Wednesday, 23 September 2020

How Zia ul Haq Demonised Rape Survivors Instead Of Punishing Rapists


Whether it is a former president of Islamic Republic of Pakistan or the current CCPO of the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, the mindset of our male dominated society hasn’t changed in the last four decades.

In 2005, President Musharraf made comments in the context of a question about the treatment of a rape survivor Mukhtar Mai whose case gained international attention.

“You must understand the environment in Pakistan … This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”

The president said that the newspaper had misinterpreted what he had said and that he was misquoted. But co-author of the Washington Post article, said: “The president’s comments were tape recorded and they were quoted verbatim and in context.”

On September 9, 2020, a woman was gang raped in front of her children during a robbery bid in Gujjarpura along the recently inaugurated Lahore-Sialkot Motorway.
Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh blamed the victim of gang-rape incident instead, for taking the route that she had chosen and said that she should have checked her petrol tank before getting on the said route. Umar Sheikh added that the woman had left Lahore’s Defence area at 12:30am for Gujranwala.
“I am surprised that a mother of three, a lone driver after leaving Defence should have taken the straight route from GT Road — a generally well-populated area.”

Did public hangings in Zia era stop rapes?

A false and deceptive claim has been circulating on social media by many accounts since the rape incident last week to justify public hanging of rapists: “During 1981 — in late Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenure — the public hanging of a killer and rapist of a young boy, had effectively worked as a deterrent for the next 10 years.

“The abductors and killers were arrested and executed in public and their bodies remained hanging till the sunset. This stern punishment served as an effective deterrent as no child was reportedly molested and murdered in the next decade or so. And Islam closes the door to the criminal who wants to commit this deleterious and truculent crime. The laws of Islam came to protect women’s honour,” they say.

On February 10, 1979, General Zia ul Haq promulgated four ordinances, collectively referred to as the Hudood Ordinance. The intent of the ordinances, as stated by him was to bring Pakistan’s legal system closer to the precepts of Islam.

Four years after the Zina Ordinance was adopted, a law of evidence was promulgated that did not allow women to testify at all in certain cases and in others considered a woman’s testimony irrelevant, unless corroborated by that of another woman. This essentially gave men and women different legal rights, underscoring that the state did not regard women and men as equal actors.

In 1983 Asma Jahangir and other women rights activists from the Women’s Action Forum organized a protest against Zia’s proposed law of evidence stipulating that the value of a woman’s testimony was half that of a man. This was the first time Zia’s laws and his regime was publicly challenged. In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the only independent watchdog for human rights with a nationwide presence.
Following are the few examples of rape victims who suffered for years because of the Hudood Ordinance:
Rafaqat Bibi applied to the martial law authorities to instruct the police to file an FIR against influential people in her village who raped her. She was arrested by the police and in 1984 the court convicted her of Zina for being pregnant without proper explanation.

Safia Bibi, a blind girl, was convicted of Zina by a court in Sahiwal. Her confession was her unexplained pregnancy. The alleged rapists were given the benefit of the doubt and acquitted.

Tasleem Bibi was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment and awarded 30 lashes in public by the Federal Shariat Court in 1985.

Jehan Mina, who gave birth to a still-born child, suffered the rigours of imprisonment and went mute with the shock of her experience. Her uncle had filed a report with the police, alleging that his orphaned niece had been raped by his brother-in-law and nephew. The trial court convicted Jehan of Zina, as she was pregnant. She was awarded 100 stripes in public. Later the Federal Sharia Court reduced her sentence to three years of rigorous imprisonment and an infliction of 10 lashes in public.

In 2002, Zafran Bibi went to the police to register a case of rape, but she herself was instead charged with having an adulterous affair. A court sentenced her to stoning by death under Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinances, which effectively equate rape with adultery. Despite Bibi’s repeated charges that her brother-in-law had raped her on multiple occasions, the presiding judge convicted her of Zina. She gave birth to a son. She remained in jail with her seven-month-old baby until 2005, when a judge in Peshawar suspended the sentence and allowed her appeal to be heard by a full bench of the Sharia court in Islamabad.

In 1996 Benazir Bhutto’s government brought the Abolition of Whipping Act, forbade sentences/punishments of whipping offenders except when imposed as a Hadd punishment. Those aligned with the clerics argued that the Hudood are God’s law and term any tampering of them un-Islamic.

On 15 November 2006, National Assembly of Pakistan passed Women Protection Bill to amend the heavily criticised 1979 Hudood Ordinance laws. Under the new bill, death penalty for extramarital sex and the need for victims to produce four witnesses to prove rape cases were removed. Death penalty and flogging for people convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage was removed. However, consensual sex outside marriage was still treated as a criminal offense with a punishment of five years in prison or a fine. The punishment for rape under 2006 Women Protection Bill is either death or imprisonment of between ten and twenty-five years. For cases related to gang rape, the punishment is either death penalty or life imprisonment.

On 7 October 2016, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed new anti-rape and anti-honour killing bills. According to the new anti-rape bill, DNA testing was made mandatory in rape cases. According to the new law, anyone who rapes a minor or a mentally or physically disabled person will be liable for the death penalty or life imprisonment. Recording of statement of the female survivor of rape or sexual harassment shall be done by an Investigating Officer, in the presence of a female police officer, or a female family member of the survivor.

Despite the revisions of laws over the period of time, we are not getting anywhere because of non-implementation of laws. Until and unless there are serious reforms in Police and judiciary, nothing is going to change. Pakistan’s social structure is not accommodating women as equal citizens. Women in Pakistan live within an environment of retrogressive cultural practices that are often viewed as religious mandates. Progressive voices are often labelled as radical because of Pakistan’s legacy of conscious Islamisation. From Benazir Bhutto to Asma Jahangir to Mukhtar Mai and thousands of unnamed women made it possible to force the successive parliaments to make changes in Hudood Ordinance. Whatever rights they have now, because of their own struggle. There are no contributions of men I am afraid.

Let me quote Asma Jahangir to close the long timeline of women’s struggle in Pakistan:
“You cannot have human rights in a society if you do not have women rights”

Link

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Dalits bear brunt of India's 'endemic' sexual violence crisis

 
 
A spate of brutal rapes and murders of young girls in a single district of India over the past month has provoked outrage and exposed the ongoing use of sexual violence as a tool of oppression and revenge against lower caste communities.

Over the past month, the Lakhimpur Kheri district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed four incidents of girls being raped and brutally murdered. At least two of the girls were Dalits, the lowest caste in the Hindu system of social hierarchy, who were previously referred to as “untouchables” and cast out from society.

Last week, a 14-year-old girl Dalit girl was found hanging from a tree in a village, having been raped and murdered. Just a few days before, a three-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death.

On 14 and 24 August, two girls, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, were both raped and killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.

“These cases of extreme sexual violence are more examples of the dominant caste wielding power over Dalit women who are perceived as weak and vulnerable and available,” said Manjula Pradeep, director of campaigns at the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network.

She added: “Dalit women are seen as impure and deprived when they access basic amenities but their bodies are also used as objects to take revenge on the Dalit communities and keep them oppressed. With more Dalits demanding their rights, these kinds of incidents we have seen in Lakhimpur Kheri are increasing.”

Local activists said the assaults carried out against the Dalit girls went ignored by police until the issue was raised by activists and members of the opposition political party, who said the incident of the 13-year-old had “shaken humanity”. Activists have also struggled to enter the village to intervene in the cases as upper caste members of the village had reportedly blocked access.

The state of Uttar Pradesh already has the highest number of reported cases of violence against Dalits but during coronavirus lockdown there was a reported spike of attacks on Dalits by upper caste Thakurs. However, no arrests have been made.

