Balancing Deen and Dunya

Below are two questions and their answers. Sharing for mutual benefit.
Yawar Baig
Sent:Friday, June 05, 2015 10:08 PM
To: Mirza Yawar Baig
Subject: Balancing Deen and Dunya.
Assalamu`Alaykum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuhu.
Dear Sheikh,
You seem to have achieved exceptionally well in knowledge of this world and knowledge of here after(Deen).While acquiring knowledge of both worlds, Did it not create a clash or friction in your heart.?
For instance – whenever i wanna give exceptional commitment to acquire any skill of this worldly life, it makes me forget ALLAH. Salah is not at its best -Allotting time for Dhikr is constraint. Just the process of acquiring knowledge of worldly life keeps me away from ALLAH. Because you often say Focus- one Good thing at time- Ordinary Light illuminates at best and laser Cuts through steel.
One can say the focus is hereafter – but anything attached to this dunya in Excess or kind of being exceptionally well ,will invariably spoil the heart or at least forget ALLAH in the process.
To be the best at any skill one needs to love it and take it to heart.
Your talks Represent that you have done intense research on skills of this world and well same is true when you speak about deen in your fajr reminders.whats the art of doing that together- how do you partition that in your heart?
Dont knowledge of both worlds contradict each other – at least the knowledge of materialistic world which we are living is mutually exclusive with knowledge of hereafter.?
How do you keep that dunya beneath your foot – even after reaching that feet.
Whats the art of laser cutting through steels in this world and hereafter simultaneously.
There is no conflict between Deen and Dunya. Dunya is not the opposite of Deen. Deen is the way to live in the Dunya. There is no Deen after death. So there is no friction or contradiction between the two. On the contrary, you can only attain excellence in Deen through excellence in Dunya. Sadly people don’t see this and they preach the opposite which is a confusion with Hindu theology – Sanyas, leaving the Dunya for spiritual growth. There is no Sanyas in Islam. Rasoolullah said, ‘La Ruhbaniya fil Islam.’ (There is no asceticism in Islam).
Love of Dunya that people talk about has nothing to do with wealth. It has to do with the love of material things to the exclusion of the love of Allah. A beggar on the street is not the most spiritual of beings. As a matter of fact he may be far less spiritual than someone who has a lot more but is focused on charity. He loves what little he has and the fact that he believes that he has to beg all day so much that he doesn’t bother to pray. When did you ever see a beggar praying, even when they all go to the nearest masjid on Juma to beg? So love of Dunya has nothing to do with how much of it you have. It has to do with how much you love it in relation to how much you love Allah. As long as you love Allah more, you can be the king of the world but the Dunya will not distract you from Deen. So there is no friction between Dunya and Deen. They are intrinsically linked and completely indispensable for success in each other.
Secondly Dunya is the only way that you will attain perfection in the Aakhira. Dunya is the only way to earn Jannah. You don’t earn Jannah by leaving Dunya but by using Dunya. It is like telling someone sitting in a car, ‘The best way to reach your destination is to get out of your car and walk.’ You may still get to your destination but you will get there with great difficulty and very slowly. But if you remained in your car and drove on the right road, you would get there much faster and much more comfortably. This is what the Sahaba did. They had the best of both worlds. The problem is that people only tell you stories of the Sahaba in the days of the inception of Islam. Stories of deprivation and struggle. Not the stories of how they handled Dunya when the conquests started and there was literally money to burn. Did they fall into evil? Did they forget Allah? Did they leave Salah and sit in their shops? Or did they establish Islam on the face of the earth?  
Dunya, lived according to the Deen, is Ibaadah. It is Deen itself. It is the reason for the Deen. If this Dunya didn’t exist there would be no need for Deen. To live in this Dunya according to the Deen is the most powerful way to do Da’awa. Dunya is the way to attain the pleasure of Allah. Dunya is the tilth for the Aakhira – as Rasoolullah reminded us. How are you going to get a harvest if you leave your fields fallow? You want a good harvest you have to spend every waking moment in your fields, ploughing, winnowing, planting, watering and praying for success in the harvest. People who tell you to leave the Dunya don’t know agriculture. If you want to learn agriculture, go to a farmer. That is why the importance of Tarbiyya in Islam which we have completely discarded.
You should love the Dunya – but for the right reasons. You should run behind the Dunya – but for the right reasons. You should use the Dunya – in the right way.
That is the way – the ONLY WAY – to attain Jannah.
Thats my first question.?
How do you manage to get applauded on the stage and keep your heart clean?
It’s very difficult – how do you do it.??
I don’t intend to be any speaker or get applauded on stage. In fact on several instances I have chosen to my keep mouth shut even if I know cos am worried that would end me up at Ria based on past experiences.
I am simply curious about latter.
Very simple. Just make lots of Tawba all through and after the stage. That is the benefit of Tarbiyya. You learn these things. Make lots of Tawba and remember that they are not praising you, they are praising the cover that Allah  placed over you. Ask Allah never to remove that cover.  
Your students may consider you to be very wise because they know less than you. But to your teachers you’re stupid and don’t learn even the simplest of things. So which is the correct opinion?
I’d say both. One is the cover that Allah  put over you to hide your faults. The other is the mirror He shows you so that you can correct the faults. Both are signs of His great Mercy. Always realize that and thank Him.
Yawar Baig

My Shaikh added:

Add: to treat all the affairs of Dunya as the Shari’ah demands with an eye on the sense of accountability to Allah. Read: 2:201. Also the Hadith: al-Dunya MAZRA’UL AAKHIRAH (Dunya is tilling land for the Aakhirah). As it is said: TO KEEP DUNYA IN THE POCKET IS OK BUT NOT RIGHT TO KEEP IT ROOTED IN THE HEART. Akbar Ilahabadi says: DUNYA MEYN HOON DUNYAA KA TALBGAAR NAHEEN HOON + BAZAR SEY GUZRA HOON KHAREEDAAR NAHEEN HOON.  You have rightly said the Aakhirah is earned through the Dunya. There is no contradiction.

