SPECIAL REPORT: Indian religious leaders strongly protest against South Korean government hounding of Shincheonji Church despite cooperation to contain COVID-19 spread

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 August 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan

The government of South Korea is pursuing a discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church while accusing it of COVID-19 spread. The church authorities have alleged that this is nothing but a witch-hunt against the church despite its voluntary cooperation, including the largest blood plasma donation in the world. The government alleged that Shincheonji Church is responsible for the spread of COVID-19.

On March 26, former Seoul Metropolitan Mayor Park Won-soon revoked his permission to establish "the New Heaven and New Earth, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony", which was registered in Seoul. Furthermore, on June 22, the city of Daegu, where the largest number COVID-19 cases were confirmed, filed a civil suit worth 100 billion won against Shincheonji Church. All the steps were taken by the government holding Shincheonji Church responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea.

On February 17, after the 31st patient was found infected in Shincheonji Church in Daegu, more than 5,000 church members tested positive for COVID-19. At the request of the government, the church provided a list of Korean and overseas church members. During a press conference the church also promised to cooperate with any request from the government. As soon as the first confirmed case in the church was found, Shincheonji Church shut down all of its buildings and facilities across the country for quarantine. It also switched all of its meetings to online.

In July, most of the church members recovered from COVID-19. Despite several voluntary cooperation including the largest blood plasma donation in the world, the government's discriminatory policy towards Shincheonji Church and the social conflict of fake news in the Korean media have resulted in more than 6,000 cases of religious discrimination and human rights violations against the church in just a few months, including forced resignation, domestic violence, compulsory conversion education, and breach and leak of personal information. With the prolonged COVID-19 crisis, members of Shincheonji Church are at war against another virus called "discrimination."

A recent statement issued by the families of the deceased and victims of COVID-19 stated: "The damage and deaths of Koreans reflect the failure of initial response by the government to contain the virus." It also states that the Minister of Justice, Choo Mi-ae “allowed COVID-19 patients from China to enter Korea, leading to a widespread outbreak of the virus across the country, which resulted in the deaths of the Korean people.” It also stated that the minister is trying to cover up her responsibility for the damage by “giving direct orders to prosecutors for raid and arrests against Shincheonji Church”.

Indian religious leaders condemn South Korean govt

Religious leaders in India have also come out strongly in support of Shincheonji Church and urged that the South Korean government should not handle the current pandemic situation with prejudice just because Shincheonji Church is a minority religious group.

Dr. Homi B. Dhalla, Founder President of World Zarathushti Cultural Foundation, said, “In February 2020, the South Korean government had permitted religious organizations to conduct gatherings as well as to hold religious services. At the same time, a number of tourists from China had also entered South Korea. It is now a known fact, globally, that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in China in October 2019. Therefore, it is crystal clear that the infection was brought into South Korea by these tourists. The citizens of South Korea have rightly blamed the government for permitting these tourists to enter the country. Under these circumstances, I would sincerely urge South Korean government to stop harassing Chairman Man Hee Lee and members of the Shincheonji Church.”

Allama Syed Abdullah Tariq, President of World Organisation of Religions and Knowledge, cited a similar case that happened in India in his condemnation letter to Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea. He said, “Politicians around the world are searching for scapegoats to hide their faults. Often, they need to create an enemy to mobilize the support. More often they portray enemy is minority religion or ethnic of the country to win the support of the majority community.” 

“In India, the earliest infected people by covid-19 belonged to a Muslim religious sect called Tablighi Jamaat numbering about 80, and the social media started an organized campaign spreading rumors through morphed images and edited video clips that Muslims were intentionally spreading the disease.” he added. Surprised at knowing that discrimination to the Shincheonji Church has been imposed by the South Korea government, he urged, “Let the Democratic Party of Korea be truly democratic by taking steps to stop the persecution of religious groups and let all people enjoy religious freedom.”

Dr. Chand Kanwar Bhardwaj, General Secretary of Sawan Adhyatmic Satsang Society of India, said, “Regardless of the church's unintentional role in spreading the virus, we cannot put the blame of an entire country on a single organisation. The entire world is reeling through COVID-19 and Shincheonji Church, including its members, is also a victim of it. Treating them with contempt and charging legal proceedings against their organization and their faith, just because they are a minority religious group is a clear violation of constitutional rights.”

“Aren't the governments elected by the citizens to protect their rights? Discrimination in any form shouldn't be acceptable. This is high time for the world governments to come together and protect each individual and provide facilities on humanitarian grounds rather than blaming and targeting an individual or an organization. A Democratic Government should stand by its principal and act accordingly. If the Lawmakers don't follow the laws they made, then what shall we expect from the public?” asks Md. Irshad Ahmad, President of Minorities Forum for Deepening Democracy.

Gautam Patil, the state vice president of The Buddhist Society of India, said, “South Korea's strategy to control the coronavirus outbreak has heralded an exemplary response which the whole world has witnessed today. However, it is saddening to know that the country is exploiting human rights in regards to religious discriminations. An organization or a religious group cannot be blamed as the spreader of the virus. The use of religion in politics always leads to violation, exploitation, and discriminations among the minority which solely affects the human rights of the citizens.”

Ramchandra Das, Secretary of International Goudiya Vedanta Trust, pointed out in his letter sent on July 15th that the treatment by the government towards Shincheonji Church is clearly religious discrimination. “In terms of the peace of religion, we all believe in the same God and need to be in harmony and balance. We shouldn't be biased by looking at one side. In fact, to be honest, the church members are victims of COVID-19 and not perpetrators,” he said in his letter.

Center for Studies on New Religions and HRWF jointly hold webinar

There is also a view that a close relationship between the conservative and fundamentalist churches and the South Korean government had influence on the unusual repression of the government against Shincheonji Church. On July 20, a webinar titled “COVID-19 and Religious Freedom: Scapegoating Shincheonji in South Korea” was hosted by the Center for Studies on New Religions and HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers.  The new Christian movement by Shincheonji has become a target of “persecution from fundamentalist protestants” because of its successful religious expansion “from the conservative and fundamentalist protestants who see Shincheonji as competitors and want to destroy it," said Massimo Introvigne as an Italian sociologist of religion who studied Shincheonji before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and published the first account of the religious group in English.