“The recent spate of rape and murder cases in the Lakhimpur Kheri district indicates an endemic problem of sexual violence and the state government needs to do much more to address this crisis,” said Divya Srinivasan, a south Asia consultant for women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

“In many instances, sexual violence committed against Dalit women and girls is perpetrated by men from dominant ‘upper castes’, who use sexual violence as a tool to assert power and reinforce existing caste, social and gender hierarchies,” said Srinivasan.

Srinivasan emphasised that these entrenched hierarchies of power gave attackers of Dalit women a worrying sense of impunity. Assaults on lower caste women were rarely investigated or prosecuted, and in the case of Dalit victims, rarely prompt much media coverage or public outrage.

India remains the most unsafe country for women in the world, with a woman raped every 20 minutes. Lower caste women in particular bear the brunt, with little to no access to justice. It first came to light in a 1999 report by Human Rights Watch that documented how Dalit women in Bihar were raped and then had their breasts cut off and were shot in the vulva.

Official statistics show that at least four Dalit women are raped in India every day, though the real number is thought to be much higher as the communities often do not report the rapes due to pressure from higher castes or because police refuse to file the cases.

Recent incidents include a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Gujarat who was sodomised and her body hung from a banyan tree in January, and a 16-year-old Dalit girl in Gujarat who had been repeatedly raped and gang-raped and then thrown from a water tank in April.

An upcoming joint report by Equality Now and Swabhiman Society found that Dalit women are subjected to more severe or aggravated forms of sexual violence, such as gang-rapes or rape with murder.

The issue of sexual violence has become more prominent in recent years, particularly following the 2012 Delhi bus gang-rape case, and again last year after the brutal gang-rape of a vet in Hyderabad. Despite harsher punishments introduced for sexual violence, reports of rape and assault continue to rise.

Link


Monday, 21 September 2020

Marital Rape in Pakistan



TRIGGER WARNING: disturbing content!

When Mannat was 16, her brother got married. He loved his wife – let’s call her Ambreen – and admired how religious she was. She observed the hijab and everything that made her seem like a good Muslim woman.

She had five older brothers, all of whom were just as religious. The eldest one, who was 31 years old at the time told her he was interested in marrying her 16-year-old sister-in-law. Perhaps due to his age or experience, he was managing the family business and everyone held him in high esteem.

Eager to forward her brother’s message, Ambreen talked to her husband about the proposal which he immediately refused. His sister was only 16 and the age difference could not be justified so he knew it was a bad idea.

However, the rejection made Ambreen unhappy and she decided to talk about it with her mother-in-law in the hopes of getting her on board.
So, she did. Along with promising that her brother would pay haq-mehr worth a million in cash as well as a hefty amount of gold. Unfortunately for Mannat, her mother was the greedy type and readily agreed to the proposal. Thus, began a series of emotional manipulation, whereby she would pressurize Mannat into saying yes.

Mannat was only 16 and aspired to be a doctor but her mom’s coercion saw no defeat. “Agar tumne yahan shadi nahi ki to yaad rakhna jahan bhi shadi hoi mein tumhen bilkul support nahi karun gi. Tumhen pata hai susral mein kitne problems hote hein. Mujh se koi umeed na rakhna. Yeh tumhari bhabhi ka bhai hai. Apni behan k darr se tumhare sath theek rahe ga. Waise bhi agar shohar bari umar ka ho to biwi k bohat nakhray uthata hai.”

After days of feeding her such nonsense, Mannat finally gave in to her mother and sister-in-law’s cruel demands. And long story short, she was married.

Right after the wedding functions ended, the torture began.

He sexually abused her every night, continued to rape her even though she told him the sex hurt. In fact, whenever she complained, he flat-out refused to accept she was in pain. He also bit her in different places and her entire body was covered in bruises.

Needless to say, he was sexually frustrated. It was later revealed that he held resentment against women since he had been rejected multiple times before. Turns out, because he was ‘too’ religious, families weren’t willing to get their daughters into such an arrangement.

Despite his claimed devotion to religion, the man regularly engaged in anal sex (read: marital rape) with Mannat. He continued it for three weeks, everyday, until she got sick. She lost a lot of blood and ultimately fainted, upon which her husband’s parents called her family and asked them to take her back.

“Jo larki apne shohar ko satisfy na kar sakay us ka hum kia karen?” they said.
When Mannat’s brother came to pick her up, she was unconscious and he took her straight to the hospital. Once the doctors examined her, they called him in and showed him how brutally her body had been violated. That’s when he realized what was happening all along. Naturally, he was furious but because Mannat was in such bad condition, he had to wait for her medical treatment to complete. She had to go through a procedure to get her rectum fixed. And Mannat and her brother returned home after five days, both mentally shattered.

Knowing that his wife had pushed Mannat into the marriage, things got to the point where he wanted to divorce her. And when Ambreen found out he wanted to end their relationship, she argued she wasn’t the only one to blame “mujhe to talaq de do ge apni maa ka kia karo ge? Woh bhi barabar ki shareek hai.” He knew full well that his mother was equally responsible. In fact, Mannat was the reason they ended up staying together. She urged him not to leave her because she believed her mother was just as guilty.

However, he helped his sister get a divorce and it took her eighteen months to gain whatever normalcy was possible in her circumstances. She resumed her studies and is a practicing doctor now. And guess what? she never got any haq-mehr; not the money nor the cash. Maybe this will be a lesson for Mannat’s mother who should have known better than bargaining her own child for greed.

It’s unbelievable to think that a mother would do such a thing. But it doesn’t end here.
At the beginning of it all, Mannat told her mother about her now ex-husband’s heinous acts but instead of helping her, she told him ‘sub mard aise hote hen.’

One of the times, Mannat even went back to her parents’ house because she decided she had had enough. But her mother forced her back to hell by telling her to keep quiet, as otherwise it would hurt her brother’s marriage. “agar tum ne koi baat munh se nikali to yad rakhna bhai bhabi ka ghar kharab hoga.” Apparently, they were pregnant with their first child and Mannat had to suffer more torture because her mother guilt-shamed her into potentially breaking her brother’s family.

Mannat is one of the thousands of girls forced into marriage everyday; for money, honor and shame. While men like her ex-husband deserve to be apprehended for their crimes, let’s not forget the parents. For a mother – or a father – to let their child suffer, that too, on top of forcing them into a marriage that is utterly peodophilic, is and always will be criminal.TRIGGER WARNING: disturbing content!

When Mannat was 16, her brother got married. He loved his wife – let’s call her Ambreen – and admired how religious she was. She observed the hijab and everything that made her seem like a good Muslim woman.

She had five older brothers, all of whom were just as religious. The eldest one, who was 31 years old at the time told her he was interested in marrying her 16-year-old sister-in-law. Perhaps due to his age or experience, he was managing the family business and everyone held him in high esteem.

Eager to forward her brother’s message, Ambreen talked to her husband about the proposal which he immediately refused. His sister was only 16 and the age difference could not be justified so he knew it was a bad idea.

However, the rejection made Ambreen unhappy and she decided to talk about it with her mother-in-law in the hopes of getting her on board.
So, she did. Along with promising that her brother would pay haq-mehr worth a million in cash as well as a hefty amount of gold. Unfortunately for Mannat, her mother was the greedy type and readily agreed to the proposal. Thus, began a series of emotional manipulation, whereby she would pressurize Mannat into saying yes.

Mannat was only 16 and aspired to be a doctor but her mom’s coercion saw no defeat. “Agar tumne yahan shadi nahi ki to yaad rakhna jahan bhi shadi hoi mein tumhen bilkul support nahi karun gi. Tumhen pata hai susral mein kitne problems hote hein. Mujh se koi umeed na rakhna. Yeh tumhari bhabhi ka bhai hai. Apni behan k darr se tumhare sath theek rahe ga. Waise bhi agar shohar bari umar ka ho to biwi k bohat nakhray uthata hai.”

After days of feeding her such nonsense, Mannat finally gave in to her mother and sister-in-law’s cruel demands. And long story short, she was married.