My Parents – Ordinary people who left extraordinary memories


He was your grandfather and you are of his blood. He was very proud of you as he was proud of all his children and grandchildren. May Allah bless you and your parents. Allah is very merciful. Pappa went very peacefully and with great dignity and grace. His face was so full of Noor that it was as if he had a light shining on him. I had the honor of doing his Ghusl and Salat ul Janaza and burial as was his wish. Allah is truly merciful that he granted me this honor because until the day before he died, I was in hospital recovering from surgery and was discharged the night before on Thursday. He passed away the next day, Friday, January 5, 2007 at about 0800 am. His legacy to me was a book of Seerah – The Life of Muhammad by Haykal. I couldn’t have wanted a better or richer inheritance.
 Your grandfather was a wonderful man in many ways. If someone asks me what it is about him that I remember the most, I will say it is his habit of thanking Allah no matter what his own condition was at the time. I remember a time in our lives when we lived in one room in Aziz Bagh. Just one room with a bathroom and a tiny kitchenette which was created out of a little lean-to over what was the back door. This was because one of my mother’s cousins occupied her property, a flat that her father had built for her, without so much as a by your leave. But neither Pappa nor Mamma complained nor did they fight or disturb the harmony of the family. They left the matter in the hands of Allah.
So in that one room lived Pappa, Mamma and all of us (3 adult children) except my brother (your father) who was in America and my sister who at that time lived with her mother-in-law. Not a cent of income except what Pappa was earning at the time, working at MESCO. But never did I hear either of them ever complain about their situation or ask anyone for help. Pappa never had any savings. There was enough for our needs but given that my parents were very generous with their family and with anyone who was in need, they never had any savings. Pappa never built a house of his own. Mamma had her apartment – or so she thought – in her grandfather’s house, Aziz Bagh. Pappa and Mamma were in Guyana at the time my grandfather, Mamma’s father, died. And that was the time that Mamma’s apartment was taken over. Pappa and Mamma expected to return to live in it but when that was taken over; they literally had nowhere to live. Mamma’s elder sister gave her one room from her own apartment which they lived in until we were able to expand it. May Allah grant Khalamani the best in Jannah for her generosity to her sister. The elders in Mamma’s family, especially her uncle Nawab Ruknuddin Ahmed and her cousin Hasanuddin Ahmed and many other members of her family tried their best to talk to her cousin to return the property but to no avail. May Allah reward all those who did their best to help to ensure that justice was done. In the end it is Allah who will decide on the Day of Judgment.  Mamma however didn’t allow this incident to spoil her family relationships. Neither did my father say a word in the matter. They simply accepted the Qadr of Allah with grace and equanimity and lived with good relations with everyone. Big lesson for all of us in what it means to maintain family relations and to forgive one another even when you have been wronged. After all, when else do you have the opportunity to forgive, except when you have been wronged?
Then Pappa got a job as the resident physician and administrator of Asra Hospital and they moved to Asra Hospital. I went off to work in the tea plantations in Anamallais. At that time my sister and her children returned from her mother in law’s home to live with Pappa and Mamma. So in the little 2-bedroom apartment on the first floor in Asra Hospital lived my parents, my sister and her three children and my other two sisters and a resident lady cook. But neither Pappa nor Mamma ever complained about this. They were delighted to have the little grandchildren with them. Especially the little one who would bend double and say, “Salaaamu alaikum”. Everyone was welcome. That is how families are supposed to be. A support for everyone who is in that family.  Pappa and Mamma did not talk about that. They lived it and so we learnt the lesson.
Another thing about Pappa that I remember with a wonderful sense of warmth in the heart, is the connection he had with Allah. Allah was real to him. Allah was not a concept. He knew Allah. He talked to Allah like he talked to someone who was a close friend, confidant and protector, to whom he could always go. Hearing him speak about Allah I would sometimes feel like turning to look over my shoulder to see if Allah was standing behind me. When he spoke about Allah you could sense Allah in the room. He would make dua as if he was literally sitting in front of Allah looking at Him and talking to Him directly. He would beg Him, argue with Him, question Him and answer those questions and then say, ‘Magar aap meray ku maaf kar dena.’ (But you must forgive me for saying all this.)
I remember very clearly – and that is the reason for the sense of loss I felt when he died – my brother or I would call him and tell him about whatever difficulty we were going through at the time and ask him to make dua for us. Invariably he would say, ‘Fikr mat karo. Mayin unku pakad laytaun. Diye tak nahin chodta.’ He wouldn’t even say, ‘Whatever Allah does is for the best.’ To him, the possibility of asking and not getting didn’t exist. My father was not an A’alim but his lack of formal knowledge was a blessing. His trust in Allah was simple and pure. It was not ‘contaminated’ by theological constructs and logical arguments. All right and correct in their own place but which often become curtains that cut us off from the pure reality that our Rabb can do whatever He wants and that whatever means whatever – beyond logic and possibility. After all Allah did say, ‘Yaf’alu ma yashaa and yahkumu ma yureed.’ (He does whatever He wants and He orders whatever He desires). So who are you to put limits on that?
Hajj 22:18.    See you not that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and Ad-Dawab (moving living creatures, beasts, etc.), and many of mankind? But there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified. And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honour him. Verily! Allah does what He wills.
Ma’aida 5: 1………….Verily, Allah commands that which He wills.
And He said eight times about the power of His creation – He says, ‘Be and it is.’
The most well-known of these Ayaat is perhaps from Sura Ya Seen:
Ya Seen 36:82. Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, “Be!” and it is!
My father’s trust in Allah was like the trust of a little 2-year old child in its father. For that child the father has no constraints. No limitations to what he can do. The child can’t conceive of the father not being able to do what the child asks. So if the child doesn’t get what it asks for, it doesn’t reason, ‘Maybe my father can’t do it. So maybe I should stop asking.’ The child believes, ‘The only reason I am not getting what I am asking for is because my father is not convinced yet that I really need this thing. So I have to ask more and more and try to convince him and then he will give it to me.’ And so the child will not let go of his or her father’s robe and will hang on and cry and beg until it gets what it wants. That is how Pappa was. It never occurred to him that Allah wouldn’t give. And Allah never disappoints. So He always gave him. It is this connection to Allah that I consider to be my father’s legacy to me and to all of us, his children who learnt from him. And indeed this is supported by Allah’s statement in the Hadith Qudsi where He said, ‘Ana inda zanni abdi bih.’ (I am for my slave, as he expects me to be.) My father expected His Rabb to be merciful, generous and forgiving without measure and indeed He was.
My father would say, ‘I ask Allah to give me a small hut near Him in Jannah. I don’t want the whole Jannah. Only a small hut near Him.’ That was his dua because he had a sense of who he was and who his Rabb was and what their relationship was. So dua for him was a time of great happiness and pleasure. He loved making dua.
He thanked Allah all the time and told Allah his story like I would tell it to you. He talked to Allah with the total certainty that Allah was listening to him personally and paying attention and understanding every word he said. And indeed this is our Aqeeda. But for most of us it is Aqeeda as in the knowledge of the creed. For my father it was reality which didn’t even need to be said just like you don’t say, ‘I just spoke to my friend and he listened to me and understood what I said.’ You don’t need to say that. It is understood and expected. After all that is what friendship means. I believe this is what we have lost, most of us. This sense of the active, alive presence of Allah in our lives. Allah is remote for us – even when we ask Him. It is like we know Allah in our minds but not in our hearts. Not where we live and respond from. That is what we need to repair.
All through my childhood there is one memory that stands out clearly above all others – the sound of Pappa in the bathroom at about 3.00 am every day. He would go there to make Wudhu for Tahajjud and in the days before plastics, when buckets were made of galvanized iron, he made a lot of clanging noises. Then he would pray Tahajjud and then recite Qur’an – we could hear his voice softly in the other room where we children slept until the time for Fajr when he would come into our room and loudly call out – As salaatu khairum min-an-nawm and would turn the lights on and pull off our blankets. On cold winter mornings that was definitely not something we looked forward to. But there was no choice. We had to get up, make Wudhu in cold water – because there were no electric water heaters and it was too early for the servants to light the samovar in the  garden where water was heated on a wood fire. Then I would call the Adhaan and we would all pray Fajr behind Pappa. He used to call us We Seven. Our parents and their five children. And he took great pride in that. To the best of my knowledge Pappa never missed Tahajjud for over 45 years. He loved Tahajjud because he loved Allah.
We did everything together. We would go shopping for groceries together to a store in Secundrabad called Swadeshi Store. We would go to another market also in Secundrabad to buy mutton and fish. The fish had to be live when you bought it to ensure that it was fresh. Mutton was priced differently by the cut and so you had to know what cut to ask for and which cut was good for which preparation. After all you couldn’t make Pasinday with chops. I would always ask the butcher for the scraps which he would gladly give in a newspaper which I would take back for my black Austrolop rooster who loved them and ate them with great relish. Chicken eating sheep, now that is a thought. I had a small poultry setup at home and we had fresh eggs and poultry meat from free range chickens which were colorful, healthy and had individual personalities. Many lived to ripe old chicken-ages and died a natural death as they had become friends and after all you can’t make a stew out of a friend.
Pappa would always fill twenty litres of petrol in his car, a Fiat 1100. In those days petrol was less than Re. 1 per litre. There were hardly any cars on the road and no such thing as a traffic jam. We would go every week to the fruit market in Maozzam Jahi Market and Pappa would buy whatever fruit was in season always from one vendor – Sardar mian. He and Sardar mian would have a long conversation about all kinds of things ranging from politics, to the state of the nation to the problem of transporting fruit to the market over long distances. These were the days before refrigerated trucks and stores. So you could only get fruit in season. Once the mango season was over, for example, you had to wait until the following year to eat mangoes. By the calendar, first there were apples from Kashmir in January, followed by local grapes in February. Hyderabad was a great grape growing center in the 60’s and 70’s and was surrounded by vineyards.
Then once summer started in April mangoes would start coming into the market – first the local Baiganpally and Himayat, then the mangoes from North India – Langda, Chausa, Dasseri. And of course Pedda and Chinna Rasaal, the cream of juice mangoes. This season lasted until the monsoon which began on the dot on June 7, every year. During this period at the peak of summer in May, watermelons and muskmelons would also come on the market. Not much came in the monsoon except bananas, including thick maroon bananas which have almost completely disappeared. After the rain we would get sapota, custard apples and figs and some very good guavas. Then we would be back in apple season. So there was much to do and we did it always together as a family.
In the evenings every day, especially in summer, we would sit outside in the garden and Pappa would listen to the news on radio – All India Radio and Radio Ceylon to listen to Amin Sayani’s famous Binaca Geet Mala, dominated by Mohammed Rafi’s golden voice. At that time he would also turn the radio off and recite Allama Iqbal’s poetry of which he knew a great deal by heart and would explain a lot of the difficult verses to us. Mummy was his supporter in all this as her Urdu was better than his and if he got stuck he would ask her, ‘Tho is kay kya manay hain Beeba?’ (what is the meaning of this word?) and she would tell him. Then he would continue with the explanation that he was giving. He would discuss politics and economics with us, all of us under the age of 14 as if we were adults. One thing he was always very concerned about was the Palestinian crisis and many a time said, ‘I wish I could go there to help in the hospitals.’ May Allah accept his Niyyah to help the Palestinian people in their difficulties. I was always aware of a great sense of family togetherness and knew that it was his greatest wish that his children must all live together happily.
Towards the end – and only now we know how close it was to the end – at the time he was experiencing it, he did not know how close he was to the end – he only knew that very rapidly his strength, mobility and eventually his consciousness, were all going. But when you asked him, ‘Kaise hain Pa aap?’ – his unfailing answer was a very loud and enthusiastic, ‘Alhamdulillah, bahut achcha hoon.’ (Alhamdulillah I am very well). He would say this to the point that when he was in hospital and the doctor came around on his visit and asked him how he was, Pappa would say the same thing with a big smile on his face. The doctor one day asked, ‘Then why are you here Doctor sahib?