Prior to the COVID-19 incident, two members of Shincheonji Church lost their lives by coercive conversion program operated by Christian Council of Korea. According to the Coalition for Victims of coercive conversion, the number of victims of this deprogramming is 1,507, and they have been exposed to assault, kidnapping, confinement, and forced leave from their work and schools. A voice of criticism for the coercive conversion program was also raised. Speaking about the discrimination towards Shincheonji Church by the Christian Council of Korea, Allama Syed Abdullah Tariq, President of World Organisation of Religions and Knowledge, also mentioned, “I fail to understand why the Christian Council of Korea opposes it tooth and nail when there are more than 25,000 registered denominations among the Protestants and every one of them at some point of time was a new entrant.”

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right of all people. In contrast, the act of the forced conversion of religion is the greatest violation of this right. The act of the forced conversion of religion has nothing to do with religion at all,” said Dr. Kamini Gogri, Head of Research on Ancient Scriptures, Eikam Resonance Foundation said. “We request to stop the violations of right and the atrocities committed by mainstream Christian churches to violate the same,” she added.

Recovered COVID-19 patients from Shincheonji Church donate $83 billion worth of Plasma for Vaccine development

The world should appreciate the $83 billion worth of Plasma donation for vaccine development by the 4,000 recovered COVID-19 patients from Shincheonji Church. Despite continuous discrimination, more than 4,000 members of Shincheonji Church showed their willingness for plasma donation for the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. The recovered patients voluntarily decided to donate their plasma and even refused to receive any monetary expenses including transportation charges. Starting from 17 July, 500 church members completed their donation. More members are waiting for their turn.

Dr. Avtar Singh Sethi, Advisor of The Kalgidhar Trust/Society, said, “The 4,000 infected members of Shincheonji Church voluntarily donated plasma after recovering from the virus. Their contribution to fighting the pandemic should be appreciated. At these times of crisis, let us all come together and fight the pandemic of COVID-19. I condemn the scapegoating of Shincheonji Church, and I urge the government to stop blaming any section of the society for spreading the virus, and to respect religious freedom,”

Rev Dr, C S Gabriel, the president of Christhava Nallenna Iyakkam says, “Although there is hatred towards them, I appreciate the sincere efforts made through the blood plasma donation by Shincheonji Church members, who were cured of the virus. This is alarming as it threatens other minorities in the country and globally too amid the pandemic. The infected ones are those who need to be protected, not blamed, and discriminated against.”

Religious persecution and stigmatizing must stop in the name COVID-19

The world is in a grave crisis now as it continues to battle Coronavirus pandemic. Fatalities continue to mount with several thousands having already lost their lives and many being affected by the disease. Millions of jobs have already been lost and the world economy is in dire straits. Whether it’s the United States, India or South Korea, the governments have miserably failed to effectively contain COVID-19 spread and lessen fatalities. According to reports, racism of the worst kind was on display in the USA. Black people were specifically targeted and allowed to die mercilessly due to the pandemic. In India, the largest Muslim minority group has been constantly under attack. The Coronavirus pandemic brought even more miseries for Indian Muslims as a religious sect Tablighi Jamaat was systemically targeted and its followers hounded while being accused of spreading the disease. And, the community’s stigmatization continues even today. What happened lately in South Korea by targeting Shincheonji Church is even more depressing and deplorable. Such anti-people behavior can only be expected from the governments who continue to fail to deliver. It’s high time that the world governments should stop religious persecution and stigmatization in the name of fighting COVID-19 pandemic.

[Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached on his Mobile # 9990179721 or at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com]

Special Report: OIC reiterates peaceful settlement of Jammu & Kashmir issue

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has for the second time in two months raised the issue of Jammu & Kashmir seeking a peaceful settlement of the imbroglio.

A virtual meeting was recently held by the Contact Group of the OIC on Jammu and Kashmir issue on June 22, 2020, against the backdrop of the current situation in the embattled Muslim-dominated border state. The foreign ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Niger, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Republic of Turkey participated in the meeting.

The virtual meeting was inaugurated by OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef A.  Al-Othaimeen. He stressed the OIC's resolve and commitment to finding a peaceful settlement for the Jammu and Kashmir issue as per the relevant resolutions of the Islamic Summit, the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the international legitimacy. 

Al-Othaimeen in his inaugural address said, "At the same time, I call on the international community to strengthen its efforts to assist the people of Kashmir to decisively practice their legitimate rights denied for decades."

The Contact Group has reaffirmed its continued support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and called on the United Nations Secretary-General to use his good offices to make India abide by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and engage in dialogue to calm the situation in the region.

The Contact Group has asked India to halt security operations against the people of Jammu and Kashmir immediately, respect basic human rights, refrain from changing the demographic structure of the disputed territory, and settle the conflict under the relevant UNSC resolutions.
Meanwhile, the Contact Group also highly appreciated the efforts made by the OIC General Secretariat through its Special Envoy to Jammu and Kashmir who visited the region in March 2020.

The meeting concluded with the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir issuing a statement on the recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir region in which it welcomed the efforts made by some Member States to calm the situation between India and Pakistan.

OIC Resolution passed over J&K

Earlier, the premier Muslim World body Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had expressed deep concern over Hindu right-wing Narendra Modi government's unilateral actions to change the demographic composition of Jammu & Kashmir and undermining the rights of the people. 

The OIC had on 20th May 2020 passed a resolution over the Central government's unilateral action, which has largely gone unreported in the Indian media. Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi the OIC in its resolution stressed the importance of complying with UN Security Council Resolutions and allowing no changes to the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The OIC Resolution dated 20/05/2020 says:

"The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been following with deep concern the unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 and subsequent measures to alter the demographics of and undermine the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory as recognized by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The General Secretariat reaffirmed the importance of complying with international law and UN Security Council resolutions, considering the recent notification of ‘Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules 2020’ as baseless, running counter to international law and UN Security Council resolution 122.

Recalling the Islamic Summits’ and the Council of Foreign Ministers’ resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, the General Secretariat reaffirms its solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It also calls on the international community to gear up its efforts to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and as per the aspirations of the Kashmiri people."

India, China face off over Ladakh

The Kashmir situation has further worsened with direct face off between India and China. A clash took place between the armies of the two nations at Ladakh's Galwan Valley on June 15. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed and over 80 injured. China claims that the Galwan Valley, which is part of the disputed Ladakh region, is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) - the de facto border between the two Asian rivals.

Earlier, a report authored by a senior figure at an influential Chinese think-tank was published on June 4 in a recent Chinese publication Global Times, which has linked the current tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to India’s move last year to abrogate Article 370 and change the status of Jammu and Kashmir, a decision that China had voiced opposition to.

