided a theological justification. In November, the head of the Diyanet, Mehmet Gomez, gave an uncompromising speech, in which he acknowledged the problem of misogyny in Islam. "There are some wrong, incomplete, biased interpretations that do not reflect the general principles of our noble religion," Hürriyet Daily News on December 7 reported Gomez as saying.

  All are not happy with this gender revolution. "I hope all these increasing efforts are not aimed at removing the obstacles for a woman to come out of her home, and first go out to the mosque, and then to find a job; all by finding legitimacy within [the Islamic] religion," grumbled leading Islamic columnist Ali Bulac on December 3 in the Zaman newspaper. The column provoked a storm of reaction. The outcry, interestingly, was louder coming from practicing Islamic women than from secular feminists.

In her December 6 column for the daily Yeni Safak, Islamic columnist Ozlem Albayrak termed Bulac's attitude a form of "persecution against women." The heated polemic is just the latest example of an important change in Turkish society. Istar Gozaydin, a law professor at Istanbul's Dogus University and an expert on the Diyanet, argues that the rise of a new conservative Islamic middle class on the coattails of the decade-long rule of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party has eased both formal and informal restrictions on Islamic women in education and state workplaces. "We see more and more women getting educated in the universities, more women in the workplace," Gozaydin said. "They've been able to become more visible in society. And they want to be a part of the mosque system as opposed to praying at home." Although the percentage of women in Turkey's workplaces and university student bodies may appear relatively low, the figures are trending upward.

A 2010 World Bank report on gender equality reported that 30 percent of Turkish women work. According to official data for the same year, women accounted for 44 percent of Turkish university students. Erdemli has her sights on the Beautification of Mosques for Women project becoming an inspiration for the rest of Turkey. She maintains, though, that its goal is not revolution, but simply bringing the Muslim faith back to its roots. "All we are doing is taking Islam to back before it was corrupted and misinterpreted, when women and men were treated equally," she said.