My sister, brother or I, whoever was with him at the time would have to say to him, “Pa, please tell him your symptoms.” He was one of the best physicians I have ever known with knowledge of clinical diagnosis that I have never seen in anyone else. In his time, before all medical imaging machinery, treatment was based on the soundness of clinical diagnosis and I don’t remember him being wrong in that. So he probably knew more about what was happening to him than the young doctor who came to examine him or more correctly to look at the scan reports without which he was helpless anyway. Eventually Pappa went home where he wanted to be.
There was a period when he was sleeping most of the time. During this period when he was awake, he would simply lie apparently staring vacantly into space. One day he was lying that way when one of our aunts, (Tahira Apa) came and said salaam. He immediately responded, “Wa alaikum salaamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.” It was his way to always respond with the full salaam. Then she said, “What are you looking at Anwar bhai?” He said, “Farishtay (Angels).” She asked, “What are they saying?” He replied, “They are saying  – Nayk bano. (Become good). So even in that state he did not lose his sense of humor. His laugh was famous. You could hear it in the next house. He laughed with all his heart. His laugh was infectious and everyone laughed when he laughed and he spread happiness all around.
 When Pappa was happy you could see it in his whole body. When he was angry or irritated, you could see that also. There was not a single atom of Nifaaq (hypocrisy) in my father. I bear witness to that. He never said something with some other thing in his heart. That is a wonderful quality which Insha’Allah will stand for him when He meets His Rabb. That and his Shukr.
I remember meeting him the day before he had the epileptic fit after which he went into a coma that he never came out of. At that time he was very drowsy and sleepy. But as always, he responded to my salaam and said, “Wa alaikum salaamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.” When Samina and I asked, “Aap kaise hain Pa?” He said, “Alhamdulillah.” Those were his last words that I heard. Mamma said that thereafter even during his comatose state, at times when he sneezed he would say, “Alhamdulillah.” When he yawned he would say, “Astaghfirullah.” And at times he said, “La ilaha ill-Allah”. Allah stands by those who live for Him and love Him and He stood by Pappa to the end. Alhamdulillah.
So you are blessed that your grandfather was a man that we can all be proud to be the children of. I wish that when I die, you, my children, can say about me what I am able to say about my father. I ask Allah to enable me to live in such a way that when I die it can be said, “He was a man who always thanked Allah. Never complained and always spoke the truth such that it can be said that there was not a single atom of Nifaaq in his body.”
Before I close, let me tell you about your grandmother, my mother, who was married to him for 52 years. A marriage that was so good that they could not stay away from each other even for a few days. We used to live in Guyana when Pappa went to Canada on holiday. We were all living together at the time. He could not afford to take all of us and he and Mamma did not want to leave the children alone and go away. So he went alone. Three days later, he called. I answered the phone and asked him how Canada was. He said, “I am not in Canada. I am at Timehri Airport, please come and collect me.” We were all shocked. I drove the 200 kilometers from Kwakwani to Georgetown, Timehri Airport and when I met him I asked him what had happened. He said in a totally matter of fact tone, “I can’t stay without your mother.” So he returned from a 3 week holiday in 3 days and that too because it took that long to travel to and from Guyana to Canada in those days. 
 It’s not that Pa and Ma did not have difficulties or disagreements. But they resolved them. They remembered the good of each other and forgave the bad. And in the end, the day after Pappa passed away, when I went to Aziz Bagh to spend some time with Mamma, she said to me, “I prayed two Raka’at Nafl Salah to thank Allah for giving your father such a wonderful end on a Friday in Dhul-Hajjah.” And when she said this, she was sitting in her usual composed, dignified way. That’s your grandmother for you. She lived with great dignity and died peacefully in the middle of those she loved on September 13, 2014. That is as she would have wished and I thank Allah for it.
Mamma was a remarkable woman. Very petite and frail to look at but very strong internally. One of the most remarkable things that I remember about her is that I never saw her cry. I knew she did alone, before Allah but never in public. Even when Pappa died, she was the one who noticed that he has stopped breathing and called my sister who lived with them and told her. When I got there and when we had finished all the formalities of Ghusl and Kafan and were ready to take him to the masjid for the Salat ul Janaza which was to be after the Juma Salah, she came to look at his face for the last time and simply looked at him with great equanimity. No weeping or lamenting or anything of that nature. Not one tear. She understood life and death and she knew Allah and trusted in His Mercy. Dignity is the word that always comes to mind when I think of my mother. She was a very dignified person.
She came from a family that was not only aristocratic but also very learned. Her father was the Director of the Department of Religious Endowments and twice led the Nizam’s Royal Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia as a guest of the King of Saudi Arabia. He was invited to participate in the Ghusl of the Ka’aba and was given a small piece of the Kiswa (cover) of the Ka’aba as a memento. One of her uncles was a High Court Judge. Another was one of the most powerful noblemen of the Nizam, the last Kotwal of Hyderabad – Inspector General of Police and First Class Magistrate. He was slated to be the Prime Minister of the Nizam but was bypassed for Laiq Ali as he was already an office bearer in the government and the Nizam didn’t want to pick anyone who was already in office. As an aside it is interesting to reflect on what would have happened if Nawab Deen Yar Jung had been chosen as the Prime Minister of Hyderabad instead of Mir Laiq Ali. My mother’s grandfather was Nawab Aziz Jung Bahadur, a great Islamic Scholar who had the title of Shamsul Ulama from the Nizam of Hyderabad. He built Aziz Bagh where both my mother and I were born.
My mother was married to my father because Pappa was a doctor (my assumption). That is the only explanation that I can give for a marriage between two families whose backgrounds were as different as chalk and cheese. This was and is a highly unusual practice in our culture and for good reason. Pappa’s father, my grandfather was a guard in the Railways. He was the sole bread earner in the family but on that salary my grandmother and he brought up nine children. Four sons, one of whom died in childhood and five daughters. He educated his children and one became a medical doctor (my father) and another son (my uncle Asadullah Baig) who earned his degree in chemical engineering specializing in textiles from Germany, speaks German fluently and retired as the Asia Head for Ciba Giegy. My grandfather, all through Pappa’s medical education didn’t even buy himself a new shirt and spent his entire income only on his children’s education. My grandmother was herself a very dedicated and determined lady and ran the house and family with great patience, fortitude and focus. But all said and done, it was a very modest home with very limited means and absolutely no luxuries whatsoever. Yet all this was done without comment or talking about it. Working hard, sacrificing luxuries for long term development, investing in education and accepting whatever hardship that came with it was matter of fact in our family and not worthy of comment and definitely nothing to complain about.
So Mamma went from living in a mansion with a three acre garden, tennis courts, servants and whatnot to living in a small house with a tiled roof, no ceiling, no fans, no running water and two rooms and a kitchen where food was cooked on a smoky wood fire. There was an inner courtyard which let in air and light and was used to dry clothes, grain and simply as a living room. This house was shared with her husband, his parents, two brothers and four sisters. Knowing the cultural and economic differences between her family and how she grew up and her husband’s family I can imagine that her married life in that family couldn’t have been either easy or pleasant but she stuck it out. In today’s times when people are ready to divorce at the drop of a hat on issues of compatibility – my parents were as incompatible as oil and water. Yet their marriage lasted very happily for 52 years until Pappa died. Later Pappa and Mamma moved out as Pappa worked for the Mysore Government in remote little towns in North Karnataka (Kanara). That meant that Mamma had to sometimes make a home out of houses which not only didn’t have running water, but many didn’t even have electricity. Water was drawn from a well in the courtyard and stored in large buckets in the bathrooms. In the evening kerosene Petromax lamps were lighted which attracted lots of insects. In one place, Mama told me, in the monsoon the light would attract large scorpions. Yet Mamma didn’t allow anything to frighten her. Instead she made these houses into homes that Pappa loved more than any place on earth. My grandfather (Pappa’s father) lived with us as he was very fond of his grandchildren and couldn’t bear to live away. He was another wonderful man who passed away while I was only nine. Not only did Mamma make a success of her marriage despite whatever difficulties she had to face, she maintained the best of relationships with her husband’s family and treated them with great generosity. Two of my aunts came to live with us permanently when my grandmother went to live with my father’s brother. They lived with us, got married, had children and moved out many years later. Mamma shared her time, space and money with her sisters in law and their families without even a mention of it.
Mamma’s greatest contribution in our lives was that she taught all of us to read the Qur’an. She taught Pappa also because in his own single minded focus on becoming a doctor he had never learned to read Arabic and so when he got married he couldn’t read the Qur’an. Mamma taught him. And then when I came along, she taught me and all the others in their own turn. I recall how she would sit with a big copy of the Qur’an which had big bold lettering in black on a green paper – she always said it was easier on the eyes. She would follow the line with her finger and I would read aloud. She insisted that I didn’t mumble but that I read aloud in a clear, loud voice. She would say, ‘Let the trees and birds hear you. They will bear witness before Allah.’ After I read my portion, she would read the Urdu translation aloud to me. She spent a lot of time with me because I was the first born and for a time I had no competition for her attention. It was during that period, when I was perhaps a little over a year and a half old that one moonlit night she took me out into the garden of the house we were living in at that time, in a remote tiny town of Karnataka and pointed out the moon. Then she said, ‘Look at the moon. See how beautiful it is. We worship Allah who made that moon. We don’t worship the sun or the moon, we worship Allah.’  When people talk of spending quality time with children, I recall all these incidents – where our parents gave us almost nothing materially but in terms of their knowledge, spirit, thoughts and hopes, they gave us incalculable wealth. In those days liquid cash was in short supply and most middle class families lived on very little. Wearing hand-me-down clothes was more the rule than the exception. Everything was rationed including food but we never felt that in our daily lives as children. We had plenty of everything and the best of it. What our parents went through to give us that was never visible.
My parents allowed us space to live. I was allowed to go off to spend my vacations with Pappa’s (and my) friend, Mr. V. Rama Reddy who had a small farmhouse on the bank of the Kadam River in Sethpally, Adilabad District. That meant that I would take a bus from Hyderabad to Nirmal; change for Khanapur; change for Pembi and walk the last four kilometers to Sethpally. All this when I was in class 10 in school. I would be gone for three weeks at a time and given that there were no mobile phones (or any phones) in Sethpally and no mail, my parents didn’t even know if I was alive or dead. Yet they didn’t stop me from going. Nor did they unload their worries on me. The result was that I learnt to take care of myself from a very early age and developed confidence which has stood me in good stead all my life. Pappa was almost fanatical about reading. He would read three books at once, usually in two languages. He would give me a book and tell me to read it and that he would ask me about it. Then when I had finished reading he would ask me, ‘So what is your view?’ If I attempted to tell him what the author said, he would say, ‘I know what the author says. I read the book before you. I want to know what you say.’ Then we would talk and argue about the book. He would listen, question, disagree or agree but always he would focus on what I was learning.
Mamma got arthritis fairly early in life and so for the last perhaps thirty years of her life she became progressively less mobile. Her knees caused her a lot of pain and when we took her to an orthopedician to see if she could have her knees replaced, we discovered that she had such severe osteoporosis that the doctor said that operating on her was impossible. So she had to live with her arthritic knees and had to use a walker to move about. Moving from one room to another was a major undertaking. She visited me in my new house only once because just to get out of her house into a car was such a challenge that she simply didn’t want to attempt it.