The article, for the first time, described the move as a joint challenge to China and Pakistan, saying the move had “posed a challenge to the sovereignty of Pakistan and China”.

A press officer at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad was the first to share the report on social media.

Modi Government Indicted

The fact that the Jammu & Kashmir issue has been raised by the OIC for the second time in two months is a serious indictment of the current Hindutva government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With its unilateral action of abrogating Article 370 through a parliamentary act, Modi government has sought to internationalize the Jammu & Kashmir issue, which was so far bilateral, but has now become tripartite issue with the direct interference of China. It may be noted that Article 370, which granted Special Status to Jammu & Kashmir, was primarily considered to be a bridge between India and State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The status quo until the abrogation of Article 370 had kept the wheel going and thwarted any direct international interference. With the military face off between India and China the Jammu & Kashmir issue has become more complicated than ever threatening a war between the two countries, and probably with Pakistan too, in the near future. The OIC's and other world bodies' interference shows that India has failed on its foreign policy front as far as Jammu & Kashmir is concerned.

It would have been better that Modi government should have maintained status quo and shouldn't have moved ahead with the unilateral abrogation of Article 370. India should have instead focused on building a robust South Asian regional market and steered its economy well, which is currently tottering and in abysmally bad shape. The warning bells have started sounding for the Modi government as it is on course losing its formidable friends both in the Muslim World and its immediate neighborhood. The time has come to give a serious thought for the peaceful resolution of Jammu & Kashmir issue.    

[Danish Ahmad Khan, a Senior Journalist, is based at New Delhi. He is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com - India's First Online Muslim Newspaper. He can be reached at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com]

Fatwas and the Responsibility of Muslim Scholars in America

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 21 November 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Islamic scholars occupy a special place in Muslim society. They are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers”. In another tradition; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets”. The Quran states that people are elevated by their religious knowledge “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.” Quran 58:11 As the preservers, and often times interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Additionally, scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of sacred knowledge; which is to explain the religion clearly and concisely and not cover up any part of it, “Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse” 2:159. In today’s turbulent times a, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified teachers takes on a special significance for three reasons, the first being; the scarcity of people available who possess sound and accurate islamic knowledge, It was related in the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): 1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). 2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. 3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). 4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse”. The second reason is the responsibility to stand as barriers between ignorant Islamic leadership and the Muslim people themselves; “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to ignorant as their, leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray”.

The third reason is that the world has changed, people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies into one big melting pot in America and Muslim scholars need to help break down barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here. That means that they have to get out and understand what’s going on in the land. Scholars of Islam have to take the added step whenever and wherever possible, to familiarize themselves with the common people, and the intricacies of American life and culture, about which they render judgments and opinions. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their ills is better than the Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their ills”.

Some Islamic scholars find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America, American people specifically, and in the process, Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. Some, due to their ignorance of American culture and her people, and often operating from abroad, have managed to demonize virtually every aspect of American culture and way of life. Sports, birthdays, Thanksgiving, family photos, decorating homes, designer clothing, thikr beads, wearing jeans, baby showers, attending graduation ceremonies, saying what’s up brother to a stranger on the street, being in a good mood during Christmas season, gospel music, wedding rings, visiting graves of relatives, bereavement practices, women entering Masaajid, loving one’s country, and a host of other things have ended up on the haram list of one scholar or another.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. The average Muslim, especially the convert, who simply wants to worship his or her Lord, and live an Islamic lifestyle, is often left in an almost perpetual state of confusion. Scholars, as they learn more about American society alternately prohibit things in one instance and then make them permissible according to their own evolutionary knowledge of our country, our culture and our way of life.

Anti American oratory has surreptitiously made its way into the modern canonical dialogue of Islam. Many American Muslims have been morally blackmailed into having to repudiate American culture in order to find acceptance as Muslims by immigrant scholars. Even today, rhetoric from a minority of Muslim scholars and some imams are replete with anti-American invectives or rallying cries against so called ‘western culture’ or values. It is ironic however, that from an Islamic theological perspective, morality has no hemispheric basis; “to Allah belongs the east and the west, wherever thou turnest, yr shall find His (God’s) Face”.

Islam for many Muslim Americans has become too complicated to be user friendly. The dozen or so, often conflicting spheres of scholarly influence has created a virtual merry-go-round of Islam in America, and we need to do something about it. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and morality, in the United States, require a thorough understanding of the shariah, the culture norms of the people, as well as the inclusion and consultation of indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia.

The famous 14th century jurist, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and for indigenous American Muslims, and others who intend to stay here permanently, this is our homeland. We don’t have a “back home” to go to. So we need to be certain that the teachings of Islam in this country are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, or ignorance about America and our way of life. Granted, this is a difficult topic. Nevertheless, it is one that must be addressed if we have any hope from curbing the undercurrent of extremism that still germinates in the minds of some of our youth. As Muslim Americans, our first duty is to our Lord, and our number one priority is our own salvation. As American Muslims, we have the god given right to look out after our own spiritual self-interests.

[Shaykh Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California. He is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California. He can be contacted at imamabulaith@yahoo.com]

Pakistan: A Class Of Her Own

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 15 November 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

In the squatter colonies of Pakistan, education is something that happens to other people—especially if you are female. Rahul Bhattacharya meets Humaira Bachal who, as a girl, taught a whole community a lesson

By Rahul Bhattacharya

In the settlement of Moach Goth on the outskirts of Karachi lives a heroine. To meet her you must drive out towards the provincial border of Sindh and Balochistan. En route to Moach Goth, you are shown the flyover that collapsed, the factory that burned, and an entrance to Lyari, the ghetto whose gang wars and body-counts are in the papers every day.

It was a momentous time to be in Pakistan, ten days after general elections and the first transition in the nation's history from one elected government to another. The talk was of tabdeeli, change, and dhandhli, rigging. The talk was of whether things were getting better, or whether they were going to get worse before they got better. The day before repolling in a constituency in southern Karachi, Zahra Shahid Hussain, a much-admired professor, activist and vice-president of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had been shot dead at the gates of her house by two men on a motorcycle. The next morning Samina Baig, a 22-year-old, became the first Pakistani woman to scale Everest.