Right after the wedding functions ended, the torture began.

He sexually abused her every night, continued to rape her even though she told him the sex hurt. In fact, whenever she complained, he flat-out refused to accept she was in pain. He also bit her in different places and her entire body was covered in bruises.

Needless to say, he was sexually frustrated. It was later revealed that he held resentment against women since he had been rejected multiple times before. Turns out, because he was ‘too’ religious, families weren’t willing to get their daughters into such an arrangement.

Despite his claimed devotion to religion, the man regularly engaged in anal sex (read: marital rape) with Mannat. He continued it for three weeks, everyday, until she got sick. She lost a lot of blood and ultimately fainted, upon which her husband’s parents called her family and asked them to take her back.

“Jo larki apne shohar ko satisfy na kar sakay us ka hum kia karen?” they said.
When Mannat’s brother came to pick her up, she was unconscious and he took her straight to the hospital. Once the doctors examined her, they called him in and showed him how brutally her body had been violated. That’s when he realized what was happening all along. Naturally, he was furious but because Mannat was in such bad condition, he had to wait for her medical treatment to complete. She had to go through a procedure to get her rectum fixed. And Mannat and her brother returned home after five days, both mentally shattered.

Knowing that his wife had pushed Mannat into the marriage, things got to the point where he wanted to divorce her. And when Ambreen found out he wanted to end their relationship, she argued she wasn’t the only one to blame “mujhe to talaq de do ge apni maa ka kia karo ge? Woh bhi barabar ki shareek hai.” He knew full well that his mother was equally responsible. In fact, Mannat was the reason they ended up staying together. She urged him not to leave her because she believed her mother was just as guilty.

However, he helped his sister get a divorce and it took her eighteen months to gain whatever normalcy was possible in her circumstances. She resumed her studies and is a practicing doctor now. And guess what? she never got any haq-mehr; not the money nor the cash. Maybe this will be a lesson for Mannat’s mother who should have known better than bargaining her own child for greed.

It’s unbelievable to think that a mother would do such a thing. But it doesn’t end here.
At the beginning of it all, Mannat told her mother about her now ex-husband’s heinous acts but instead of helping her, she told him ‘sub mard aise hote hen.’

One of the times, Mannat even went back to her parents’ house because she decided she had had enough. But her mother forced her back to hell by telling her to keep quiet, as otherwise it would hurt her brother’s marriage. “agar tum ne koi baat munh se nikali to yad rakhna bhai bhabi ka ghar kharab hoga.” Apparently, they were pregnant with their first child and Mannat had to suffer more torture because her mother guilt-shamed her into potentially breaking her brother’s family.

Mannat is one of the thousands of girls forced into marriage everyday; for money, honor and shame. While men like her ex-husband deserve to be apprehended for their crimes, let’s not forget the parents. For a mother – or a father – to let their child suffer, that too, on top of forcing them into a marriage that is utterly peodophilic, is and always will be criminal.

Link

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Muslim Medics Taunted About Bacon And Alcohol – By Their Own NHS Colleagues



 Being “visibly Muslim”, such as wearing a hijab or having a long beard, made it more likely for Muslim NHS workers to face Islamophobia. One woman said she stopped wearing the hijab as it was “like wearing a sign saying ‘kick me’.”

Meanwhile, alcohol – forbidden in Islam – has been described as a “social glue” in the NHS, with many Muslims believing they have missed out on career and bonding opportunities because socialising outside work revolves around drink.

And while there are many incidents of outright bullying and harassment, it is the subtle, more difficult to prove Islamophobia within the NHS that is the “most dangerous discrimination”, say Muslim healthcare workers.

A staggering 43% admitted they had considered leaving the NHS because of Islamophobia.

Our survey conducted in conjunction with BIMA had 133 respondents from all over the country working in various NHS roles including consultants, surgeons, GPs, pharmacists and medical students.

One Muslim NHS worker said: “I think Islamophobia has increased in society at large and this is reflected in the NHS.”

Dr Salman Waqar, general secretary at BIMA, told HuffPost UK: “It reflects a wider societal unease about religion and the way spirituality and belief is seen as a problem.

“Some Muslims will not make a fuss because of fear of retribution. But making small compromises causes turbulence and unease internally.

“This creates a sense of not belonging for Muslims in the NHS and biological weathering. They feel they have to put on their uniform, turn up for work and justify their existence to colleagues.”

Dr Hina J Shahid, chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, said: “We see people celebrating diversity in all its forms in the NHS – but people generally don’t want to talk about religion. It is like a taboo subject.

“Belonging to a religious group is almost seen as going against the scientific nature of being a doctor.”

“In the NHS, you realise there’s something about the hijab that really riles people,” says Kiran Rahim, a paediatric registrar in London. “People make assumptions about you. When people first see me, they presume I don’t speak English, or I have an accent.”

She says judgements are made about women in hijabs and she is asked questions by colleagues like: “Does your husband make you wear that?” and “Do you wear your hijab when you shower?”

“I would expect people I work with to be more clued up. I am as British as they come, but my religion is part of my identity.”

Muslim women told HuffPost UK they were often perceived to be less educated due to wearing headscarves, and received backhanded compliments such as surprise at how well they spoke English – even when they were born and raised in the UK.

Zineb Mehbali, 32, a registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology, believes a culture exists within the NHS where people are discriminated against for being different.

She wears a hijab and experienced overt Islamophobia at one hospital when her locker was vandalised and had the word “hijab” scrawled across it.

“I’m quite resilient, but there have been situations where I’ve cried at work,” she said. “When my locker was vandalised for being Muslim, it made me feel vulnerable but also very hurt as I knew a colleague had done that.”

Link

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

India: How a Muslim doctor was incarcerated for raising his voice




Dr Kafeel Khan told Al Jazeera he was physically tortured while in captivity, which included him being stripped of his clothes and beaten and deprived of food for days.

"It was very hard for the whole family. My 65-year-old mother was forced to visit the courts during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic," he said.

Dr Khan was arrested in January for a speech made a month earlier that authorities in Uttar Pradesh (UP), governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), deemed incendiary. He was later charged under the National Security Act (NSA), which stipulates that a person can be held without charge for a year.

His speech focused on major issues facing the country of 1.4 billion people such as malnutrition, lack of health facilities and unemployment crisis.

They really wanted to break me this time.

But Khan's criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which bans Muslims from neighbouring South Asian countries from gaining Indian nationality, seemed to have earned him the government's ire.

The passing of the law in December sparked nationwide protests led mostly by Muslims - India’s largest minority, numbering nearly 200 million.

Yogi Adityanath, who is UP's chief minister and known for his anti-Muslim statements, ordered a crackdown against anti-CAA protests in the northern state. More than two dozens Muslims were killed in police action that was condemned by Amnesty International India.

"Who will speak up in this time of atrocities, if we are also quiet, who will raise their voice?" Khan had said during the speech in front of students of Aligarh Muslim University, located around 125km from the capital, New Delhi.

Critics and family members say the 38-year-old paediatrician was targeted because he chose to speak up against the law, which the United Nations dubbed "fundamentally discriminatory".

The UP police department in its complaint accused Dr Khan of "sowing seeds of discord towards other religious communities".
But the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday disagreed with the police, saying "a complete reading of the speech also nowhere threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh [located in UP]".

Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn't want ... they don't want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality.

"The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence," the 42-page judgement read as it ordered the immediate release of Khan.

Dr Khan said that after he was slapped with the NSA, his family became "untouchable" as people avoided contact with them in their home city of Gorakhpur in UP. "Lawyers would not take my case," he said.

His activism has also brought troubles to his family. His brother Adeel Khan said his business has been targeted since Kafeel Khan was arrested in 2017. Another brother survived a gun attack.

