Books and Documents

Islamic Culture

The belief that this ‘religious linguistic propriety’, which includes the introduction of ‘Allah Hafiz’ and ‘Ramadan’ in Pakistan’s lingual fashion, began with Zia’s campaign of cultural Islamisation does hold some truth. It has inevitably led to these (words, phrases) to be seen symbolic of the infamous general’s Islamification drive or ‘Saudisation ‘of Pakistan;....

Reviving an Urdu Storytelling Tradition
Raksha Kumar
Reviving an Urdu Storytelling Tradition
By Raksha Kumar

In the 1800s, crowds regularly gathered on the steps of the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi to enthusiastically watch a “Dastango,” or storyteller, narrate tales of fantasy without props, music or theatrical action. The magic that held the audience was created with his voice and the stories themselves, which were mainly told in Urdu. The art form almost died out in the 1900s, the victim of radio, film and television....


Does it matter what name people use for God? This is the question thrown up as a result of a strange development in Pakistani etiquette. Until about 10 years ago "Khuda hafiz", which means "God protect you", was the phrase commonly used to say goodbye. But, in the past decade, "Khuda hafiz" began to be overtaken by a new term "Allah hafiz"....

A Fortnight in Syria, Twenty Years Ago
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam
A Fortnight in Syria, Twenty Years Ago
By Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Syria continues to burn and bleed, and there seems no sign of it all coming to an end. I can hardly recognize it from the current news reports, which seem to talk of a totally different country from the one I visited some twenty years ago. The remains of a wall dating back to Roman times, the Azam palace and the sprawling Roman-style Masjid Umaviya, a church later converted into a mosque after the seventh century Arab Muslim conquest and believed, by some, to house the head of John the Baptist, were among the major sites in Old Damascus....

Circumcision Is an Affront to Decent Human Behaviour
Catherine Bennett
Circumcision Is an Affront to Decent Human Behaviour
By Catherine Bennett

We rightly decry female genital mutilation. Why, then, are so many happy to condone the male equivalent? Queen chose to have HRH the Prince of Wales and his brothers, Andrew and Edward, circumcised. But perhaps that is to be expected: the rabbi said their circumcisions were common knowledge....

Brishkay Ahmed‘s unusual documentary film The Story of Burqa: Case of a Confused Afghan, sold out its first screening at the Doxa Film Festival in May.  While the film explored how the burqa came to Afghanistan, and why it was so extensively used, it was not her first artistic venture into her native country....

Mysteries of Hobson-Jobson
Khaled Ahmed
Mysteries of Hobson-Jobson
By Khaled Ahmed

One word it traces to its origin is ‘damri’, a coin that once existed but today survives in an Urdu idiom indicating something worthless. It has given rise to the English swear-word damn and appears in the expression ‘I don’t give a damn’.‘Damri’ is turned into ‘dam’ and is written ‘damn’. Since swearing is involved, ‘damnation’ is pressed into service. If you anglicise the word, it would be, ‘I don’t give a farthing’. It would mean, ‘I don’t think it is worth anything’….


Like a mother who wants her children to live well, like a teacher who wants his students to do well, and like a chef who wants his patrons to enjoy his food…. God wants every one of his creation to live in harmony and do well. No one is deprived of God’s love; he has reached every human through a peace maker, messenger, prophet, reformer or simply a wise man or a good friend that brings sense to living....

Kashmir’s shrines, mosques and Khanqahs are the milestones of the Valley’s spiritual environment, transcending the barriers of time. Their influence and resilience in the face of the hostility, and of natural and political upheavals lends the Firdause-e-Bareen, or the Paradise on Earth, its other enduring sobriquet of reshi waar — “the garden of saints.” For Kashmiris, these also serve as a reminder of the inspiration, creative genius and building technologies of their ancestors who relied on local materials and skills and created these marvels of wood, brick and stone. ...


The Saudi and American efforts to educate Pakistanis are substantively different. The Americans are pushing a curriculum that ostensibly promotes democracy and pluralism, imagines the child as a budding scholar and not a soldier, the world as holding opportunity and not only temptation. The Saudi curriculum banks on other truths — of salvation gained in another life, of a world of ascetic self-sacrifice, of the necessity of domination and the inevitability of destruction…..

“I want to return with a message of love, I want to return to pour light into your veins. And cry out: ‘O those whose baskets are full of sleep, I brought you an apple, red like the sun,” wrote poet Sohrab Sepehri. “I want to bring flowers for the beggar, gift earrings to the pretty leper woman of my old neighbourhood. I want to share the beauty of the garden with the blind.” “I want to be a peddler, peddling through streets, shouting: ‘Dew, I brought dew for you.”...

This week’s column may appear to be a little premature, but with the way things are going, who knows if we will be able to afford traditional Eid celebrations in the months to come. So dear readers buckle up and accompany me on a journey through time to Lahore in the 1950s, when life was uncomplicated, relationships sincere and celebrations affordable. An excited shout of nazar agayaa, initiated a rush around the keen-eyed individual, who would guide others to the desired point on the horizon.