To enter Moach Goth is to begin to understand another climb, that made by Humaira Bachal. When she and her family came here, they had just cleared their debts. It was probably some time in 1995, but they are not sure. The settlement was small, nothing like now. A fishing village had been here for a long time, but now it was transforming into a squatter's colony in the fast-expanding conurbation of Karachi. When they arrived, as they remember it, there were about a hundred mud and straw huts. There were jungles of thorny acacia. The gangs had not yet formed, and in any case no vehicles really came to the village, so you didn't need to flash your headlights in code to enter anybody's turf after dark.

Now, between the Sindhis, Balochis, Kutchhis, Brohis, Mohajirs, Punjabis and Bengalis, there are 160,000, perhaps 180,000, people in Moach Goth. The sand blows through its unpaved streets. The cement water tower that stands tall over the population worked for two months, then ran dry, so now they must buy water from private contractors. Electricity lines have been installed, but there are power cuts for nine hours a day. Sewage pipes were laid twice; each time they burst in the rains.

Two of the three government schools in Moach Goth are ghost schools, abandoned by their teachers and administrators and occupied instead by junkies or criminals; there are an estimated 30,000 such schools in Pakistan. The single working school left in Moach Goth barely functions. Boys are usually pulled out at 12 by their families and put to work in factories or on construction sites; girls are rarely permitted to study at all. Government figures state that 40% of Pakistani girls have had a primary education, but other official sources put female literacy in Pakistan at 26%. According to independent sources, if you exclude those who can form only their signature, the figure tumbles to 12%.

So when Humaira Bachal matriculated—the equivalent of taking her GCSEs—it was about the most improbable thing a girl from Moach Goth could do. And then she built perhaps the most improbable school in the world. She is 26 now, and she started it when she was 13.

Humaira was born on a Friday morning, "black and thin," she says, "like a little rat". Her grandfather looked at her and cried: "Allah, will this girl live to ever give me a glass of water?" She was the firstborn of Mohammad Bachal and Zainab Bibi, though each had four children from a previous marriage.

They had fallen in love in Lyari, not then such a lethal place. (Decades later, the body of Bachal's only son would be discovered there in a sack under a bridge.) Zainab, a Baloch, was married at 11 to a drunk, drug addict and wife-beater. Bachal, a Sindhi, married a woman who loved someone else. She arranged for Bachal to wed Zainab. But he was cussed: for her troubles, she still did not get her divorce. "Your father is a most wicked man," Zainab would complain to Humaira and her younger sister Tahira, making them laugh.

After the marriage, Zainab and Bachal moved to the town of Thatta in Sindh, where they bought a piece of land and built a hut. He was a truck driver; she took stitching jobs. Humaira was born in Thatta, and three years later was admitted to a nursery school. It was the first time a girl in the family had started a formal education. Bachal tolerated it—Zainab had insisted, supported by her youngest son, Shakeel, who had found some progressive friends in Thatta. The elder daughters were not around, so it was Shakeel who would dress Humaira and Tahira and comb their hair, babysit them at the cycle store where he worked, and take them to their classes.

Humaira remembers summer visits to her father's village, where she would play with a one-year-old cousin, a boy called Munna. One day Munna had a fever, and Humaira was told to come back later. In the evening she found women assembled around the house, crying: Munna had died. It happened 15 minutes after he was given his medicine. She remembers people making absurd conjectures, like whether a lizard had spat in the bottle, before someone discovered that the medicine was past its expiry date. "I couldn't accept that a mother had killed her child, a child she loved so much. She had killed him because she couldn't read."

Her most vivid memory of Thatta is leaving it, soon after the wedding of Shakeel's older brother. The Bachals had put all their capital and more into the wedding, counting on recouping the cost through wedding gifts. But then the rains came. Interior Sindh was flooded. The animals their guests might have given them were washed away, crops were submerged. The roads were gone; hardly anybody showed up. The wedding went ahead, but left the family in debt.

"We sold the iron," Humaira says. "We'd saved up for a television, we sold that. One by one, we sold our utensils. I remember creditors coming round. I remember my mother taking the earrings from my ears and selling them, and I remember why she sold them: because we had the money of others." When the house they had built with their hands stood empty, Zainab Bibi said, "We cannot live here any more." They sold the house and land for 40,000 rupees (£261) and made for the big city, where lives sometimes change.

They reached Karachi in a truck, their belongings few, their money gone, not sure where to go. At first they lived with an uncle, though it was clear they were not welcome. At the time Moach Goth was being settled by people escaping ethnic violence in Orangi Town, Karachi. An acquaintance of the Bachals had acquired a small plot there for 1,000 rupees (£6.50), but did not need it. He offered it to them. "You'll have a place to live, and I'll know that nobody will squat on my property."

Mohammad Bachal didn't have a job, nor did Zainab's sons; Zainab knew nobody she could stitch for. Food was scarce. Humaira and Tahira were "distributed among relatives". Humaira was about eight. "It was tyranny, like they show in the films. I was made to wash clothes, utensils, clean the house, cook, but given only scraps of the leftovers. I carried their bull of a child all over the place until my back felt it was going to break. I couldn't stop crying. When my mother came to see me three months later, I forced her to take me back."

Because there was no sewage system in Moach Goth, there was work available digging latrine pits. This gave Bachal daily wages. Zainab, a generous woman, was known to give away fistfuls of firewood to whoever came asking. "I told my mother, 'why don't we sell the wood?'" says Humaira. "I was very business-minded from the start." They hounded a scrap dealer till he sold them a pair of old scales. On Sundays the family would go into the acacia scrub. Bachal chopped, Zainab removed the thorns, Humaira and Tahira bundled the wood and loaded it on a truck. On a good day they could gather 100 kilos. At home, Zainab would cut the wood into little pieces, and sell them for two rupees (1p) a kilo.

With the money she paid for the two girls to go to Islamia Public School, a few kilometres out on the main road. It cost 250 rupees (£1.63) a month for each girl. At first Humaira and Tahira saw school as a punishment. Instruction was in Urdu, and they knew only Sindhi. They would be beaten in class for their incompetence, then shouted at at home by Zainab for complaining. But they both grew to love it. Mathematics was Humaira's special passion. She was sometimes ahead of the teacher, which gave her a feeling of exhilaration. The sisters used to set themselves the challenge of getting into the top three in class. They usually managed it.

