Monday, 20 March 2023

Hadith: Good Neighbours


The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "By God, he does not believe!..." When asked who he was referring to, the Prophet replied: "That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his (or her) evil." Sahih Al-Bukhari 

Friday, 10 March 2023

India: Why Muslim women are at risk of losing it all


Amid the desk-thumping cheers of the lower house of the Indian parliament, detrimental decisions were rattled off as part of the 2023 budget process this month, marking yet another step towards disempowering Muslims in the country. This is the same house where the ruling right-wing government often fashions itself as the messiah of Muslim women, even as they endure a potentially devastating assault on their social, economic and political rights.

Amongst myriad cuts to budgets affecting minorities and women, the government has cut funding to help students from minority communities pass preliminary exams, while slashing the budget for madrassas.

From the right to choose what to wear, to the right to education and work, Indian Muslim women are at risk of losing it all

From the right to choose what to wear, to the right to education and work, Indian Muslim women are at risk of losing it all. Yet, despite this urgency, the public outcry is not nearly as pronounced as it should be.

Ongoing global debates around the right to education (in the context of Afghanistan) and the freedom to choose how to dress (in the context of Iran) have comfortably ignored Indian Muslim women - and this is hardly a new phenomenon.

Backlash against the Taliban, one would like to believe, stems from their clear negation of women’s rights. Yet, much of the international outcry actually stems from the legacy of US military intervention in Afghanistan and the Orientalist inclination to “save” Muslim women.

Along the same lines, the leader of India’s right-wing government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, insists that he has “freed” Muslim women. But Muslim women - fearless and with their fists raised - would disagree.

She stood alone, fearless and veiled head-to-toe, heckled by men in saffron scarves. This is how Muskan Khan, the “poster girl” for last year’s hijab-ban protests in the Indian state of Karnataka, subverted the stereotypical representation of a Muslim woman in the Indian imagination.

She was educated and indomitable, a subversion of the essentialised label of victimhood accorded to Indian Muslim women that is often incorrectly blamed exclusively on Muslim men. A year later, women like Muskan are facing the brunt of the Indian state’s harmful legislation, as well as a climate of violence and intimidation.

Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani was among many admirers of the newly released budget, which she praised for its focus on “inclusive development”. Ironically, the government has significantly slashed the budget of the ministry she heads - and the scale of these cuts is hard to ignore.

For minority educational empowerment, the budget allocation has been reduced from Rs 2,515 crores ($304m) to Rs 1,689 crores ($204.5m). The allocation for skills development and livelihoods was cut by 99 percent, while incentives for free coaching and other allied schemes were reduced by around 60 percent.

Indian Muslims have been fashioned within the Indian nation-state through a legacy and language of violence

This follows a trend that started last year. In December, the government discontinued the Maulana Azad National Fellowship, a scholarship for students from minority communities pursuing higher education. The fellowship was initially implemented more than a decade ago upon the recommendations of the Sachar committee, which highlighted the abysmal state of social, economic and educational conditions for Muslims in India.

Such steps are incongruous with government data. Indian Muslims continue to have relatively low access to education, particularly with regards to higher education, where enrolment numbers for Muslim students have been on the decline. Muslim students also tend to rely more on government institutions than non-Muslims. With little-to-no government support, students from Muslim communities will find it increasingly difficult to access education.

Interestingly, the enrolment of Muslim women in higher education has been growing in proportion to that of Muslim men. But this discouraging package of legislation is set to undo these strides, compounding the disadvantageous position that Muslim women in India occupy within the matrix of their religious, gender and class identities.

The ruling government insists that Muslim women “feel safe” under the BJP, and in justifying the hijab ban, it asserted that “misguided” Muslim women need to be brought into the “mainstream of education”.

If this is the case, why are Muslim women dropping out of colleges in Karnataka? A recent report by the Karnataka branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties found that more than 1,000 female Muslim students dropped out of schools in five districts during the hijab row.

The fallout of anti-Muslim legislation is not restricted to Muslims from economically underprivileged backgrounds; there is also an ongoing exodus of urban Muslims. Many young Muslims, especially women, are finding that safe public spaces are disappearing for them. Muslim women have been targeted through sexist mock “auctions”, while also facing significant hiring biases.

This wholesale assault is a recipe to intimidate and disempower Muslim women in India, buttressed by a culture of communalised rhetoric, in which convicted rapists are prematurely released and go on to receive a hero’s welcome. A language of intimidation, along with open calls for violence against Muslim women, are being normalised by mainstream news media, popular culture and vigilante internet trolls. Hate is being manufactured here.

The tepid reactions to this urgent crisis show that the foundations from which this project draws its strength are not new. Indian Muslims have been fashioned within the Indian nation-state through a legacy and language of violence, wherein Muslim women exist only as victims who need to be saved from violent Muslim men, or as sexualised objects on which wars of religious nationalism are to be played out.

In videos about the Karnataka hijab controversy, while Muslim teachers had to remove their veils before entering schools and Muslim students who refused to do so were sent home, the only woman allowed to exist on her own terms was a teacher imposing “discipline”. She wore a sari and a bindi - the only acceptable image of an “Indian” woman in the populist imagination. 


Thursday, 9 March 2023

Sha`ban Fasting: Any Specific Days?


No doubt that Muslims are urged to strive hard in getting close to Allah with all forms of acts of worship; they should take that as a top priority. However, they are instructed that whatever they do, they should not deviate from the teachings and principles set by the noble Prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He has set for us a shinning model that we should follow in order to keep firm on the right path. Therefore it’s very important for a committed Muslim to make sure that his acts of worship have basis both in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). In this regard, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al- Qaradawi states: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was keen on fasting in the month of Sha`ban more than he was in other months. `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) never fasted for a whole month except in Ramadan. This refutes what some people do; observing fast for three consecutive months: Rajab, Sha`ban and Ramadan, followed by six days of Shawwal . That is, they start fasting at the beginning of Rajab until the seventh of Shawwal, leaving nothing but the Day of `Eidul-Fitr.

 Neither the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) nor his Companions or even their successors were reported to have done so. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to fast some days of every month. `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sometimes would observe fasting continuously, to the extent that his Companions thought he would never break fast, and in other times he would refrain from fasting to the extent that they thought he would never fast again. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) usually observed fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and three days of each month (the 13th , 14th and 15th). He sometimes used to fast every alternate day, following the pattern of Prophet Dawud (peace be upon him). He even made this clear: “The best way of fasting in Allah’s sight is that of Dawud, who used to observe fasting every alternate day.” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to observe fasting in Sha`ban more than he did in other months. This was a kind of self-preparation for the coming of Ramadan; that is, to act as some sort of girding oneself for Ramadan. But there are no textual evidence that there are specific days in Sha`ban in which fasting is commendable. It is, by and large, impermissible for one to prefer certain days to observe voluntary fasting or certain nights to perform Night Prayers, lacking any juristic basis for that action. Religious acts are not left for man’s whims. Rather, they are subject to Divine legislation. Thus, specifying certain times and places for worship and the description of different acts of worship are the matters of the Divine, not that of human.

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