But through all those years, through all the pain, the restricted mobility and consequently restricted social life, I never heard her complain even once. That is the remarkable thing about both my parents, that they never complained about whatever difficulties they had to face. So Mamma’s social life went to almost nothing. She used to have her sisters visiting her while they still lived in the old house. Later when my sister moved to another place and Mamma had to move with her, even that stopped. But she always had a smile on her face. And that’s how she died.
Pray for him. And pray for her. And remember them and what they taught us and practice these teachings in your own life. And pass on the message to your children and grandchildren, of obedience to Allah and of thanking Him in every state that you may be in your life. No complaints. Only Shukr. 

Pass on the message of thanking Allah not only in words but far more importantly in action – by being happy and full of confidence in the fact that you worship the One Who is the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe. That would be the true tribute to Pappa and Mamma’s memory. And that would be something that would make them and their Creator most happy.

Abuse is not a right. It is wrong.

New York Times Headline of Sunday January 11 reads: “More than a million people joined over 40 presidents and prime ministers on the streets of Paris on Sunday in the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Of course that is NYT’s take on it. What is clear of course is that the march and solidarity was against murder and not in favor of abuse of the Prophet
If you don’t believe me, ask Queen Rania of Jordan or any of the other heads of state who have significant Muslim populations, what they were expressing solidarity for.

I am making this point because there is an attempt to portray the march and solidarity as if it was in support of the work of Charlie Hedo and others of that ilk who make their living out of ridiculing and mocking what others hold sacred without a single thought to the pain and anguish they may be causing. The world seems to think of pain and anguish only when the wound is made by a sharp or blunt instrument. Not when it is made by words which are sharper than any knife, go straight to the heart and result in a wound that festers and causes pain forever. Wounds that no medicine can heal, no hospital can cure. Wounds that only forgiveness can close – but that is more difficult than one would imagine. The world eulogizes those who exemplified forgiveness not because what they did was new but because it is so rare and so difficult to do. In effect we are saying, ‘Ah! I wish I could be like that.’ I don’t see anyone attending the march saying that about those whose chosen role in life was to mock, slander and deliberately cause pain to others.

If numbers are anything to go by then 1.6 million marched to condemn the killers while 1.6 billion Muslims + all other people of faith, people of compassion, people of justice marched in their hearts against Charlie Hebdo. I think it is important to note that. Violence is not only physical. Ask the woman, man or child who is the subject of mental torture. Mental torture is not a figment of the imagination. It is real.       Its effects are damaging and last far longer than any physical wound. What’s more mental torture instigates physical violence as we saw in the case in point. To recognize this is not to sanction that violence or to justify it. But to recognize the cause to eliminate its effect and ensure that what happened to the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo never happens to anyone ever again. That can happen only if we take a holistic view of the incident and have the courage to look at the causes as well as effects.

What happened later – the publication of the new issue – is a different matter. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to force Muslims all over the world to accept that their Prophet is someone who is worthy of being mocked and that they have no choice but to accept this mockery that is being done under the title of Freedom of Expression. I want to say to all those who like to live in fantasyland – no Muslim worth the name will ever accept that his or her Prophet is someone who can and should be mocked and that they should laugh it off and forget about it. That will not happen as long as there is a single Muslim alive on the face of the planet. Those who want to answer that statement in the idiotic way that we have seen some express their genocidal views on channels like Fox that the sheer numbers argue against their ever gaining success. So there has to be a plan B.

The plan B is to come to our senses globally, take a step back and consider the bilge that we are being fed in the name of freedom of expression. Let me give you a checklist to consider the Western concept of Freedom of Expression. Ask yourself:

1.    Your wife/husband doesn’t like your mother and is critical of her – acceptable?
2.    Your wife/husband doesn’t like your mother and curses her – still acceptable?
3.    Mocking and slandering Prophet Muhammad – acceptable?
4.    Denying the Jewish holocaust – still acceptable?

I can ask many more such questions but will leave you to make up your own. The answers will be clear to anyone with any sense of justice. Critique is acceptable, abuse is not. Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are abuse – not critique. For a Muslim even critique is not acceptable but Islamic scholars have always been open to answering argument with argument – intellect with intellect.
The most famous of these was Imam Al Ghazali whose book Al Ihaya ul Uloom is a critique that answers questions of those who hold contrary views. He didn’t take the sword to them. He took the pen. But they also didn’t wield the pen like a sword while claiming that it was really a pen.