Thursday 26 April 2012

A Wife

A talk by Shaykh Abdullah Adhami By getting married you are not just getting a wife, you are getting your whole world. From now until the rest of your days your wife will be your partner, your companion, and your best friend. She will share your moments, your days, and your years. She will share your joys and sorrows, your successes and failures, your dreams and your fears. When you are ill, she will take the best care of you; when you need help, she will do all she can for you; When you have a secret, she will keep it; when you need advice, she will give you the best advice. She will always be with you: when you wake up in the morning the first thing your eyes will see will be hers; during the day, she will be with you, if for a moment she is not with you by her physical body, she will be thinking of you, praying for you with all her heart, mind, and soul; when you go to sleep at night, the last thing your eyes will see will be her; and when you are asleep you will still see her in your dreams. In short, she will be your whole world and you will be her whole world. The best description that I personally have ever read describing the closeness of the spouses to each other is the Qur’anic verse which says: “they are your garments and you are their garments” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:187).Indeed,spouses are like garments to each other because they provide one another with the protection, the comfort, the cover, the support, and the adornment that garments provide to humans. Just imagine a journey in the winter of Alaska without garments! Our spouses provide us with the same level of comfort, protection, cover, and support in the journey of our lives on this earth as garments would do in the Alaskan journey. The relationship between the spouses is the most amazing of all human relations: the amount of love and affection, intimacy and closeness, mercy and compassion, peace and tranquillity that fills the hearts of the spouses is simply inexplicable. The only rational explanation for these most amazing of all human feelings is that: it is an act of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, “And Allah has made for you Mates (and Companions) of your own nature …” (Surah Al Nahl 16:72) Only our Almighty Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala in His Infinite Power, Boundless Mercy, and Great Wisdom can create and ingrain these amazing and blessed feelings in the hearts of the spouses. In fact Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala is reminding those who search for His signs in the universe that these feelings in the hearts of the spouses are among the signs that should guide humans to His existence as He says in the Qur’an, “And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Al Rum 30:21) But Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala knows that the human heart is not a static entity, it is sometimes weak and at times dynamic. Feelings can and do change with time. Love may wither and fade away. The marital bond might weaken if not properly cared for. Happiness in marriage cannot be taken for granted; continuous happiness requires constant giving from both sides. For the tree of marital love to remain alive and keep growing, the soil has to be sustained, maintained, watered and nurtured. Remember that our Prophet Muhammad Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam had found the time to go out to the desert and race with his wife Aisha. She out ran him but later after she had gained some weight, he out ran her. Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam took his wife to watch the young Ethiopians playing and dancing their folk dances. The show of emotions is necessary to keep the marital bond away from rusting and disintegrating. Remember that you will be rewarded by Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala for any emotions you show to your wife as the Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam said “one would be rewarded for anything that he does seeking the pleasure of Allah even the food that he puts in the mouth of his wife.” Never underestimate the importance of seemingly little things as putting food in your wife’s mouth, opening the car’s door for her, etc. Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam used to extend his knee to his wife to assist her up to ride the camel. Try to always find some time for both of you to pray together. Strengthening the bond between you and Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala is the best guarantee that your own marital bond would always remain strong. Having peace with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala will always result in having more peace at home. Remember that the Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam gave glad tidings for those couples who wake up at night to pray together. The Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam even urged the spouse who rises up first to wake the other spouse up even by throwing cold water on his/her face. Always try your best to be good to your wife by words and by deeds. Talk to her, smile to her, seek her advice, ask for her opinion, spend quality time with her and always remember that the Prophet Salallaahu ‘aliahi wa’sallaam said “the best of you are those who are best to their wives.” Finally, it is common that spouses vow to love and honor their spouses until death do them part. I do believe that this vow is good or even great, but not enough! It is not enough that you love your wife. You have to love what she loves as well. Her family, her loved ones must also become your loved ones. Don’t be like my colleague who was unhappy about his wife’s parents coming to visit for few weeks. He candidly said to her “I don’t like your parents.” Naturally, she angrily looked at him straight in the eye and said ” I don’t like yours either”… Also, it is not enough that you love her until death do you part. Love should never end and we do believe there is life after death where those who did righteousness in this world will be joined by their spouses , “Enter Paradise, together with your spouses, and rejoice.(Surah Al Zukhruf 43:70)” and offsprings. source

Monday 16 April 2012


There is greatness in the fear of God, contentment in faith of God, and honor
in humility.
Abu Bakr as Saddiq (573 CE - 634 CE)

Saturday 14 April 2012

Love for all parents

Abdullah Ibn 'Umar saw a Yemeni man performing Tawâf (circumambulating the Ka'bah) while carrying his mother on his back. This man said to Abdullah Ibn 'Umar, "I am like a tame camel for her! I have carried her more than she carried me. Do you think I have paid her back, O Ibn 'Umar?" Abdullah Ibn 'Umar replied, "No, not even one contraction!!" [Al-Adab al-Mufrad Bukhârî 1/62]

Thursday 12 April 2012

Acid victim: Fakhra Yunus laid to rest in Karachi

Fakhra Yunus, acid victim of former MPA Bilal Khar, was laid to rest in Karachi on Sunday after her funeral prayers were held at Edhi Centre.
Her body reached Karachi airport from Italy earlier during the day amid protests led by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Yunus leapt off from the sixth floor of a building on March 17, 2012 in Italy which resulted in her death. She was provided shelter in Italy after being attacked by her husband 12 years back in Karachi.
Female workers of MQM gathered at Jinnah International Airport holding placards and chanting slogans against Khar, who is also the son of former Punjab governor Mustafa Khar.

MQM leader Altaf Hussain has taken immediate notice of the incident and demanded that Khar be ‘severely punished’ for his acts. Other MQM leaders have also demanded action be taken against the former Punjab chief minister and veteran politician Mustafa Khar’s son Bilal Khar.
“There is a termite, which is eating our country from within; it is the feudal system,” remarked MQM leader Khushbakht Shujaat during the protest.
Iconic humanitarian worker Abdul Sattar Edhi was also present at the Karachi airport to receive Yunus’ body.