Humaira was 13 when a crazy idea struck her. "My mother used to get us ready every day, tie two ponytails for us, put 2-kilo schoolbags on our backs and send us off. We would walk for 20 minutes—but on the way not one other child in this settlement would join us. One, they did not have money, and two, nobody considered girls to be anything. Those who didn't mind sending girls to school couldn't afford to, because of fees, and the cost of books and uniforms. By then I was in sixth standard [the equivalent of year eight in Britain]. I thought, I'm a big star, I know everything, so I will teach them myself!"

What would become the Dream Model Street School began in 2001, with one blackboard, at home. Humaira taught ten friends of her age, seven of them girls. She started with the alphabet, in Urdu and English, and proceeded to the names of things. She supplied blank pages from her own notebooks, until it got her into trouble with her teachers. Then the friends went round asking people to donate paper, or bought scrap.

Soon, Tahira, who was 11, and three other girls were teaching alongside Humaira. "We were militant about time. Time for study, time for play, time to eat—and time to go out and recruit. We didn't have the sense to realise we didn't have space, books, teachers, money. We went around to houses, telling people, 'We've opened a school, send your children, you must send your children!'"

A short film released on YouTube this year, "Humaira, Dreamcatcher", demonstrates the challenges of this recruitment. It's the work of an Oscar-winning Pakistani-Canadian documentary-maker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose crew have been following the lives of Pakistani women fighting for change. Twelve years after the school started, the film shows local men still making their points: for girls to study is not our culture; they will be stared at while going to school; what use is educating a girl when she is only going to marry and run a house? Permissions, given reluctantly, are withdrawn easily.

Yet by 2003 Humaira's team had enrolled over 150 children. The students could no longer fit into the Bachals' home, so the young teachers decided to rent. They took a 240-square-foot plot with two sorry rooms surrounded by mounds of mud. They levelled the ground themselves, erected wooden poles and strung up discarded flour sacks for shade. These collapsed in the rain. Someone suggested they use Panaflex signboards in place of the sacks. But the wooden poles would not take the weight. Somebody else suggested they use iron pipes, so they found a welder who helped rig them up. Finally, the shelter stood.

They had just about plastered part of the floor with money from a small donation when a charity called arm Child and Youth Welfare came visiting. One of its initiatives was a home-literacy programme, which meant that it could provide textbooks. It could also spare 1,000 rupees (£6.50) a month. "To us," Humaira says, "it felt like a hundred times more. It meant we could pay the rent."

By now, her own education had become a fraught affair. In those days Islamia Public School taught up to the eighth standard, two years short of the matriculation exam. Humaira did not have her father's permission to study further, or farther away. Conspiring with her mother, she enrolled at the Government Girls High School in Baldia Town. The secret could be kept from her father, who was away in the interior for weeks driving trucks. Humaira shone at the new school, becoming class prefect and head of the students' union. She wanted to be a doctor and spent her free time in the lab, dissecting frogs that she carried in from home. To her joy, she cracked the stationery problem at her own school when she discovered piles of half-used notebooks: the dinner lady had been tearing out the pages to wrap samosas.

One morning Mohammad Bachal returned home as Humaira was leaving to take her ninth-standard English exam. Enraged, he slapped her, then beat her mother, who urged Humaira to grab her bag and run. She sat the exam in a state of anxiety. When she returned, the house was calm. Her parents were having tea. He had not changed his mind.

Humaira says she told him, "Abbu [Daddy], if you are worried that you won't be able to marry me off, I promise you that no matter who you produce, even if he is blind or a cripple, tell me where to sign and when to say kabool [I accept], before the magistrate, and I'll do it, no questions asked. Just let me study." She knew it was a risk, but she was counting on her father's love and her mother's wisdom. "When a person is being stubborn," her mother would say, "it's because he hasn't understood yet. Once he understands, the severity with which he opposes you now, he will stand behind you with as much strength."

When he got a job in Karachi, Mohammad Bachal began dropping off his daughters at school in his truck, which delighted them. But his conversion was not complete. Shakeel remembers Bachal's recurring bouts of rage, the way he once brandished an axe during an argument. And the other men of Moach Goth would not let it be. They asked the family to leave the settlement: Humaira and Tahira were a bad influence. They sent thugs to intimidate them. "But over the years," the sisters tell me, almost with one voice, "everyone realised that we are more stubborn than them."

Humaira dropped her plan to study medicine when she found out the fees were around 350,000 rupees (£2,280) a year. Instead she enrolled in a madrassa, with the intention of becoming an Islamic scholar, taking a degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts.

She remembers putting on what's known as the "shuttlecock" burqa, head to toe, with stockings and gloves, and attending the madrassa, where the master taught from behind a purdah (screen). She became an occasional speaker at religious congregations. She instructed 350 girls in Moach Goth in namaaz, prayer, andwuzu, religious ablutions. Six months short of getting her degree, she quit.

Humaira does not name names, and keeps the details vague: there were arguments with the teachers at the madrassa, there was an attempt to kidnap her, her family feared for her safety. It's clear that the disagreements were fundamental.

"Their concept of women was four walls and purdah. To them women are naqis-ul-akl—of defective intelligence. My perspective on Islam was very different from theirs. In the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, women were traders. Hazrat Khadija [the Prophet's first wife] was a businesswoman. Bibi Aisha [the Prophet's youngest wife] was a teacher of hadith, traditions of the Prophet, and fiqh, jurisprudence. In the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, women had beensipahisalar, military commanders; they lived in camps. So is that the correct Islam—or is it four walls and purdah? Islam to me is the faith which gives rights, rather than takes them away. My conscience, my heart, was not satisfied with what they were saying. Why should I take a degree to which I am opposed? What would I do with it?"

From 7.30AM to 8PM, the 25 teachers at the Dream Model Street School educate 1,200 students over five shifts. The school is co-educational, the books are free, and there is no uniform. For those who can pay, fees are 30 rupees (20p) a month. Classes start from nursery and run up to eighth standard. The classrooms are partitioned by curtains, their walls alive with drawings and craft. The blackboards are busy with writing, not all of it completely accurate. "Present Simple Tense = Subject + Verb + Object. Anjum looks at wall clock every day". The teachers are in their late teens or early 20s. Most began their own schooling here.

In the evenings there are classes for child labourers. In the afternoons, a two-hour madrassa class, held for tactical, as well as educational, reasons. "Parents agree to send children to our school because of it," says Tahira, who took over as principal from Humaira six years ago, when she started another job. There are over 50 mosques in Moach Goth, and almost all have a madrassa. "We have seen cases where children have been taken out of the school, put in a madrassa and then talk all day about jihad. One boy, they brainwashed him so much, he pulled his sister out of school. He has become an imam."