The West must learn that hypocrisy works only thus far and no further. If you talk about absolute freedom of expression then you can’t put certain things out of bounds. If you do, then it is not absolute freedom. If denying the holocaust is a crime (because the holocaust was a crime which the West committed, not Muslims) then mocking the Prophet Muhammad is also a crime and must be punished. Give people a legal means of dealing with crime and then hold them accountable if they still choose an illegal way. But if you close all legal doors and try to force people to accept your ‘right’ to assault and wound them, then there will always be those who won’t accept your aggression as your ‘right’ and will act as they see fit. Their actions will be wrong and condemnable as much as the actions of those deliberately provoke the reaction. Honor, to some, still remains more important than life.

The West must consider the ‘excuse’ of Israel which the West supports on the use of excessive force when they shell Gaza allegedly as a ‘consequence’ of Palestinians firing rockets into their own occupied land which Israel illegally claims to be its own. Israelis say, “They brought it on themselves. If you provoke us, we will retaliate.’ Does that argument make sense?  Apparently to the West it does. Then ask why such an argument can’t also be used by others?

There is only one way to break the cycle of violence and that is to respect one another. To respect differences even if we don’t like those differences. To respect diversity. To respect that everyone has a right to his own belief, whether or not it makes sense to us. Disrespect, mockery, insulting and verbal (or graphic) assaults are all violence and must be responded to with legal action. If not they will give rise to reactions and the cycle will continue ad infinitum. So I say to you, abusing the Prophet is not a right. It is a very big wrong that violates the rights of not millions, but billions of people. So stop it right now.

Checklist for Spiritual Development

I wrote in my book -Islam for Beginners – It has been said that true bankruptcy is a full belly and an empty soul. Religion must be a matter of conscious choice.

So here’s a checklist to show us the state of our soul.

1. How much time do you spend in personal Ibaadah, by yourself alone, daily?

2. How much time do you spend in reflection daily and do you keep notes of lessons learnt?

3. How much Qur’an do you read daily?

4. Do you pray Tahajjud daily without fail?

5. What other Nawaafil do you pray?

6. Do you fast on Mondays and Thursdays, 9 days of Dhul Hijjah and 2 days of Ashoora regularly?

7. Do you make Itikaaf for the last ten days of Ramadan regularly every year?

8. What is the quality of your Salah in terms of concentration, happiness in the heart, comfort to the soul and can you distinguish each of these clearly?

9. What is the extent of your charity?

10. What do people think and say about your Akhlaaq? How do you know?

11. How much do public approval and popularity matter to you? What’s the proof of that?

12. Do you make money out of Islamic activity especially Daawa? Because Allah told us to spend in His path, not to make money out of the path.

13. Do you have a Musleh? Who is he and how is he qualified to be a Musleh?

14. What is the condition of your heart? How do you know?

15. How much of what you tell others do you practice yourself?

16. How careful are you with what you eat? Do you eat or drink something where the ingredients are unknown?

17. Is your income Halal?

18. How careful are you with what you look at and listen to?

19. When was the last time you wept in solitude for the love of Allah?

20. How many of your actions and words are influenced by what people may think and how many are purely for Allah’s pleasure?

If all the answers are positive then rejoice because you’re at zero. Not negative but at zero. You just passed nursery. You are at the threshold. Welcome now to the rest of the journey which can only begin once we’ve crossed these hurdles.

Finally a meter with which to measure how successful we are in achieving our spiritual development:

Ankabut 29: 45. Recite (O Muhammad) what has been revealed to you of the Book (the Qur’an), and establish As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat). Verily, As-Salat (the prayer) prevents Al-Fahsha’ (i.e. great sins of every kind, shamelessness) and Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism and all rebellious deeds) and the remembering (praising) of (you by) Allah is the greatest indeed [than your praising Allah]. And Allah knows what you do.

Allah states that the Salah prevents us from all kinds of sins because it keeps alive His remembrance in our minds and hearts. It reminds us about who we obey and worship and that He is our witness. How can someone who claims to believe in Allah and is aware that Allah is watching and knows what one is doing, still commit sin? So if we find ourselves praying but still lying, cheating, slandering, dealing in Riba, indulging in all kinds of shady activities, then we need to question our very belief. Knowledge that is not reflected in action, doesn’t exist except as proof against ourselves on the Day of Judgment.

Allah also mentions the reward for the one who prays – that Allah mentions him in the presence of those who are around him. What more do we need to motivate us?

May Allah help us, protect us and save us from ourselves.

There was a world before plastics and we lived in it

First a disclaimer:Nostalgia alert: Not everything old is or was good. Not everything new is or was bad. But nostalgia feels so good. So enjoy and keep the salt handy.

In the world before plastics, glasses were made of glass, or copper or silver and water tasted better in them. Bottles were transparent glass or opaque ceramic. But both were breakable and did. Plates were ceramic beautifully painted. Also breakable and did. We also had steel plates which didn’t break but were less classy. Buckets and tubs were unbreakable, made of copper or galvanized iron and made a loud clang when you put them down and dropped the handle. So you were careful to put the handle down gently. 

Shopping bags were cloth, washed and reused until they wore out and then served as dish and polishing cloths until they vanished. Chairs were wooden or metal – some foldable, some not. All heavy and unstackable. So when plastic bottles, plates, cups, buckets and tubs and above all plastic bags came to be, we were thrilled out of our minds. Transparent like glass but doesn’t break? Buckets and tubs lifting which didn’t break your back? Chairs that could be stacked and put away when you didn’t need them? Shopping bags that you could print your label on and which the customer could use for other things or simply throw away? No need to wash and dry and reuse. Truly a vision of convenience heaven.

Beds were wooden cots without springs with cotton mattresses on them. Every year a man would come with an instrument that resembled a great bow and would be shut into a room with all mattresses. He would unstitch one side, pull out the cotton, prong it with his bow until it was fluffy once again and then stuff it back into the mattress. When you entered the room to give the man a cup of tea, you had to look for him in the white cloud of cotton fluff and dust that he generated. The drumming sound of him working was like an out of tune sitar. What it did to his lungs breathing in the cotton fluff, is not something that either he or we were conscious of but thanks to spring-less beds and firm mattresses we didn’t have backaches. PUF was unheard of. Foam was on soaps, not mattresses. And soaps were in the bathroom, not on TV. There was no TV.

Our home had resident wildlife – sparrows in the rafters making an infernal din every morning belligerently defending their nesting sites from intruders. In Urdu they are very aptly called Khana Chidiya (Khanchudi in Deccani) – house bird. Their feathers and at nesting time, all the grass and other tidbits they brought and then allowed to fall – they are incredibly messy nest builders – meant that the house had to be swept twice or three times a day. Occasionally a sparrow would get brained by a lazily rotating fan because they never seemed to realize that trying to perch on a moving fan was a bad idea. We would pick up the dazed bird and revive it and put it on a window sill so that it could fly away when it wished. It never occurred to us to de-sparrow the house. Sweeping was preferable to an aseptic house devoid of the chirping of the sparrow. Today with all the concrete and glass and pesticide sprays in the fields, sparrows are gone.

Municipal water came when it came so everyone had storage tanks in bathrooms. If those ran out there was the Bi-hish-ti (literally: man from heaven) who came with a leather sack slung over his shoulder and topped up the tank. More usually he would water the garden and simply sprinkle water in the yard after sunset to cool the place down before our cots would be set out for us to sleep under the stars all through summer. Those who didn’t have gardens had terraces or flat roofs used for the same purpose. How did it feel to lie in bed and look at the moon and stars through your mosquito net, secure in the thought that your house was not being burgled while you slept? I don’t think I can even tell you to try it out today . The world before plastics was different.

In that world we had no computers but we had time. We had no TV but we had friends. We had no cell phones but we spoke to people face to face. Conversation was an art, taught and learnt and grunts didn’t substitute for words. Language had value and was acquired and husbanded – new words tried out to see how they worked – phrases repeated, shared and appreciated. Poetry was an actual form of self-expression that underlined the thought and the ability to quote the right couplet at the right time was a mark of a person’s education. Conversation didn’t simply revolve around politics or controversial matters but we talked about thought leaders, exemplars of our past and shared their thoughts and writings, often verbatim – memorizing and quoting them being a sign of our own worth. An hour or two passed in this way, drinking tea and reciting poetry and marveling at the turn of phrase, expressing thoughts that touched the heart was something to be looked forward to and back on with great pleasure.

