Friday, July 12, 2019

Nusrat Jahan Reminds Muslims that Religion and Culture Must be Dissociated

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
12 July 2019
Nusrat Jahan, a Muslim woman, has been a well-known face in Kolkata cinema. The ruling Trinamool congress gave her a ticket to contest parliamentary elections. Muslims voted for her overwhelmingly and consequently she was elected with a handsome margin. The majority of Muslims who voted for her had no religious issues with her although they knew that Islam prohibits women from acting in cinemas or in any other form of the entertainment industry. The conservatives always had their reservations about her but she won despite their resistance.
The tide turned when she married a Jain and that too without converting him to Islam. To make matters worse she married him according to all the Jain marriage rituals and in full view of the shutterbugs. The image of a Muslim woman dressed as a Hindu-Jain bride was perhaps too much for a section of Muslims. Those who had voted for her earlier now starting calling her a ‘traitor’. Some even started abusing her for marrying outside the religion. The Ulema, as always, proclaimed that the marriage was illegal as Muslims are not allowed to marry outside the community without the other person converting to Islam. The undertone was that she was co-habiting with a man without any social or legal sanction.
To make matters worse, Nusrat Jahan entered the parliament with sari, bangles, Sindoor and Mangalsutra to take oath as a new member of parliament. The Mullahs were quick to condemn her appearance and attire and pointed out that the articles that she was wearing were all Hindu symbols and that by doing so, she had hurt the feelings of Muslims. Some were more charitable, arguing that it was a matter of personal choice, but added in the same breadth that she was not dressed as a Muslim. Muslim women are not supposed to apply Sindoor or even wear a Mangalsutra which is a mark of being married in the Hindu tradition. As if to poke a finger in the eyes of conservative Muslims, Nusrat Jahan subsequently attended a Hindu ritual at the ISKCON temple in Kolkata which further alienated any Muslim support which she had. Writing in the Urdu daily Inquilab, its editor Shakeel Shamsi implied that she will lose next time she contests from the same constituency as Muslims will no longer vote for her.
Only time will tell whether she loses or retains her seat, but the whole episode has thrown some questions which Muslims as a community need to think about. Muslims need to answer why is it that when a Muslim woman dons the vermillion and a Mangalsutra, she is immediately condemned as being as a non-Muslim? What is this conception that there is a particular dress code for Muslim women? From where has this perception arisen in the first place? Is there a Muslim dress code in the first place? Muslims are perhaps the most diverse religious group in the world. Wherever Islam has gone, it has adapted to local cultural traditions. The cultural tradition of India is mostly Hindu so why is it a problem when Indian Muslims adopt Hindu cultural traditions. In fact, Muslims should call Hindu traditions as their own since they have been part of this cultural complex for centuries now. For many centuries, this was the received wisdom of average Muslim men and women in India.
However, today we see a conscious desire to separate from our own cultural moorings. There is an attempt to argue that religion and culture cannot be separate entities in Islam. This certainly is a new ideological construct which did not exist before. There are many Muslim regions in the world which are currently experiencing this painful process of getting alienated from their own cultural traditions. Indian Muslims are no exception; there are similar debates going on in even Indonesia and Kazakhstan.
However, this argument is fallacious and a-historical. Islam grew in a particular cultural context which was Arab. It is natural therefore that the dominant Islamic culture will lend itself to a certain Arab bias. Islam and Arab culture are so finely interwoven that it is difficult to separate the two. And that’s why within the Arab mind, there is no separation between religion and culture: they are one and the same. However, for non-Arab contexts, this becomes a huge problem. Because the more Muslim one becomes, the more one is expected to move closer to an Arab orthopraxis.  The consequence is that Indian Muslims get alienated from their own cultural contexts which start to erode the already feeble pluralism in the country. Non-Arab Muslims need to ask a simple question: If Arabs were not expected to give up their culture when they embraced Islam, why should they (the non-Arabs) be so willing to give up their cultural moorings? For example, since Islam is a proselytizing religion, Muslims have always worked towards converting people. In India, it is common that when a Hindu converts to Islam, he is immediately given a ‘Muslim’ name. Now, Muslim history itself tells us that none of the original converts to Islam changed their names. Abu Bakr, Umar and other companions of the prophet never changed their names after becoming Muslims. They had Arab names before and even after they became Muslims. No one felt any need to change their names. So why it is that non-Arab Muslims must insist that a convert’s name should be changed? Why can’t Ramesh Kumar be an acceptable Muslim name?
Names are just one facet of a cultural complex. Our dress patterns, our folk songs are all our cultural heritage and there is no need to jettison them just because one becomes a Muslim. However, this is not acceptable to the conservative Ulema who by arguing that religion and culture should be the same, are in fact fighting an ideological battle to control the minds of the Muslim community and make them appear as a separate religious and cultural entity. That is why it is not acceptable to them that Nusrat sports certain cultural markers associated with Hindu religion. But this certainly needs to be called out. By allowing the Ulema to set the agenda, Muslims are actually harming themselves in the long run.
It must be told that the Ulema are not the only ones that need to be called out. The Hindu right wing, which is currently toasting Nusrat Jahan, would have reacted very differently if the characters in the current episode had been different. Just for a minute imagine a Muslim man marrying a Hindu actress according to Muslim traditions. All hell would have broken loose and accusations of love jihad would be levelled against the man. Like the Islamists, the Hindu right wing also works overtime to weaken Indian pluralism. In their intense hatred of Muslims, these Hindu right wingers do not realise that they are like carbon-copies of the very same Islamists that they claim to oppose. 
Arshad Alam is a columnist with

