New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 September 2015
• Does Jinn Possession Really Exist?
Dr Fawad Kaiser
• Tragedy In Makkah
By Kamal Siddiqi
• The Coalition Against IS
• Suicide Should Not Be An Option
By Juggun Kazim
• Badhaber Attack — Some Lessons
By Rustam Shah Mohmand
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Does jinn possession really exist?
Dr Fawad Kaiser
September 28, 2015
Over the last many decades several forums have discussed jinn possessions and jinn evictions. Eviction is the ritual for expelling the jinn from persons who are judged as being possessed by them. Does jinn possession really exist and is spirit possession an outdated idea? In our culture, people who dabble in occult practices, séances, fortune telling, tarot cards and the like have been known to fall victim to jinn possession perhaps because they abandon the basic core of religion and excessively indulge in supernatural beliefs and superstitions to rationalise their hidden guilt.
Allah has enlightened us on the subject of the jinn through the Surah Al-Jinn, and various other ayats (verses) in the holy Quran. The holy Quran reveals that jinn are created from fire whereas human beings are created from clay. Although they are invisible to human eyes, the jinn can see us. Like human beings they are also entrusted with responsibilities (careers, family life, etc.). They too will be rewarded for their righteousness and will receive punishment for their wickedness. “I created jinn and mankind only that they may worship me” (Al Zariyat: 56). “And among us (the jinns) there are the righteous folk and among us there are far from that; we are sects having different rules” (Jinn: 11).
Sadly, upsurge in the quake practice of pirs and fakirs in the eastern world has increased the incidence of alleged jinn possession. It is clear from the Quran that Satan exists and his chief objective is to contaminate the purist beliefs of Islam. Human beings are superior to jinns. The jinns can never harm human beings if tackled in the right manner. It is known that when a jinn starts to like someone, he follows him or her around. If he does something extraordinary and that person gets frightened, the jinn will tease him more but if he reacts in a brave manner, the jinn will disappear.
Ibn Taimiya said that if the jinn are wronging the human, then inform the jinn of the rule of Allah and His Messenger and provide evidences for him to establish proof against him. And order him to do good and forbid him from doing evil, in the same manner that one treats another human. As Allah says, “We never punish until We have sent a messenger” (al-Israa 15). And He says, “O you assembly of the jinn and humankind. Came there not unto you messengers of your own who recounted unto you of My tokens and warned you of the meeting of this your Day?” (Al-Anaam 130).
It is also clear that Allah and His true believers will triumph over Satan and his evil designs. However, this ill-conceived belief of spirit possession and practice of black magic is prevalent in both rural and urban settings, and education about the true concepts of religion is desperately short in the masses. Signs of likely jinn possession include arguing theologically, verbal abuse, trying to attack and smashing furniture. It can also be shown through the previously absent ability to speak in foreign languages, to know distant or hidden things and abnormal physical strength. These are usually combined with an aversion to the names of Allah, as well as of holy objects such as the Quran. Families fail to make it certain that the allegedly possessed person is not suffering from a physical or psychological disorder and they are shy to consult spiritual, medical and psychological experts before they make any decision.
Pirs and fakirs, and their malpractice continue today across the countryside with many holy shrines still dotting the landscape with their white exterior walls, dome shapes and interiors imbued with saintly chants, dances and perfumes. Centuries’ old rituals from jinn evictions to trance dances appear to fulfil individual needs, especially psychological and emotional ones producing comfort, desire and relief from unpredictability, anomie and sadness. They also respond to the immediate needs of society by trying to answer problems of sickness and economic and social malaise, and maintain social cohesion.
Theatrically, pirs and fakirs stage an ambience where folk culture thrives with a plethora of wandering spirits and loud holy verses are evoked in ecstatic trance shouts for jinn evictions. The epistemic foundations of these cultural practices are bizarre serving only social and personal obfuscation. This surviving and still-working culture of possession and jinn evictions may indeed shed light on what most people feel towards the current political and economic order, and how they may resist political domination and economic injuries. Deep down in their cultural logic, possession rituals and trance shouting can be understood as a form of cultural resistance against domination.