The 38-year-old doctor's release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison [Courtesy family of Dr Kafeel Khan]
Harjit Singh Bhatti, a doctor based in New Delhi, has been one of Khan's most vocal supporters. He said that Khan has been presumably targeted because of his religion.

"Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn't want ... they don't want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality," Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

Dr Khan has spent nearly 500 days in prison in the last three years, as his case has become a symbol of state repression on dissent.

And he is not the only one. Several activists behind the peaceful anti-CAA protests are still behind bars for opposing the government's alleged anti-minority policies.

The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens.

Rights groups have condemned their continued incarceration as the coronavirus virus pandemic poses a threat to their life in India's crowded prisons. On Monday, India overtook Brazil to become the second-worst country hit by COVID-19 with over 4.2 million cases.

The 38-year-old doctor's release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison.

His ordeal with the BJP-led UP government began in September 2017, when he was arrested in the wake of the deaths of 70 children due to lack of oxygen supply at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, Khan's hometown.

Then a junior doctor in the paediatrics department, Dr Khan was hailed as a hero for securing a supply of oxygen tanks for the hospital ward from his personal money.

However, according to Dr Khan, the incident did not go down well, with Adityanath chastising Khan for his efforts upon meeting him days after the incident.

Khan was arrested with eight others for the deaths of the minors, and jailed for seven months.

He was arrested again a year later for 45 days, after authorities claimed he had barged into a hospital in the Bahraich district in UP, leading to an alleged ruckus.

The doctor claims he went to the hospital to enquire about the deaths of children at the hospital from encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Thousands of children have died in Uttar Pradesh and in neighbouring Bihar state due to episodic outbreaks of encephalitis since the 1970s.

In 2018, an investigating team looking into the BRD hospital tragedy exonerated the paediatrician of any criminal wrongdoing. Khan has sought an apology from the Adityanath-led government and the reinstatement of his job.

But instead, the government ordered another inquiry into the children's death case.

Dr Bhatti, who is also the President of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said Khan has been made a "scapegoat".

"Khan has been continuously made a scapegoat for the BRD tragedy, despite being a junior doctor at the hospital," Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

Bhatti has been an outspoken critic of the Modi government's coronavirus pandemic policy, as the country has emerged as the epicentre of the virus in Asia.

Khan, who has moved to western Rajasthan state since his release, says he feared for his life inside the jail. "For the first four to five days of my incarceration, I did not receive any food. I wore the same clothes ... I was not able to take a bath or brush my teeth."

"To go to the toilet there was a queue of 30 minutes," he said, adding that he had to share the barrack with some 150 people while it actually had the capacity to hold 40.

"They really wanted to break me this time," he told Al Jazeera.

The paediatrician said at times he would bite on his sleeves to distract himself from the excruciating hunger he experienced. "I was in so much pain I could have eaten grass," he said.

He said that jail authorities asked him to stop talking about the BRD hospital tragedy, and also demanded that he stop criticising CAA and a proposed citizenship register, which critics fear will likely be used to disenfranchise Muslims.

Despite the immense hardships, Khan revealed that his fellow prisoners, who were aware of his heroics during the BRD episode, would help him with food and other requests during his incarceration.

Khan has temporarily moved to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, where he has been reunited with his family, including his two children, wife and brother.

He said his most pressing concern is to demand the UP government revoke his suspension from his previous post at the BRD hospital so that he could resume his work.

"For the past three years," he said, "I have written 25 letters to the UP government to either revoke my suspension or terminate me, so that I can go work somewhere else."

Link

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

With mosques closed during the pandemic, Muslim converts navigate their new spiritual path online



Sitting at his dining room table, Artemis Rivera said the words “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic as he recited the Islamic profession of faith known as the shahada on a Zoom call during his mosque’s online Friday service. He felt a sense of peace, he said, as he became a Muslim in front of the virtual congregation.

Taking the shahada and converting last April, as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread quickly, was the right time for the 25-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“Everyone around us is, like, dying, so you want to make sure that you have faith settled, like with God before anything were to happen,” Rivera said. “There’s that feeling of, like, ‘Hey, I need to make sure that this [converting] is actually happening.’ ”


Conversion in Islam is a simple process in which a person says the testimony of faith with witnesses present. It’s typically done at a mosque in front of a large gathering, with hugs and well wishes from the congregation afterward.

But with mosques closed and people practicing social distancing, recent and longtime converts are embracing a new normal, doing virtual conversions and finding Muslim communities online to help them navigate their spiritual path.

Giving shahadas online has been rare in the past. Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and director of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, has done them pre-pandemic for converts in remote locations or for those who fear their families finding out about their conversion.

In-person shahadas are preferred because the ceremony is attended by Muslims who can help converts stay connected and get support from the community. Without sufficient support, converts sometimes drop off or disappear from the community.


“Coming to the masjid [mosque] to take shahada is part of entering into the community and has a ceremonial element to it, with the people celebrating with takbir [praise] and hugs,” Suleiman said. “I would worry that if online shahadas become the norm, [converts] will even more easily disappear. So, like with other rituals, it’s suboptimal but better than nothing.”

Online services have mostly been used for national Islamic organizations to connect with Muslims nationwide. Since the pandemic began, those programs have expanded, and local mosques have started streaming their services.

Spiritual services are important for Muslims in general but sometimes more so for converts who did not grow up with Islamic practices and rely on community guidance. The increase in online resources has helped them further their connection to Allah and the Muslim community.


Converts often refer to themselves as “reverts,” believing that people are born Muslim, but eventually make their way back to Islam when they take their shahada.

Rivera started his journey back to Islam in 2017 when he took a history of theology class in college. He read the Koran for the first time in that class and said he felt an “all-over kind of peace” in his soul.

“I knew I was, like, on the right path and heading in the right direction and doing what I was supposed to be doing,” Rivera said.

Rivera, who identifies as queer, visited his local mosque a few times before the pandemic but found it to be “a very gendered and inaccessible space.” He found Masjid al-Rabia, a Chicago queer-oriented mosque, on Twitter earlier this year when he was searching for fellow queer Muslims to follow.

But because Rivera lives in Iowa, he had no way to attend services at the mosque until it made streaming available at the beginning of the year. The day he said his shahada was his first time attending the mosque’s online service.


“I love that Masjid al-Rabia centers both on queer and disabled Muslims in the services they provide,” Rivera said.

The Yaqeen Institute saw an increase in conversions this year as the spiritual presence online grew with the increase of resources and viewership, Suleiman said.

About 22 people converted via Zoom with the institute since the beginning of the pandemic. About 10 converted during Ramadan, which was observed this year from April 23 to May 23, compared to previous years when about two or three converted at his local mosque.

“You have a lot of people that otherwise would have maybe gone to a local masjid and ask some questions that were just sort of online and ended up being a part of that online community,” Suleiman said. “And so it kind of became a trend where someone says I’ve been following along and I wanted to convert to Islam as well.”

Jordan Pearson, who lives in Boston, is one of the 22 who converted with the Yaqeen Institute. He had planned to take his shahada at his local mosque, but it was closed because of the pandemic. Instead, he opted to say his shahada online.

The 26-year-old grew up in a Christian household and had a lot of questions about faith and religion in general. He was introduced to Islam when he moved from South Carolina to Boston in 2018 and met a friend who answered those questions.

He was inspired to research and learn more about the religion when his friend mentioned prominent Black Muslims such as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Mansa Musa, a 14th-century West African ruler thought to be the wealthiest person of all time. He decided to convert during Black History Month after he saw a video from the Yaqeen Institute.

As he sat in his bedroom, he took his shahada with Suleiman and his friend over Zoom in May.

“They embraced me, and it was amazing,” Pearson said. “It was kind of surreal for a couple of days that I'm Muslim.”

Yusef Brebner converted last September in a traditional ceremony at his local mosque after having long conversations with the imam there.