Edhi also held the prevalent feudal system in the country to be responsible for such incidents. “They still oppress women the way it happened 8,000 years ago… they consider women to be their properties.”
Tehmina Durrani, who had helped Yunus find refuge in Italy, arrived at the airport along with Yunus’ family. Yunus’ son had handed over the funeral responsibilities to Durrani.
Speaking to the media, Durrani said that Yunus had lived her life with courage. In earlier interviews, Yunus had expressed her desire to return to Pakistan to seek justice.

Musarrat Misbah, a veteran beautician and owner of Depilex Smile Again Foundation For Acid Burn Victims was also present at the airport.
Meanwhile, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wasan has announced reopening of Yunus case.
The case
In 1998, Yunus was an 18-year-old resident of Napier Road’s Bulbul Bazar, Karachi’s red light district, when she met the then Muzaffargarh MPA Bilal Khar.
Shortly after the marriage, Yunus faced both physical and mental abuse by Khar, which lasted for three years before she eventually escaped and moved in with her mother.

An infuriated Khar allegedly took ‘revenge’ by pouring acid over her on May 14, 2000, as her five year old son watched. The attack left her severely burned, particularly her face. She, however, survived the attack but not before spending three months in intensive care.
Khar used his political influence to evade arrest and absconded, while Yunus’s family faced difficulty in registering an FIR against him.
On October 31, 2002, Khar was eventually arrested, but released in 2003 on Rs 200,000 bail.


Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Evolution of a Muslim

"On that Day, the people of paradise will ask those who have entered Hell-fire, why they have entered it. And the Qur’an tells us exactly what their first response will be: ”What led you into Hell Fire? They will say: ‘We were not of those who prayed.’” (Qur’an, 74:42-43)

Saturday 7 April 2012

The Muslim Spinster Crisis

Marriage is a very important part of Muslim culture. In fact, as soon as most Muslims enter their late teens, parents start dropping hints about marriage. Often you are expected to get married, or at least engaged, in you early-20s and if you get to the ripe old age of 30 without being married, your community starts to pity you and question your normality.

It is not an easy or comfortable environment to be raised in, especially if you have strong views about the kind of person you want to spend the rest of your life with. However, it has been further complicated in recent years by the fact that many Muslim women, in particular, simply can’t find suitable Muslim men.
This is a trend that I had detected anecdotally many years ago but in recent months it has been reported in a number of media outlets too. This is a welcome development in my view because having the discussion in public allows us all to explore the dynamics that are contributing towards this imbalance.

Syma Mohammed is one such woman who wrote about her experiences for the Guardian a few months back. She attended a Muslim marriage event in Glasgow only to find that there were five women to every man. In her words “Well turned out women sat around dejected, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to speak to the select few”. She went on to say that nearly all Muslim singles events in this country are female dominated with the average age of women typically being higher than the men.
So what is going on?
Firstly, Western Muslim women are more likely to be better educated and more discerning about their future choice of marriage partner than their male counterparts. They are, therefore, less likely to want to go back to the ‘motherland’ to find a companion who will most likely be of a radically different mindset and will struggle to be the main breadwinner. Secondly, they are also forbidden from marrying non-Muslim men, both by orthodox religious authorities and their communities and families in general.

So whilst Muslim men are free to choose from half the population and the millions of women in places like Pakistan who dream of moving to the West for a better life, their female counter-parts, or at least those who want a say in their marriage, are stuck with the few men who didn’t get married for whatever reason.
In some cases, this can result in women reluctantly marrying men at 31 who they wouldn’t have given a second look at 21. In other cases, it can result in women remaining single for the rest of their lives since relationships outside of marriage are culturally taboo.

The situation for the women is made more difficult by the fact that men, consciously or subconsciously, use their mothers as their role models. In many Muslim families, especially first generation immigrants, women play a subservient role and, therefore, their sons are less inclined to go for a partner who is better educated, strong minded and outspoken. As such, an overtly obedient village girl from abroad who stays at home and looks after their mother becomes an attractive option.
This current situation is unsustainable to say the least and the changes required to alter it in the short to medium term are too radical for a community that rarely welcomes change. Furthermore, such problems are also, at least partially, symptomatic of the lack of personal freedom and individuality in Muslim communities. Group-think preserves cultural practises that are dysfunctional when maintained in a different time or context.

