Romanticisation alone is not helping our heritage

In 2003, during a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, we were taken to the private residence of the caretaker of the Saleem Chishti Dargah located inside the complex. Once inside, we were warmly received by the caretaker, an elderly gentleman and his family. We were served sharbat and shammi kababs. Soon after, in our presence, the caretaker received another group of Indian men and women, all dressed in expensive clothes and they spoke to each other in English with a distinct American accent.

“Ye sab sap hi logoN ka to hai,” [This all, is all yours only] the caretaker said to them before introducing the family to us. We were delighted to discover that they were direct descendants of Akbar, the emperor who built the magnificent complex.

We spent some time with them and left the residence to take a round of the complex. In the central courtyard, I was horrified to see carts of vendors selling bangles, cosmetics and cheap snacks. The carts were stationed in front of the Dargah and all the vendors were Muslims. In another section of the complex, I saw banana peels, discarded footwear and paan stains on the walls. I left the complex disappointed. Read the rest of this entry

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The Story behind AMU Tarana

Union Hall Lawn, AMU

MILLIONS of AMU students and alumni around the world sing the university tarana every year. It brings back so many Aligarh memories to me and countless others. The tarana itself is a fine piece of Urdu poetry and the story behind it is an interesting one.

One of AMU’s most famous student and an Urdu poet of the highest calibre, Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz, attended the University between 1930 and 1936.2 It was 1936 when he penned his famous poem Nazr-e-Aligarh.Majaz first recited it the same year in the Union Hall, in the presence of the Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) A.B. Ahmed Haleem. Haleem stopped the recital when Majaz reached the lines “YahaaN ham ne kamandeN daalii haiN, Yahan hum ney shabkhooN (night raids) maaray haiN; YahaN hum nay qabaayeN nochii haiN, yahan hum nay taaj utaarey haiN” (Trans: We have scaled buildings here and ambushed here, We have torn garments here and removed crowns here4), and walked out. The huge gathering of students asked him to continue but Majaz did not. He had to relent later, and completed it in the Union Hall’s lawns (between Morrison court and Union building).3
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New research finds Allah and Ali in Viking Age patterns

Viking age patternsWHAT was previously thought to be typical Viking Age patterns in silver on woven bands of silk in Viking Age graves are actually geometric Kufic characters as per a new research at Sweden’s Uppsala University. The Arabic characters appear in burial costumes in Viking Age boatgraves, as well as in the chamber graves clothing of central Viking Age sites such as Birka in Mälardalen.

“One exciting detail is that the word ‘Allah’ is depicted in mirror image,” says Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University. “It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland. Perhaps this was an attempt to write prayers so that they could be read from left to right, but with the Arabic characters they should have. That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”

It was while working to recreate textile patterns for the Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, Enköping, Sweden, that the researchers discovered that the woven bands contained ancient Arabic script, Kufic characters, invoking both Allah and Ali. The Kufic characters were found in the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia. Similar Kufic characters appear in the grave costumes in Viking Age chamber graves in central sites such as Birka in Mälardalen, as well as in boatgraves in the area around Gamla Uppsala. Read the rest of this entry

Minus the politics, triple talaq verdict is a welcome move

An Muslim wedding in IndiaTHE HISTORIC judgement by the Supreme Court striking down the ridiculous practice followed in some sections of the Muslim community is commendable. About time it was done away with. It is noteworthy, however, that the same has already been banned years back by several Islamic nations, including our favourite neighbour.

Triple talaq or should I say the instant triple talaq had of late become everyone’s favourite whipping boy (comes second only to the four wives conundrum) and though as a Muslim woman I do find it an extremely regressive and outdated practice, I know it has more to do with the patriarchy deeply embedded in our society than anything else! When I say our society I do not mean Muslim, I mean Indian. So while I’m glad it is out of the way, can we be as bothered about ‘all’ women across religions, castes, and  economic demographics? Because, frankly, I think the status of women is elevated only by a single factor – economic independence. No religion, no law, no sharia, no nothing!

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भारतीय मुसलमान: डर के साये में?

पूर्व उपराष्ट्रपति श्री हामिद अंसारी के एक हालिया बयान से जिस प्रकार मीडिया ट्रायल हुआ और उसको राजनितिक मोड़ दिया गया वो गिरते वैचारिक मानसिकता और मुद्दों को संवेदनशील बनाकर राजनीति करने के नए तरीके का परिणाम है। हामिद अंसारी के कथन को समझने के लिए सिर्फ बीजेपी के इस तीन साल का ही विश्लेषण नहीं होना चाहिए वरना ये राजनितिक विश्लेषण होकर रह जाएगा। इसको समझने के लिए हमें कम से कम एक सदी और उसके बाद के मुसलमानो के हालत को नज़र में रखना होगा।