Enrolment is one thing, retaining students another. Girls are often pulled out at 12. "The routine", Humaira says, "is matchmaking at 12, engagement at 13, marriage at 14, pregnant at 15. That is why we say we don't enrol a student, we have to enrol a family." They have made progress. A few years ago, of 50 nursery students, boys and girls, only two would still be attending by fifth standard. That number is now up to 20.

At noon there is an adult literacy class, used mostly by older girls who do not have permission to attend school—or a school to attend. Last year ten girls from Moach Goth matriculated. This was a record. They had studied at Dream's adult literacy classes, though for the purposes of sitting their matriculation exam they registered with a government ghost school. Reviving those schools is another part of Dream's agenda. They have already mounted a successful campaign to reopen one of the two abandoned primaries in Moach Goth. Police constables were sent in to clear out the junkies. The teachers—ghost teachers receiving real salaries—were ordered back.

I was accompanied to this school, a day after it had reopened, by two of Dream's male teachers. Qayoom used to paint spare parts for motorbikes, but quit his job when he realised how much he enjoyed being at Dream. Mujeeb was the younger brother of one of the original teachers. A few months ago he was picked up while standing sentry near the school, during a paramilitary operation to flush out criminals. His misfortune, according to his friends, was that he looked like a Makrani gangster: tall, dark, with matted hair. The Moach Goth gangs mostly respect the school. They may snatch mobile phones from its teachers, but they have never made demands: some of them have young relatives at Dream.

The de-ghosted government primary is as stark as a shell. Every piece of furniture, every fitting seems to have been stolen. Nothing remains, no doors, no windows, not even their frames. The white afternoon light explodes into the bare, ravaged rooms, onto the brown sandscape outside, the thorns on the acacia. There are squares of cardboard scattered on the floor, where students must have sat that morning.

By contrast, the second Dream School premises, under construction a kilometre away and close to Humaira's original school, gleam with promise. In 2009, an organisation called Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Centre made a film about Humaira, "A Small Dream". It was shown in Lahore, and Humaira, Tahira and their mother were invited, the first time they had been to the city. Humaira made a speech. The impact went beyond anyone's expectations. With the donations and networking that followed, teachers could be trained and paid a modest salary. The curriculum and the textbooks could be upgraded. "We need a space," Humaira had told the audience in Lahore. "We can't afford the rent, and the landlord keeps trying to lock us out. We are scared that the school will shut down."

The first part of the building, on a 500sqft plot, is the result of a gift from a Pakistani company, Engro Vopak, and a Swiss foundation, Volkart. The ground floor is almost done. If further funds come in, two more storeys will be built. "We want to have classes that go up to matric," says Humaira. "We will have chemistry, physics and biology labs, a computer room, a library, an auditorium. We will have outdoor activities in the back yard, a staff room, principal's room, accounts room. In the back yard we want to put fish and plants and birds. I don't want this to be a school, I want it to be a paradise for the children of Moach Goth."

In April this year, Humaira was interviewed on stage in New York during the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Centre. Her involvement was arranged by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Pakistan needs heroes, she says, their stories must be told. When the talk was over, Humaira says, and the lights came up and she saw thousands of women in the auditorium standing and applauding, tears came to her eyes. Things were swimming like a film in her head: the hardships, the house, the village, people's insistence that "nothing will ever come of this". She was such a small part of such a small place, but look at the respect the audience was giving her. She thought, "I wish my father could see this."

Mohammad Bachal's house, on a plot the family owns, is today one of the finest in Moach Goth. His family has eased into comfort. Humaira's first salaried job, at 7,000 rupees (£46) a month, was as a mobiliser in a micro-finance project. She had taken it when rent for their school space increased to 3,000 (£20). Then she began exporting Chinese beauty products from Karachi to Iran—where some of Zainab's relatives have shops—and earned up to 30,000 rupees (£196) a month, until the border was closed. She now makes a living giving leadership training, and remains president of the school and the Dream Foundation Trust, which runs it.

Shakeel has a job in the granulation department of a pharmaceutical company. A few years ago, when he was out of work, he tried to commit suicide by drinking poison. Tahira gently admonishes him for having scared everyone.

Mohammad Bachal has fractured his hand, and has been persuaded to retire. He thinks he must have been 18 when Pakistan was created, which would make him 84. He looks nearer 64, lean, rugged, with kohl in his eyes and a red Sindhi topi on his head. "It was jahilpan, ignorance," he says about his years of opposition. "Even an animal will listen to a well-educated person, but illiterates are influenced by illiterates."

Zainab Bibi is wearing a traditional Balochi pashk. Her arm carries traces of an old injury, suffered at her husband's hands the day he found Humaira leaving for her exam. "I didn't want my girls to have my life," she says. "I wanted them to become something." The daughters say that Zainab is their hero.

Pakistan does need heroes; but heroism is a permanent hostage. Its fate is unforeseeable. Initiatives begin and are ridiculed, blindsided or murdered. Months before Zahra Shahid Hussain was killed, so was Parveen Rehman. An architect and social worker, she had been documenting land records of the poor in settlements similar to Moach Goth. She was shot dead, allegedly by the land mafia. Months before her, in a part of the country where more than 600 schools have been destroyed or closed down by the Taliban, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for wanting to study.

The courage of a Pakistani hero involves facing the ultimate fact of death. But the fantasy of martyrdom, where it exists, is largely a male one. A heroine needs a more supple courage. She must negotiate: with her emotions, with her adversaries, with her family, with hypocrisies. But not, if she can help it, with her ambition. "If I can teach a few mothers to read a few labels, that will be enough." That is what Humaira Bachal told herself, when she started her school.

(Courtesy: Intelligent Life)

Muslim Spelling Bee 2013 Finals on November 30 at Des Plaines Theater in Chicago

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

IMO News Service

Chicago, U.S.A.: Muslim Spelling Bee 2013, Finals will be held on November 30, 2013 at the Des Plaines Theater, suburbs of Chicago, from 8.30 AM (This is an open event and all are invited to attend). Tausif Malik, Founder of Muslim Spelling Bee, said: "240 finalists and families from all over the United States will converge for the World’s First Muslim Spelling Bee Second season Finals."

The premise of the bee is to connect Muslim students from all over the United States who attend public, private and Islamic schools. Regional winners hailed from Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Houston and Dallas and included high caliber competitors such as the Florida state spelling bee winner who will be competing in the Scripps’ National Spelling Bee.