There are many strands to this argument. Theoretically speaking, jinn possession presupposes the permeability of the body; powerful external forces that could not be assimilated in their abstract forms enter as divinities, ancestors, ghosts and jinn, and have a hold on the body. And the spectral mythic feelings assembled during jinn eviction are at least a relief most believers get in their religious life from the many social and economic injuries to which they are subjected.
Generally, the practice of jinn eviction clearly signifies that any substantial move towards its malpractice has not occurred yet and cultural resistance can be seen as a displaced and phantasmal activity in which the suffering believers persist in the imaginary without either daring to face or be mindful of the danger of the real threat. Any fear-inspiring situation or menace coming from social realities is conveniently personified and represented to the imagination under the invisible form of the jinn or evil. They are symbolised by a name, shape and social conduct, and people find it easier to accept the myth rather than confronting the real problem. The best thing that can be used against tjinn in the case of possession is the mentioning of Allah and reciting the Quran, especially the verse of the throne (al-Baqra 255), “For whoever reads it, Allah will not stop to have a protector for him and Satan will not come close to him until morning.”
Dr Fawad Kaiser is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tragedy in Makkah
By Kamal Siddiqi
September 28, 2015
The loss of over 700 Hajis in a stampede is indeed a tragedy. It comes close after the deaths of 107 people by the toppling over of a construction crane at the Grand Mosque. In between these two were also two other minor incidents in which mercifully there was no loss of life.
Whether these accidents could have been avoided remains a question to be answered by a number of inquiries that the Saudi government has set up. The stampede is the worst such incident in 25 years at the Hajj. So far, the Saudi government has blamed the stampede on the pilgrims while the crane collapse was blamed on bad weather.
The Imam-e-Kaaba has absolved the Saudi government of negligence in the matter. The families of many of those who died also say that to pass away in Makkah during Hajj is a matter of honour.
To put things in perspective, the number of Muslims coming to perform Hajj has risen tremendously over the past few decades. As the Muslim world’s population has exploded and travel to Makkah has become more affordable and easier, we have seen a corresponding rise in the number of pilgrims to the holy sites. The Saudi government has spent billions in upgrading the sites so that more and more pilgrims can be accommodated.
The Grand Mosque in Makkah has seen tremendous development over the past decade. The capacity for housing more than two million pilgrims continues to be enhanced every year. More recently, finishing touches are being applied to a hotel that will house 10,000. Not only does the Hajj produce such large numbers, but the more unique aspect is the diversity of those who come on pilgrimage.
The Hajj has seen its share of human tragedies. For example, there have been seven deadly stampedes since 1990. In this, what we see is that investment in infrastructure is not the only thing that needs to be done.
The tragedy occurred on Street 204, which is one of the two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone Shaitaan by hurling pebbles at three large pillars. It is believed that entry and exit points along the way were closed to facilitate a VIP movement. But there is no official word on this.
For its part, the Pakistan government has been its usual dormant self when it comes to helping those in distress. It is feared that a sizeable number of those who died were Pakistanis. But three days on, the government could only identify 17 pilgrims. The embassy has been more concerned in protocol duties; as it usually is.
A number of questions are being asked in the aftermath of this disaster. For one, is the Saudi government spending money on the right things? While the buildings and bridges around the Grand Mosque keep getting bigger and bigger, what is being done in terms of crowd control or facilitating the pilgrims in the event of a crisis. A minister informed that over 100,000 soldiers had been deployed in that area on the fateful day. The Saudi authorities have come under criticism for their forces who are deployed on such occasions but have no training on how to help or rescue.
Apart from this tragedy itself, what is also horrifying is how the bodies are being handled. Corpses stacked on top of one another and using bulldozers to move them are being shared on social media. One does not know how authentic the pictures are but if true adds more questions on the whole episode.
While we have seen heavy construction around the Grand Mosque, what we are also told is that there is no arrangement for a hospital that could cater to such tragedies. The development over the past few years has been haphazard and have an element of commercialisation , which contrasts directly with the billions that the Saudi government has spent over the years at no cost to the Hajis.
