Sunday, 19 May 2019

You know India’s democracy is broken when millions wait for election results in fear

Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist and author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up."

In 2015, the first full year of Narendra Modi’s administration, a Muslim man named Mohammed Akhlaq and his son Danish were attacked by a mob of Hindu men in Dadri after being accused of storing beef in their refrigerator. Akhlaq died on the spot; Danish, who was preparing for the Indian administrative services, survived the lynching after two brain surgeries.

In an interview published last year, an exasperated Danish asked our leaders: “You want to make India a Hindu country? Would you kill all the Muslims or turn them out of the country? Please tell us to what extent you would go to finish Muslims?”

He added: “I’m very uneasy. I have a feeling that if the BJP comes back then something big will happen. I cannot say what it is. I feel as if something will break in our country and we will not be able to fix it.”

Danish’s fear permeates life for all Muslims in India. In recent years, we have seen an explosion of ethnic and religious mob violence. This year’s election campaign is fanning the flames.

On April 11, the first day of voting, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sent out a tweet: “We will ensure implementation of NRC [National Register of Citizens] in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs.”

The tweet was a quote from the party president, Amit Shah, who said it at an election rally. The NRC has been one of the most divisive and dangerous policies the BJP has backed in recent years. And the use of the word “infiltrators” was a not-so-veiled reference to Muslims. Soon after, Shah took his invective against Muslims a step further, promising to throw the “termites” in the Bay of Bengal.

The outrage and hate against Muslims are not just spreading like an epidemic on WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media platforms; they seep into our daily lives.

My brother, who works for a multinational corporation, was recently forced to vacate his apartment in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Mumbai. The proprietor offered him a rate higher than the market price because his Muslim family was making other tenants uncomfortable. A boycott of his family from all social events and engagements followed. He eventually had to leave his house — in the city where he grew up — simply because of bigotry.

This was not the first time our family felt like outsiders. In 1993, when Mumbai was rocked by anti-Muslim riots led by mentors of Modi in the BJP, we had to leave our apartment overnight to relocate to a Muslim-dominated town.

But the hate and discrimination are now policy. In the last year, I have heard Muslim friends, relatives and acquaintances discussing plans to relocate to friendlier countries or sending their children away to foreign universities if Modi is reelected. Certainly these are options only available to a privileged minority within the the community.

But for most of the 190 million Muslims in India, roughly 14 percent of the population, India remains home. And the choice laid out before them by the political leaders is to accept living as second-class citizens in their own country. A victory for Modi on May 23 will be seen as a mandate to amplify this hate and the “othering” of Indian Muslims in a way that will affect our secular democracy beyond repair.

With each day of this election campaign, Modi’s BJP has moved from dog whistle to brazen anti-Muslim polarization. Last month the party fielded Pragya Thakur, a candidate endorsed by Modi who has been charged in a terrorist attack that killed 10 Muslims and has been investigated in other attacks targeting Muslims.

Unlike other populist movements across the world, the BJP and Modi are being transparent in their messaging and policies against Muslims.

In 2002, I visited the western province of Gujarat as a relief worker in the aftermath of one of the worst riots in the history of the country. Thousands of Muslims were killed. Modi was the chief minister of the province and was criticized for his role in handling the bloodbath. Many of us passed through relief camps, met women who were raped, children who witnessed mobs murder their family members with swords and spears while chanting Hindu-nationalist slogans. When we went home, we felt a surge of relief to be back in our cosmopolitan cities, away from all that division.

But that hate, that anxiety is now all over the country that Modi rules.

In the past five years, Muslims like me, who had placed our faith in this secular democracy, are unable to recognize India. Something fundamental is broken, in the words of Danish, the lynching survivor.

It is not just the excesses of the ruling party and its marginalization of Muslims. It’s that many citizens have found this new language of hate liberating and acceptable. If they allow themselves to be blinded permanently, Indian democracy will cease to exist. And that is reason enough for each one of us to heed Danish’s words. Because if the world’s most populous democracy goes under, ripples will be felt across the world.


Saturday, 18 May 2019

Wali vs Mawlaa.

Allah عزّ وجلّ says in suratul Baqarah ayah [2:257]:

اللّهُ وَلِيّ الّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النّورِ
‘Allah is the Wali of those who believe, He brings take them from the darknesses into the light.’

وَالّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النّورِ إِلَى الظّلُمَاتِ
‘and those who disblieve their Awliyaa’ are taghoot, they bring them out of the light to darknesses.’

Wali is a special type of friend, who expresses the will to help to you and support you. A wali is a friend that you turn to for help, protection and support. The wali is the primary in the relationship, they are the dominant party.

Take for example, if a father is the wali to his son, then the father is the primary in the relationship.

Allah عزّ وجلّ says in the beginning of the ayah that He is the Wali for the believers. Those who disbelieve have Taghoot (anything and everything that is worshipped besides Allah) as their Awliyaa (plural of wali).