The 16-year-old from Durham, N.C., skipped school to take his shahada during Friday prayers in front of 80 or so people at the mosque. Afterward, he was welcomed with hugs and congratulations from “uncles at the masjid,” which he said made it all “really affirming and validating.”

But with the mosque now closed because of the pandemic, he has been able to stay connected to fellow Muslims through online services and study groups.

The Muslim community can be a “found family,” as Brebner puts it, for converts who may not have the support of their relatives. Brebner has his immediate family’s support but knows not everyone does.


During his first Ramadan, Brebner got involved with an online group in which he was able to finish reading the Koran and attended Zoom calls where they discussed the different chapters. He was even able to witness a Zoom conversion and virtually be there for a fellow convert.

“I’d say that was definitely the best part of Ramadan, that I was able to connect virtually with a Muslim community that I was not necessarily able to if it had not been for the pandemic,” Brebner said.

Link

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Hadith: Do not seek faults



Abu Barzah al-Aslami reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O you who have faith with their tongues but faith has not entered their hearts! Do not backbite the Muslims or seek their faults. Whoever seeks their faults, Allah will seek his faults. And if Allah seeks his faults, He will expose him even in the privacy of his own house.”

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4880

Mu’awiyah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, if you seek out the faults of people, you will corrupt them or nearly corrupt them.”

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4888

Saturday, 29 August 2020

The Day of ’Ashura


What is ’Ashura?

’Ashura or ’Aashoora is derived from the word ’Asharah, which means ten in Arabic. ’Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram. Al-Muharram is one of the sacred months alluded to in the following Qur’anic verse: ‘Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them…’ (Qur’an, 9:36)

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “The best fasting after Ramadan is the month of Allah Muharram, and the best prayer after the obligatory prayer is prayer at night.” [Muslim]

He (pbuh) called this month “the Month of Allah.” When Allah azza wa jal connects His Name to something, it shows the great status and virtue of the subject.

The most important things that happened on this day are:
  • Allah azza wa jal accepted the repentance of Adam (pbuh) after he committed the sin of eating from the forbidden tree in Paradise.
  • The Arc of Prophet Noah (pbuh) landed safely on the Mount of Al-Judiyy in modern day Turkey after the flood .
  • Allah azza wa jal saved the Children of Israel (Jews) and Prophet Moses (pbuh) from Pharaoh, who also drowned also on that day.
As a side note, al-Husayn ibn Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was killed by Yazid on the day of ’Ashura.

Some quick facts about ’Ashura:
  • Giving charity on ’Ashura is equal to an entire year’s worth of charity: ’On the authority of ’Abdullah bin ’Amr bin al-’As (may Allah be pleased with both of them) that he said, “Whoever fasts ‘Ashura’ it is as if he has fasted the entire year. And whoever gives charity this day it is like the charity of an entire year”’. (Ibn Rajab’s Lata’if al-Ma‘arif)
     
  • Fasting on ’Ashura wipes out the sins of the past year: ’On the authority of Abu Qatadah (ra) that the Messenger of Allah (saw), was asked about fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’, and he said, “It expiates [wipes out the minor sins of] the past year”’.(Muslim)
     
  • The covering (Kiswah) of the Ka‘bah used to be changed on ’Ashura: ’On the authority of ’Aishah (ra) who said, “The people used to fast on ’Ashura before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory. And on that day the Ka‘bah used to be covered with a cover. When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadan compulsory, Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, ’Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so”’. (Bukhari)
     
  • ’Ashura is an immense day of repentance: ‘The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “If you will fast after the month of Ramadan, then fast al-Muharram, for indeed it is Allah’s month in which there is a day that Allah accepted the repentance of a people, and in which He accepts the repentance of other people”’ (Tirmidhi).
     
  • Be generous to your family on ’Ashura: ’The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “One who generously spends on his family on the day of ‘Ashura’, Allah will be generous on him for the entire year”’ (Baihaqi).

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The hidden racism of the Muslim marriage market



In an attempt to escape the quarantine daze, I started watching Netflix's new reality series, Indian Matchmaking, about the often-misunderstood world of arranged marriage.

The show follows a passionate, mother-knows-best "rishta" matchmaker, who helps wealthy Indian families in Mumbai and the United States find their children the perfect spouse. At first, I really enjoyed watching 20- and 30-somethings search for love and marriage in this traditional manner. My friends and I laughed at snobby Aparna, cringed at the scenes with "mama's boy" Akshay, and cried when sweet Nadia's second suitor turned out to be an unapologetic "bro".

By the end of the eight-episode series, however, I felt nauseous. Unlike some of my white friends who watched on carefree, I was disturbed by the obvious displays of classism, ethnocentrism, and colourism in the show.

Throughout the show, I could not help but notice how these "isms" guided the matchmaker as she tried to find "suitable" potential spouses for her clients. In addition to searching for those with distinguished careers, and a slim body type, she was always on the hunt for "fair" spouses. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth as the show closed with a bubbly Indian-American woman casually saying she is looking for a husband who is not "too dark".

The Netflix series glossed over this uglier side of matchmaking, but as a Black American Muslim woman who has previously been rejected by potential suitors based solely on race and ethnicity, I cannot look past it.

For the last four years or so, I have been knee-deep in the Muslim dating world, dealing with all those aforementioned "isms". (And when I say dating, I mean dating-to-marry, because as an observant Muslim, I only pursue romantic relationships with one goal in mind: marriage). I encounter the same annoyances found within Western dating culture (Muslim women too get ghosted, mosted, and harassed), but due to cultural baggage that is often conflated with Islamic tradition, I am more likely to come head-to-head with sexism, ageism, and racism. The last one of which I suffer from the most.

No matter which path I take to seek marriage - matchmakers, apps like Minder, or chaperoned blind dates - I am constantly met with the sickening reality that I am less likely to be chosen as a potential partner because of my background as an Afro-Latina American born to convert parents.

Having come from a mixed family, I was never warned that who I sought to love or whoever sought to love me would be premised on something as arbitrary as skin colour, race or ethnicity. I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago, when a painful relationship taught me to take caution.

I fell in love with an Arab man I met through my mosque in Boston. In addition to all the little things, like making me feel heard, valued, and loved, he taught me how to centre my life around faith. He awakened a new form of "taqwa", God consciousness, within me that I had not known before. But when we attempted to transform our friendship into marriage, we were confronted by his family's prejudices. Although they had never met me, they rejected me outright saying we were "incompatible" - a euphemism often used to mask uncomfortable beliefs based on racism and ethnocentrism.

In the years that followed, I continued to encounter these same infections. As I tried to find the "one" through professional Muslim matchmakers, online dating, or within my own social circles, I learned that I was often not even included in the pool of potential spouses, because I did not fit the initial criteria listed by the men, or worse, their mothers. I was not of the desired ethnic background, namely South Asian or Arab - the two most predominant ethnic groups in the Muslim American community.

Muslim matchmakers witness their clients express a preference for one type of ethnicity/race over another all the time. One friend, a 26-year-old Somali-American woman who runs her mosque's matrimonial programme in Michigan, told me that she noticed a pattern when she reviewed the answers single Muslim men gave in a questionnaire about marriage. While Middle Eastern and North African men said they were looking for Arab or white/Caucasian women (usually referred to simply as "white converts"), South Asian men expressed their desire to marry Pakistani or Indian women. Black American and African men, meanwhile, said they were open to marrying women of any ethnicity and race.

When I began writing about the problems I experienced in the Muslim marriage market, I discovered I was not alone. I heard countless stories of Black American and African women who were forced to break engagements due to the colour of their skin or ethnic origins. One such woman, a 25-year-old mixed Black American-Palestinian, told me that she was rejected by her American-Palestinian fiance's mother because "she did not speak good enough Arabic" and therefore would not "fit" in the family. Countless other Black or African women, meanwhile, told me that they could not even make it to the stage of engagement because no one in the community introduced them to eligible candidates for marriage due to their race. This left many feeling unwanted, rejected, and hopeless.