स्वतंत्रता संग्राम में हिंदुस्तानी मुसलमानो की भागीदारी और बलिदान को किसी के सनद की आवश्यकता नहीं। मुसलमानो ने अपनी आबादी और हिस्सेदारी से अधिक बढ़-चढ़ कर इस लड़ाई को लड़ा और जीता। लेकिन पाकिस्तान के बंटवारे ने जिस प्रकार भारतीय मुसलमानो को मानसिक, सामाजिक, आर्थिक और राजनितिक रूप से तोड़ा उससे हम दशकों निकल नहीं पाये। शिक्षित, आर्थिक रूप से संपन्न, सरकारी नौकरियों के बड़े ओहदेदार भारत छोड़कर एक नए देश में अपना सुख तलाशने जा चुके थे। बचा था दबा, कुचला , पिछड़ा और अशिक्षित मुसलमान जिसको अपने पुरखों की विरासत को छोड़ना किसी हाल में गवारा नहीं था।

पकिस्तान बनने की आत्मग्लानि, जातीय राजनीति के बढ़ते ज़ोर में बिना नेतृत्व के खौफ के माहौल से मुसलमानो को उबरने में एक लंबा समय लगा। जब उबरने लगे तो पाकिस्तान की भाँती ‘धर्मांधता’ की राजनीति भारत में भी शुरू हो चुकी थी। हमें इस बात को महसूस करना होगा की पाकिस्तान में बचे अल्पसंख्यक भी इसी पीड़ा से गुज़रे होंगे। फ़र्क़ इतना ज़रूर है की भारतीय मुसलमानो के अधिकार की बड़ी बड़ी लड़ाई यहाँ के बहुसंख्यक समाज ने लड़ा और आज भी वो लड़ते हैं।

मुझे हामिद अंसारी साहेब की बातों को समर्थन करने में कोई हिचक नहीं। आज भारतीय मुसलमान डर में है। वो पाकिस्तान बंटवारे के बाद भी डर में थे और आज भी डर के माहौल में जी रहे।

इन सब चीजों में जो एक चीज़ छूटी वो है मुसलमानो की समाज निर्माण में हिस्सेदारी की कमी। उसके कई कारण हैं जिसपर एक लंबी चर्चा की आवश्यकता है। 70 साल का अंतराल किसी समाज को सम्भलने और अपने हालात को सुधारने के लिए कम नहीं होता। आप सिर्फ दूसरों पर इलज़ाम लगाकर अपनी ज़िम्मेदारी से नहीं बच सकते। मुसलमानो में शिक्षा के प्रति रुझान बढ़ा है। ज़रुरत है अपनी सामाजिक ज़िम्मेदारियों के प्रति सोचने, इसपर निरंतर चर्चा कर एक दिशा देने की। मैं आओ सबको आमंत्रित करता हूँ इसपर एक बहस शुरू हो और मुख्यधारा से जुड़कर काम आगे बढे।

 

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Leave Cricket of all the sports alone!

INDIA-PAK cricket showdown was there before also. And those matches were not played during peaceful times either. The matches were prone to hyper nationalism ventilation as well. Just like the present, but with a difference. The sports page handlers of media houses then were sane enough to separate the chaff from the wheat. The winners were given prominent coverage, the perennial hostilities not withstanding. The editorial policies were relatively fair when it came to sports.

Now, we are in a more hyper sensitive era with media playing the three-in-one tone with finesse. Aggrieved, aggressor and the clueless. This two ‘A’ and one ‘c’ mode is incongruous with the five ‘W’ notion that’s the bedrock of journalism. The perfect example is india’s leading English paper’s coverage of Pakistani team. The insiders say the desk hands were told not to give significance to Pak players. Yeah, you heard right! Even if they had the best day on field. Read the rest of this entry

Muslim freedom fighters from Meerut in 1857

List of Meerut soldiers in 1857

Names of the 85 soldiers who refused to accept cartridges and were subsequently court-martialed in 1857. (Pic Courtesy: Siddhartha Ghai)

An open letter to the new VC of AMU

Professor Tariq MansoorDear Tariq Mansoor Sb,
At the outset I would extend my heartiest congratulations to you for being appointed as the new Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. This post not only brings great responsibility but also great expectations from all those who are related to this seat of learning by one way of other.
I have been visiting AMU quite often during the last 2-3 years and witnessed many key areas which need immediate attention from the top administration and since you are going to take the charge as the head of the institution, I thought of sharing these observations with you. I hope that under your aegis the situation will improve, and we will see AMU as a leading educational Institute by all real means.

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Babri case: a golden chance for muslims

Babri Masjid prior to its destructionThe Supreme Court’s advice to settle Babri Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi case outside the court is a golden opportunity for Muslims to demand their rights.

The SC’s advice is a clear indication that the highest court of the land is unlikely to decide on this case. That is why, it has suggested consultations between Hindus and Muslims and offered to arbitrate a settlement.

Two, the timing of the SC advice is also a clear indication that Modi Govt is not keen to build a Ram Temple by amending the Constitution despite the legislative muscle it has acquired after winning Uttar Pradesh.

Modi Government’s first choice would be to somehow bring Muslim community — by coercion or persuasion — to the table and negotiate a settlement.

Why the government would wants to consult Muslims?  Read the rest of this entry

Time to change food habits in UP

The picture (taken today in Lucknow) says it all.

Idris Biryani Restaurant and the butcher shops wear a deserted look.