In the long term, I do believe that things will change for the better as third and fourth generation Muslim men are less likely to want to marry women from completely different cultures. Muslim women are also more likely to start partnering with non-Muslim men as the grip of the tribe gets weaker and people interact more. In fact, an increasing number of Muslim women are already marrying non-Muslim men and an Imam in Oxford called Taj Hargey is encouraging the practise and providing support for such couples.

However, in the short-term the males in Muslim communities face a stark choice. They either have to stop discouraging Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men or start discouraging Muslim men from marrying women from abroad. To do neither is to allow the Muslim spinster crisis to continue and even get worse.


Thursday 5 April 2012

The brave Muslim women of Gujarat

Thirty-eight-year-old Noorjehan Abdul Hamid Dewan is an unlikely rebel.

She grew up in a large family surrounded by the hum of prayers and "religious men with long beards". She got married at the age of 17 to a man who recorded the number of dead at a local hospital before he lost the job, and ended up on the streets driving an auto rickshaw for a living.

After they were married, Noorjehan and her husband, Abdul, went to live in Juhapura, the bustling Muslim ghetto of Gujarat's main city of Ahmedabad, a place derisively called "mini-Pakistan" by many. It is a dystopian township dotted with cramped homes and narrow streets and where residents struggle to secure drinking water, cooking gas connections and small loans.

Noorjehan covered herself up in a burqa, stayed at home, looked after her husband and children like a good wife. Until the 2002 riots changed her life.
A refugee camp sprang up in her neighbourhood days after the violence and Noorjehan decided to step out to see what was going on. That was possibly the defining moment of her life.

"I was shocked when I saw the survivors. I saw a girl and a boy, siblings, who had been set on fire by the mob, die in front of my eyes. There were about 5,000 people in the camp. I didn't know what to do, and I felt helpless," she says.
When she returned home and told Abdul after what she had seen, her husband forbade her to go to the camp again and work there. "He told me I could not work with other men. I told him both Hindu and Muslim were working together to help the survivors. He wasn't convinced. But I decided to go back and help. The camp haunted me," says Noorjehan.

Noorjehan, sometimes carrying her six-month-old daughter, walked to the camp every day to help the survivors with food and water. She even joined a local NGO. When her husband heard that, she says, he beat her up.
For the next six months, the relief camp became Noorjehan's life. At home, her husband stopped talking to her and threatened her with divorce. She left her children with relatives and continued to work in the camps, giving out medicines, helping victims file police complaints, carrying out surveys and nursing the injured.
"I also quit the burqa. I put on the burqa when I married in 1991. I quit in 2002," she says.

The burqa, Noorjehan says, was part of the problem when she went to work in the relief camp. "People would pass snide remarks, the police would shoo us away. The burqa became an existential problem. I had to stop wearing it in order to do my job well," she says.
Ten years later, things have changed radically. Abdul is now a fawning admirer of his wife's work and accompanies her, sometimes with their school-going children in tow. "He helps me, supports me, understands me. I now live to get help, get justice," says Noorjehan.

Women like Noorjehan are leading a veritable revolution in the beleaguered Muslim community in Gujarat, which comprises less than 10% of the state's population. They have defied their husbands and parents at home and clerics outside to come out and work with riot victims and travel to dingy and often hostile courtrooms around the state to fight their cases.
'Social change'

Many of them are victims themselves, but they are waging a war against inequality in their homes and marginalisation and brutalization outside. Once sequestered and voiceless, they are making their presence felt at home and the world and challenging the stereotype of Muslim women in India. "A social change is happening in the community," agrees leading activist Shabnam Hashmi. "It took a tragedy to trigger this change."
It can sometimes look like an uphill task. After the 2002 riots, social cleavages have sharpened, ghettoisation has become endemic, lots of Muslim men have lost their jobs, and school-going boys like one of Noorjehan's sons have had to take up low paying jobs in call centres to support their families.
But they soldier on bravely.

