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Islamic Personalities

Remembering Zafar, the last Mughal
Bahadur Shah Zafar

Exiled by the British to Rangoon for fighting for his land, Bahadur Shah II died lamenting the fact that he could not be buried in his own country. Today, 150 years after the last Mughal died in the country of his exile, his last wish remains unfulfilled. It is said that when Subhash Chandra Bose launched his INA campaign from Rangoon, he invoked Bahadur Shah Zafar....

 

‘Heroes’ Of My Childhood
Gaitty Ara Anis

With the rising of religious extremism that has robbed us of all sanity we should ask who we have chosen as our role models and why. I wonder why we have been taught “myths” in our text books and what philosophies have been promoted in our country since it was created? Though many would disagree, in my opinion this deliberate selection of heroes based on religion, class and creed has left us breathless, without the oxygen of fresh ideas. The result is close mindedness and conservatism....

Muhammad: The Greatest Reformer, the Most Influential Man in History
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

Allah praises Muhammad (pbuh) “Most certainly O Muhammad you are on the pinnacle of behaviour” (Ch 68 V 4) Jules Masserman, a US Psychoanalyst, picked Muhammad as his greatest leader. He chose his greatest prophet Moses at number two. He says that leaders must fulfil three functions: a. Provide for the well being of the led; b. Provide a social organization in which people feel relatively secure and; c. provide them with a set of beliefs. ...

Muhammad:  The Most Misunderstood Man in the World
Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

The pre-Islamic era was full of superstition and barbarism. It was known as the Age of Ignorance. The people of that time were so corrupted in thought and morals that they would cut their idols into pieces and eat them. Their excuse was that they had seen their fathers doing it. They also used to bury their daughters alive. Humans were worse than animals. Their concept of morality was just the opposite of our concept of morality: bloodthirsty were exalted, bloodshed was considered a virtue, and adultery and fornication were more common than legal marriage. …

Reintroducing Sir Syed and His Thought
Dr Haider Shah

We are in the habit of associating rationalism with western thinkers, even though our own history is also full of shining examples of rationalist thinking. Sir Syed has been popularised as the founder of the two-nation theory alone in our national syllabus. It is high time his real message of rationalism was also shared with the young of Pakistan. This can prove an effective antidote to extremism that has gripped our society these days....

 

The Noble Persona of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) As Mirrored In the Qur’an
Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

Delving into the Qur’an further we see it asserting that unless God willed, the Prophet would not have recited the revelation to his audience, nor God would have taught it to them - it asks his audience to reflect on this as he had lived with them for a lifetime before the revelation commenced (10:16, 12:3, 42:52) This demonstrates that the Prophet had not displayed any literary or poetic genius or any philosophical, psychological, political or theological insight all his life prior to the revelation. This in turn indicates that the Prophet neither had any aptitude, nor grooming, nor ambition to found a faith or lead a faith community, let alone becoming the virtual ruler of the whole of Arabia towards the end of his life. His greatest gifts, apart from the power of revelation, were his noble personal qualities. ...

Shaikh Abdullah: The Good Shaikh
Rakhshanda Jalil

Aligarh accepted him with open arms. It gave him the freedom to be exactly who or what he wished to be. Free of the ties and trappings of caste, culture, class, Shaikh Abdullah was like virgin clay, ready to be moulded. Yet, like clay, he retained certain distinctive qualities of his own. His peers and teachers were quick to spot these traits: earnestness, optimism, determination and an infectious never-say-die spirit....

 

‘Can’t a Muslim Who hasn’t Attended a Madrasa Speak for the Community?’ Asks Sultan Shahin
Danish Raza

It was the summer of 1995. “Papa, it is Hizbul Mujahideen,” said a panicking Juhi handing over the phone to her father Sultan Shahin. It was a death threat to Shahin, who had written in a national daily, countering Hizbul’s call that the war against India was validated by Quran.

For Shahin, it was one of the numerous encounters with extremists. “I invite such people to discuss the differences over tea. I tell them please intimate me before you kill me so that there is no collateral damage,” says Shahin, laughingly. He is serious about sorting out differences though. In 2008, Shahin launched newageislam.com— a website to prompt Muslims to ‘rethink’ Islam and challenge the petro-dollar funded Wahabi ideology. More than one lakh readers visit the site every day and the electronic newsletter reaches out to around 2.5 lakh people….

Hazrat Khadija (RA): Woman with a Clout
Durdana Najam

What would make a man in the middle of his youthfulness marry a woman 15 years older to him? What does this marriage tell about Makkah and about women in that society? And how does Hazrat Khadija (RA) inspire Muslim women? These are a few questions that would help one understand women in Islam. Lately, Muslim women have been dragged into controversies and unwarranted criticism because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islamic culture by a handful of people....

Here in Indus valley civilization a unique galaxy of Sufis existed including, Shah Latif Bhittai, Bulleh Shah, Sultan Bahu, Sachal Sarmast, Rehman Baba and Iqbal. From Khyber to Karachi they all were the segments of the same chain. They all composed verses, poetry and prose for Almighty and danced and sang for Him. They all had great respect and reverence for Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi....