There are two comparisons taking place in this verse:
  1. The believers and those who disbelieve, and
  2. Allah عزّ وجلّ and taghoot [those worshipped besides Him].
Looking at the verse again, we see that there is a different arrangement for each comparison:
  • When Allah عزّ وجلّ says He is the Wali of the believers, He comes first.
  • But for those who disbelieve, their wali [those who are worshipped along with Allah] is mentioned last (as a sign of humiliation to them).

Why is the arrangment different?

Allah عزّ وجلّ is being ‘compared’ to taghoot [i.e. the disbelievers attempt to take their taghoot as equals to Allah], yet: there is NOTHING like Him, NOTHING can be compared to Him. These taghoot do not deserve to be mentioned in the same place as Allah عزّ وجلّ was mentioned. They do not deserve to be mentioned in even the same sentence. So the Taghoot are placed the furthest away from Allah's Name.

Allah عزّ وجلّ says in Surat Muhammad ayah 11,
ذَ*ٰلِكَ بِأَنّ اللّهَ مَوْلَى الّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَأَنّ الْكَافِرِينَ لَ مَوْلَىٰ لَهُمْ

‘That is because certainly Allah is the Mawlaa of those who believe, and indeed the disbelievers have no Mawlaa.’

Mawlaa is more than a Wali; a Mawlaa is someone who can protect you and actually does so; they are protecting you, while a Wali is someone who is willing to protect you. When it came to Wali, both the believers and disbelievers had one, but when it comes to Mawlaa – someone who CAN protect you – only the believers have One, and the disbelievers have no Mawlaa [Protector].

From a lecture by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan on An-Nasr. Watch the lecture here:

Did the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Seek knowledge even in China” ?

Pic source

There is a famous Hadith where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Seek Knowledge Even Onto China". There are various discussion fora where this is discussed if it's genuine, weak or fabricated. We won't go into details here but just want to mention other Hadiths that talk about seeking knowledge. Here are some of them:

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God…” - Riyadh us-Saleheen, 245

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "A servant of God will remain standing on the Day of Judgment until he is questioned about his (time on earth) and how he used it; about his knowledge and how he utilized it; about his wealth and from where he acquired it and in what (activities) he spent it; and about his body and how he used it." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 148

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of God." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 108

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God, His angels and all those in Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their hills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 422

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "Acquire knowledge and impart it to the people." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 107

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, God will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and (even) the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave (no monetary inheritance), they leave only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion. - Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1631

Source: Knowledge

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The meaning of 'Abd

Allah عزّ وجلّ is referred to as Rabb or Master in the Qur'an while we are referred to as 'Abd. A simple definition of 'Abd is slave but it is more complex than that. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمة الله lists 5 conditions in his definition of being an 'Abd of Allah:

1) 'Abd needs to have obedience to Allah عزّ وجلّ. This implies that obedience to Allah عزّ وجلّ trumps obedience to anything else. One cannot obey Allah's creation while also obeying Allah عزّ وجلّ. If you obey the creation, you are disobeying Allah عزّ وجلّ in the process and this is shirk, you are no longer an 'Abd.

2) Love (Hubb). We have to love Allah عزّ وجلّ more than anything else. "Those who believe are intense in their love for Allah" (2:165). We love different things, our family, assets, etc. but for believers all of that comes after love of Allah عزّ وجلّ.

3) Tawakkul: We have to trust and rely on our Master. We have embody this attitude: I've accepted myself as a slave, I've accepted Him as the Master, so whatever instructions He gives me I have to trust that they are better for me. Whatever situation He's putting me through, I have to trust Him, in that no matter how hard obeying Him is in that situation, it is better for me. We have to trust that that's true.

4) Sincerity. When we do something, especially an act of 'Ibadah, we have to do it sincerely for the sake of Allah عزّ وجلّ alone. We can't mix other things with Allah عزّ وجلّ. If we're giving sadaqah to the masjid, we can't think yeah it's a good tax writeoff, AND it's good sadaqah. We can't mix those intentions. This sincerity is talked about in the surah Al-Kauthar as well (fa Sallee li rabbik), and in other places as well (6:162). We serve the deen in many capacities. In the beginning it's for Allah عزّ وجلّ, but soon frustration and discontent kicks in and we start thinking we need to be in charge and our ego kicks in. We don't realize it but over time we begin to do it for appreciation. We have to maintain Ikhlas.

5) Terms of slavery. When we get a job, there's a contract with the company. It spells out what each owes other. It's an understanding. For example between a husband and a wife, or parent and child, or government and citizen. Usually these contracts are a result of compromise, and spells out each other's rights. With Allah عزّ وجلّ, these terms are not a result of discussion and compromise. These come from above, we just take them. We are in no position to define or discuss these terms, we can't define what it means to worship or obey Allah عزّ وجلّ. Those definitions are coming from Allah عزّ وجلّ, and that's what makes us a slave.

During Jahiliyah, the kuffar were making tawaf, making sajdah, etc. but the terms of their worship were not as specified by Allah. They came up with it themselves. But Allah عزّ وجلّ says if you do that it's unacceptable. The only way it's acceptable is if it comes from Allah عزّ وجلّ, and the only way it comes to us is through the Messenger. If you worship Allah عزّ وجلّ the way you want, you're not a slave.