“The Muslim Spelling Bee has become the most talked event in the community and this is due to the support of the community” said Tausif.

Recently the Muslim Spelling Bee competition has been nominated for Islamic Economy Award to be held in Dubai.

The 2013 season kickstarted in New York at Al Ihsan Academy, then it was hosted by Precious Sprouts of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Islamic School of Irving,Al Hadi School, Houston,Orange Crescent School,Orange County, Folson Educational Academy, Mohammed Schools of Atlanta, American Youth Academy,Tampa, Darul Arqam, New Jersey and ended at MCC Full Time School, Illinois.

Muslim Spelling Bee has created a new format, where the competition is divided into 4 groups based on age and Top five spellers from each group are eligible to participate at the Finals.

This years winners will get gifts from the Illinois Office of Tourism (IOT)-Museum of Science and Technology, Iqra Foundation, A1 Tax Chocolat Uzma, My Halal Kitchen, Sabika Seatle, Nahda Designs, Taaza2u.com, 99.0rg Comics, UPF Movies & Insiyah Atoor.

The event is sponsored by Comcast, University Islamic Financials, K12.com

Media supported by Al Hikmat TV, Al Jumuah Magazine, Asian Lite, Azizah Magazine, Desi Express, Dinar Standard, Dunya, Global Muslim Observer, Indian Express, Indian Muslim Observer, Infocus California, Islamic Focus South Africa, Islamic Post, Lone Star Crescent, Muslim Coupon, Muslim Backyard, Multicultural Familia, Muslim Digest, Muallim, My Education Key, News Pakistan, New York Awam, Pakistan Chronicle & Pakistan Journal, Pakistan Post, Pakistan Times & South Asian Gazette, Pakistan Express, Pakistan Voice, Radio Sargam/News Pakistan, Radio Sohni Dharti, Sadaa-e-Pakistan, Saavn.com, The Desi Times, Tribune Asia, TV ONE GLOBAL, Urdu Times Chicago, Urdu Times, Ummaland.com, Ummah Design & UmmahLinked

The Muslim Spelling Bee will be recorded and broadcasted by TV ONE Global.

Allama Iqbal - Poet of Islamic Renaissance

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 November 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

[Sir Muhammad Iqbal was a true Indian Nationalist who later played an instrumental role in demanding a separate homeland and the formation of Pakistan. In India, Allama Iqbal still continues to be revered by most, for he was the one who gave India its famous National Song "Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara..." The Indian government should consider honoring Allama Iqbal with Bharat Ratna posthumously. This would also acknowledge Iqbal's love for India. If former Prime Minister Morarji Desai is honored with Pakistan's top civilian award Nishan-e-Imtiyaz, then why not Allama Iqbal be honored with India's top civilian award Bharat Ratna. If the Indian government fails in doing so then i should also strip "Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara..." the status of National Song and forbid its singing. -- Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor, IndianMuslimObserver.com]

By Rohail Khan

Sir Muhammad Iqbal (9th November 1877 - 21st April 1938), also known as Allama (Scholar Highest Rank) Iqbal was a philosopher, poet, politician, and a social reformist. He is widely acclaimed to have inspired millions of Muslims to demand a separate homeland from the British Empire in India.

Religious scholar and Sufi Master, Iqbal’s literary works in Urdu and Persian are largely based on teachings of the Holy Quran. He propagated self-respect and self-realization and reiterated the need to revert to Islamic values.

Allama Iqbal is officially regarded as National Poet of Pakistan, Shayir-e-Mashriq (Poet of the East), and Hakeem-ul-Ummat (Sage of Ummah).

A Barrister from Lincoln’s Inn, England and a Ph.D in Philosophy from Munich University, Allama Iqbal was a strong proponent of the political and spiritual revival of Islamic civilization across the world, for which he travelled and delivered lectures at length across the continents. His famous speeches have been collected and published under the title: “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”, a collection of esoteric lectures delivered between 1928-1930.

Allama Iqbal encouraged the younger generation for fresh interpretation of Quran and the Sunnah and discover mutual harmonies that would enable Muslims to learn modern science and use science and technology to improve their material existence.

Allama Iqbal started writing poetry from his school days and was in full swing at the time of freedom movement in India. His fame started with his poetry which was written in the classical style for public recitation. Through ‘poetic symposia’, his poetry became widely known, even among the illiterate masses. Almost all the cultured Muslims of his own and later generations came under the spell of his poetry, one way or the other.

His first book of poetry Asrar e Khudi (Secrets of Self) appeared in Persian in 1915 and received instant popularity amongst the down-trodden Muslims of British India. Other great works of poetry are: Rumuz e Bekhudi (Secrets of Selflessness), Baal e Jibrael (Wings of Jibrael), Payam e Mashriq (Message of the East), Zabur e Ajam (Persian Psalms), Baang e Dera (Call of the Marching Bell), Zarb e Kaleem (Blow of Moses), and Javed Nama (Book of Eternity).

In 1922, he was knighted by His Majesty King George V, giving him the illustrious title of “Sir”.

Allama Iqbal passed away on 21st April 1938, but to date millions of fact-finders are mesmerised with the beauty and depth of his poetry. He simplified the philosophy of life, de-mystified the purpose of our human existence, and turned the teachings of Islam remain into an eternal message ready to be interpreted by the masses. English Translation of Allama Iqbal’s Poetry:

For those unable to comprehend Urdu and Persian languages, a simple translation into English will certainly facilitate the understanding of Allama Iqbal’s message. Let us focus on selective topics where the Great Maestro exposed his inner self.

Like everyone, Iqbal dearly loved his mother. On her untimely death in 1914, he became restless and expressed grief in the form of Eulogy.

Who would wait for me anxiously in my native place,

Who would display restlessness when my letter fails to arrive,

I will visit thy grave with this complaint,

Who will now think of me in midnight prayers,

All thy life thy love served me with devotion,

When I became fit to serve thee, thou hast departed !