 

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and his Legacy
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

There are however, a number of predictions, all seemingly accurate, which are associated with Azad that seem to reinforce further his image as the sage of the age. He is said, amongst other things, to have predicted Pakistan’s dependence on western powers and growing discord between the religious right and liberals in Pakistan in an interview conducted in April 1946. The only problem is that the latter list of predictions has been transmitted to us through a dubious source. This source was Agha Shorish Kashmiri, a committed Ahrari leader who opposed the creation of Pakistan....

Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (RA): The Saint who Conquered Indian Peninsula
Dargah Ajmer Sharif

Indeed, Islam spread in India and Pakistan not by the force of conquest or the elaborate arguments of mullahs and Quazis but through the work of great Sufi sheikhs. The Sufi sheikhs of the 13th century were not merchants of faith. They were men drunk with the love of God, giving themselves no gain but the prospect of divine pleasure, serving humanity irrespective of creed or nationality and sharing their spiritual bounty with whoever would partake of it. Proselytizing was not their goal; it was a by-product of their selfless service. …

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti – A Model For Sufi Islam
Dargah Ajmer Sharif

Sufi Islam, as pointed out by us repeatedly is most tolerant Islam which is highly compatible with multi-culturalism and pluralism. It flourished in India precisely for this reason. Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, who was from Seistan, Iran also migrated to India via Central Asia after seeing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in dream who asked him to go to India and spread the message of Islam. Hadith literature also tells us that the Prophet (PBUH) had great attraction for India and in one of the hadith he is reported to have said that I am getting cold breeze from India. ...

 

Aristotle and Imam Ghazali are two immortals of history who put their seal on European and Muslim philosophical scholarship through succeeding generations. The generations disappeared in the fold of time but their teachings continue to attract mankind. Still they remain difficult and controversial as in their own times.

Jinnah’s Liberalism
Yasser Latif Hamdani

Jinnah’s Liberalism
Yasser Latif Hamdani
To Jinnah, politics was a gentlemen’s game where rabble rousing using religious slogans was distasteful. Speaking to the central legislative assembly on February 7, 1935, Jinnah declared, “Religion should not be allowed to come into politics...Religion is merely a matter between man and God.”…

 

For some, Mansur al-Hallaj was a magician, a heretic and a lunatic, who publicly claimed to be one with the One and deserved to be executed for heresy. But to his sympathizers he was a Sufi saint, who was martyred almost 1,100 years ago, on March 26, 922, allegedly for his ecstatic utterance. As far as Hallaj crying out "ana'l-haqq" in public is concerned, notable Sufi masters held it was a result of his spiritual state that is incomprehensible to a layman. …

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan: Pakistan’s Forgotten Quaid

Ghaffar Khan preached the gospel of non-violence. His philosophy of non-violence was deeply religious and found the inspiration in the person of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his treatment of people, especially of those from Makkah after the city’s final conquest. Gandhi advocated Satyagraha, ‘experiments with the truth’; Ghaffar Khan advocated a radical transformation of the Pakhtuns, as peaceful, forward-looking people. (Photo: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan) … 

Over the centuries, many eminent non-Muslim scholars have rated Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) most highly and have given due recognition to his greatness. “I have always held the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion, which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him — the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. -- Hasan Kamoonpuri

Sheik Hussein (variably Nur Hussein) was a benevolent, virtuous, and religious missionary who lived in Bale around 1300[i] A.D. Nur Hussein, a comrade of Sof Omar -- another prominent religious disciple of the same era – is credited for introducing and spreading Islam in the region. Since his death, songs have been written to honor him. In fact, a distinct genre of hymn called Baahroo, recited both in his honor and as a prayer, has evolved. Today, a religious cult of sort exists around his life and deeds. It is difficult to enumerate the number of Sheik Hussein’s followers but his cult remained dominant among many similar practices in the region. -- Mohammed Ademo

  

 

Imagine if Hakim had translated Bhagavad Gita in the twenty first century Pakistan, where militant outfits preach hatred against India and Mumtaz Qadris are celebrated, he would have been branded as an infidel for promoting the sacred texts of 'Kafirs'. Such is the rot of our present. Given the parochial education system and the monopoly of televangalists on national television, Hakim's message and ideas can constitute footnotes of history. This is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the new website that his distinguished daughter Prof Rafia Hasan has created. Internet is already changing the way we function, think and see the world. Henceforth, the portal www.khalifaabdulhakim.com will provide free access to the published works of Hakim Sahib. Hopefully, this will allow young Pakistanis to read and refer to his works, especially the ones in Urdu which have been uploaded in a user-friendly format and enable effortless reading. Hakim's major works include 'The Metaphysics of Rumi', 'Islamic Ideology', and 'Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his Mission'. A key work in his rich legacy was "Islam and Communism" published in 1951. Hakim was an ardent proponent of "Islamic socialism" which was later politicised and used as a slogan in the 1970s. In post-war India (during the 1940s) and post-1947 Pakistan, this was an important voice. – Raza Rumi