In Juhapura, I went to see Niaz Apa, one of these women. She is 58, and lives with her husband in a 100 sq ft, two-room apartment built by a community NGO for displaced riot victims. It's an ugly two-storey building with an unending row of rooms flanked by a winding veranda. Her husband, Banu Mia, a quiet man with a hennaed beard, is a retired factory worker.

Ten years ago, Niaz jests, she was the "richest woman" in the relief camp, where she stayed for eight months. "I had land, I had a home. But my house got burnt down during the riots, and I sold my land in a distress sale and moved into this hovel, which is now my home," she says with no hint of obvious rancour.
That was not all. Even justice denied was denied to her. When Niaz identified the men who had torched her house in the court - "there were 12 of them, they had grown up in front of my eyes" - the judge asked her to compromise with the men. "He said just go ahead and compromise. Nothing is going to happen. And nothing did happen."
To forget her woes, Niaz says, she now works with the community and riot survivors, going to police stations, courts and cheap food shops. "It's all about securing justice by raising my voice. When the owners of the cheap food shops cheat us, I take up the cudgels. If the police station refuses to register a case, I raise my voice," she says.

'Braving the wrath'
"My life is now just about raising my voice and getting justice for the helpless."
In Godhra, I met Latifabano Mohammad Yusuf Getali, 49, who has made a stormy transition from a cloistered homemaker to a leading relief and peace activist, so much so that she was picked up as one of the 1,000 PeaceWomen for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She has worked with riot victims, opened schools and picked up training to run schools and a NGO.
"I was in the burqa when the riots happened. I had no idea of the world outside."
"From the uneventful life of a Muslim housewife to a relief and peace activist, she has walked a long mile", says the citation by the organisation.
"Braving the wrath of her conservative community, Latifabano has helped hundreds of Muslim women in the state gain access to relief and legal assistance... Latifabano's organisation was the first Muslim women's organisation in Godhra, so she faced the considerable wrath of the conservative Muslim community. But she continued undeterred..."

But there is one thing all of them miss. Life since the riots has become boring, says Niaz Apa, because of ghettoisation - the only English word she knows.
"Earlier many of us would live in joint neighbourhoods. We had so much joy living with Hindu neighbours, participating in each other's festivals. Now we have only Muslims for company. Which is a bit boring, isn't it?"


Tuesday 3 April 2012

Sex slaves sold in the name of religion

Once upon a time there was a woman who was the wife of a great Hindu sage. The sage and his wife had taken a vow of celibacy. One day she was at the river and she saw two sprites “frolicking” with each other. She wished that she and her husband could be sexually free too. The husband sensed her sexual desires and was so angry he ordered her to be beheaded. However, the sage bitterly regretted the decision, so he tried to fix it. He found the head of another woman from the lowest caste, and attached this to his wife’s body. She was resurrected, but instead of staying with her husband, she roamed by the river, a liberated, sexually free woman, like the sprites. She became the goddess “Yellama” and lived happily ever after.

This is the story told to some of the young girls in Southern India, in the region of Andhra Pradesh, where Yellamma is the patron goddess. At the age of between five and ten they are dedicated to the goddess in a special marriage ceremony, where they are given pretty clothes, strewn with petals, offered gifts and then forced to become sex slaves.

They are too young to fully comprehend what is happening to them until the ceremony is over and their fate is sealed. Saimma, aged 40 explains: *”I felt happy and great as a child saying that I am married and I used to say all the other children, ‘you also should get married to the goddess and then you will get new clothes and can have thali in your neck like me’. Only later did I realise what is the marriage really. In our society, if you have a husband you also have respect, but we die of shame.”

Venkatamma, 45, says, “My mother told me I was the goddess of our villagers. With time I came to know that what type of goddess I was. All are playing games with our life. Today we are living by dying. In the society we don’t have respect and we are subservient to everyone.”