'Uboodiyyah is not just worship but also slavery. Two terms, combined in Arabic. So when the Messenger (pbuh) says laa a'budu ma ta'budoon, it doesn't just mean I will not worship, also I will not be enslaved to. Worship is specific acts, but we are always slaves of Allah whether we are doing those acts or not. This is a powerful concept - we are not supposed to live our lives according to how Allah عزّ وجلّ wants us to only in Jumuah or specific times, we are enslaved to Allah  عزّ وجلّ in between the prayers too. A lot of the time people worship Allah عزّ وجلّ but don't act like His slave. Partial English definitions contribute to this confusion. 'Ibadah includes both, worship and slavery.

From a lecture by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan on Surah Al-Kafirun. Watch the lectures here:

The incredible journey of an African Muslim Slave

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Ustadh Brother Nouman Ali Khan: Relationship between Surah Al-Maa'oon (The Daily Necessaries) and Surah Al-Kauthar (Abundance)

From a talk by Ustadh Brother Nouman Ali Khan

In surah Ma'un, Allah عزّ وجلّ gives us 4 attributes describing the hypocrites. Any of these things is true hypocritical behaviour;
1- Bukhl - greed/miserliness and pushing the orphan away and not encouraging feeding the poor: Because otherwise people will ask him why he doesn't feed the poor himself, so he doesn't encourage it. Extreme state of miserliness because he sees the poor around him but due to greed and fear of losing his respect, he does not encourage feeding them.
2 - Abandonment/Delaying of Prayer/Salah. Sahoon - Sahwa - forget something when it doesn't seem important to them: He delays the prayer near the time of its end and rushingly prays it then, or he doesn't care if he misses it. Be cheap, be heedless and delay or abandon the praye, and third;
3 - Showing off in Prayers (yura'oon) - so people see them.
4 - They are Not even willing to Give the smallest acts of charity. i.e., Zakah etc. Or small items like a water, a bucket, salt, sugar, a pen etc: Ma'un = the item which you're not supposed to refuse, ever. Something like a glass of water. But they even refuse that much.

Allah عزّ وجلّ relates the above 4 attributes in Surah Ma'un to Surah Kawthar by mentioning 4 positive attributes in the surah;
1 - Bukhl/miserliness in that surah, to ayah 1 of Surah Kawthar - Allah عزّ وجلّ has given ALOT (a'ta), so because Allah عزّ وجلّ gives alot, you should also give alot. If you are given alot from Allah, you should also give alot to the needy.
2 - In surah Ma'un - they don't care about the prayer = Sahoon. In this surah; fa sallee [so Pray] - Allah عزّ وجلّ is commanding for His Messenger and the believers to be constant/consistent in prayer.
3 - In surah Ma'un - they; Yura'oon - show off in prayer. In this surah - Pray - Li Rabbika (for your Master) - a matter of Sincerety.
4 - Surah Ma'un - they would not give the smallest amount of charity to anyone. In this surah; Allah عزّ وجلّ orders - waNhar - and sacrifice. Which costs money. Part of the sacrifice involves giving some of the meat in charity. Which removes miserliness and greed.

The comparison beautifies the relation between the lessons of these two surahs.

To learn more about Surah 107 - Al-Ma'un / Al-Maa'oon (The Daily Necessaries), see:

To learn more about Surah 108. Al-Kauthar (Abundance), see:

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Karen Armstrong: "There is nothing in the Islam that is more violent than Christianity"

The terrorist attacks in Paris rendered her new book Fields of Blood. Religion and the History of Violence suddenly and tragically very urgent. In over five hundred pages Karen Armstrong, once a nun and the respected author of bestsellers like A History of God and The Case for God, answers the question whether religion is the principal cause of violence. A conversation about Islam and terrorists, Western responsibility and the world in which we live.

It is not a merry book, Karen Armstrong’s newest: blood flows freely over the pages, metaphorically speaking. In detail she describes the violence that has always been inextricably associated with the development of nation states and cultures. But it is a necessary book, a kind of reality check. For it is high time we realize how much each and every civilization is rooted in submission and exploitation, including ours. High time to hear this voice.

Karen Armstrong enters the hotel lobby with a ferm pace – a small, elegant woman with a blonde lock of hair that keeps falling in front of her eyes. And a ready laugh, despite the gloomy subject. Let’s start with the million dollar question.

Is there any difference between Jesus and Muhammad in terms of violence – or in other words, how do you explain that most terrorism now is inspired by the Islam?

“Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad, any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus. There is nothing in the Islam that is more violent than Christianity. All religions have been violent, including Christianity. There was nothing in the Muslim world like antisemitism: that is an import of the modern period. They got it from us. The missionaries brought it over. And then came the state of Israel. Judaism has become violent in the modern world, thanks to the nation state.”