Muslim Youth’s spiritual deterioration and distancing from Islamic teachings was of utmost concern to Allama Iqbal. Youth being the architects of our future, Allama Iqbal addressed the Youth of Islam as follows:

O Muslim youth ! have you ever used your prudence,

What was that sky of which you are a fallen star,

That nation has nurtured you on its lap of love,

Whose feet had trampled the crown of Darius’s head,

Civilization’s formulator, creator of rules of world government

Your ancestors from the deserts of Arabia ruled the Universe,

Even in poverty those men of God were so high-minded,

That the rich could not avoid charity for beggar’s fear,

What should I tell you what those wanderers in wilderness were,

They were world conquerors, world rulers, world administrators,

If I wish to present their picture in words I sure can,

But that scene is beyond the comprehension of your imagination,

It’s such a pity you have no correlation with your ancestors,

You are talk, they were action, you are stars, they were planets,

Alas we have wasted the heritage obtained from our ancestors,

The sky has thrown us down from the Thurayyah to the Earth,

The aftermath of World War I brought down the Ottomon Caliphate and placed the Muslim Ummah in stark adversity. Allama Iqbal vehemently protested against the subjugation of Arabia by the Western Christian authorities. He encouraged the Muslim Ummah to wake up from deep sombre and have faith in their strengths. He spread the message of hope and courage to stand-up and struggle collectively for “The Renaissance of Islam” :

Life-blood has started flowing through the dead arteries of the East

This secret is in-comprehensible to likes of Sani and Farabi,

The storm of the West has made the Muslim into a real Muslim,

Only the upheavals of the sea bring the pearl’s beauty to its perfection,

The Muslim is to be endowed again from the God’s Court with,

Turkoman’s dignity, Indian’s intellect, Arab’s eloquence,

If some slumber is lurking still in the flower buds,

“Strike the beat harder if the taste for music is lacking”,

Jump restlessly in the garden, in the nest, in bowers,

It is impossible to deprive mercury of its restlessness,

Why should the eye used to chaste things see coat of arms,

When it is able to see the valour of the Gaza’s soul,

O God, light the candle of Longing in the tulip’s heart,

Make every speck of garden’s dust a martyr searching for the Truth,

The Book of the Muslim nation is being organized again,

This Hashemite Branch is surely going to blossom again !

The avalanche of calamity over Uthmani’s is not to be bereaved’

As the dawn is produced after destruction of myriad’s of stars !

Allama Iqbal was of the firm belief that “self-respect and self-realization” can mobilise our inner energies and provide us the real dynamics of success. His poetic calls can still warm up blood in the dead. His mesmerising poems can still light up the spark into the lives of the gloomy and the depressed.

Sing O Nightingale so that with your modulations,

The falcon’s heart in the pigeon’s frail body be produced,

Concealed within your heart is the secret of life,

Relate to the Muslim the traditions of pathos of life,

You are the potent hand and the word of the Eternal God,

O imprudent one! Develop Faith as you have been overcome with doubts,

The Muslim’s destination is beyond the azure coloured sky,

You are the caravan the dust of whose trail are stars,

You are the Final Message of God and you are eternal,

Your origin is from Ibrahim, you are the world’s architect,

Your nature is the custodian of all life’s possibilities,

So you are the touchstone for world’s hidden jewels,

From the material world to the Eternal world,

You are the gift which the Holy Prophet took,

The history of the Muslim nation reveals the secret,

That you are the protector of the nations of Asia,

Learn again the lesson of Truth, Justice, and Bravery,

You are to be entrusted with the world’s leadership,

This alone is the creation’s objective, this alone is Islam’s secret,

That there should be universal brotherhood and abundant love,

According to Allama Iqbal, Faith in Allah SWT is divine enough to energise our conscious abilities and sub-conscious capacities. Through inner faith we can achieve the impossible.

Sainthood, sovereignty, the universality of material knowledge,

What are all these except unravelling of the secrets of Faith,

When Faith is created in this earthly ember,

It itself creates wings and plumage of Jibrael,

Neither swords nor plans are of any avail in slavery,

Chains are cast away when taste for Faith is created,

Can anyone assess the strength of his arms ?

Destinies are changed by the Believer’s mere glance !

Mysteries of life and the purpose of human existence is Allama Iqbal’s specific area of interest. He solves this philosophy through impeccable simplicity. Human life is no more than a breath. It is alive only as long as it is flowing. In the same way human life, which this wave sustains, is worth its existence only as long as it is active. Man is the only secret in the universe. This secret is that though Man apparently has humble origins, being created from soil, he has the potential of being Allah Almighty’s Vice Regent on earth.

The life of Man is no more than a breath,

Breath is a wave of air, it is no more than a flow,

The flower was depicting life as a smile but,

The candle said it is no more than a cry of grief,

The secret of life is a secret till there is a confidante’,

When it is open, it is nothing more than the confidante’,

Somebody should ask the pilgrims of Ka'bah, O Iqbal,

Is the gift of the Haram nothing more than Zamzam ?

The last verse is sarcastic and carries the lesson that the real gift of the Pilgrimage to Ka’bah is that the pilgrim should return from there after sacrificing his arrogance, greed and jealousy, after stoning the Satan and controlling the evil in himself, and hence gaining the purity and innocence of a newborn child.

Allama Iqbal was a Sufi Master. Let us look at how he studied the relationship between intellect and the heart and described the controversy of “Aql o Dil”.

One day Intellect said to the heart,

A guide to the misguided ones I am,

Being on the earth I reach up to the sky,

Look, how deep in comprehension I am,

Guidance on earth is my sole occupation,

Like the auspicious in character I am,

Interpreter of the book of life I am,

The Manifestation of God's Glory I am,

You are only a drop of blood, but,

The invaluable ruby's envy I am,

Hearing this the heart said, All this is true,

But look at me as well, what I am,

You understand the secrets of life,

But seeing them with my own eyes I am,

Concerned with the manifest order you are,

And acquainted with the inward I am,

Learning is from you, but Divine Knowledge is from me,

You only seek Divinity, but showing Divinity I am,

Restlessness is the end of Knowledge,

But the remedy for that malady I am,

You are the candle of the assembly of Truth,

Lamp of the Divine Beauty's assemblage I am,

You are related to time and space,

The bird recognizing the Sidrah I am,

Look at the grandeur of my station,

The throne of the God of Majesty I am !

We all realise the need for Islamic Renaissance in this Millenium. In this respect, Iqbal’s poetry is more relevant now-a-days than ever. Let us re-evaluate the message of Allama Iqbal and learn to cure our short comings.

“Given character and healthy imagination, it is possible to reconstruct this world of sin and misery into a veritable paradise” – (Stray Reflections; Private Diary of Sir Muhammad Iqbal).

[Rohail Khan, senior banker and social worker, is actively developing communities through literature, culture, and philanthropy. He can be reached at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]

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