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Islamists Are Themselves Responsible For Their Debacle in Egypt; They Should Introspect, Not Play Martyrdom Card

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
11 July 2019
The death of Mohammad Morsi during court trial is an indication of the state of affairs in Egypt which had seen a revolution in the Arab Spring and removal of Hosni Mubarak. The people of Egypt had hoped that they will get a government that guarantees to them their fundamental rights and they will move forward in the new democratic setup and build up a democratic society based on equality, pragmatism and scientific rationalism. But their hopes and dream came crushing down as radical Islamism and extremist politics led them to nowhere.
Whether Morsi can be declared a martyr or not and whether he was a victim of western political imperialism is another question but from a study of the developments right from the beginning of the Muslim Brotherhood government, it can be said that the Muslim Brotherhood was also responsible for the overthrow of their own government.  Even before the government, they were on a shaky ground. Mohammad Morsi was not their natural choice for Presidential election. He was declared Presidential candidate at the last moment and was always called the” astebn” (the extra tire). Muslim Brotherhood had an image of a violent and extremist group which had allegedly been involved in assassinations and attacks previously. Some of their members had joined Gamal Islamiyah, a breakaway extremist group that had staged attacks against Hosni Mubarak regime earlier. Therefore, the people of the country did not trust them and for this reason, they had to contest the elections under the banner of Freedom and Justice Party headed by Morsi.
That the rise of Islamists and hijacking of the revolution by the extremists and Islamists had disappointed a large section of the people who had dreamt of a government on moderate principles and not on hard-line religious principles was evident by the poor participation of the people in the referendum for Constitution.  Only 33 per cent of the population exercised their votes that too on such an important referendum that could determine their future, raising questions on the legitimacy of the outcome. Out of the 33 percent of the people who voted, about 66 per cent said they wanted the country to have Sharia law as its guiding force. It means a considerable section (at least 35 per cent of the 33 percent voters) wanted a secular constitution. It is important to note that majority in Cairo; the capital of Egypt opposed the Sharia based constitution.
After the Muslim Brotherhood government came to power, the religious circle created a chaotic situation with the radical rants and creating panic among the minorities particularly the Coptic Christians. Reports of attacks and abduction of Coptic Christians came in. A leader of the Nour Party demanded that the Pyramids should be demolished as they were relics and symbols of Kufr. They also alerted Israel by announcing that they will build an army to liberate Jerusalem and will establish a caliphate that would spread from Spain to Indonesia.
 Even before the elections, the Egyptian cleric Safwat had expressed his hope that “Morsi would liberate Gaza, restore the Caliphate of the "United States of the Arabs" with Jerusalem as its capital, and that "our cry shall be: 'Millions of martyrs march towards Jerusalem."
Though the constitution had laid great stress on the promotion, development and encouragement of scientific research and the maintenance of the cultural heritage of Egypt, it seemed that these programmers were relegated to the corner and the religious adventurism pushed the newly born democracy towards religious fanaticism with the aim of razing down the pyramids and the sphinx and all other cultural heritages of the country in the name of Islamic Puritanism and establishing a United Arab Islamic Caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.
This was the reason even the Nour Party which had supported Muslim Brotherhood government at the outset became its opponent later and supported the overthrow of the Morsi government. People again started demonstrating against the Morsi government and the government tried to crush the protests and criticisms not only by force but also by murder and by rape of women protesters. More than 80 women were reported to be raped or molested by the ruling party cadre at Tahrir Square. Even foreign journalists were not spared. This was contradictory to their declaration that they had accepted democracy and will welcome criticisms and peaceful protests and will guarantee the right to peaceful demonstration and assembly. This was only on paper. The reality was that they crushed the demonstrations and protests with every means that were not Islamic. All this turned the common people against the Morsi government and they supported the army for the overthrow.
The Islamists everywhere have a problem. They do not work on long term goals but are swayed by emotional religious slogans. The Morsi government should have set long term goals and had first tried to win the confidence of the people with pragmatic approach and moderate programmes. Instead, they not only antagonized the secular minded intelligentia and the people but also sent panic alerts to western imperial forces and Israel which thought Morsi government to be a threat to their country and their political and economic interests in the region. After the revolution, Egypt went Pakistan way and there is no hope in sight for political stability in the country for now. The Muslim Brotherhood is playing the martyr card telling the world that the Western countries toppled their government because they wanted to established an Islamic caliphate based on Shariah but they cannot explain why then the Salafi Nour Party is supporting the Army and why Al Sisi has become their ally if he is a Zionist and an agent of Israel. Instead of blaming Israel, they should introspect and find out their own mistakes and flaws.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for
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Monday, July 8, 2019