But then what is the cause of Muslim terrorism? In the book you write that Muslims have been introduced to modernity in a more abrupt way…

“A more violent way. When George Bush and Tony Blair went into Iraq they thought that modernity would take everyone into democracy straight away. That is not necessarily the case. It worked for us, because democracy was good for industry. Freedom, which we hear so much about at the moment, was essential to our economy as much as to anything else. For people have to have the freedom to innovate, to keep the country productive. But in those countries modernity came with colonial subjugation. There was no self-determination. In Egypt there were seventeen general elections between 1922 and 1952, all won by the Wafd Party, which was only allowed by the British to rule five times. Democracy was a bad joke.
Secularism was introduced by these army officers, with great violence: the clergy had their stipends confiscated, they were shot down, they were tortured to death. The Shah shot hundred unarmed demonstrators in a holy shrine in Iran because they didn’t want to wear western clothes. And we in the West have consistently supported rulers like Saddam Hussein who denied their people any freedom of expression. All this has helped to push the Islam into violence. When people are attacked, they invariably become extreme. But only a tiny proportion of them actually agree with terrorism: 93% answered ‘no’ to the question in the Gallup poll whether the 9/11 attacks were justified. And the reasons they gave were entirely religious. The seven percent who said ‘yes’ – the reasons they gave were entirely political.
My message is not that religion has nothing to do with violence. It has always been implicated in it, and trying to take religion out of politics and warfare would have been like taking the gin out of the cocktail. It is inextricably intertwined. Until 1700 nobody thought of separating religion; it permeated the whole of life. And still people who have not had our particular modernization find that an arbitrary distinction. Because matters like justice, the plight of the poor, suffering – these are political questions. And they’re matters of sacred import.
So Jesus would have had no time for people who said their prayers and neglected the plight of the needy or the oppressed. But we sort of separated it off. That separation was important for us, and in many ways it was good for religion, because it freed it from the violence of government.”

The conclusion upon reading this book is: all civilization is rooted in violence.

“That is so for the vast majority of the history of civilization. Without the oppression of people by aristocracy we would never have the science and arts upon which we depend. It was the economy to make peasants work and take their surplus and keep them at subsistence level. Also to keep the population down. It’s a terrible thing.
We look at civilization as what started in Athens. But the Parthenon was built on the back of the Greek island, all the other Greek cities – it was built on their taxes. So it was free for some but not for others.
It is still like that today. No state can dispend its army. It is still going on. But there were always people who stood up and said: ‘This is wrong.’ And that has been as much a part of religion as any Crusade or Jihad.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in a newspaper that now is the time to be clear about Muslim terrorism being part of the Islam. Should she read your book?

“I shouldn’t think she wants to. She’s married to that dreadful man, Niall Ferguson, who was the architect of the Iraq war. And what a disaster that was. That was a great help to Al Qaida.
This attack on the magazine wasn’t simply inspired by fanatical devotion to the prophet. It wasn’t just purely religious: again, politics is essential. Al Qaida is deeply political. This was a strategic attack on a sacred symbol. Free speech is for us a sacred symbol of our western civilization, as sacred to us as the Prophet is to them. And they want us to be outraged. They’ll love that. And they’ll be thrilled by the new edition with the Prophet on the cover. Because this will lead to new recruitings. I’m not saying that it was wrong to do that, but they will use it. This is all very politically organized.”

What should have happened?

“I don’t know! But I think one of the things we should do is mourn their dead too. Not long ago 165 Pakistani children were shot by the Taliban. Two thousand villagers in Nigeria were slaughtered by Boko Haram. But we’re not marching for them. So the impression we give is that we just don’t care, that their lives are not so valuable to us. So I think we must take notice that we’re not the only ones being killed by extremists. Far more Muslims are dying.”

Are terrorists primarily traumatized?

“Some of them are, and some of them are plain wicked. Osama bin Laden was a plain criminal. But there is also great fear and despair among them. There have been surveys done by forensic psychiaters who interviewed people convicted of terrorism since 9/11. They interviewed hundreds of people in Guantanamo and other prisons. And one forensic psychiater who is also an officer of the CIA – so he is no softie like me! – concluded that Islam had nothing to do with it. The problem was rather ignorance of the Islam. Had they had a proper Muslim education they wouldn’t be doing this. Only 20% of them has had a regular Muslim upbringing. The rest are either new converts – like the gunmen who recently attacked the Canadian Parliament; or non-observant, which means they don’t go to the mosque – like the bombers in the Boston marathon; or self-taught. Two young men who left Britain to join the Jihad in Syria ordered from Amazon a book called Islam for Dummies. That says it, you see.
People go there out of a sense of meaninglessness. It was interesting listening to the Parisians speaking about this. Several of them said: Look, we have not sorted out these suburbs, where there is despair and no hope. We had a wake up call when there were riots and we didn’t do anything about it. This is festering. People don’t feel at home in our societies. Their lives will have some meaning when they get out there. Here there is no way out. And the French government is hostile towards any religious expression. That makes people edgy. So there is a sense of despair. I was talking to one of our leading historians a couple of months ago and he said that the chief thing that has always driven young men to war has always been boredom. Tedium. And that is something that in our societies we have to take very seriously, just as much as we take free speech seriously. Misery and a sense of no hope, especially with the economy going down. We’ve got to remember how privileged we are. I’ve become aware, because of my travels and my studies, of how privileged I am. And that comes with responsibility. If you’ve been given a good hand, you must do something good with it.”