Is Knowledge Limited To Knowledge Of Religion In Islam?
Ayatullah Murtuza Mathari, Tr. New Age Islam

Knowledge, what does it stand for? And what does it stand for in Islam? Anyone who knows Islam cannot say that Islam means ‘knowledge of religion’ by exhortation to acquire knowledge. This thought is the result of those Muslims who have limited the boundaries of their knowledge to the minimum possible during the last several centuries.  Otherwise the idea of limiting knowledge to religious knowledge has no meaning for a religion in which the Ameer-ul-Momeneen says, “Wisdom is Muslims’ lost property; even if it is found with the Mushriks (polytheists), and they must take it in their possession.”....

A hi-tech makeover is sweeping across the 14,000-odd religious teaching centres attached to mosques in the state thanks to the Centre-sponsored madarsa modernization scheme. Over Rs 23 crore have been disbursed to 547 madrasas in 2011-12 that helped the 'Oothupallis' which were limited to rote teaching of Holy Quran to adopt modern pedagogical ways of teaching science and mathematics and offer computer classes. Some even teach students English and Hindi....

Calligraphy is a difficult art that is best learnt in childhood. Under the guidance of an ustad, …  Aware of the limitations of the Urdu ligature and fonts created by Pakistan's Mirza Ahmed Jameel Noori, Kiratpuri, with the help of his student Rehan Ansari and software engineer Syed Manzar, created 40, 000 Urdu fonts and saved them in a software called faiz nastaleeq (style) as a tribute to his ustad, Faiz Lahori…..

Islam Today: Arabisation and its Discontents
Saif Shahin is a research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin
Islam Today: Arabisation and its Discontents
Saif Shahin, New Age Islam

I was reminded of the conversation in the editor-in-chief’s office while reading some comments on Aiman Reyaz’s article ‘Does Islam Allow Wife-Beating’, which highlight how Arab culture is being propagated worldwide in the name of Islam, how Muslims in non-Arab nations are being told to pray in Arab-style mosques and, indeed, wear Arab dresses.

The irony is profound. The confusion of the Muslim who must look and behave like an Arab in his own country, and then act like someone from his own country when he goes to the Arabian peninsula, is at the heart of the intellectual and spiritual dilemma facing Islam today. What does it mean to be a Muslim? Is it to assume a particular physical appearance (beards, Burqas) and particular social and moral values (eating beef, beating wives)? If yes, what is the source of this appearance and these values? Are they actually Islamic, or are they just Arab?...


…you have exercised a bit of moderation? As if having a prostitute as your main character wasn’t enough, you had to make her drink alcohol, and as if her drinking wasn’t bad enough you had to make her go to sleep with a flea-ridden dog. And I am not even mentioning the uncalled for description of her blouse where she stuffs her Haram-earned money. Why did you have to do all that when you could have written about banana peels?...



Different subjects are addressed in different locations, like individual teaching units. The aim is for non-Muslims to overcome their reservations in dealing with Muslims. For the Muslims whose voices are the piece, education is an important element of their faith: they themselves once had to read about what it means to be a Muslim and form their own opinion on the subject. …


Even in the shadows of the stage their white robes appear luminous. It's said that Rumi first started whirling in one of Konya's bazaars. Walking past a line of goldbeaters, he became so moved by the music of their rhythmic hammering accompanied by their gentle chanting of Allah's name that he raised his arm towards the sky and started to revolve in a state of awe, spinning and spinning until he reached oneness with his God….


Memories Of The Pakistani Film Industry
Yaqoob Khan Bangash
Memories Of The Pakistani Film Industry
Yaqoob Khan Bangash

Conversing with Shabnam made me think of her super hit film Aina, which is a classic tale about two lovers from different social classes and their struggle to be with each other. Aina was as much a love story as it was a criticism of the sharpening class divide. Its closing scene, in which Rita (Shabnam) slaps her father, and where her mother says: ‘you have not slapped your father, but the mentality that believes in differences between the poor and the rich’ is poignant…



This encounter is fictional, but it could easily reflect a real-life conflict. The dialogue was conceived by young Muslims from the Heroes project in the Berlin district of Neukölln, home to a large number of Muslim immigrants….


The retired Urdu teacher is a bundle of energy despite his age. His experiment with 10 children has blossomed in the last two decades. The two-storey school now accommodates eight times its original number of students going right up to Class 8. The school is not affiliated to any board, but the curriculum has been well thought through and gives the children of the local daily wage earners a shot at a better life….


This orchard serves as a sanctuary as well as centre of education for the nation’s priceless agricultural heritage. It’s the place where you can commune with Mother Nature while learning about the amazing facts of the variety of seasonal and non-seasonal fruits, rare fruits, commercial crops and also herbs and spices.

A Tribute to Islam, Earthen but Transcendent
Holland Cotter has been a staff art critic at The New York Times
A Tribute to Islam, Earthen but Transcendent
Holland Cotter

As in so much of the Islamic world, “Insha’Allah” — “if God wills it” — is how people punctuate conversations in this predominantly Muslim West African country. If you speak of starting a project, or taking a trip, or trying to pay a debt, the outcome is always understood to be conditional. The mosque is one of Africa’s most revered religious monuments. Constructed almost entirely from sun-dried mud bricks coated with clay, it is the largest surviving example of a distinctive style of African architecture. …


“O Prophet (S.A.W), says to your wives and daughters and women or the believers that they let down them their ‘jilbab’ (over - garment) this will be more proper that they may be known, and thus they will not molested.” [xxxiii. 53]“Say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and safeguard their private parts that are purer for them, surely Allah is aware of what they do. …

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