Editor Sultan Shahin Urges UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to Consider Jihadi Literature and Intolerance of Minorities in Muslim Countries Too As Defamation of Islam

By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
8 July 2019
Oral Statement at 41st  Session UN Human Rights Council, Geneva,  delivered on 8 July 2019
By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam 
On behalf of Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum
General Debate, Agenda item 8, Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Mr. President,
The Vienna Declaration recognizes that “every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion.” The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, last March, condemning “defamation of religion” as a human rights violation. Speaking for the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Pakistan said that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.” It called on states “to deny impunity” for those exhibiting intolerance of ethnic and religious minorities, and “to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs.”
However, Mr. President, news reports often emanate from Islamic countries, particularly Pakistan, of intolerance of and disrespect for minority religious beliefs. We also see free publication and distribution of Jihadi literature associating Islam with and indeed promoting human rights violations and extremist violence. Even school and madrasa text books are not free from extremist and exclusivist teachings, asking Muslims to stay away from religious and cultural celebrations of other religious communities. Pakistan’s notorious anti-blasphemy laws ensure that members of religious minorities are either lynched by mobs or awarded death sentences on mere accusations of blasphemy. The case of a Christian lady Aasia Bibi, mercifully out of the country now, has brought this issue to world’s attention. Ahmadiya Muslims are officially excluded from Islam and even debarred from claiming to be Muslim in any way. Like non-Muslim minorities, they too suffer indignities of various kinds in their daily life. Hundreds of young Hindu girls are routinely abducted and forcibly converted to Islam and raped in the name of marriage.
While this resolution seeks to protect Islam from defamation through any association with terrorism, the religion is routinely defamed in Muslim countries by publication of literature justifying violence against non-Muslim civilians. The very title of a long essay in the Taliban mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad was: ‘Circumstances in which the killing of innocent people among infidels is justified.’
I would, therefore, urge the Council to ask the Muslim countries to treat intolerance of minorities and Jihadi literature too as defaming the religion of Islam.
But it’s important to look at the issue in some detail.
In the essay referred to above, a Taliban scholar Sheikh Yousuf Al-Abeeri justifies the 9/11 attacks on American people and institutions by saying things that would definitely amount to defaming Islam which the OIC is now seeking to ban. Al-Abeeri says that Islam supports indiscriminate killing of Innocent civilians under special circumstances. He talks of the Islamic permissibility of “brutal and mass killing of the enemy.”  Starting from the “lawfulness of burning the enemy” and “opening the dams of rivers and lakes” to drown the inmates of a fort or besieged town, launching mortar attack, the fatwa goes on to justify “releasing snakes and scorpions on the enemy even if non-combatant women and children are also present.” Then it argues, “the lawfulness of these measures including ‘demolishing their buildings, spreading poison and smoke,” if it is not possible to capture or dominate them without resorting to these practices”. Having thus “established” the justification of a terror attack against civilians, the Taliban scholar then goes on to justify the destruction of American cities and questions the “sanity of any Muslim who declares killing the Americans in New York and Washington as unlawful.”
These arguments are made quoting several reputed medieval jurists of the stature of Imam Nawawi, Allama Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdīsī, Imām al-Bayhaqi and Al-Sahihain. (Al-Sahihain refers to Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih al-Muslim, the two books of Ahadith, considered the most authentic sources of Islamic faith after the holy Qur'an).
 Taliban scholar Al-Abeeri concludes: “Therefore, given the arguments from Shariah, it can be said that whoever said that killing the Americans in New York and Washington is unlawful actually shoots in the dark. He is saying this in ignorance. Killing the enemy by burning or drowning, destroying or damaging buildings to capture them or terrifying the enemy are the points on which the majority of scholars of Islam agree. This practice was followed by the holy companions of the Prophet. How can then someone who is blind in the love of the Americans question something which is authenticated by the Quran and the Hadith.”  (Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad, January 2013)
Taliban’s tirade against Islam continues in its mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad month after month. The essay referred to above had appeared in parts for eight months in 2013. In the latest issue the Taliban mouthpiece (March 2019), has published an article by Taliban scholar Sameer Khan Shaheed titled “Markazi Nukta (Central Point) which says: “In Saudi Arabia's view, Jihad against the Soviet Union was purely Islamic. When the same Jihad is waged against America, it is wrong in their eyes. We announce disassociation from those who consider Jihad a means to please America. As a matter of fact, Jihad will remain Farz-e-Ain (compulsory act for all individual Muslims in all conditions) unless the United States and its apostate allies leave the Islamic land. And in addition to the apostates of the land, those tawaghoot (oppressors) are also included in its allies, who are engaged in making the rich richer, and the poor poorer, and also those who aggressively oppose Muslims who are seeking to establish the system of Tauheed (Oneness of God) and change the rules set by Allah according to their own wishes” (Nawa e Afghan Jihad, March 2019, p.66)