Reading the book I realized: what a river of blood and tears is running through our world history.

“And misery and oppression, and injustice. Great injustice and we are still unjust. Because we talk about our Enlightenment as if the Messiah came down… And it was great, it was very important for us. But look at the Founding Fathers of the United States, who said that all men are created equal: they had no problem owning African slaves. Liberty was only ever for Europeans. And it stil is like that, because of the greed for oil. We give huge support to the Saudis, who give their people no human rights.”

There’s this blogger Raif Badawi threatened with cane beatings every Friday… (In the meantime Badawi’s case is under revision, ed.)

“We don’t mind about him as long as we get our oil. There is Amnesty International, yes, but we have to keep reminding people. We have to be consistent.”

Wasn’t it depressing for you to write this book?

“Yes, but there is also the other part. People like Confucius talking about the Golden Rule, Jesus, Paul who tries to… people keep trying. And we need to create an alternative voice that is as strong, that is based on reality but also on justice.”

And now we need to do that without religion?

“Well we can… Your country is secular but the Unites States aren’t secular. When I lecture there and talk to people the response is quite different: they don’t want to do without religion. They’re said to be the second most religious country in the world, after India. But do create a secular form of it, seeing the sanctity of every human being. Each human being is precious, inviolable and must not be tampered with. Whether that interferes with our economy or not.”

So you are saying that religion is a scapegoat?

“We’re piling all the violence of the 21st Century on the back of religion, sending it away, saying we have nothing to do with religion. While we still have to deal with the political situation. The supermarket attack in Paris was about Palestine, about Isis. It had nothing to do with antisemitism; many of them are Semites themselves. But they attempt to conquer Palestine and we’re not talking about that. We’re too implicated and we don’t know what to do with it.
It would be naive to think we’ll ever have a world without war. But I wrote this book because I am filled with a sense of dread as to where we’re going. We have created bombs that can wipe out the world, and it is accepted in international law that if your nation is threatened it is acceptable to fire off a nuclear weapon, even if that will certainly mean the destruction of your own nation. This is a suicidal deathwish. So similarly the suicide bomber that goes in knowing that he or she will die, is a primitive form of that.
It won’t be long before Al Qaida or one of these groups gets hold of a nuclear device. The situation is so dangerous that we are forced to open our eyes and see what’s going on. And that is not about religion, Islam or otherwise.”

But many people believe that, still: the followers of Wilders, Marine le Pen…

“One of the problems of the nation state has always been its inability to tolerate minorities. That has been the cause of some of the worst crimes of the 20th Century, the Holocaust for example. Because of the emphasis on language and culture that comes in the nation state the nation becomes the supreme value.
Nationalism is not helping us realize that we live in a global world. Now we can’t afford to think only for our own country – the world is not like that anymore. We’ve created a global economy and we’re so connected that if a market falls in one part of the world, the stocks fall all around the globe the same day.”

Not to speak about the climate…

“Yes, we share that predicament. And now we see that what happens in Paris today will have repercussions in the Middle East, and back again. We’re linked politically. And our histories are intertwined. We British particularly bear a big responsibility for what has happened in the Middle East. And India and Pakistan. Take the frontier lines of those postcolonial states, how they were drawn with such cynicism and opportunism. And how much violence that has led to.”

You write, surprisingly, that the Shariah has been an impulse for peace…?

“We demonize the Shariah. But why they’re so keen on it in the Muslim world, is because traditionally it was a counterbalance to the tyranny of the state. It was the law of God but it was saying that nobody has the right to tell anybody what to do. Because each person is sovereign and responsible to God alone. No government could rule by that, but they had to acknowledge that this was the word of God. They have developed their own version of the Shariah. But the passion for it was not one for cutting off hands.”

And shutting up women?

“The women thing is a problem worldwide. One of the hallmarks of modernity has been the emancipation of women. And so when people are angry about modernity and modernisation they go back and… You have it in christianity too, you’ve got christians in the Southern States of the US who say that women should stay in the home. The Catholic Church say women can’t be priests. And similarly in Judaism too.
And one of the things in the Muslim world is that rulers are often floundering, they don’t have much popular support. If they make draconian rulings that keep women under control, they please the men.
But the Muslim feminists will transform Islam. From the inside.”


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Interview: Killing in the Name of Cows

Vigilante groups in India are beating up and sometimes killing people they suspect of slaughtering cows. They have, among other violent acts, assaulted Muslim men and women in train stations, stripped and beaten Dalits, force-fed cow dung and urine to two men, and raped two women and killed two men for allegedly eating beef at home. Research consultant Jayshree Bajoria speaks to Philippa Stewart about the violence blighting the country.

Can you tell me what’s happening in India and why people are being attacked over cows?

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and groups affiliated with it have been whipping up Hindu nationalism for votes. Since many Hindus consider cows to be sacred, these groups decry the slaughter of cattle for beef or leather.  Most states in India already have laws that protect cows, but this political campaign is centered on claims that not enough is being done to protect cows.