When confronted with these examples, naysayers ask, what is wrong with wanting to marry someone that shares your culture? They raise defences based on ethnocentricity, trying to hide their prejudices under the guise of love and pride for their motherlands. They argue that differences in culture create friction between a couple, and their families.

But to all the South Asian-American or Arab-American Muslim men that do not see me as a potential spouse because of my ethnic and racial background, I ask: "Do we not share a culture? Are our lived experiences as Muslims in a post-9/11 America not enough to serve as the foundation for marriage?"

Many US-born Muslims, especially millennials and those from the Gen Z, pride themselves on successfully navigating what it means to be American (embracing American holidays, entertainment, and politics) while staying true to Islamic values. And yet, within the context of marriage, one's "Americanness" only becomes relevant when it is used to incite racism.

While such Muslims may simply be keeping up with the practices of their fellow racist Americans, they are cutting ties with Islamic tradition. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent to rid the world of pre-Islamic traditions that favoured racism, ethnocentrism, and tribalism. He brought us revelations such as "O mankind! We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other [49:13]."  Why do so many people overlook such verses when it comes to marriage?

In the months since the death of George Floyd, I have seen a concerted effort by Muslim leaders and activists to raise consciousness in our community about the fight against racial injustice and supporting Black bodies. There have been many online khutbas, and virtual halaqas, aimed at addressing the deep-seated issue of racism within our homes and our mosques.

However, I am afraid that all such efforts to eradicate racism from our community will fall flat if we do not speak up against the cultural and racial biases that are both implicit and explicit within the marriage market. I fear that if we continue to allow ugly cultural biases to govern who we choose to love, or who we choose to let our children marry, we will remain stagnant.

Link

Monday, 24 August 2020

India Should Be Grateful to Alauddin Khilji for Thwarting the Mongol Invasions


Alauddin Khilji was born in Delhi in 1266 CE, lived his entire life in the Indian subcontinent, and ruled as sultan of Delhi from 1296 CE – 1316 CE. By any definition, he would have to be called an Indian monarch, not a foreign invader. As a ruler, he would prove himself to be one of India’s greatest warrior kings and one of the world’s great military geniuses.

Historical details about the Khiljis are obtained from fundamental sources such as Ferishta, who lived during the time of the sultan of Bijapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah II, and Ziauddin Barani, who lived at the time of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq and Firuz Shah Tughlaq. These accounts are well-summarised in the works of eminent contemporary historians such as K.S. Lal, Satish Chandra, and Peter Jackson.

Khilji greatly expanded the empire that he inherited from his uncle, Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji, after killing him. Many of his conquests were of kingdoms ruled by Hindu kings, including Chittor, Devgiri, Warangal (from where he acquired the famous Kohinoor diamond), Gujarat, Ranthambore, and the Hoysala and Pandya kingdoms. He was able to do all this not because these other kingdoms were weak, but because he was a great soldier and general with a well-trained and disciplined army, using superior Turkic cavalry and infantry tactics, and had built a solid economic base which provided him with the resources to finance these campaigns.

During Khilji’s rule, the Mongols of the Chaghatai Khanate under Duwa Khan repeatedly tried to invade the Indian subcontinent. The attacks that occurred during the reign of Alauddin Khilji were not the first time that the Mongols had invaded India. But, as Lal puts it, “All these were minor invasions as compared with those that occurred in the time of Alauddin; and it was the good fortune of India that the most tremendous assaults were delivered to this country when a strong monarch like Alauddin was the ruler.”

Khilji, by his military brilliance, managed to defeat the Mongols not once, but five times, and avoided defeat a sixth time even when taken by surprise, as the Mongols attacked with massive forces.

The first invasion attempt was carried out in 1298 CE, and involved 100,000 horsemen. Alauddin sent an army commanded by his brother Ulugh Khan and the general Zafar Khan, and this army comprehensively defeated the Mongols, with the capture of 20,000 prisoners, who were put to death.

In 1299 CE, the Mongols invaded again, this time in Sindh, and occupied the fort of Sivastan. Alauddin despatched Zafar Khan to defeat them and recapture the fort, which he did, even without the need for siege machines.

This humiliating defeat prompted Duwa Khan to attempt another full-scale assault on India in 1299 CE, and he sent his son, Qutlugh Khwaja, with 200,000 soldiers, determined to finish off the Delhi Sultanate once and for all. The Mongol army came fully equipped for this assault on Delhi and for a long campaign, with sufficient food provisions. Alauddin’s own advisors were panic-stricken and advised him not to confront the dreaded Mongols who had come in such force.

It should be mentioned here that Alauddin’s predecessor, Jalaluddin, had averted war with the Mongols in a previous attack by agreeing to humiliating demands from them. But Alauddin was determined to fight to the end. As Lal describes it, he told his advisor,

“How could he hold the sovereignty of Delhi if he shuddered to encounter the invaders? What would his contemporaries and those adversaries who had marched two thousand kos to fight him say when he ‘hid behind a camel’s back’? And what verdict would posterity pronounce on him? How could he dare show his countenance to anybody, or even enter the royal harem, if he was guilty of cowardice, and endeavoured to repel the Mongols with diplomacy and negotiations? … ‘Come what may, I am bent upon marching tomorrow into the plain of Kili, where I propose joining in battle with Qutlugh Khwaja.’”

Alauddin met Qutlugh Khwaja at Kili, and the day was won by the bravery and martyrdom of his general Zafar Khan. (That the Mongols retreated because of Zafar Khan’s actions is the only explanation postulated by Barani, and quoted by Lal and Chandra; however, Jackson doubts this explanation and says the real reason the Mongols withdrew was that Qutlugh Khwaja was mortally wounded in the battle, a fact confirmed by other sources.) The defeated Mongols went back to their country without stopping once on the way.

However, Duwa Khan was not satisfied. In 1303 CE, he again sent a huge force of 120,000 horsemen to attack Delhi, under General Taraghai. This was, unfortunately for Alauddin, immediately after his long battle with and victory over the kingdom of Chittor. That Alauddin was busy with his attack on Chittor was known to Taraghai, and was one of the key factors in his planning. Alauddin was taken completely by surprise. His army was greatly depleted and had suffered great losses in equipment in the battle for Chittor. He tried to get reinforcements from other parts of the empire, but the Mongols had blocked all the roads to Delhi.
Yet Alauddin did not lose heart, and fought a gallant defensive battle. Lal explains it thus:

“Sultan Alauddin gathered together whatever forces he had in the capital, and arrayed his forces in the plains of Siri. As it was impossible to fight the Mongols in an open engagement with so small an army, Alauddin decided to exhaust the patience of the besiegers by strengthening his defence lines. On the east of Siri lay the river Jamuna, and on the south-west was the old citadel of Delhi, although by the time of Taraghai’s invasion it had not been repaired. In the south lay the dense jungle of Old Delhi. The only vulnerable side, therefore, was the north, where the Mongols had pitched their camp.”

Alauddin dug trenches and built ramparts and created a strong defensive position that made it impossible for Taraghai to defeat him. After two months of trying hard to break Alauddin’s defences, Taraghai lost patience and returned home. This was clearly brilliant generalship under extremely adverse circumstances which would have meant certain defeat for anyone who was not as resolute and as resourceful.

This close shave made Alauddin realize the need for stronger defence of the capital, and he took various measures, such as constructing a wall, repairing forts, and the like. As a result, Delhi was never again at risk of conquest by the Mongols.

In 1305 CE, seeking to avenge their previous defeats, the Mongols invaded again, under the leadership of Taraghai, Ali Beg, and Tartaq, with a force of 50,000 horsemen. Taraghai was killed in a preliminary clash even before arriving in Delhi, but Ali Beg and Tartaq pushed on. Knowing Delhi to be strongly defended, they started plundering the countryside of Avadh. Alauddin sent a force of 30,000 to 40,000 horsemen with the general Malik Nayak to meet the Mongols and inflicted a crushing defeat on them on December 30, 1305. Twenty thousand horses belonging to the enemy were captured, and most of the soldiers were slaughtered. 8000 prisoners of war were brought to Delhi, including the two generals, who were subsequently beheaded.