Later in the article, Sameer Khan quotes Abdullah Azzam, considered the ideological mentor of Osama bin Laden as saying, “During my stay in Afghanistan, I realized that Tauheed could not enter into the human spirit peacefully, nor can it become as strong and powerful as in the field of Jihad. I mean to say that the work of Tauheed is done by means of sword, and not by reading books and gaining knowledge related to aqaid(creeds)” (Nawa e Afghan Jihad, March 2019, Markazi Nukta by Sameer Khan, p.61)
In another Jihadi publication widely distributed in Pakistan, Masood Azhar, the leader of terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed, recently listed as terrorist by the UN, writes, in his book “The Virtues of Jihad," “Fellow Muslims! We cannot appeal to the unbelievers to assist us; we have to understand that the annihilation of Muslims is their main purpose and mission; they are overjoyed upon seeing the free flow of Muslim blood. The real sorrow is that there is no value of a Muslim life in another Muslim’s sight. The oppressed Muslims are looked upon by other Muslims with hatred and insignificance. When we have reached this stage of indifference, then why should we expect the Muslim blood to be of any worth? It can be said that the value of this blood is even less than water. The Muslims have generally looked upon the persecution and oppression of their neighbouring Muslim communities with the view that it did not affect them and that their fate was safe. They have witnessed the torture and murder of countless innocent civilians and remained unaffected by the humiliation which their mothers and sisters were continually subjected to. The Muslim spectator of this carnage feared even to offer verbal support in case he would offend his masters and risk his worldly status.
“The Muslims should urgently rectify their situation and they should put the fire out before it reaches their homes and accept the Muslim’s issues as their very own and try to feel their pain. We should never make mockery of the oppressed but instead should fight shoulder to shoulder against unbelievers avenging the death of each and every Muslim” (Masood Azhar, The Virtues of Jihad, p. 132-133)
In a book in Urdu titled “Yahud ki Chalees Beemariyan” (Forty Diseases of Jews, available in pdf on, Masood Azhar thoroughly demonises the Jewish community whose scriptures Muslims have been asked by Quran to believe in as God’s own commandments (Quran 4:162-163, and several other verses), and many of whose prophets have been referred to in Quran by name as prophets sent by God. Speaking of the significance of this book, another Jihadi scholar Abu Lubaba writes in its Introduction, “The way the Quran condemns the Jews and the Prophet has advised the believers to avoid their evil attitudes, and the way the books of Prophet’s biography (seerat) mentions hatred of Jews towards Islam and our dear prophet Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him); having studied all this, Muslims should have abstained from the practices of this ‘condemned and hateful nation.’ Despite the Jews being complete Fitna (mischief), Dajjal (Devil) and deceitful, Muslims are associated with them. Muslims have started believing their practices to be good and worth imitating. Having neglected the blessed ways of the Prophet, they have adopted their (Jews’) filthy and nonsensical customs and profiles,” (“Masood Azhar, Yahud Ki Chalees Bimariyan (Forty Diseases of Jews), Introduction by Abu Lubabah)
In a bid to promote exclusivism among Muslims, religious schools and seminaries around the world quote the following fatwa of revered 13th—-14th century scholar Ibn-e-Taimiya, which was also quoted recently by ISIS publication ‘Rumiya’ in its 6th issue:
“The Ruling of Those Who Celebrate Mushrik (polytheistic) Festivities
“Ibn Taymiyyah was asked about a Muslim who prepares food like the Christians do for New Year’s, or other times like the Feast of the Baptism, Christmas, Lentil Thursday (“Holy Thursday”), or the Sabbath of Light (“Holy Saturday”), and about one who sells something to them for their celebrations -- is it permissible for Muslims to do so or not?
“He answered, saying, “All praise is due to Allah. Regarding their celebrations, it is not permissible for Muslims to resemble them (Christians and Jews) in anything: not in their food, their clothing, their bathing, their lighting of candles, the abandoning of one’s work or worship, or otherwise. It not permissible to prepare a meal or give gifts, nor to sell that which assists them in doing any of that, nor to allow children or others to play games specific to these celebrations, nor to dress up [for them]. Overall, Muslims must not give special consideration to [kafir] celebrations at all. Rather, those days of festivity should be – to the Muslims – just like any other day.
“A Muslim’s intentionally giving consideration to one of these days [by doing something special without actually intending to celebrate the occasion itself] was disliked by groups of the Salaf(early Islam) and the Khalaf (later Islam). As for his specifically doing anything of what was mentioned above [in celebration of the occasion], then there is no dispute about it amongst the scholars. Rather, some scholars opine that whoever does such things has committed kufr (act of unbelief), since doing so involves holding the religious activities of kufr in esteem. Others have said that whoever slaughters a ram on a day of their celebrations, it is as if he slaughtered a pig.” (ISIS’s magazine, Rumiyah, 6th issue, p.16)
But while the Jihadis are free in Pakistan to demonise Islam and Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), by saying the kind of things quoted above, the regular journalists are not free to express dissent of any kind. As Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said on the International Press Freedom Day this year, "There is an undeclared censorship in Pakistan. The space for democratic rights has dangerously shrunk, the media and the right to freedom of expression are under siege. Journalists are under attack both from state and non-state actors. Of the 26 journalists murdered between 2013 and 2018, only 16 cases proceeded to court, trials were only completed in six cases and only one conviction was awarded by a lower court. But none were punished as the sole conviction was also overturned.” Even the brutal lynching and murder of a 23-year-old journalism student, Mashal Khan, has not brought the slightest change in Pakistan’s attitude towards its harsh blasphemy laws.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Zaira Wasim: Indian Film Industry’s Work Environment ‘Consistently Interfered With My Iman (Faith)’