Not only have some BJP leaders repeatedly called for cow protection and banning the consumption of beef, in some states we’ve seen BJP officials voicing support for these so-called cow protection groups.

This kind of political support has enabled these vigilante groups to attack cattle traders and people they suspect of slaughtering cows and sometimes bulls or buffaloes. They believe, sometimes rightly, that they will not be held accountable for these violent crimes.

These groups killed atleast 44 people between May 2015 to December 2018, 36 of them Muslims. Muslims and Dalits (formerly “untouchables”) are frequent targets of the violence because many of them run butcher shops, and Dalits have traditionally skinned the carcasses for commercial purposes such as leather. I met one distraught father who watched his young son being beaten to death. He said he was helpless, because he was outnumbered. If he had tried to save his son, he would have been killed too.

So, is it only minority religions and people who eat beef who are affected?

Absolutely not. These laws and the violence by these groups are harming the rural economy at a time when India has its highest unemployment rate in 45 years.

Before these tougher policies and the violence, even Hindu farmers would sell off old or unproductive cattle because they couldn’t afford to keep them. Now they just abandon them. This has led to a huge increase in the numbers of stray cattle across the country. It has become a serious issue: they pose a traffic hazard in towns and cities; in villages, they get into people’s farms and destroy crops.

Farmers have started locking stray cattle in empty schools, government buildings, whatever they can find, and many state governments have had to put millions of dollars into building more cow shelters.

Can you talk more about how political rhetoric has enabled this violence?

These vigilante groups doubtlessly feel that the authorities are on their side because there have been comments and actions, largely from elected BJP officials, aimed at showing Hindu nationalists that the government takes cow protection seriously. In some cases, BJP leaders have even publicly justified the attacks.

For example, in December 2018 in Uttar Pradesh, a police officer who tried to confront a Hindu mob was shot and killed. The response from the BJP chief minister immediately after this attack was to call it an “accident.” He also warned that “illegal slaughtering, and not just cow slaughter is banned in the entire state,” which seemed to some to be condoning the violence.

The police said they were going to focus on the people who killed the cows, which led to the mob attack and the murders. The exact quote was: “The cow killers are our top priority, the murder and the rioting are on the back burner for now.”

In most cases that we investigated, we found the police either stalled investigations, or in some cases were even complicit in the cover-up of murder. In quite a few instances police filed cases under cow protection laws against the victims or their families and associates. Sometimes witnesses decide not to testify after this.

A case that sticks in my mind is the story of Akbar Khan, a 28-year-old man. In July last year he and an associate, Aslam, were returning from Rajasthan after buying two cows when they were attacked. Aslam managed to flee but saw the men brutally beating Akbar.

Later it was revealed that police took three hours to take Akbar to the hospital, which was only 20 minutes away. He was alive when the police picked him up and was dead on arrival at the hospital. The man who tipped the police off was a member of a local ‘cow protection’ group. He told the media the police stopped to drink tea before taking Akbar to the hospital and were arranging for someone to look after the cows while he was lying injured in their car.

In Gujarat you can get life in prison for killing a cow, which is the same punishment as killing a man or woman.

There was widespread condemnation of the incident, and one policeman was suspended, and four others were transferred. Three people were arrested for the attack, but a BJP lawmaker demanded their release and called for Aslam’s arrest under cow protection laws.

Is it typical that the people committing the violence don’t get punished?
There have been only two cases, both in Jharkhand state, where people have been tried and convicted for serious crimes related to cow violence. In the first case a man named Alimuddin Ansari was killed and a fast-track court convicted 11 people and sentenced them to life. They appealed their case and the court released them on bail pending a final verdict. The first thing they did was go to the house of a BJP leader, a minister in the central government. He welcomed them, placed garlands around their necks, and told the media he had legally assisted them. He said they were relieved they would get a fresh trial.

The second case is that of the 12-year-old boy I mentioned earlier. The vigilantes killed him and a man and then hanged their bodies from a tree. His father and the other man’s brother were eyewitnesses. In December a court convicted eight men of the killings.

Lawyers say that one reason both these cases led to convictions was the strong eyewitness testimony. The witnesses stood their ground and testified.

Besides the threat of violence, what kinds of punishment do people in the beef and leather industry face?

In Gujarat you can get life in prison for killing a cow, which is the same punishment as killing a man or woman.

In several BJP-ruled states, the government expanded existing laws protecting cows, and in many cases increased the punishments.

Then in January, there was a deeply troubling development when the Uttar Pradesh government applied the National Security Act against three men arrested for cow slaughter in December. The newly formed Congress Party government in Madhya Pradesh did the same thing in February.

The National Security Act is designed to stop someone from committing a serious crime against national security in the future. You can be held without charge for up to a year. The justification for using this repressive law was that it would prevent people from killing more cows.

So, the police are stalling investigations into murders, or even covering them up. At the same time, they are filing cases against victims of cow vigilantes.

Who is trying to address this rising violence? 