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a unique Islamic personality of great Islamic scholarship, patriotism and passion for communal harmony. However, it is highly regrettable that his services to the country have almost been forgotten. For Maulana patriotism was an Islamic duty as the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said that love of one’s country is part of one’s faith (iman). And this love of country demanded its freedom from foreign slavery and thus he considered it his duty to free his country from British slavery. Thus when he became President of the Congress in Ramgarh session of the Congress, he, in his presidential address concluded his speech by saying that “even if an angle descends from heaven with a gift of freedom for India from Allah I would not accept it until there is Hindu-Muslim unity as loss of India’s freedom is loss of India but loss of Hindu-Muslim unity is loss of entire humanity”. -- Asghar Ali Engineer (Photo: Maulana Abul Kalam Azad)

Charles Dickens’ immortal book A Tale of Two Cities begins with the following unforgettable words: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way”. The times we are living in today are strikingly similar to those described above by Dickens. A fierce battle is raging between forces of good and forces of evil. Pakistan’s recent history is a stark illustration of this struggle. In Pakistan’s troubled past there appears to have been much more darkness than light, though Pakistan is proudly proclaimed by many to have been Allama Iqbal’s ‘dream’. Unfortunately, very few Pakistanis understand the content of this ‘dream’, which was the outcome of a lifetime of deep thinking and feeling, study, creativity and prayer. Iqbal’s ‘dream’ was that Indian Muslims have a state in which they could preserve “the culture of Islam inspired by a specific ethical idea”. By ‘the culture of Islam’ Iqbal did not mean the actual cultural practices of Muslims, but an ideal value-system based upon the ethical principles enshrined in the Holy Quran and actualised by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). -- Dr Riffat Hassan

Although Qaddafi was widely despised, he was held in awe for his cunning—so much so that even after he abandoned Tripoli to the rebels many Libyans feared he was still capable of outwitting his enemies and returning to power. A former senior government official told me, “I feel like a man who was in a dark hole, who has come into the sunlight, and it’s hazy. . . . What will happen now?” He fretted about Qaddafi. “He’s a genius,” the former official said. “He’s like a fox. He’s a very dangerous man, and he still has tricks up his sleeve. I cannot be convinced he is gone until I see him dead.” Qaddafi had no formal education until he was ten years old, and his family sent him to school in Surt. They couldn’t afford to rent a room for him, so he slept in a mosque and hitchhiked home on weekends, sometimes catching a ride on a camel or a donkey. He went to secondary school in the Saharan city of Sabha, where he developed a lifelong admiration for Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser, an Army officer and a pan-Arabist, worked with a revolutionary group called the Free Officers to topple the monarch, King Farouk, in 1952. As President, he outraged the West by nationalizing the Suez Canal. Qaddafi got in trouble for defiantly holding up Nasser’s image in class, and was finally expelled for organizing protests. -- Jon Lee Anderson

Today marks the 194th birthday of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. In 1869, he travelled with his two sons to England, from where he sent dispatches about his experiences for publication in India. Those fascinating dispatches from England remained unavailable to general public until 1961, when Shaikh Muhammad Isma’il Panipati edited and published them from Lahore. Now, thanks to Dr. Asghar Abbas, the former Director of the Sir Syed Academy at the Aligarh Muslim University we have a new and different edition. It contains the text as it first appeared in the pages of the Gazette, to which he has added several previously unnoticed articles. It makes the new book the most complete collection of what Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wrote publicly about his experiences abroad. In February 1869 the Aligarh Institute Gazette, the weekly bilingual journal of what was established in 1864 at Ghazipur as the Scientific Society, excitedly informed its readers that “the Institute’s Life Honorary Secretary, Maulvi Syed Ahmad Khan Sahib Bahadur, Subordinate Judge (First Class) and Judge (Small Causes) at Benares, was definitely traveling to England in April 1869.” -- C.M. Naim (Photo: Picture taken in Benares in 1869, most probably on the occasion of his departure for London. Syed Ahmad Khan sits on the ground in the middle; standing on the left are: Syed Hamid; Chhajju; and Syed Mahmud. Seated on the chair to the right of SAK is Raja Jaikishan Das)

In recognition of his contributions, the government of Bangladesh honoured him by appointing him the first National Professor from among physicians in 1984. He was awarded Swadhinata Padak (1979); Gold Medal by Begum Zebunnesa and Kazi Mahbubullah Trust (1981); Gold Medal by Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Trust (1985); Gold Medal by Comilla Foundation, Comilla (1986); Gold Medal by Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Memorial Trust, Ahsania Mission, Dhaka (1989); Gold Medal by Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (1989). He used to tell the patients: "We are grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to serve." His humility was legendary and most genuine. Deep empathy and compassion were characteristics of his dealing with his patients, especially those who were poor and in pain. He also motivated other doctors to serve the patients with empathy. -- Muhammad Abdul Mazid (Photo: Dr Mohammad Ibrahim)

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