By Zaira Wasim
30 June, 2019
National Award-winning actor Zaira Wasim announced her decision to disassociate from Bollywood and a career in acting Sunday, saying that the lifestyle had taken her away from her faith and towards a ‘path of ignorance.’
In a detailed post on her Facebook page and other social media platforms, the 18-year-old Kashmiri-born star of Dangal fame said that the Indian film industry’s work environment “consistently interfered with my Iman (faith)” and threatened her relationship with her religion.
Five years ago I made a decision that changed my life forever. As I stepped my foot in Bollywood, it opened doors of massive popularity for me. I started to become the prime candidate of public attention; I was projected as the gospel of the idea of success and was often identified as a role model for the youth. However, that’s never something that I set out to do or become, especially with regards to my ideas of success and failure, which I had just started to explore and understand.
As I complete 5 years today, I want to confess that I am not truly happy with this identity i.e my line of work. For a very long time now it has felt like I have struggled to become someone else. As I had just started to explore and make sense of the things to which I dedicated my time, efforts and emotions and tried to grab hold of a new lifestyle, it was only for me to realise that though I may fit here perfectly, I do not belong here. This field indeed brought a lot of love, support, and applause my way, but what it also did was to lead me to a path of ignorance, as I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of Iman.
While I continued to work in an environment that consistently interfered with my Imaan, my relationship with my religion was threatened. As I continued to ignorantly pass through while I kept trying to convince myself that what I was doing is okay and isn’t really affecting me, I lost all the Barakah from my life. Barakat is word whose meaning isn’t just confined to happiness, quantity or blessing, it also focuses on the idea of stability, which is something I struggled with extensively.
I was constantly battling with my soul to reconcile my thoughts and instincts to fix a static picture of my Imaan and I failed miserably, not just once but a hundred times. No matter how hard I tried to wrestle to firm my decision, I ended up being the same person with a motive that one day I will change and I will change soon. I kept procrastinating by tricking and deluding my conscience into the idea that I know what I am doing doesn’t feel right but assumed that I will put an end to this whenever the time feels right and I continued to put myself in a vulnerable position where it was always so easy to succumb to the environment that damaged my peace, iman and my relationship with Allah. I continued to observe things and twist my perceptions as I wanted them to be, without really understanding that the key is to see them as they are. I kept trying to escape but somehow I always ended up hitting a dead end, in an endless loop with a missing element that kept torturing me with a longing I was neither able to make sense of nor satisfy. Until I decided to confront my weakness and began to strive and correct my lack of knowledge and understanding by attaching my heart with the words of Allah. In the great and divine wisdom of the Quran, I found sufficiency and peace. Indeed the hearts find peace when it acquires the knowledge of Its Creator, His Attributes, His Mercy and His commandments.
I began to heavily rely upon Allah’s mercy for my help and guidance instead of valuing my own believability. I discovered my lack of knowledge of the basic fundamentals of my religion and how my inability to reinforce a change earlier was a result of confusing my heart’s contentment and well being with strengthening and satisfying my own (shallow and worldly) desires. I discovered my disease of doubt & error that my heart was afflicted with- There are 2 types of diseases that attack the heart, one; DOUBT and Error and the second; LUST and Desire. Both are mentioned in the Quran.
Allah says,
 “In their hearts is a disease (of doubt & hypocrisy) and Allah increased their disease. [Quran 2:10].
And I realized the remedy to this could only be attained through the guidance of Allah and indeed Allah guided my path when I lost my way.
Quran and the guidance of Allah’s messenger (PBUH) became the weighing factor in my decision making and reasoning and it has changed my approach to life and it’s meaning.
Our desires are a reflection of our morals; our values are an externalization of our internal integrity. Similarly, our relationship with the Quran and Sunnah defines and sets the tone of our relationship with Allah and our religion, our ambitions, purpose and the meaning of life. I carefully questioned the deepest sources of my ideas of success, meaning and the purpose of my life. The source code that governed and impacted my perceptions evolved into a different dimension. Success isn’t correlated with our biased, delusional and conventional shallow measures of life. Success is the accomplishment of the purpose of our creation. We have forgotten the purpose we were created for as we ignorantly continue to pass through our lives; deceiving our conscience.
 “And That the hearts of those who don’t believe in the hereafter, may incline to it (the deception) and that they may be well pleased with it and that they may earn what they are going to earn, (and it’ll be evil). [Quran 6:113]
Our purpose, our righteousness or terribleness isn’t defined by our selfish consumption; it isn’t equated by the worldly measures. Allah says,
