Books and Documents
Books and Documents

A Book Helps Us Navigate the Syria Mess
Rami G. Khouri

This soon was overwhelmed by the many other antagonisms of the modern Middle East, such as Arab vs. Iranian, Arab vs. Israeli, Kurdish vs. Arab, Sunni vs. Shiite, Islamist vs. secularist, Arab conservative monarchies vs. Arab nationalist republics, Arab and Iranian revolutionary Islamists vs. conservative Arab monarchies, pro-American vs. pro-Russian and, most recently, Al-Qaeda-like Arab and foreign Salafist militants vs. virtually everyone else…..


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 49: Reading and Writing
Ziauddin Sardar

When so many Muslims around the world are not native Arabic speakers, being able to recite the Qur'an is no qualification for fulfilling the Qur'an's emphasis on reading and writing in one's own language. Then there is the veneration for rote learning and memorisation which began with the Qur'an and has remained the basis of religious education up to and including today. These techniques may have been valid once upon a time, but today they block the entire realm of critical consciousness, which the Qur'an itself insists is what reading is for……

The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Reciprocity and Relating with Others – 49
Hazrat Inayat Khan

In dealing with another we ought first to consider in what relation we stand to him, and then to consider what manner of dealing would please us on the part of another who is related to us in the same way as we are to him. In all favorable actions we ought to do more than we should expect another to do for us; and in unfavorable actions we ought to do less than what we should expect on the part of another…..


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 48: Ethics and Morality: Part 2
Ziauddin Sardar

Moderation has two elements. First, moderation requires restraint in all that we do. In all the good things we do, from service to others to charity, we need to follow the middle path: "Do not be tight-fisted, nor so open-handed that you end up blamed and overwhelmed with regret" (17:29)….


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Mira Bai – 48
Hazrat Inayat Khan

The beauty of her hymns of praise, the music of the poetry that she composed and sang in her worship of the Divine became gradually famed throughout the kingdom of Udaipur. And on account of her great piety and learning many were drawn to the temple where she dwelt. At length her fame reached the court of the Emperor Akbar. And he, entirely won by the thoughts and the sweet verses of her songs that were repeated to him, decided that he himself would make a pilgrimage to see her….


A Mad Journey (Safar) with a Mad Woman
Nighat M. Gandhi

And since her marriage to a Raj Gandhi from Ahmedabad, India has been her home. “I am a Muslim and a Buddhist, married to a Hindu, and wavering in the shadowy no-religion land called agnosticism since I was 15,” she writes. If all this is a bit confusing, so is her proclaimed allegiance to a plural tradition — Gandhi insists she is a “South Asian”, and not a Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Indian…..

Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 47: Ethics and Morality: Part 1
Ziauddin Sardar

But scriptural moral guidance has meaning for only those who believe; or are perceptive enough to understand the "signs" of the grace of God and appreciate that the universe has a moral purpose. It is of little consequence to those who see without insight, who do not follow "the ways of peace" and "what pleases him" (5:16). Hence, the Qur'an's moral exhortations are couched, in the words of Bishop Kenneth Cragg, in "the perpetual perhaps"…..


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Inter-Personal Relations – 47
Hazrat Inayat Khan

A very important thing in character-building is to become conscious of one's relationship, obligation, and duty to each person in the world […] One must consider that everything that is entrusted to one by any person in life is one's trust, and one must know that to prove true to the confidence of any person in the world is one's sacred obligation. In this manner a harmonious connection is established with everyone; and it is this harmony which attunes the soul to the infinite…..


Perpetual War: How Does the Global War on Terror Ever End?
Jeremy Scahill

Obama employed the rhetoric of internationalism. “We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully -- not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear,” the president declared. “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.”…….

Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 46: Nature and Environment: Part 2
Ziauddin Sardar

What the Qur'an teaches is that in the face of risk the right action is to ensure the danger is shared as equitably as possible and that we must accept the responsibility and duty of care for those overtaken by disaster and the troubles it brings. This is not a counsel of "just sit back and take it", nor the uncaring vengeance of a wilful, cruel God. It is the corollary, not always easy to accept, of being created with free will and given the liberty to exist and make our own way in an ordered universe of awesome power...


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Cheerfulness and Spirituality – 46
Hazrat Inayat Khan

Do not imagine that this is a character rarely to be found in the world. It is a character you frequently meet with, and certainly the one who has this attitude is his own worst enemy. The person with a right attitude of mind tries to make even wrong right, but the one with a wrong attitude of mind will turn even right into wrong. Besides, magnetism is the need of every soul; the lack of it makes life burdensome. The tendency of seeing wrong in everything robs one to a great extent of that magnetism which is needed very much in life……


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals:  On the Annihilation of the False Self – 45
Hazrat Inayat Khan

So, what a person knows of himself, as the first thing, is his body. He calls himself his body, he identifies himself with his body. For instance, if one asks a child, 'Where is the boy?' he will point to his body. That is what he can see or can imagine of himself. This forms a conception in the soul. The soul conceives this deeply, so that after this conception, all other objects, persons or beings, color or line, are called by different names….