We worked in the home or for our families for love or duty but never for money. We were never offered money and would have considered it an insult to be offered payment for doing something for our family members, no matter how distant. The concept of paying children to work in the home was unheard of and considered deplorable. Money was called ‘dirt on the hands’ – we dirtied our hands for the experience. The dirt came as a result – we didn’t work for it. Mentioning what anything cost, what anybody earned or what anyone had spent on a gift, meal or any other form of hospitality was considered insulting and crass. Hospitality was a value, not an industry. The guest was someone you invited home to a meal. To take him to a restaurant was considered a lapse in the standard of hospitality. Even if you did it, it was done under duress. Never as a choice. If some family member informed us that he or she was arriving from another city, it was the standard for us to meet them at the station and bring them home.

 I will never forget the picture of my great-uncle Nawab Ruknuddin Ahmed standing on the platform on Chennai station with garlands when I arrived there in 1985 with my newly wedded wife Samina. He was staying with his daughter, Aunty Jahanara, who we would be transiting with on our way to the tea gardens where I worked. Even though it was not his home that we were going to, Mamujaan honored us by personally receiving us at the station. But then what am I saying? How can the daughter’s home not be his home? Just as my aunt’s home was my home. We learnt from the actions of our elders. Tradition was to keep those memories alive – not only by talking about them, but by emulating the actions. For a family member to stay in a hotel instead of at home with us, was an insult to our honor. The thought that elderly parents could be sent away to a ‘home’ was unimaginable. Home was where we lived – not some place to shunt old inconvenient elders to, to be taken care of by strangers. They were our elders. We remembered what they did for us when we were little. To do the same for them, was not only our duty but not even something we considered remarkable.

In that world we played real games on real earth not virtual games on a gadget. We ran, sweated, yelled ourselves hoarse, tore our shirts, fell down, skinned our knees, got covered with dust and when it was raining with mud and considered all this as having a whale of a time. In these games we learned leadership, sharing, standing up for our friends, being done in by those we trusted and learnt lessons from all of them. We learned to work as a team, strategize and see the result of that strategy. We stood up for each other, never reneged on our friends, even when we sometimes had to pay the price for that loyalty. We settled with our friend in private but stood by his side in public. You didn’t turn your back on your friends. It was as simple as that. It didn’t matter to us what the color, religion or social status of the friend was. It didn’t matter what car he drove because we all rode bicycles. It didn’t matter what brand of clothing he wore because we all had clothes custom tailored by the Darzee (tailor) in our Muhalla (neighborhood). Bell bottoms were in fashion and we wore them. So were pointed shoes, and Brylcream in the hair. It didn’t matter whether the friend was rich or poor because at the end of a good football game, we all looked the same – the color of mud. It didn’t matter if he was tall or short, handsome or ugly. What mattered was that he was my friend. That was all.

In that world manners were everything. Manners meant that you showed respect to elders by greeting them first and standing up for them. By anticipating their needs and running to fulfill them. Manners meant that if an elder had to carry a chair to a place where he wanted to sit, it was an insult to you as the youngster who stood by and watched. Manners meant that you spoke politely after asking permission and listened more than you spoke. ‘That is why you have been given two ears and one mouth’ – we were told. Manners meant that when guests came home you served them, not servants. That you were in the middle of studying for your exam meant nothing. Guests were more important than exams. When the guests left you went back to studying and still got straight A’s. No compromising on results.

In that world, we read books. Not occasionally but every single day. We had our favorite authors but we still had to read the classics mandatorily. Books were (and still are) our best friends, opening doors into worlds unexplored. We saw the scenes as we read about them, laughed with the actors in those stories, shared their joys and sorrows. 

Books opened for us doors into the hearts and lives of the writers and their times walking through which we discovered ourselves. We read everything. J.R.R Tolkien, Ayn Rand, Alvin Toffler, Iqbal, Ghalib, Ibn Al Qayyim, Louis L’amour, George Orwell, Romila Thapar, James Herriot, Gerald Durrell, John Steinbeck, Munshi Premchand, Jakata Tales and many others, all spoke to us. They influenced us and shaped our thoughts and values and taught us to question, critically analyze and choose intelligently. Above all they taught us that we are not unique or more special than anyone else. That others also cry tears and laugh their way through difficulties and that in many cases our worst complaints are the dreams of others. We read and we learnt to write. We saw and we learnt to show by drawing vividly colored pictures with words. We dreamt and learnt to deal with the reality that some dreams are simply that – dreams. But that even the most unrealizable of them, opens vistas to that which might have been and leads to that which can become a reality. We learnt the value of philosophy and the solace it gives to a sore heart. We learnt to choose – sometimes painfully – but learnt the lesson that we could and must make choices. Sitting on the fence invariably gives you a sore crotch.

We had never heard of recycling but we always wore clothes that had graced the bottoms of our elder siblings. We used and reused them until the thing simply fell apart. Only then did we get anything new. Clothes covered our bodies, not our egos. Manners, not possessions were our statement. Not to say that we were always good mannered – one of the things we prided ourselves on was the ability to describe another’s ancestry in colorful terms for ten minutes without repeating ourselves. A skill that comes in handy when one needs to de-stress. The secret is to do it alone facing a wall. Otherwise it increases stress levels instead of de-stressing.

Since we didn’t have copy paste or auto correct, we learned spelling and wrote clearly in longhand. Ah! The joy of the feel of a fountain pen gliding smoothly across the page – these were the days before ball pens came into being. You chose your pen depending on the width of the nib. Sat with an inkpot and medicine dropper, filling the pen. Then screwed the top back on and carefully wiped the residual ink on your head and you were good to go. We wrote letters not only to give news but poured out our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes you would get a letter with a circle around a suspicious stain labelled ‘tear’. Then we waited days and sometimes weeks before we got a reply.

We couldn’t see the face, didn’t get instant responses and had to struggle with translating emotion into words – so we learned to write properly. Our vocabulary was a lot more than, ‘Ugh!, gr8, Like, youknowwhaimean? LOL. We didn’t explore – we checked. We didn’t reach out – we contacted. We didn’t try to reach – we reached. We used shorthand to take notes and short forms only for telegrams. We learnt to imagine, anticipate and adjust. We learned patience and we learned to write legibly because the addressee had to read what we wrote. We learned to write concisely because we didn’t want the reader to get bored and throw the letter away. We learned to write correctly and grammatically because not to do so was a sign of ignorance and a poor education. It still is.

In this world without instant coffee or tea bags we learnt the value of process – warm the tea pot before you pour in the hot water – and the reward of a properly done job – drink a cup of freshly ground coffee and you’ll see what I mean. And the lesson that everything had a use – used tea leaves are excellent mulch for roses. Drinking tea was also about demonstrating upbringing – hold the cup by its handle between three finger and thumb with the little finger (pinky) sticking out and you don’t slurp or blow on the tea to cool it. And god forbid, never slurp it out of the saucer. Not to say that doesn’t have it’s own pleasure but you didn’t do it.

Not that everything in the plastic-less world was hunky dory – we had power cuts or to put it more correctly, we were delightfully surprised when we had power. But we had candles and lamps. We had no cooking gas and so our rotis came with a wood smoke flavor. Corn was always on the cob, roasted on live coals, rubbed with half a lemon dipped in salt and eaten hot. What all this cooking on wood did to the forests is another story. We had no refrigerators so we gave away all leftovers and always ate fresh. Milk would be stored overnight in what was called a Hawadaan (literally: air container) – a cupboard with a wooden frame and mesh sides. If it still turned we converted it either into a sweet or into ghee. As I said, we recycled out of necessity and it was very enjoyable.

My generation is a generation that straddles times and change. We have seen more fundamental change than both our predecessors and successors and we love it.

Palestine – Why is it happening?

We are all witness to what is happening in Palestine – deplorable, despicable, shameful, horrific and completely avoidable if only some good sense could prevail on all sides. Naturally we, the common people, Muslim or not, are anguished, perplexed and confused about why among those that have power, there is so much apathy and even active complicity with the aggressors and such a lack of sympathy for the oppressed.

AllahY made laws of success and failure in this life. These are as foolproof and as incontrovertible as the laws of physics, also established by AllahY. These laws must also be learned and taken into account if you want to succeed. For example AllahY said about being influential, victorious, powerful and leading people;

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 

Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).

Now keeping this basic principle in mind – that this world runs according to the laws of AllahY and if you want something you have to follow that law; dua without a strategy or a strategy while disobeying AllahY won’t work – let us see what is happening in Palestine.