 “I swear (by Al-Asr) by time (that’s running out). Verily, man is drowning in great loss, with the exception of (a few) those who believe, do good deeds and call on another to the way of truth and counsel one another to patience and perseverance. [Quran 103]
This journey has been exhausting, to battle my soul for so long. Life is too short yet too long to be at war with oneself. Therefore, today I arrive at this well-grounded decision and I officially declare my disassociation with this field. The success of the journey is dependent on how you take the first step and the reason why I am openly doing so is not to paint a holier picture of myself but this is the least I can do to start afresh and this is just my first step as I have arrived at the clarity of realisation of the path I wish to be on and strive for and during this time I may have consciously or unconsciously planted a seed of temptation in the hearts of many but my sincere advice to everyone is that no amount of success, fame, authority or wealth is worth trading or losing your peace or the light of your Imaan for. Strive not to surrender to your desires for desires are infinite and always leap out ahead of whatever has just been achieved. Do not deceive yourself or become deluded and find believability in the self assured biased narratives of the principles of Deen-where one conceals the truth while knowing it or where one picks and chooses to accept only what suits his situation or desires the best. Sometimes we have deep flaw in our Imaan and we often cover it up with words and philosophies. What we say is not in our hearts and we seek every manner of excuse for clinging to it and indeed He is aware of the contradictions, He is aware of all the thoughts unspoken for He is All-Hearing (As-Sami), the All-Seeing (Al-Baseer), and the All-Knowing (Al-Aleem).
 “And Allah knows what you conceal and what you reveal”. [Quran 16:19].
Instead of valuing your own deceptive conviction, make genuine efforts to strive and discover and understand the truth yourself with a heart full of faith and sincerity.
“O you who have believed, if you are conscious of Allah, He will give you the ability to distinguish right from wrong”. (Quran 8:29).
Don’t look for role models or measures of success in the displeasure of Allah and the transgressions of His commandments. Do not allow such people to influence your choices in life or dictate your goals or ambitions. The Prophet said, “A person will be (raised on the day of Judgement) with whom he loves.” And do not become arrogant to seek advice from the better informed but position yourself away from your ego and arrogance and rely only on Allah’s guidance, indeed only He is the turner of the hearts and the ones He guides, none can lead astray. Not everyone has the conscience or the conscious to recognise what we need to know or change and hence, it is not for us to judge, abuse, belittle or mock such people. It is our responsibility to make a positive impact by reinforcing the correct understanding by reminding each other.
 “And remind, for indeed the reminder benefits the believers” (Quran 51:55).
And we must do so not by ramming facts down each other’s throats by abuse or hostile behaviour or through violent disapprovals but it can only be done through kindness and mercy that we can affect the people around us. [If you see that one of you has slipped, correct him, pray for him and do not help the Shaytan against him by insulting or mocking him- Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab].
But before we do that we must remember to exemplify Islam and it’s understanding ourselves in our knowledge and in our hearts, actions, intentions and behaviour and then use it to benefit the ones lack grasp on the fundamentals of the religion in terms of understanding, beliefs and manners. And remember that when you will start your journey or to find your ground in His Commandments- you are going face hardships, resistance, ridicule or discomfort from others and sometimes it can come from people who you love and are the closest to you. Sometimes it can be because of how you have been acting previously or have acted all your life, but do not let it discourage you or lead you to lose hope in Allah’s mercy and guidance- for He is Al-Hādīy (The Guide). Do not let your previous actions stop you from seeking repentance; know that He is Al-Ghaffaar (The repeatedly forgiving).
 Truly, Allah loves those who turn unto Him in repentance and loves those who purify themselves. [Quran, 2:222].
Do not let the judgement, ridicule, abuse, words or fear of people take you off from the path you wish to be on or stop you from expressing yourself to the fullest, remember He is Al-Walīy the helper. Do not let the worry of tomorrow get in your way to reassess your life, for he is Ar-Ražzaq (The Provider).
It can be a tough, complicated and sometimes an unimaginably lonely path, especially in today’s time but remember the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “There will come upon the people a time when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot coal.”
May Allah guide our boats to find its shore and help us to distinguish between truth and deception. May Allah makes us strengthen us in our Imaan and make us amongst the ones who engage in His remembrance and make our hearts firm and help us to remain steadfast. May Allah give us a better understanding of His wisdom and allow us to exhibit our efforts to alleviate doubt and error at individual levels and guide each other. May Allah cleanse our hearts from hypocrisy, arrogance and ignorance and rectify our intentions and grant us sincerity in speech and in our deeds. Ameen
Source: The Print