There are many groups in India that are working to support victims of cow vigilantes, especially to provide legal aid. There are also some groups working on documenting these crimes better, to bring them to the public’s attention. Unfortunately, the government does not collect data on these specific crimes. So civil society groups and the media have taken on that responsibility.

What more needs to be done, especially by the government?
India’s Supreme Court has already issued directives about what needs to be done to address these mob killings. It said the state governments should assign a senior police officer in each district to prevent the violence and ensure there is prompt prosecution, and that victims and witnesses are safeguarded.

There’s a pending law on communal violence – that is, violence committed across ethnic or religious lines – that should be passed after ensuring that it is compliant with international human rights standards.

Most of all, the government needs to make it known that those involved in vigilante violence will be fully prosecuted and that government officials and political party leaders will no longer protect them.


Sunday, 5 May 2019

Let's stop being 'Humazah' and 'Lumazah' this Ramadan

In Surah Humazah, (Surah 104), Allah عزّ وجلّ mentions 2 kinds of people. Humazah is someone who insults people behind their back (and they do this alot because the word humazah/fu'ala suggests this person does it often), and Lumazah is someone who insults people in front of their face too.

Allah عزّ وجلّ is cursing those who do either of the above.

When does Humaz and Lumaz occur? Usually gossiping. When a persons mind isn't covered in a higher purposed mindset. And thats why in the previous surah, surah Asr, Allah mentions the types of people who are in loss. It's only the people who have a low character who survive off picking on faults and insulting people.

Az-Zamakshari says - qasr (breaking something) - someones self-worth. Lumaz = sarcasm in someones face to insult them. I.e. "You're genius" (/sarcasm). Both the abuser and abused know its an insult but the abused cant defend themselves due to the sarcasm being used against them.

Someone cursing someone / foul language and laughing at someone falls into lumaz.

Ibn Abbas (r.a.) said: Humaza does gheebah (backbites) while lumazah points out the flaws in people over and over again.

Abu Zayd said;
Humazah; harms with hands.
Lumazah; harms with tongue.

Abul Aaliyah;
humazah; insults face,openly
lumazah; insults behind back, in secret.

humazah;those who call people by names they dont like.
Humazah; Makes fun of one you sit next to, even with their eyes i.e. A condescending look etc.

Ibn Keesan; the one who passes his eyes over people, points at them to humiliate them, who insults other people.

Ibn Jawza ' asked Ibn Abbas ; Who are these people who are cursed/wayl? Ibn abbas replied; they continuously insult and abuse people i.e. "That short man there, that ugly man" etc. They all condescend others and belittle them through; sarcasm, jealousy, and even jokingly.

It can happen in any matter of religion too. I.e. Attack peoples religiousness, their beard, their hijab/niqab etc. Since that is their following of the religion. Even if you disagree with them in fiqh issues, respect their opinion and dont insult them. Also includes making fun of peoples walking etc. You should not do any acts of humuz, lumuz, even through your eyes etc.

Al Shawkani; Normally AL wayl (THE destruction/curse) is used in a sentence, but instead waylun alone is used (nakira) in this ayah/verse. Why? Al wayl would mean that; destruction is for humazah and lumazah. Waylun however is a curse of destruction which has actually been placed upon such people as a statement of fact.
i.e. Salamun alaykum = peace be upon you. But it can also be like a prayer = may peace be upon you.
So similarly, waylun implies that a curse is placed upon a haamiz/laamiz (one who does humazah and lumazah), and may it be that way too.

Both these meanings are correct just by removing the Al (the), since if the Al was there, it would remove the concept of du'a [the prayer] i.e. May it be that way, and instead just imply that the curse is on such people. By having the du'a (prayer) there for their destruction, it places the haamiz/laamiz under pressure/stress that this du'a/curse might actually come true and cause them destruction, so they should change their bad characteristics into good ones.

Listen to the Video Lectures on Surah Humazah at Islam Awareness Homepage here.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Ramadan starts Monday, 6 May in most of the world

Ramadan moon has not been sighted in Saudi Arabia and also anywhere else, hence Ramadhan will start on Monday, 6 May.

According to Al Jazeera:

Calculations by astronomers say Ramadan's new moon will be born on May 4 at 22:47 GMT, but it might not be visible. 
On Sunday evening, however, the new moon should be visible to the naked eye, making it likely that many countries will observe the first day of fasting on May 6.
The actual visibility of the crescent will depend on factors such as atmospheric conditions, cloudiness and the distance between the sun and the moon on the horizon. 
According to the Astronomy Centre, it is impossible to see the crescent moon in areas marked in red on Saturday, May 4 [Screenshot: Astronomy Centre] 

The crescent is expected to be visible using optical aids in areas marked in blue. In the magenta areas, it could be seen using optical aid or by the naked eye, if atmospheric conditions allow, while the moon will be visible to the naked eye in green areas [Screenshot: Astronomy Centre] 

Lunar calendar

Muslim lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the new moon on the 29th night of each month. If the new moon is not visible, the month lasts 30 days.
To declare the beginning of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim-majority countries depend on the testimonies of local moon sighters. The Judicial High Court then decides when Ramadan begins.
Saudi Arabia's official Umm al-Qura calendar marks the first day of Ramadan as May 6, 2019.