To understand this we have to go back in history. Jews were persecuted all over Europe, both in Eastern (Russia) and Western Europe for centuries. The pogroms of the Tsars of Russia or the Final Solution of Hitler are all historical events – as deplorable, despicable and tragic as what is happening in Palestine today and has been happening for the past sixty years. Ironically, the only place where Jews were not persecuted was in Muslim lands, under the Ottoman Empire and earlier rulers. But it appears that memories are short and gratitude is a forgotten art. Hitler’s genocide of six million innocent people was the final straw after which Europe could no longer hide its discriminatory policies against Jews. Meanwhile Jews in Europe, though Semitic originally, became very European and a great number today have little to do with their Semitic origins and are racially speaking, European. This is important to remember in order to understand the events that unfolded after World War II and the birth of the State of Israel.

Europe accepted its culpability in the genocide of Jews at the hands of Hitler but its centuries old prejudice against Jews wouldn’t allow it to do what would have been honorable, just and logical – give them a homeland in Europe. Carve it out of Germany which was responsible for their genocide, thereby making the German people rightfully pay the price of silently supporting Hitler and his goons. Neither did the European ruling America and Russia accept their collective guilt in allowing six million innocent people to die and therefore grant a homeland to the displaced Jews in America or Russia.

Events of history always favor those who are prepared to take advantage of them. The seeds of Zionism were planted in 1896 by Theodor Herzl, long before the Holocaust. He lived in Austria-Hungary and wrote about the need for a Jews Only state – erroneously referred to as a Jewish State. Herzl founded the Zionist Organization in 1897. Israel was formed by mostly atheist Zionists whose purpose was to create a state for ethnic Jews, not to create a theocracy; a state for Jews, not a Jewish state. Zionism is a political ideology, not a theology and has nothing in common with Judaism.

There is a very interesting conversation between Arthur Balfour, UK’s Foreign Secretary, and Chaim Weizmann, the representative of the Zionist Organization, which took place in 1906.
During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann’s objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda, (the Uganda Protectorate in East Africa in the British Uganda Programme), rather than in Palestine. 

According to Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:
“Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” He sat up, looked at me, and answered: “But Dr. Weizmann, we have London.” “That is true,” I said, “but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.” He … said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: “Are there many Jews who think like you?” I answered: “I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves.” … To this he said: “If that is so you will one day be a force.”

Two months after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, Zionist British cabinet member Herbert Samuel circulated a memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine to his cabinet colleagues. The memorandum stated that “I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be much the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire”.

The Jews themselves were sick of Europe and Europeans and the growing anti-Semitism and had been actively planning for an independent country for Jews in Palestine. Their worst fears came true with Hitler’s horrific holocaust which was directed not only against the Jews but also against Gypsies and other so-called non-Aryan people. But the Jews by far exceeded all other ethnicities for the number of lives lost. The holocaust is one of those events in the history of mankind which one wishes had never happened but also illustrates how those who are prepared can take advantage of the worst calamities and turn them into opportunities.

The plan to create a Zionist state in Palestine was underway much before Hitler came into power with the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917.

“The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on 9 November 1917. The “Balfour Declaration” was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.”


Figure 1The Balfour Declaration. Credit: Wikipedia

What came to the aid of the Zionists were the events of history and they were prepared to take every advantage. The great Ottoman Empire ceased to exist and was being dismembered and parceled off to local rulers who were puppets of the real rulers – British/American/European combine. The goal of finishing off the Khilafa Othmania or Islamia had been accomplished. Mustafa Kamal Pasha was enthroned on the Ottoman Throne with the mandate of demolishing the Khilafa which he did. However, two major problems remained – what to do with the Jews and how to ensure that a new Islamic Khilafa didn’t emerge if one day all the local rulers decided to unite under one banner.

The solution was very simple for anyone who’d read history and happened to have the strings of power in hand at the time. Create a ‘so-called historical Jewish homeland in Palestine’ which was the traditional land of the Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Palestine was never Jewish alone after Titus finished with it and was always the common property of the three religions who claimed common lineage from Abraham (Ibrahimu). But at this point in history, Islam was on the back foot – the Ottoman Empire was dead and the local chiefs who had recently been given their own kingdoms were like kids in a toyshop – beyond care for anything other than the latest toy their money could buy. The Christian powers were the brokers and the Jews were more than ready to do the deal. And so the term Judeo-Christian came into being and Israel was born.

This served both the objectives – getting the Jews out of Europe and putting a Europe friendly power in the middle of the chicken coop of Arab countries which could be used in the future to keep any aspiring leaders in check and ensure that no puppet could break his string. That is why all the military aid, atomic weapons and a carte blanche to Israel – after all you don’t become tough on your own tool.

As for Palestinians, they were conveniently as weak then as they are now. They belonged to nobody and were fair game; open season was declared on them and this has not closed since then. As the saying goes, ‘As long as lions have historians, history will always glorify the hunt.’ Weakness has never been fashionable and as Hitler said, ‘Victors write their own history.’ The poet Iqbal put it very aptly when he said:

Taqdeer ke Qazi ka ye fatwa hai azal se
Hai jurm-e-zaeefi ki saza marg-e-mafaajaat

From the first day of creation the ruling of the Judge of destiny has always been
The punishment for the crime of weakness is sudden death

Now let us apply the laws of AllahY to this situation. As is mentioned in the Ayah above AllahY laid down two rules – adherence to the Kitaab wal Sunnah and Unified Strategy. Each is not sufficient by itself. They have to both exist simultaneously and work dynamically for the result to happen. The plane needs wings and an engine. Neither by itself is sufficient. The man making Dhikr and dua still needs to pull the rip cord of the parachute if he doesn’t want to die. The rule is the combination of its elements. Not either element by itself. The equation works when both sides interact. With only one side it is not an equation. To recollect what AllahY said:

وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَنَازَعُواْ فَتَفْشَلُواْ وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ وَاصْبِرُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ 

Anfal 8: 46. And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabireen (those with staying power).

The first part of the equation deals with the importance of personal piety and I have dealt with that in another article – without it there is no connection with AllahY and therefore no success.

Talking about the second part of the equation – Unified Strategy – there is probably no better example of what lack of unity can do than in the 13th century (1200-1260) when Genghiz Khan (in 1220) annihilated the Khwarazm Sultanate with its iconic cities of Samarkhand, Bukhara among many others which were iconic names in Islamic civilization and history. Entire populations were slaughtered, libraries burned, masaajid demolished, fields turned into grazing land for Mongol horses and cities razed to the ground. Khalifa An Nasir of Baghdad, the rival of Sultan Alauddin of Khwarazm, watched in delight as all this happened, not knowing of course what was to happen to his family and people in Baghdad.
In 1258 Hulegu Khan besieged Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Khilafa and upon its capture, executed Khalifa Al Musta’asim and burned the city to the ground. When Hulegu saw Musta’asim’s treasures he was so enraged that Musta’asim hadn’t used them to raise an army to defend his kingdom that he locked him up with the treasure and said, ‘Eat it as you are so fond of it.’ Musta’asim died there. The famous libraries of Baghdad and House of Wisdom were burned to the ground and the population decimated. This is considered the end of the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization.

But leaving all this history aside, if one were to ask, ‘What did we Muslims learn about the dangers of internal conflict and how is this learning reflected in our lives,’ we would be hard put to find an answer. It is almost as if we learnt nothing because if there is one thing that characterizes us as people, it is our internal conflicts, our intolerance for difference of opinion, our unwillingness to accept diversity and our impatience and anger with anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Our societies are rife with one group of Muslims calling another apostate (Kafir and Murtad) and on that pretext attacking and seeking to destroy them.

There is no unity even among the Palestinians themselves – the Fatah and Hamas conflict being clear all along. Israel has utilized this conflict to its own advantage for decades but Fatah and Hamas are unable to see through this. Palestinian politics is rife with corrupt leaders ever ready to sell their own people down the drain for their own interests. Their internal conflicts enable Israeli intelligence to know everything that happens there. The list of what is wrong in Palestine itself is long. But nothing different or particularly worse than the list for the rest of the Ummah. We can point a finger at Palestinians but three relentlessly point back at us.

As for the lack of unity among Muslim rulers – the only thing that they can agree on is that they can’t agree on anything. And by the look of it – not even a single statement against what is happening in Palestine/Gaza just now – it doesn’t seem that we are going to see any unity in a hurry. Muslim rulers are terrified of democracy in any form or shape and they will do anything in their power to stop anything that remotely looks like a democracy arising anywhere near them. Their sponsors and supporters, thanks to whom they retain their thrones, love to talk about democracy and posture as its protectors and promoters – but in reality democracy is the last thing they want in their client regimes. They would rather install or support dictators and deal with one man, no matter how corrupt or oppressive, than dealing with a democratically elected government of the people. Nothing is more clearly evidence of this than the reinstallation of dictatorship in Egypt.