The girls who have been put through this dedication ceremony are known as “Jogini”. Estimates say that 17000 girls are Jogini. They have the glamourous image of being a temple prostitiute, and like Yellama, they will never marry, which to outsiders gives an impression of freedom, but they will always be Jogini and cannot escape their fate. Although there are no physical restraints on them, the community will shun them if they try to take another profession.

“Sometimes they are locked in rooms and battered until they have no will to escape,” explains Dr Beryl D’souza Vali, the Director of Anti-Trafficking at Pratigya India, a charity which campaigns for an end to slavery in India. “But after that they are seen as a sex worker and there is no escaping that, so they are exploited at that level, even if they try to do something else, they will always be a sex worker.”

The young girls usually come from the lowest caste, the Dalits (‘untouchables’). Dalits have few rights and the majority live in extreme poverty. The practice of selling their children as Jogini is said to bring good luck to the families and they are also given a very small percentage of the money made from the sale of the child.

Ashamma, 45, was made a Jogini when she was eight years old. “My father was blind since birth. They made me a Jogini to get financial support. But I still have to go begging with my son because of my horrible situation and lack of food.”

D’souza Vali says that often the men involved in buying the girls are often respected members of society. ”There are stakeholders; they are people from the sex trade industry – politicians, religious leaders or prominent locals,” she explains, “the brothels in larger cities usually get a religious middle man in the village to visit the family to say this should happen.”

The only “escape” from being a Jogini comes from no longer being useful for sex, says D’souza Vali: ”Eventually they have had several children and contracted HIV and Aids, so they are no longer working, then they escape it”.

Jogini women sometimes dedicate their own daughters, because once they stop being useful as Jogini, there is no other way to get an income, or their children are taken and made into Jogini.

Savithramma, 22, was made a Jogini by her mother and grandmother after she gave birth to an illigitimate child when she was 14. “ I asked him after the child birth to marry me but he didn’t respond to me. So, my mother took me to temple and made my avva (grandmother) to tie thali to me. From that time onward all give me the title jogini. ”

“They use our children also after our death,” says Ashamma. “When we die, they take our children as their slaves. By that our children’s lives are also spoiled. Our children’s lives are also in darkness like ours.”

Laws do exist to protect the girls and women, but are rarely enforced. In the 1930s the British were the first ones who challenged the system and outlawed it. This was seen as disrespectful to the religious customs and culturally unaware. In some ways the law backfired and simply made Jogini life much harder. “One Jogini told me that the women used to enjoy a much higher patronage and they were like the Geisha girls in Japan” explains D’souza Vali. “They could do their own thing and not have to be married. It’s true that after the law was introduced they had to be more secretive and so exploitation increased.”

Later, in 1983, those laws were strengthened, but did not have an effect. D’souza Vali says there has not been a case using these protective laws for the last five years. “It’s hard to look at something clearly that is so entrenched with culture and religion, so what happens is a Jogini may get some but not enough help. The police themselves are not always aware of the law or are aware, but don’t really know how to implement the law.”

Malcolm Egner, of the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), a charity that helps Dalit people (low-caste people) across the world to fight injustice against their caste, says there are many other barriers to getting help. “In some parts of India, Dalits are not allowed into police stations.” D’souza Vali explains, ”In 95 per cent of cases, if a Dalit woman goes to the police they won’t be helped. They are likely to get further harassment. In the unlikely case that the police are helpful there may be other barriers.”

Against all the barriers, a small group of ex-Jogini women are finally speaking out against the tradition. DFN is currently working with Pratigya India, D’souza Vali’s organisation, on a 12-month project in the region to help these women to help educate the Jogini and their families about their legal rights and also to intervene before the dedication ceremonies take place. The stories of abuse go on, but with some help, the ex-Jogini activists are working to prevent this abuse happening in the future. “They want an alternate life for their descendents,” says D’souza Vali.

To find out more or support the campaign visit or source

Monday 2 April 2012


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "(God) has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another."

Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 1589

Sunday 1 April 2012

Abu Ayub Ansari, a prominent companion

HIS name shines on the horizon of Madinah. He was the first who offered full hospitality to Holy Prophet (peace and mercy of Allah be upon him) when he arrived in Madinah. Later he proved that he was not only an extraordinary host and a warrior, but also Katib-e-Wahi, a Hafiz Qur’an and a Faqih whose fatwas were trusted. Abu Ayub Ansari also served as imam of the Prophet’s Mosque during the Caliphate of Uthman bin Affan. He took part in all the famous battles including Badr, Ohud, Khandaq, Hunain, Khayber and Tabuk.

Abu Ayub Ansari belonged to Bani Najjar tribe. It was not a new relationship for the Holy Prophet (pbuh). His great-grandfather Hashem married a lady named Salma from Banu Najjar of Madinah, later he went to Shaam for trading and died at Ghazza and was buried there. Salma gave birth to a boy. Later when Thabet bin Manzar (father of Hassan bin Thabet) visited Makkah he informed Muttaleb about his brother Hashim’s marriage in Madinah and the birth of a boy. Muttaleb visited Madinah and brought his nephew. This boy was named Abdul Muttaleb, later to become the grandfather of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) migrated to Madinah the whole city erupted in jubilation with young boys and girls welcoming the Prophet (peace be upon him) with noble songs.

The residents stood on the way asking the Prophet to stay with them. The Prophet said, “I will stay at the place where my camel sits.” The camel moved for a while and sat at an open place. He asked whose house is nearby. Abu Ayub Ansari burst with joy and said: “This is my house, this is my house, I am here to serve you.” Asad bin Zararah took the camel to his house. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed at Abu Ayub’s house for about seven months until the Prophet’s Mosque was built on the open space where his camel had stopped. Thus Abu Ayub became the Prophet’s closest neighbor who always served him during his life. This house was later known as “Maktaba Aarif Hikmat Bey” about 10 meters from the present Bab Baqie of the Prophet’s Mosque.

It is reported that once Abu Bakr and Omar came out of their houses because of acute hunger. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also joined them and they went together to the house of Abu Ayub. He was filled with joy to see the honorable guests. He rushed to the garden and brought dates. He later slaughtered a goat and offered it to them. They ate it and thanked Almighty Allah for His great bounties. In the meantime Prophet (peace be upon him) took a piece of meat, placed it in a loaf and said, “Abu Ayub, take this to Fatimah, she has not tasted the like of this for days.”

Abu Ayub devoted his life and property for the sake of Islam and participated in most of the campaigns during and after the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). He was born in around 590 AD. He had three sons — Khalid, Ayub and Mohammed and a daughter named Umrah. Their descendants are found in Egypt, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

During the rule of Ameer Muawiya when a call was made for jihad against Constantinople, he raised his sword and participated in it. Though he was one of the favorites of the Holy Prophet, he preferred to leave Madinah and fight in distant lands for the sake of Islam. During this campaign he fell sick and instead of returning to Madinah he said before his death: “Convey my salaams to the Muslim army and tell them: ‘Abu Ayub urges you to penetrate deep into the enemy territory as far as you can so that you carry me (my dead body) with you and that you bury me under your feet at the walls of Constantinople.’”

Then he breathed his last. The Muslim army fulfilled the desire of the companion of the Messenger of God. They pushed back the enemy’s forces in attack after attack until they reached the walls of Constantinople. There they buried him.

Later, Ottoman Caliphs built nice tomb and a mosque. The locality is now called Ayub Sultan on the European part of Istanbul. Besides the grave of Abu Ayub Ansari there are 28 more companions buried in Turkey who laid their lives for the sake of Islam on this land. Ayub Sultan has become a sacred locality and many Ottoman caliphs were crowned at this place and later many nobles were buried near him.

This is a Hadith narrated by Abu Ayub Ansari (May Almighty Allah give him high ranks in Paradise), Allah’s Messenger said, “It is not lawful for a man to desert his Muslim brother for more than three nights. (It is unlawful for them that) when they meet, one of them turns his face away from the other, and the other turns his face from the former, and the better of the two will be the one who greets the other first.”