It is imperative that the Saudis launch an independent inquiry into the matter. The stampede could have been caused by a number of reasons and this needs to be identified. The incident has put a very big question mark on the abilities of the Saudis to manage the Hajj. Let them learn from their mistakes.
The coalition against IS
September 28, 2015
The influence and territory seized by Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East and beyond is gradually on the increase. In June last year IS declared itself a state and gained global prominence as it occupied large territories and urban centres in Iraq and Syria, and now in parts of Libya. Global coalitions and strategies have all proved ineffective against the rising influence of IS. The governments in many countries in the Middle East, North and West Africa are to a large degree responsible for the rise in militancy due to poor governance, indecision towards corruption and repression. The US invasion in 2003, calling itself the war on terror is another contributing factor to the present crisis in the region. Unless political institutions and reforms are allowed to function by the governments in a truthful manner, it will be a far cry to dislodge IS and that too through military solutions.
The US and UK-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, based upon flawed intelligence assessment, has triggered events that have now brought an undeclared war almost in the entire Middle East. The invasion has left marks of physical destruction and psychological agony that have brought an irreversible and unfortunate change in the Middle East politically, culturally and demographically. Many dictatorial regimes could not cope with changes in the region as a consequence of the US invasion. The invasion brought instability to the region, which gave rise to many militant organisations, IS being one such organisation. These are some of the recorded facts of recent history, regarding the spread of recent militancy in the Middle East.
US troops invading Iraq in 2003 met with fierce and unexpected resistance by the Iraqi population in Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah. By 2005, more than half of Fallujah had been turned into ruins due to the US-led coalition bombing. It was here in Fallujah that IS got the most ready recruits and organised its militant cadres. By 2012, IS had attained enough strength to challenge the authority of the Iraqi state. In June 2014, IS launched an attack from Fallujah seizing almost the entire northwest Iraq. The government of Prime Minister (PM) Nouri al Maliki was so mired in corruption to have taken any steps to defend its populations or territory. Due to poor governance the Iraqi army just vanished and surrendered huge quantities of military equipment to IS. Governments that do not develop honest and democratic governance patterns cannot be expected to effectively fight a determined and merciless terrorist organisation, and such is the fate of Iraq and other many states in the Middle East and North Africa. Kurds both in Iraq and Syria are the only forces to have won decisive existential battles against IS. Gradually, the militants are encroaching upon the state authority of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, who have not won a battle that would seriously damage the fighting capacity of IS. The retaking of Tikrit in Iraq by Iranian backed militias and coalition air force is significant but not a decisive victory.
The call of IS in 2012 - ‘breaking the walls’, a call for jail breaks in Iraq to help al Qaeda and other militants escape — did not seem to bother much the corruption riddled government of PM Nouri al Maliki. In 2013, IS carried out the threat of jailbreaks by attacking Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and Taji prison near Baghdad. It should have been a wakeup call for the Iraqi government and also for the regimes in the Middle East. In the attacks, 120 security personnel lost their lives and 800 prisoners managed to escape, many held on suspicion of terrorism. All along, the government of PM Maliki knew that the Iraqi army could not face IS because of poor discipline and lack of interest in keeping the army in a state of readiness. Above all, in 2015, the international community was made to believe that the Iraqi army was in a position to retake Mosul entirely. There is a perception that US intelligence prepared exaggerated assessments in 2015, stating that IS was much weakened in Syria. The assessment was exposed in June this year when IS, in a show of its strength, seized Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, and carried out attacks on the Egyptian army in Sinai Peninsula, managing to sink, through missiles, an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean.