Visit our Ramadan page to learn more about Ramadan.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

“When Your Whole Family is Destroyed Why Will You Not Fight for Justice”: Bilkees Rasool

 “ I am happy that the court has acknowledged the pain I had to go through. Finally, the court has accepted it. I have waited for it for so long,” said Bilkis Rasool, almost in tears as she addressed the media today.

It was a press conference everyone who has been following the travails of the victims of the horrific Gujarat violence 2002 had been waiting for. Bilkis, then a young girl was gang raped. 14 members of her family, including her three and a half year old daughter was killed. Other female members of her family were raped and murdered before her eyes, memories that continue to haunt her.

She filed her first FIR in Limkheda police station in March 2003. And since then has moved from court to court seeking justice.

“I had full faith in my Constitution and always believed that justice would be done,” she said. The court ordered compensation of Rs 50 lakhs to her. Bilkees said that now she will settle down in one place, and leave her nomadic life behind. She along with her husband Yaqub and family had been moving from house to house, locality to locality, in search of security and justice.

She said that she will use part of the compensation to help others fighting similar battles. Bilkis was pregnant when she was raped, and alter gave birth to her second daughter Hajra. She said she wanted her girl to be a lawyer. “One of my daughters was lost, we did not even get her body, I pray she is in heaven and rests in peace,” she said.

“I saw my Saleha being stoned in front of me I saw my three old girl dying. We could not even bury her,” the survivor of Gujarat 2002 said. Bilkis wants to help other children, and will create a Saleha fund from the compensation money to be able to do so.

Asked what kept her going, her response was simple: “when you have seen your entire family, your life destroyed, why will you not fight for justice.”

The long years of struggle have taken a toll. The relief has still to sink in. As her lawyer Shobha pointed out, the system was weighed against her. “One has to read the chargesheet to understand how the system tried to save the perpetrators. In the closure report Bilkis was not even examined for rape, only for injury,” she said. The lawyer said that the picture changed only after the CBI was brought in . Even then when everything else failed, the advocates filed for compensation. And this, Shobha said, is that very rare case when maximum compensation has for rape has been granted by the court.

Yakub, Bilkis’ husband, has been virtually living on daily wages for these 17 years. He works when he gets a job. He said that the Gujarat government failed in helping the family, and not even provided security when they were under threat. The family has moved in Gujarat, then to Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai. Today Bilkis is living with her family of seven in Devgadh Baria’s Rahimabad relief colony. They were trying to flee town on that fateful day as mobs had started attacking the Muslims. She boarded a bus with 17 members of her family. The bus was attacked by a mob and 14 of her family were killed. Apart from her daughter, her mother too died. Bilkis was five months pregnant at the time.

She was left for dead. She woke up in blood and bodies around her. She still has nightmares. She has four daughters now but the wounds remain.

Timeline of the Initial Years

March 3 2002: Bilkis Rasool was gang raped. 14 members of her family , including her 31/2 year old daughter, murdered. Several female members of her family also raped and murdered. Bilkis was the only eyewitness and adult survivor of he horrific massacre.

March 2003: Bilkis files first FIR in Limkheda police station. Names rapists but this was not included in the FIR.

March 25, 2003: One year after incident Summary A report filed and accepted by Limkheda Judicial Magistrate effectively closing case. Inconsistencies cited as reason.

April 2003: Bilkis approaches National Human Rights Commission that does not directly take up her case but requests senior counsel Harish Salve to represent her in the Supreme Court.

April 2003: Bilkis herself becomes a petitioner in Supreme Court. Her main prayers are: quashing of Summar A order of Limkheda Magistrate, CBI enquiry and action against errging Gujarat police officers, compensation.

September 25, 2003: SC asks Gujarat government to stop state CID investigation. State CID had started harassing Bilkis and members of her extended family.

December 18, 2003: SC asks CBI to undertake investigations.

January 22, 2004: CBI arrests 12 accused.

February 11, 2004: CBI files interim report where several gross violations and complicity of Gujarat police highlighted.

March 2004: CBI arrests two police officers.

April 19, 2004: CBI files chargesheet against 20, including six police officers and two government doctors.

May 12, 2004: CBI files final report disclosing gross violations and complicity of the Gujarat state.

May, 2004: Witnesses given CISF protection by the Supreme Court as Bilkis and witnesses face threats.

July 2004: Bilkis files additional petition requesting transfer of cases outside Gujarat.

August 6, 2004: SC orders Bilkis case to be transferred to suitable court in Mumbai.

January 13, 2005: Charges framed against 19 of the 20 accused. Trial of one Dr Sangeeta Prasad separated as she is declared medically/mentally unfit for trial.

February 22, 2005:Bilkis examined by Special Public Prosecutor continues. She identifies in court the 12 accused who raped her, killed her daughter, and raped and killed members of her family.

Case went on in the Supreme Court, being challenged by the accused. She was finally awarded compensation by the court in 2019.