The last attempt to invade the Delhi Sultanate was made by Duwa in 1306 CE, just before his death, when he sent the generals Kubak and Iqbalmand with an army of 50,000 to 60,000 horsemen. Kubak advanced in the direction of the Ravi river, and Iqbalmand advanced in the direction of Nagor. Alauddin dispatched his favorite general, Malik Kafur, to deal with the Mongols. Kafur defeated Kubak in a battle on the Ravi and captured him alive. He then intercepted the second force at Nagor and defeated that as well. Only 3000 or 4000 soldiers remained of the Mongol invasion force.


Thus, Alauddin Khilji achieved what no other ruler in the world, east or west, had achieved. He repeatedly repulsed and defeated large-scale invasions by the Mongols, who had been an unstoppable force wherever they had gone — Russia, China, Persia, Iraq, Syria, Europe. He was able to repel forces of up to 200,000 Mongol horsemen. In comparison, the force that Hulagu took with him to Baghdad and used to completely destroy the Caliphate had only 150,000 horsemen.

The Mongols had not become weak and feeble since the sack of Baghdad in 1258 – this was not the reason for Alauddin’s success. As an illustration, his uncle who preceded Alauddin as Sultan of Delhi preferred to “make a settlement, giving the Mongols very favourable terms”, to use Lal’s words. Alauddin’s own advisors advised him in 1299 CE to submit rather than fight the feared Mongols; but Alauddin Khilji proved superior to his formidable Mongol foes.

Khilji’s legacy to the Indian subcontinent

From the knowledge of how other countries fared under the Mongols, it is fair to say that had the Mongols conquered India, India would have likely been set back at least two or three hundred years in its development. A large part of the knowledge and culture that had been accumulated in India over millenia might well have been destroyed. Every library, school, temple, mosque and even home would have likely been burnt to the ground. As the Russian experience shows, even if the Mongols had settled down in the Indian subcontinent (an unlikely proposition, given the hot Indian weather), the consequences for India would probably not have been savoury.

So the Mongols were not like any other invader. If Khilji had lost to the Mongols, the outcome would not have been as benign as when Ibrahim Lodi lost to Babur. In that case, one ‘foreign’ ruler who had recently made India his home was replaced by another, but the Indian subcontinent itself did not suffer greatly. If the Mongols had won against Khilji, they would probably have wiped a large percentage of India’s cultural heritage off the map of the world. If we have ancient traditions in India that survive to this day, a large part of the credit for that has to go to Alauddin Khilji, one of history’s greatest warrior-kings.

By all accounts, Alauddin Khilji was not a benevolent king to his subjects. But he also was a brave soldier and a brilliant general who saved the Indian subcontinent from certain destruction. Of course, Khilji did not resist the Mongols to save Indian culture and civilisation; he did what he did to save himself. But that is true of every ruler who defends their kingdom against a foreigner, whether that be Shivaji, Rana Pratap, or Laxmibai of Jhansi.

These days, it is becoming increasing common to paint one-dimensional portraits of people: “Hindu hero,” “Islamic tyrant,” “Islamic hero,” etc. But the problem with such stereotypes is that people are not monolithic — they are complex and layered. The man you hate as a Muslim bigot may also be the reason you are a Hindu today.

Was Alauddin Khilji a bigot?

The story of Alauddin Khilji shows us that we need to understand history in its entirety. Just as most Indians are unaware of Alauddin Khilji’s role in stopping many Mongol invasions, even the image of Khilji as someone who persecuted Hindus is based on an incomplete understanding of history.

To be sure, Khilji was an extremely cruel, suspicious and vindictive man, and meted out barbaric punishments to those who antagonised him. But his cruelty was impartial, and made no distinction between Hindus and Muslims.

Historians are generally agreed that while Alauddin Khilji was a cruel despot, he was not a bigot. He was a pragmatist.

Link

Monday, 3 August 2020

Shaikh Zia ur Rahman Dies. Born Hindu Brahman, Death as Great Scholar of Islam



Earlier today, on the day of Arafat, one of the greatest scholars of Islam in recent times has died. Shaikh Zia ur Rahman Azami lived in Madinah and his janazah (funeral) will be conducted at the Prophet’s ﷺ Mosque in Madinah and the burial is due to take place in Al Baqi al Gharqad.

Born “Banke Laal” to a Brahman Hindu family in India, he converted to Islam at just 18 years old against pressure from his family. His passion for learning Islam made him attend a madrasah. After graduating from the madrasah with high marks, he was accepted to study at the Islamic University of Madinah.

Shaikh Zia Ur Rahman Azami’s dedication in the field of hadith excelled him to the point where he became the Dean of the Faculty of Hadith at the Islamic University, where he had previously studied. After retiring from this role he was appointed as a teacher in the Prophet’s ﷺ Masjid in Madinah.

He authored an internationally recognised work titled “Quran Encylopedia” which classified and explained the words of the Quran in alphabetic order. The book was translated into other languages.

His greatest work was yet to come and saw him complete a task no one had done in over 1400 years of Islam.
Shaikh Zia Ur Rahman Azami compiled all of the Sahih hadith (authentic narrations from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) into a single book. He used over 200 books to compile it and when finished the compilation had 20 volumes without a single hadith repeating itself. Every hadith used was Sahih and he compiled over 16,000 hadith. The title of the book is “Al Jami’ al-Kamil fi al-Hadith al-Sahih al-Shamil”

When I met him in Ramadan 2018 he said he was motivated by questions from non-Muslims on hadith. He said non-Muslim asked him “Where is the Sunnah” and we replied that they are in this book and that book.

He pointed at his compilation as he said “Now you can hold the Quran in one hand and say ‘This is the word of Allah’ and hold this compilation in the other hand and say ‘This is the word of the Messenger of Allah'”. He explained that while he may not have captured 100% of Sahih hadith, he did get 99%.

My brother and I sat with the Shaikh for most of that night as we discussed many topics while sharing Pizza and later tea. He said Muslims needs to remove misguidance which has gripped the Muslim world today using the light of the Quran and hadith, in the same way filth is removed with clean water.

These words of the Shaikh were one of the motivating factors which lead us to launch itiba.tv

For his contributions to Islam Shaikh Zia Ur Rahman was given honorary citizenship of Saudi Arabia, an honour which is rarely granted.

Despite being born in India to a Hindu family, he made some of the greatest contributions to Islam in modern times. Now he will be buried in Baqi al Gharqad near the graves of the family and companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

We ask Allah to forgive his shortcomings and admit him to Jannah al Firdaws and to give his family sabr.

Link

Hadith of the day



The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If you are pleased with what God has (given you), you will [consider yourself rich]. If you are kind to your neighbor, you will be a believer. If you like others to have what you want for yourself, you will be a Muslim." Al-Tirmidhi

Saturday, 1 August 2020

‘Shahid’ (Witness) and ‘Mashhud’ (Witnessed) from Surah Al-Buruj

Surah Al-Burooj (The Towering Constellations) strengthened the heart of the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers by referring to the fate of those who tortured earlier believers. This video looks at Ayah 3 - 9 where Allah Azza wa Jall (Arabic: عزّ وجلّ - meaning Mighty and the Majestic; or: Glorified and Sublime be He.) talks about the Shahid (Witness) and Mashhud (Witnessed). This concept is explained with the example of trench-makers.

Various suggestions are made as to who these trench-makers were, among others, that they were those commanded to make a trench by a Jewish ruler of sixth-century Yemen in order to torture Christians, also that the passage could refer to Nimrod’s treatment of Abraham (Razi).



Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Please Fast on the day of Arafah (9 Dhul Hijjah)


Please Fast tomorrow on the day of Arafah, do a lot of Dhikr (Zikr) and Duas and Repent to Allah عزّ وجلّ‎

For more details see:

Turkey: Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia for first time in 86 years



Muslim prayers have been held in the iconic Hagia Sophia for the first time in 86 years after the reconversion of the Istanbul landmark into a mosque earlier this month.

The Friday prayers took place two weeks after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially declared the nearly 1,500-year-old monument open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled the building's conversion to a museum by modern Turkey's founding statesman in the mid-1930s was illegal.

Erdogan, accompanied by cabinet minister and other top officials, joined hundreds of worshippers inside Hagia Sophia as large crowds gathered outside.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built as a cathedral during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I in 537 but converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

It was designated a museum in a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Erdogan said last year it had been a "very big mistake" to convert it into a museum.

Critics however accuse Erdogan, who has been in power for 17 years, of playing to his nationalistic base, with support eroding amid a global economic downtown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

Towering over Istanbul's skyline, its breathtaking domes seemingly afloat, it is also one of Turkey's most popular tourist attractions, with 3.7 million visitors in 2019. 

Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Friday was "a very big day" in the city of some 18 million.

"The heart of the city, the historical peninsula, is under total lockdown since last night," she said.

In the sprawling square outside Hagia Sophia, authorities set up separate areas for men and women to worship on Friday, while more than 700 health personnel, 101 ambulances and a helicopter ambulance were available.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya asked that people to bring four items - "masks, prayer mats, patience and understanding".

Turkey pledged to keep Hagia Sophia, whose floor has been covered with a turqoise carpet, open to tourists and welcome those of all faiths. Entry will now be free, while intricate mosaics of the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus and other Christian symbols will be veiled by curtains at prayer time.

Recitation of the holy Quran will go on for the next 24 hours and the revered landmark will stay open overnight, according to state media reports.

All five prayers will henceforth also be held daily at the mosque.

"We are ending our 86 years of longing today," said one man, Sait Colak, referring to the nearly nine decades since Hagia Sophia was declared a museum and ceased to be a place of worship.

"Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia."

Aynur Saatci, another worshipper, said she was on holidays in the eastern city of Erzurum but decided to cut her holiday short in order to attend the service.

"I immediately cut my holidays short and returned to Istanbul as soon as I knew we could pray in Hagia Sophia," Saatci said. "I'm deeply moved."

The United States, the European Union, Russia and various church leaders expressed concern at the change in status, while neighbouring Greece branded the move an "open provocation to the civilised world".

The UN's cultural agency, UNESCO, said it deeply regretted Turkey's decision, which was "taken without prior dialogue".

Erdogan insisted, however, it was Turkey's "historical and sovereign right".

Koseoglu said Erdogan was expected to deliver a short speech after the prayer.

"This is a very historical moment for Turkey, especially the conservatives pro-Islamist electorate who have [long wanted] to pray inside."

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Monday, 27 July 2020

She Went to Prison for Killing Her Husband. The Pandemic Set Her Free.



On a Thursday morning in May, three days after Foroozan was freed from prison, she left her mother’s house to go to the market. It was the first time in six years that she had set foot on the streets of Herat, the capital city of a province of the same name in western Afghanistan. As she made her way through crowds of men wearing masks, she became lightheaded, as if “the world was revolving around her head.” It was nothing like how she had imagined it. “When I was in prison, I thought the outside world is heaven and those who are released, they’re on their way to heaven,” she said. But now, finally experiencing it for herself, she found it alienating and even frightening. “I thought everyone was staring at me,” she said. “Pointing their fingers toward me while whispering, as if they knew I was a prisoner, but of course it was all in my head.”

Foroozan was in the 10th grade when her family arranged for her to marry a man who was 25 years older. He was prone to violence, and for 15 years, she endured his physical and verbal abuse. One early morning, though, he directed his aggression at one of their two daughters. Foroozan grabbed a shovel and hit her husband repeatedly with the blade until he died. When she turned herself in to the police, her 12-year-old son, Maqsood, stepped forward, saying that he had helped his mother with the killing. Foroozan was charged and found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Maqsood was sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center for two and a half years, and his sisters, Mozhdah and Mahtab, 9 and 7 at the time, were sent to a safe house.

Foroozan was one of as many as 20 women incarcerated in Herat Women’s Prison for killing their husbands. Many of them had been in abusive relationships, until the instinct to survive or to protect their children drove them to kill their abusers — and they ended up in prison with lengthy sentences with little chance of an early release. I first visited the facility in 2019, and most of the women told me they felt safer and more free in prison than they had at home with their families.


Many of these inmates have since been freed, after President Ashraf Ghani ordered the release of thousands of prisoners — mostly women, juveniles and sick people — to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Eligible inmates were notified to pack their belongings and wait in the courtyard. Foroozan joined them, listening as a few names were called out. Those lucky prisoners were released, but after hours of waiting, Aalia Azizi, the prison manager, told the remaining women the bad news: “No one else is going home today, there has been a mistake.” Azizi didn’t know what the mistake was, only that she had clear instructions not to release anyone else.


The next day, the prison erupted into chaos. A group of angry inmates tried to smash through the bulletproof entrance gate and shatter the prison’s windows. The children’s playground was burned down, and a dozen inmates were hospitalized, some with serious injuries after swallowing broken glass as an act of protest. They had been promised freedom, and they were refusing to give it up. The violent demonstrations continued, and the prison, which was previously a relatively safe and peaceful sanctuary compared with the homes many inmates came from, fell into discord. Some prisoners went on hunger strikes, and others attempted suicide, all demanding their release.

Eventually the government offered a solution: If the women wanted to leave, they could buy off the remainder of their sentence with approval from the prosecutor’s office. Foroozan, desperate to reunite with her children, borrowed a little more than $1,000 from her relatives and paid her way out. She was released on May 11.


“Thanks to coronavirus, I am given a second chance to live,” Foroozan said. “To get out of the prison early and start a new life with my daughters at my side.” Mozhdah and Mahtab, who are now 15 and 13, described the last two months as the toughest period in all the years they were apart from their mother. “During the quarantine we were allowed only one phone call per month,” Mahtab said. “We couldn’t go to school, we couldn’t come home to our grandma and we couldn’t visit our mom. They had imprisoned us as well.” She cried as she spoke.


Foroozan and her daughters are together again, but the grim realities of being a woman in male-dominated Afghanistan hang over their daily lives. Inside the prison, Foroozan was able to earn a small income as a tailor, sewing dresses and repairing clothes for the guards and inmates, but in Herat she won’t be able to find a job anytime soon. The pandemic has disrupted the Afghan economy and left millions of people out of work.

The last of Foroozan’s savings went to pay a smuggler to get Maqsood out of the country after he was released from detention three years ago. He is currently in Germany, where he traveled by foot at just 14 years old after being released. In January, his asylum request was rejected by German authorities. His lawyer has appealed the case, but he could be deported back to Afghanistan when he turns 18 this year.

At her mother’s house, in between joyful moments and loud laughter with the girls, Foroozan is often dazed, lost in her thoughts, a dark world of uncertainty. Her husband’s family members have repeatedly threatened her and her children’s lives, promising revenge for his death.


One afternoon, Mahtab asked if she could go out to buy ice cream. Foroozan raised her eyebrow but bit her tongue and said yes. As Mahtab was going down the stairs, Foroozan ran after her, handing her a surgical mask: “Don’t touch your face and make it quick!” Once again, she is single-handedly protecting her children: protecting them from the virus, her merciless in-laws, a raging war and a patriarchal society that doesn’t welcome her or her daughters.

As she watched Mahtab disappear in the corridor, she whispered: “Inside the prison I had one problem. Now out here, I have a thousand.”

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