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 45: Nature and Environment: Part 1
Ziauddin Sardar

Brian raises two questions. The first is in reference to 6:165, where we are told that God "has exalted some of you in rank above others". This, as those who have been following this blog will recognise immediately, is not about, to use the words in Brian's Christian hymn, the hierarchy of "the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate"…..


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 44: Rights and Duties
Ziauddin Sardar

In the Qur'an, as you rightly note, there is no "middle management" - every individual has a direct relationship to God and is ultimately responsible for his or her actions. It is a basic principle of the Qur'an that "each soul is responsible for its own action; no soul will bear the burden of another" (6:164). However, given God's infinite mercy and benevolence, we can always pray for others to be forgiven. As you can see from these verses, human rights in the Qur'an are firmly based on the notion of human dignity....


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Reason, Earthly and Heavenly – 44
Hazrat Inayat Khan

When we analyse the word 'reason' it opens before us a vast field of thought. In the first place, every doer of good and every evil-doer has a reason to support his doing. When two persons quarrel, each says he is in the right because each has a reason. To a third person perhaps the reason of the one may appear to be more reasonable than that of the other…..


Malala Yousafzai: 'It's Hard To Kill. Maybe That's Why His Hand Was Shaking'
Kamila Shamsie

Malala Yousafzai says she's lost herself. "In Swat [district], I studied in the same school for 10 years and there I was just considered to be Malala. Here I'm famous, here people think of me as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. The real Malala is gone somewhere, and I can't find her."….


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 43: Justice and Equity
Ziauddin Sardar

Crime and punishment is not a major theme of the Qur'an. Of around 600 verses that deal with legal matters, most, as we have already seen, deal with family matters such as divorce, marriage and inheritance. Only a handful of verses deal with crime and punitive injunctions. The issue of crime and punishment has, however, become controversial not because of what the Qur'an says but how it is treated in Islamic law…


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Music and the Spiritual Path – 43
Hazrat Inayat Khan

Man does not like to be a pupil, he likes to be a teacher. If man only knew that the greatness and perfection of the great ones who have come from time to time to this world, was in their being pupils and not in teaching! The greater the teacher, the better the pupil he was. He learned from everyone, the great and the lowly, the wise and the foolish, the old and the young. He learned from their lives, and studied human nature in all its aspects…..


The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam
Sahin Alpay

If Turkey is ever to consolidate a liberal and pluralist democracy it is absolutely necessary that the state give up its efforts to impose an ethnic and/or religious identity on citizens. It must lift all restrictions on the free expression and exercise of their identities….


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 42: Reason and knowledge
Ziauddin Sardar

I have listed so many verses above to show that the Qur'an is generously sprinkled with references to learning, education, observation and the use of reason. Indeed, reason, after revelation, is the second most important source for discovering and delineating the "signs of God"…..

The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals: On Harmony- 42
Hazrat Inayat Khan

The peace for which every soul strives, and which is the true nature of God and the utmost goal of man, is but the outcome of harmony; this shows that all life's attainments without a sense of harmony are but vain. It is the attainment of harmony which is called heaven, and it is the lack of it which is termed hell. The master of it alone understands life, and he who lacks it is foolish in spite of all other knowledge that he may have acquired…..


Blogging the Qur'an by Ziauddin Sardar- Part 41: Individual and Society
Ziauddin Sardar

As such, we may even say that the Ummah does not really exist. The complex answer involves how the Qur'an has been interpreted in history, how it has been reduced to a list of do's and don't, and how it has been codified in Islamic law. The basic proposition the Qur'an presents us with is that none of us is or can be an island. We might be able to imagine living on a desert island - but none of us would think that a realistic model for how we actually live. We exist only in connection to other people: our family, our neighbourhood, our community and country......


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A Response to Andrew By Ziauddin Sardar

A Guest Blog from Mehdi Hasan


The Sufi Message: Excerpts from Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Discourses on the Unity of Religious Ideals:  The Purpose of Life (2) – 41
Hazrat Inayat Khan

There are two different temperaments that we generally see in the world. One says, 'I will not hear music on Sunday, it is a religious day. The liking for colours is emotional. Do not look at pictures, it excites.' To enjoy any perfume, to like fragrance, he thinks is sensual. And then there is another temperament that feels the vibrations of the colors, that enjoys delicious food, that admires the straight line and the curve that is touched and moved by music that feels exalted by the beauty of nature.……


At a time when Bangladesh is beset with a deadly conflict between fundamentalist and liberal forces, raising a serious concern over the election-bound country's fate, not only there lies the question of ultimate identity for a nation that once attained sovereignty by placing its linguistic and cultural self above the religious status, but there also looms the danger of terror-linked Islamic fundamentalist movement that has gained immense strength after being nourished for political interest during the past regime of Khaleda Zia…..


'Afghan Rumour Bazaar' Provides Glimpse into Afghanistan's Secret Subcultures, Hidden Worlds
Nushin Arbabzadah

Underground converts to Christianity, shadowy male cross-dressers, and gay bloggers are not usually associated with Afghanistan. And yet they are part of the real but often unseen world Afghans live in.  That unknown side of Afghanistan is the topic of a new book, "Afghan Rumour Bazaar: Secret Sub-Cultures, Hidden Worlds, and the Everyday Life of the Absurd," by Nushin Arbabzadah, an Afghan-born writer. ....

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