Meanwhile Israel, the genesis of which was hatred and fear and which survives on this ideology and this image is what sustains it and ensures that it gets both an unlimited expense account and a James Bond License to Kill – will continue to do what it always did – keep that image of being the bastion of protection for the West alive. Israel has sold to the West the key message – WiiFM – What’s in it for Me? As somebody said, ‘Israel says that it is our only friend in the Middle East. But before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.’ Western leaders are not willing to look at this fact at all. The West considers Israel essential for its own safety. Israel will never do anything to debug this myth. It is not in the interest of Israel to do so. Its entire communication and propaganda machine is geared to ensuring that the Free Press is free to report only what is beneficial to keeping this myth alive and that all real information that may threaten to lift the curtain is instantly suppressed and killed. One can hardly blame Israel for not wanting to kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

No matter how much one may wish for the natural cooperation that should be the logical outcome of population, skill and technology demographics of Israel-Palestine – where Jewish technology and Palestinian work could make the desert flower – the desert flowers on usurped land, stolen water and the blood of innocents. All because if Palestinians and Israelis cooperated, Western (American) Military aid would lose its meaning and the carte blanche in global morality would cease to exist. That would be a very expensive bargain, especially given the history of sixty years of brutal oppression that Israel has written into its story.

Also at stake is the largest fresh water aquifer on which Gaza and a lot of inconvenient Palestinians are sitting. That water is wealth beyond belief for water starved Israel and the lives of a few Palestinians which may be the cost that Israel has to pay is very easy to do. Killing is always easier than dying. Another carrot is the gas reserves on the Palestinian coast which have recently come to light which Israel has no intention of allowing Palestinians to benefit from.

To come to the aid of Israel is sixty years of planning, investment, intelligent use of natural and human resources to ensure that no decision is ever taken in any forum which can be remotely inimical to Israel’s interests. Israelis may have internal conflicts among themselves and Israeli politics is as dog eat dog as any other, but they are a unified force when it comes to Israel’s collective interests. I wish one could say that about Muslims – that they also unite when it comes to the interests of Islam. But we know the sad truth.

Hamas’s strategy of armed resistance is obviously not working and is instead being used as an excuse for Israel’s expansion plans, legitimizing (at least in the minds of their sponsors) genocide of civilian populations and massive destruction of humanity. Hamas’s ineffective toy rockets are answered by highly effective F16 and Apache helicopter bombing with catastrophic results. Why Hamas doesn’t rethink its strategy is something that I have no answer for. But obviously they need to do that urgently.

The comparison made with the armed struggle of South African people against its own apartheid regime doesn’t really fit because apartheid on the basis of color and race has lost all credibility and support and though it still remains in the hearts of many, it is simply untenable in public. No political leader can call for it and expect to remain in power. However, the same is not the case with religious and ethnic (Semitic only) prejudice. It is possible for Israeli leaders to call for ‘Death to all Arabs’, ‘Kill Muslim children’, ‘create concentration camps in Gaza’ and such things and still survive and thrive. The world doesn’t find this as reprehensible as it found white supremacy ideology of the South African apartheid regime. So whereas it sanctioned South Africa until the apartheid regime came to its knees, it doesn’t lift a finger against Israel, who despite being the killer plays victim very successfully.

Secondly, what is different in this freedom struggle from that of South Africa is the attitude of neighboring countries. In the case of South Africa, neighboring countries opened their borders to freedom fighters to cross over into safe territory, permitted them to have training camps for their fighters, allowed equipment and supplies to come through their countries – all to support a cause they considered just. They also used all their diplomatic power to lobby for the freedom of Black people from the apartheid regime in all international fora. Countries in Europe, UK being at the forefront, stood firmly behind the freedom struggle and the leaders of the struggle operated from UK for years.

However in the case of the Palestinian struggle, their neighboring countries are doing the opposite. They are, if anything, more hostile to them than Israel. They have sealed their borders and are not even allowing medicines to go through. Their military personnel are infiltrating into Palestine to gather intelligence on behalf of Israel in order to destroy Hamas. The fact that Hamas is the duly elected government of Palestine means nothing to them or to their masters, who harp about democracy from the rooftops but strongly support dictatorships – all without batting an eyelid. As mentioned earlier, this is the same logic that prevailed in Egypt where the duly elected government was declared ‘terrorist’ and a dictator was installed and called the ‘elected President’. The Arab Spring – sprang into the lap of dictatorship once again. Palestinian freedom fighters therefore are completely alone without a single friend in any government, with the exception of the Government of South Africa and now several Latin American countries which still support the anti-apartheid freedom struggle.

Another question that is often asked is why Gandhian non-violent civil disobedience didn’t work in the South African freedom struggle even though Gandhiji started propagating it in South Africa. Gandhiji’s philosophy was eventually tried and tested in India and it worked very well in getting rid of British Colonial Rule. But in South Africa it was tried and failed and so was abandoned and armed resistance was adopted and eventually succeeded in gaining freedom for the black people from white apartheid rule. I asked one of my friends, a famous senior freedom fighter in the South African freedom struggle who spent over two decades in prison, this question. His answer, ‘The Apartheid Regime didn’t play by the rules like the British in India did.’ And that is precisely the reason why a non-violent movement will probably not work in Palestine either – the Zionists don’t play by the rules. Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver while she was attempting to protest peacefully against the illegal demolition of a Palestinian home.

The bigger tragedy is that nobody, including her own government, supported her non-violent action, nor did they criticize or punish the bulldozer driver who murdered her. The message to the Palestinian people was clear – non-violence doesn’t work.

The final, unusual feature in this whole game is the situation of massive civilian support for Palestine and against Israeli aggression. What is amazing however is the extent of civilian support for Palestine yet its apparent ineffectiveness in changing the situation on the ground. Social Media has played a vital role in exposing the truth to the general public so that despite state control of so-called mainstream media and Israeli influence on major media channels like CNN, Fox, BBC and others which enables them to use these channels as their propaganda machine, common people are able to get real information directly from the frontline from people who are directly affected.

Another tactic which seems to be working very well and the success of which must be attributed to Social Media – especially Twitter and Facebook – is the movement to boycott products made in Israel and Occupied Palestine. YouTube brought images to the public that mainstream television was trying to hide. Boycotting products gave the public a way to take action that is legal and in their power to do. Social Media made it possible to connect across international boundaries. We hope that all this will bring about change on the ground before it is too late.

Problem definitions are always easy for someone who has the benefit of perspective, a function of distance. The solution is also very simple to envisage in this case All people of conscience must learn to unite on justice; understand that injustice to one is injustice to all. For Muslims, follow the Book of AllahY and the Sunnah of His Messengerr and show the rest of the world how Arabs and Palestinians are not only not a threat but a big asset to the world. How to make it happen? Implementation is always the key. And only action can get results.

Notwithstanding all of the above, it is entirely possible that we may all be in for a huge surprise – and I for one am praying for it – where the huge involvement of civil society in upholding human rights and speaking out against murder and genocide may bear fruit and give justice to the Palestinians.

The reality is that when the bombs stop falling the Palestinians will have the freedom to live in their land, minus their homes, without electricity, water, schools, hospitals and all the conveniences and security that we take for granted in even the poorer countries. And Israel will still have the wall, the check points, the right and power to humiliate, violate, imprison and kill Palestinians without question. So really what kind of life is that? And of course I am not even talking about dealing with the psychological trauma of bereavement and desolation in their lives for no fault other than being in the wrong place – so to speak.

It is essential for the world to remember that the challenge for all people of conscience is not merely to stop the bombing but to ensure that this never happens again. The only way to achieve that is to ensure that justice is done, murder is punished and its perpetrators are brought to book. Its supporters must be taught a lesson that they won’t forget in a hurry. Only then will a soldier think twice before pulling the trigger, when he has a child’s face in the cross hairs of his telescopic sight.

Only then will we once again dare to call ourselves human.

“Balfour Declaration.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 25 July 2014. Web. 3 August 2014. <>

Chossudovsky, Michel. “War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields.” Global Research. Global Research, 08 Jan. 2009. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.

Fadhel, Mohammad. “Israel Wants Palestine’s Water and Gas.” Newsletter., 27 July 2014. Web. 05 Aug. 2014.
Parry, Nigel. “Photostory: Israeli Bulldozer Driver Murders American Peace Activist.” The Electronic Intifada. The Electronic Intifada, 16 Mar. 2003. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.