Most of Syria is under the control of IS or the al Nusra Front and President Bashar is left with only about a fifth of Syria, mostly around Latakia on the Mediterranean and Damascus, and that too is loosely held. Recently, IS captured the last of the major oilfields held by the Syrian government, the Jazal oilfields in central Syria. The fighting in Syria is not going to come to an easy or early ending. There is renewed Russian interest in Syria at this belated stage. Russia is trying to build a naval base in Latakia, which is a precious naval listening post for Russia. Russian presence in Syria will certainly draw in the US, thus the Syrian war can become a military contest and attain the global dimensions of military rivalry between the US and Russia.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa must realise that winning this war only on the strength of their airpower and ground forces might not yield the results they want. They must respect regional diversity like the Kurds and introduce honest economic and political reforms. The recent deployment of troops in Yemen by major Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, has made Saudi Arabia enter a seemingly long and costly war. The Houthis consider this intervention an attack on their political, religious and tribal identity. The Saudi Arabian attack in Yemen has resulted in more chaos and, resultantly, IS has managed to gain a strong foothold in Yemen, carrying out regular attacks there. If events of the recent past are an indicator it is well nigh impossible to dislodge IS from any of its areas of influence and Yemen should not be an exception. Moreover, the armies of the region are incapable of taking on a determined enemy and regimes must be well aware of the capacity of their armies. Houthis are certainly the wrong enemy of Saudi Arabia.
There does not appear to be a quest to find and fight the right enemy; it is not too difficult a task to find the right enemy, provided regimes have the courage to search. If regimes are interested in finding the right enemy, simply stated it is poverty, illiteracy, political suppression and an alienated youth from the mainstream economy. The riots in Baghdad in August all pointed towards the right enemy, which is corruption, unemployment, an economically and socially alienated population, and lack of electricity in a country having large oil reserves. Those living outside the various security zones in Baghdad have to bear all the hardships.
In the present circumstances, insurgencies and wars in the Middle East and North and West Africa are likely to continue for a long time to come. Many regimes might not have the initiative now to end these insurgencies and wars. Seen in the context of falling oil prices, unemployed youth, high rate of population growth and lack of modern scientific education, the future does not hold much for many of these countries. The present political set up of dictators and dynasties is not adapted to provide a liberal economic set up, pluralism and political freedom. Such regimes in most of the Middle East, North and West Africa hence do not have the capacity to face the challenges of terrorism or insurgencies.
Humayun Shafi is a former member of the police service of Pakistan and can be reached at email@example.com
Suicide should not be an option
By Juggun Kazim
September 28, 2015
A few weeks ago, two teenagers, a young girl and a boy, committed suicide in a school in Karachi. Their deaths shocked all of us, but we should not have been so surprised. The rate of suicide among the Pakistani youth is steadily increasing and has become a point of major concern. And no matter who commits suicide, it is always extremely unfortunate.
Suicide doesn’t just affect the victim: it turns friends and family into victims as well. Losing a loved one to natural causes is traumatic enough, but to deal with the loss of someone to suicide is frightening on many levels. The people left behind are devastated and experience a range of emotions from grief to self-blame to guilt to disbelief. And to top it all off, they can’t often share their feelings with anyone because of the terrible stigma attached with suicide.
September 10 was recently observed as World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, I dedicated my morning show on that day to discussing the ways of preventing suicide. I learnt a lot from the experts who were on my show that day. I learnt that one million people commit suicide every year — in other words, every 40 seconds somebody commits suicide. And for every person who succeeds in killing themselves, 20 others try and fail. In fact, more people die from suicide every year than from all wars and terrorist acts combined.
In Pakistan, researchers estimate that about half of all suicide attempts arise from poverty, financial problems and so on. The other 50 per cent arise out of mental problems, depression and anxiety.
For me, what is frightening about that statistic is how Pakistanis react to mental illness. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they undergo chemotherapy and radiation immediately. If somebody’s kidneys are failing, they will have no hesitation in getting dialysis. But when it comes to depression and mental illness, Pakistanis just want to brush the problem under the carpet. Depression or feelings of hopelessness are rarely considered to be a serious problem or illness, no matter how suicidal you may be feeling.