Friendship and Brotherhood in Islam

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam
02 July 2019
Significance of friendship can be gauged from the fact that it is always the result of good conduct, while enmity is that of bad conduct. Good conduct leads one to create love for one another and bad conduct results into hatred, envy and enmity. The impact of good conduct is so comprehensive that not only does it bring its holder in proximity with God but it is also helpful to create social harmony, peace and friendship. God Almighty praised His Prophet’s conduct in His Book,
“You are certainly upon a sublime character” (68:4)
Overwhelming majority of people will enter into Paradise on the basis of their God-fearing and good conduct. It is reported that once some companions asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), what good attribute has been given to man? He said, “Good conduct”. He also said, “I have been sent to perfect good conduct”. According to a Hadith report, “the hell-fire will not be able to burn one whose character and constitution are beautiful”.    
The Prophet is reported to have said, “O Abu Hurairah, you should take to good conduct. Abu Hurairah asked: O Messenger of God, what is good conduct? He said, ‘Keep the tie of relationship with one who cuts it off, forgive one who oppresses you, give charity to one who deprives you.”
Creating friendship and brotherhood is a part of good conduct. At various places in the Quran, God Almighty has commanded to establish it. In one of the verses, He says,
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided” (3:103)
This divine verse asks the believers to remember unity and brotherhood as favour of God and condemns separation and disunity.
Friendship and brotherhood as a divine favour was also repeatedly encouraged by the Prophet. There are some reports according to which, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “One who is the best of you in good conduct is nearest to me”, “A believer loves and is loved. There is no good in one who does love and is not loved”. Praising brotherhood among Muslims, he said, “God gives a friend to one whose conduct is good”, “if two brothers meet with each with other, they are like two hands one of which clear the dust of the other. If two believers meet with each other, God gives benefit to one from another.” If a person establishes brotherhood and friendship for the sake of God, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “God will increase his rank in Paradise and will not reduce anything from his actions”. He also said, “God says, ‘My meeting becomes sure for those who meet one another for me. My love becomes sure for those who love one another for Me. My help becomes sure for those who help one another for Me”.
Hazrat Fuzail said in one of his sermons, “It is strange that you wish to live in the Paradise of Firdaus and in the neighbour-hood of the Merciful with Prophets, martyrs, the truthful and pious men. But what actions you have done for it, what passions you have given up for it, what tie of relationship you have united after it was severed, what faults of your brother you have forgiven, and what distant persons you have brought near for God”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Those people among you are dearest to God, who love and are loved, and those people among you are objects of greatest hatred of God who roam with slanders and create disputes among brethren”.
Friendship and brotherhood, if established for the sake of God, are true and successful. If they are meant only for materialistic and opportunistic reasons, they will not fall under the domain and application of friendship. Friendship and brother, if done for God’s sake, create truth, honesty, genuine feeling of respect and harmony and thus the people are able to maintain peace, forgiveness and patience even in times of adversity.

Why Zaira Wasim Quitting her Career Cannot be A Matter of Choice

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
05 July 2019
How should we look at Zaira Wasim’s exit from Bollywood? Wasim’s a very talented actress hailing from the valley. For many she was an inspiration not just in Kashmir but throughout the South Asian Muslim world. Her sudden decision to quit the film industry has left many bewildered and searching for answers. Many have said that it might be a publicity stunt before the release of another of her film. If that is the case, then she cannot be faulted as most major artistes in Mumbai have done it. However, the reiteration of her decision the very next day does indicate that she is serious about quitting the industry.
It is quite possible that this might be the rambling of a young adult not knowing how to negotiate with a new world. But we must remember that she has been negotiating such structures since the age of thirteen and therefore the thesis that her Facebook post might be a sudden burst of immaturity should also be put to rest. One can only come to the conclusion that what she wrote was well thought out and that she must have taken some time to come to the decision which she eventually took.

Zaira Wasim

Probably the best way to understand the motive behind her decision is to look more carefully at what she has written in her long Facebook post. Zaira did find lot of ‘love and support’ from her fellow travellers but then she states that she was ‘ignorant’ during this phase of her life. It must be underlined that the word ‘ignorance’ has special meaning in Islam which tells us that true happiness and enlightenment is only possible by treading on the path decreed by Allah. She highlights that there are two types of ‘diseases’ which afflict the heart: doubt and desire. It almost seems that she had started doubting the path of Allah and that various doubts crept up during this phase of her life. Rather than understanding doubt as a creative force, she decides to snub it altogether by announcing that there is ‘nothing greater than faith’ and that we should ‘not forget what we were created for’. Of course, her Islam told her that we were created for the express purpose of worshipping Allah and that everything else was secondary to this fundamental act of subservience which every Muslim must pursue. No wonder then that she realised that being in the industry that she was, her relationship with her Islam was threatened.      
Many have argued that this is her personal choice and that it should be respected. Really? Since when has religion become a matter of personal choice? All religions make demands from their followers; they make claims about the world and its creations and they fundamentally re-order the world around us. Religion, including Islam, is deeply political. And yet, there are people celebrating Zaira conversion as a personal choice. One does not have to be a feminist to understand the age old slogan that personal is political. It is rather disturbing that the same set of feminists is no longer using their feminist lens to analyse this problem.
Zaira’s decision must also be debated particularly within the Muslim circles because ultimately she has called Islam into question. Is this the kind of Islam we want? Is Islam intrinsically anti-women? After all, there have been many Muslim men working in the film industry but they never thought that their ‘line of work’ interfered with their faith. Why is it that this special sense of confusion, anxiety and resignation only reserved for women? Zaira’s post has only confirmed what many have started believing to be the essence of Islam: a religion which is orthodox, regressive and patently anti-women. The congratulatory comments in their hundreds which have been posted on Zaira’s wall only testify to the fact that hundreds of Muslim men and women are extremely happy with her decision. They simultaneously prove that these Muslim men do not want Muslim women to have any agency of their own; rather all their masculinity is spent thinking about ways in which they could domesticate them. And of course, it seems very clear that Islam gives them all the help that they require.
It is quite possible that Zaira was pressured into thinking that Islam forbids women to work in certain industries. Worse still, there are interpretations which suggest that Muslim women should not move out of their homes at all. This then is a telling commentary on the state of affairs within Muslim society. The collective conscience of Muslim society exerts pressure on individuals and some of them cannot resist it. This is then the problem of so called Islamic morality by which Muslim society lives today. There is very little space for individual dissent and those who chart out a somewhat different path have to bear the burden of near ostracism from society. Zaira’s choice therefore cannot be understood as just a personal choice made out of her free will. Rather we have to take a complex view as to how this choice came to be executed and understand how a new Islamist religious self is interwoven in this so called choice.
The Urdu press has made matters worse by arguing that many Hindu actors have also quit for ‘religious’ reasons. In this kind of a skewed understanding, Zaira’s case is being blown out of proportion with the express intention of giving a bad name to Islam. Those opposing Zaira Wasim are all necessarily right wing Islamophobes. This kind of framing of the problem does not help the Muslim community. This is not the time to compare her decision with that of Vinod Khanna or some other Hindu women actor. We live in times where there can be no comparison between Hindus and Muslims. One Hindu actor deciding to quit does not affect the prospects of that community. Hindus are a developed community as compared to Muslims. The ideas of social and religious reform run deep into this community. Muslims entered the modern age by opposing modern education while Hindus embraced it. Muslims are not at par with Hindus in any of the developmental parameters. And that’s why one Muslim Zaira quitting a promising career calls for a deeper introspection from within the community.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with

