MJ AKBAR is a prolific Indian author and journalist. His most recent book is ‘Tinderbox: The past and future of Pakistan’. In an exclusive interview with Inam Abidi Amrohvi, Muslims Today, Akbar speaks on issues that plague the Indian Muslims.
Education has been the bane of Indian Muslims. Has the situation improved both in terms of the infrastructure and mindset?
Yes, and I feel education begins with the mindset. I noticed this in the 1990s, after the high tension of the Babri Masjid episode. I think there was a very strong sense, within the Muslim community of India, of having being let down by politicians who created a hype which led to a high spurt of emotionalism. The community in particular felt abandoned mainly after the Congress government promised to protect the mosque and then quietly went to sleep on the day of the demolition.
I feel there come crisis points in the lives of people which wakes them up. There was a crisis point for example, in 1991, when the economy was hit in India. Similarly, the mosque demolition, too, made Indian Muslims realise that the future lay not in the politics of manipulation (what we have seen being done by those who seek Muslim votes) but in the basics, which is education, from education the economic empowerment. Education is the primary means of economic empowerment. The opportunity base in India is huge.
One of the more important things I see in all the investments of the community, is the education of the girl child. We are already seeing the change in rising literacy levels and the economic opportunities created as a consequence of these investments of the last 20 years.
I CHANCED upon two well researched articles in Awadhnama late last year. One was by Dr Mohammad Saani and the other by Ms Razia Majeeda. As per those articles, during the last 20 years, in India alone, some 80 to 100 million infant girls were killed in their mother’s womb. Reading the articles, some other figures crossed my mind.
The World War II resulted in some 50 to 70 million casualties, the partition of India saw one million people killed on either side of the border, more than a million perished during the Vietnam war, and Saddam’s terror reign followed by the Iraq war saw a million people losing their lives. The list goes on with Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, and others. So much bloodshed! Is this all in the name of Islam? Compare these figures with the female infanticide in India alone! Continue reading “The Message of Islam”
NEW DELHI. The Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari inaugurated the “International Urdu Marsia Conference” on Friday. Addressing on the occasion he said that marsia can be written and heard by heart only. He hoped that the seminar will help in getting more people associated with marsia.
The word ‘marsiya’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘risa’, meaning a great tragedy or lamentation for a departed soul. Marsiya (or elegy), is nearly always on the death of Hasan and Hussain (grandsons of the Prophet Mohammad [PBUH]) and their families, but occasionally on the death of relatives and friends. It is usually in six-lined stanzas with the rhyme ‘aaaabb’.
The recitation of these elegies in the first ten days of Muharram is a common practice.
RECENTLY a women’s organisation in Mumbai, Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Association, conducted a survey and found out that in 18 of the total sufi mausoleums, women are prohibited from entering Astana i.e. sanctum and sanctorum in which they were previously allowed. Prominent among them is Haji Ali Dargah, which is highly popular among non-Muslims also.
The report created a media stir. Everybody wanted to know on what grounds are they prohibited.
When press questioned some clerics about it, they promptly quoted hadiths which prohibit it. Some quote hadith from Imam Bukhari, saying it is prohibited, while other from Sahih Muslim, saying it was prohibited but later on the Prophet (PBUH) allowed it. Our clerics simply quote a hadith while completely ignoring the context. It was for this reason that the Prophet (PBUH) discouraged people from collecting hadith, as he knew it will create problems when he is gone. Continue reading “Are women really prohibited from entering mausoleums?”
THE art of Islamic calligraphy finds its roots in early Islam. Part of its popularity lay in the way Quran stresses the importance of written word. In Surah 96 (verse 3 to 4), God is described as one Who “taught man with the pen”. The Surah 68 starts with the oath, “And by the Pen”. There are several other Suras talking about writing, viz., Surah 96 (verse 3 to 4), Surah 82 (verse 10), Surah 50 (verse 16). Naturally, the best style of writings were developed for God. As Arabic became the language of all Muslims in Arabia and elsewhere, it gave birth to beautiful new forms of Arabic script.
Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and the fourth Caliph of Islam, Ali ibn Abi Talib is considered to be the first master of calligraphy. He developed a Kufic script where the tops of alifs were twin-horned.  The Kufic in general is an angular script found on tombstones and coins.
THE Union Cabinet has gone ahead with the Haj subsidy for 2012. It has approved the following-
(i) 125,000 haj pilgrims would be covered by the Haj subsidy scheme.
(ii) Apart from statutory taxes like PSF, UDF, ADF and Saudi airport fees, each pilgrims would pay Rs. 20,000 as air fare. The balance cost of air travel arrangements would be borne by the government.
(iii) The pilgrims would depart from 21 embarkation points in India. Gaya as an embarkation point has been introduced in place of Patna due to technical difficulties presently in operating direct flights from Patna.
This year the Haj flights would start on 17.9.2012.
The element of cost of air travel arrangements in excess of the fare paid by the pilgrims is the Haj subsidy borne by the Government, which is called Haj subsidy. Untill 2009, the pilgrims were carried by Saudi Arabian Airlines on negotiated fares and by Air India on cost basis. From 2010, the government decided to select the airlines through a tendering process. Sealed bids are invited from all eligible airlines and the airline offering the lowest fare from an embarkation point is engaged to carry the haj pilgrims.
It’s noteworthy that the practice has received considerable criticism in the past from Muslim leaders, both on grounds of inflated air fares and being un-Islamic.
DR ASGHAR Ali Engineer is a reformist-writer and activist. He is known for his work on liberation theology in Islam. He is also a leading voice against communalism in India and South Asia. In an exclusive interview with Ali Hasan, Dr Engineer speaks at length about the issues affecting Indian Muslims.
MT: How do you see the progress of Indian Muslims during the last 20 years?
AA: Though there is some progress in last 20 years but it is far from satisfactory. Muslims are 15 per cent of India’s population and yet nothing more than a mass of ignorant and illiterate people. They are bringing in more money from the Gulf countries than the Christians do from western countries. Whereas Christians are successfully running and controlling educational institutions, Muslims have not improved their literacy by even one percent.
“Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”
—Barack Obama, 44th President of USA
THE year 1979 holds special importance. It was the year that saw two significant happenings in the Muslim world. The events occurred in two states holding contrasting views on Islam but triggered by a common enemy, the US. One was the hostage crisis in the Shiite ruled Iran, which was covered quite extensively by the press, the other being the lesser known and reported uprising at Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca, the city under the control of Sunni Muslims.
There was a fundamental difference though between the two events. The embassy takeover in Tehran was a student initiative against the US for its meddling in the country’s politics. The siege of Mecca was the rebellion of a Muslim group against the policies of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia which were influenced by the US.