A month ago, I was talking to a senior artist about her daughter’s divorce from a violent and abusive man. The poor girl was back in her parent’s home but very reclusive. She was all but refusing to eat and had developed weird twitches. Given that the girl in question was obviously traumatised and depressed, I asked the mother if she had taken her daughter in for a check-up. Her response was that the doctors had said she is fine and had only prescribed sedatives. I asked if she had been to see a psychologist and the response I got was shocking. She very angrily exclaimed, “Meri beti pagal nahi hai!” (My daughter is not mad).” I was stunned.
This response, however, was not unusual. Even when I talked on my morning show about suicide and getting help, the response I got online was always very negative. By and large, my audience seemed to have zero sympathy for people suffering from depression and mental illness.
So, what do we do? Ignore such people? I don’t think that will work, because after a few failed attempts, they do eventually succeed in killing themselves. When the warning signs are there and people are crying for help through their actions and words, why don’t people respond?
There was a recent article in the New York Times about a marine battalion which had returned from Afghanistan in 2012 and since then had lost people to suicide at 14 times the normal rate for Americans. What was most scary was how the veterans described each successive suicide putting pressure on them, almost as if the mental illness was a virus jumping from person to person.
Mental illness is as real a problem as physical illness. A person who is depressed is as sick as someone who has cancer or diabetes. If someone you know needs help, then get them the right kind of help. Stuffing them with sedatives or trying to play the role of a therapist is not going to make things better; neither is ignoring the issue. The only thing which does help is getting informed and expert assistance.
In Canada, I remember there were helpline numbers for suicide hotlines plastered all over the subway and buses. I know that Pakistan has many problems which Canada does not, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the problems we do share. We have NGOs working on a number of issues — the elderly, children, abused women. Why not for people with mental issues? Perhaps, this is something that our society now needs to consider more seriously.
Badhaber attack — some lessons
By Rustam Shah Mohmand
September 28, 2015
The Badhaber attack was a gruesome and tragic one. The loss of precious, innocent lives is deplorable. A redeeming feature — if there could be any in an event of this kind — was that the defenders of the facility were not found wanting in mounting a spontaneous and effective response. But some realities continue to stare one in the face.
For over a year, air force jets have pounded insurgent hideouts in both Khyber Agency and North Waziristan. Retaliation by the insurgents would naturally focus on the facilities of the air force. The Badhber airbase was a prime target because of its rural location. How then, was it left so vulnerable to an attack? More importantly, how did the terrorists succeed in breaching the security wall at two places and entered the base? And how did 13 insurgents manage to reach the base undetected in an area that has seen dozens of such brazen attacks in the past? These are questions which undoubtedly would be addressed by the investigators. The point is: have we really learnt our lessons from the umpteen numbers of past inquiries that were carried out in the aftermath of all such gory incidents? There is no dearth of officials who would conduct a thorough probe and come to important conclusions. But what is lacking are institutional and administrative changes or remedies to forestall such incidents in the future, including giving exemplary punishment to those who are either found lacking in fulfilling their responsibilities, or are involved in such acts of terror.
The assertion that the attackers came from Afghanistan and that the assault was being monitored from across the border created an impression that the authorities on the other side of the border had something to do with the incident. That was as unfortunate as it was unwarranted. While members of the TTP were to blame for the attack and while it is also most likely that those elements of the TTP who have taken shelter across the border launched the attack at the behest of their leaders or handlers, there is little possibility of complicity by the state of Afghanistan with such assaults, overtly or covertly. Nor is there any remote possibility of the Afghans — to be precise, the resistance in that country — taking part in an attack on Pakistani forces and their installations. They are engaged in a battle with Nato forces and there is no rationale for them to get diverted from their goals and objectives.
One lesson is unmistakably clear: the back of the terrorists has been broken; their leadership is in disarray. But there are scattered groups hiding from place to place and navigating the difficult tribal terrain to regroup from time to time, who choose soft targets for surprise attacks. This is likely to continue for some time. More vigilance and greater and better coordination amongst the many organs of the state would be of crucial relevance.
But one must caution against a disproportionate retaliation that also ends up targeting civilians or people unconnected with such crimes. Bombing of villages or suspected hideouts might cause civilian casualties, as well as damage to infrastructure. There is an imperative need to avoid that.