Quran's Blasphemy Law Is Not One Sided; It Calls For Mutual Respect for Religions

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
04 July 2019
Its curtains for Aasia Bibi blasphemy case of Pakistan. She had to leave her beloved motherland Pakistan despite the highest court of the country adjudicating in her favour. The charges of blasphemy against her were found baseless. Even then extremist sections of Pakistan insisted that she was guilty and so she should no be allowed to leave the country so that she could be killed extra-judicially. They even called for the killing of the judges and revolt in the army and the government. These forces do not believe in any government or law process. They have their own interpretations of Quran and Hadith.
Aasia Bibi controversy was the result of a petty fight among poor illiterate women working as helpers in a garden in their village. She is a Christian woman who worked with Muslim women of her locality for a living. Hers was the only Christian family living with Muslims. The illiterate Muslim women had a quarrel with her over the water bowl kept in the garden. They were unhappy that Aasia being a Christian used the bowl to drink water. And the quarrel turned into a religious debate as the Muslim women with little knowledge of their own religion started speaking ill of Christianity and prophet Jesus (AS) not knowing that Quran held Jesus (AS) in equal esteem with other prophets and vilifying the religion of others is a sin in the eyes of the Quran. To defend her religion and her prophet Aasia retorted back which came under blasphemy. This should have been ignored as a quarrel between illiterate and ignorant women in a village garden but was reported to the religious circle which made it a religious issue that culminated in the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer because he had defended Aasia Bibi and called the so-called blasphemy law Black Law.
The Quran does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy. Instead it advises Muslims to practice restraint over blasphemy:
" and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs." (Al-e-Imran: 186)
The Quran also forbids Muslims from vilifying the gods or deities of others so that they do not say anything blasphemous against the religion of Muslims in retaliation.
“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance.”(Al Anam: 108)
The logic of the Quran is that if Muslims speak Ill of the deities or gods or goddesses of others they will also speak Ill about God of Muslims and about their religious icons in retaliation .This will create bad blood between the followers of other religions and Muslims. The Quran even says that if the polytheists and the people of the Book speak Ill about the religious personalities or Book of Muslims unprovoked, Muslims should observe restraint.
Therefore the verse in Surah Al Anam (108) declares speaking Ill of the deities of polytheists and religious icons of the People of the Book a sin. This makes it clear that the Quran not only asks Muslims not to speak Ill of others' religion but also asks them to observe patience and restraint over provoked blasphemy against them. In view of the Quran's position, the Muslim women who provoked Aasia by vilifying her religion and prophet should have been held guilty as they first violated the injunctions of the Quran. Being a member of the minority community and being the only. Christian family in the village Aasia could not have put her life in dander by saying against the holy Prophet of Muslims without provocation. More importantly, the allegations could not be proved and the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared her innocent. It is also a fact that the Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan are grossly misused in Pakistan and even Muslims accuse Muslims of blasphemy in a majority of cases and most of the times the allegations do not stand in the courts of law.
Aasia was a victim of lopsided judicial system which is based on anti minority bias though Quran and Hadith guarantee the minority equal religious rights and safeguard their religious beliefs from blasphemy by Muslims. Any case relating to blasphemy should also consider Surah Al Anam (108) to ascertain whether there was provocation and violation of the Quranic injunction? Quran does not give Muslims the freedom to villify the religion of the polytheists and the People of the Book.
S. Arshad is a regular columnist for