Caliphs and capitalism

Cross post from IEA

George Bush, a New England minister, explained the term ‘caliph’ came from ‘the Hebrew chalaph; to be changed, to succeed, to pass round in a revolution’. This definition from his Life of Mohammed in 1831 had not been bettered even by the time his collateral descendants in the White House were similarly preoccupied with getting to grips with Islam. Now, caliphal precedents once more are being invoked and it makes sense to have a fresh look at what they were.

Finding a successor to Muhammad, and a title for his office, was a delicate undertaking because Muhammad before he died had not said who should succeed him or how a successor should be chosen. Hence there was ample room for competition between rival candidates and also over what the incumbent would be entitled to do. The title caliph emerged within a day of Muhammad’s demise, henceforth a designation conferred on whoever claimed supreme authority in Islam until in 1924 it seemed to have disappeared together with the Ottoman Empire. The economic policies of the early caliphs merit review.

Early caliphs injected the commercial culture of the Islamic Empire with an acute awareness of how trade spreads benefits to everyone involved. This approach was a carryover from pre-Islamic Arabia when already Arabs coined terms that centuries later found their way to the commercial world of Europe. One example is the term hazard, which comes from the Arab word for the danger of caravan travel, azar. Islam evolved this approach further. The term that describes the very essence of entrepreneurial activity, risk, plausibly derives from a term in the Koran,rizq, where it occurs in numerous contexts to denote ‘God’s bounty’. Innovation in Islam did not end with the death of Muhammad, as his successors were similarly adept in promulgating economic innovation.

Abu Bakr, the first caliph, was a former professional merchant who lived off his investments in mining and in his will vested his estate in a waqf, a charity benefiting his wider family, essentially pioneering family trust funds. The second caliph, Umar, was also a financial innovator, who had endowed the very first waqf and appointed as its manager his daughter, Hafsa. The appointment of a woman to an executive position was not uncommon then; Umar in Medina also appointed a woman to serve as muhtasib, equivalent to a market regulator. Supervising a market was a demanding task. Markets in Medina ran on free-market lines – Muhammad had lifted government-imposed price policies because ‘prices are in the hand of God’, and Umar was seen ‘striking the merchants with his whip when they agreed on the price of food in the market’.

As the borders of Islam were pushed out from Arabia and encompassed the entire Middle East, Muslims came to find themselves in a minority and had to find ways of cohabiting with Christians and Jews who together made up the majority of the population. New approaches were tried, tested, and made to work. In Damascus, for example, disputes over access rights to the cathedral led to an ecclesial Muslim/Christian timeshare – each congregation worshipped at different ends of the cathedral at different times. In Jerusalem, Umar made a point of staying outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to make the point that Christian churches should be left alone. When Umar confiscated property of non-Muslims in Arabia – he expelled Jews and Christians and resettled them in Palestine and Iraq – he awarded financial compensation.

Caliphal courts of the Omayyad dynasty in Damascus encouraged Muslims and non-Muslims to mingle socially and Christians served at top levels of government. Abd al Malik, a monetary reformer who introduced a bimetallic gold and silver coinage, was advised by a finance minister who was Christian (so were also his court poet, the tutor of his son, and other high-ranking officials). The succeeding Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad did not reverse Omayyad multicultural promotion policies; if anything, Jews and Christians in government service were even more conspicuous. In the early ninth century, a time when Baghdad was the world’s largest city, a government loan market came about through collaboration between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The wealth created in Baghdad funded civic initiatives of spectacular scale and range; Baghdad was home to the world’s largest libraries and students of law had a choice between twenty-four different institutions. At this time, Jews were granted extensive self-regulation. In medieval Mosul, for example, local Jews were in charge even of their own prison.

A cursory overview of practices of early caliphs shows they promoted innovative and dynamic economies. Would-be pretenders who wish to bear their mantle ought to keep in mind that the benefits from enlarged markets are far greater than those from rapine and intolerance.

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قربانی خدا کے لیے؟ 


زویا شبیر

ہم لوگ لفظ قربانی کا استعمال کثرت سے کرتے ہیں ۔کبھی یہ قربانی مال کی ،کبھی جان کی ،کبھی جزبات کی،کبھی نفس کی  اور کبھی احساسات کی ہوتی  ہے ۔لیکن ہر دفعہ اس لفظ کا استعمال موزوں جگہ پر نہیں ہوتا ۔ہم لفظ قربانی کہتے تو ہیں لیکن اس کا استعمال کرتے ہوئے حقیقت کو پسِ پردہ ڈال دیتے ہیں ۔

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Legacy of tolerance

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2014
By Anwar Abbas
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

UNCONTROLLED violence manifests itself at different points and in vastly different ways. Violence today suggests that tolerance is at a breaking point. Scratch the apparently God-fearing, ritualised and placid life of the 180 million or so people of this Muslim country and you will find a tangle of envy, suspicion, hatred and many insatiable animosities. Continue reading

Understanding Ramazan: Fasting in Allah’s Paradigm

By Awaam

At another place we have argued that establishing Allah’s discourse in Islam is the first and the most fundamental requirement for Islamic renaissance. This was the dominant and main discourse, in fact perhaps the only discourse that defined and governed Prophet’s life and time there in.
What we mean by ‘Allah Paradigm’ is , as human beings, to try to think, imagine and visualize, with all our limitations, inabilities and frailties, how and why the Creator Almighty has revealed his Word to us ? And why has he endowed us with the faculty of Reason (aql) to understand Him through His word?

Allah’s paradigm is about Humanity and life in this world. Unlike the dominant paradigm in Islam at present which is Human theological paradigm which is about God and life hereafter and offers very little about this world.

Allah’s paradigm is to try and understand the reason and purpose behind Creation of Universe, Life, Human beings in a way that is different from the dominant discourse in Orthodox Islam. It is an attempt at understanding and establishing a direct connect with Allah. It is an attempt to see the Creator Almighty from the perspective of Human – Earth- Life-Universe.

We begin with Taqwa. Taqwa is an undisputed final aim of a Muslim in his life time. It has been varyingly described as God Consciousness, Submission to God’s Will, Journey towards God, Empowerment against evil, Self Control for God to be near Him, Godfearing etc.  It was reported that Umar bin Khatab asked Ubay bin Kaab about Taqwa. Ubay said, “Have you ever walked on a path that has thorns on it?” Umar said, “Yes.” Ubay asked, “What did you do then?” to which Umar replied, “I rolled up my sleeves and struggled.” Ubay said, “That is taqwa, to protect oneself from sin through life’s dangerous journey so that one can successfully complete the journey unscathed by sin.”

Whatever the meaning one takes the underlying theme and over arching purpose is to be Conscious of God and His will in every moment and of one’s life and in every act of omission and commission one takes. No Muslim or any Non-Muslim, who has studied Quran, can deny that Taqwa is the dominant theme in a Muslim’s life.

Over the centuries Muslims in every generation and all over the world have tried to find their way for Taqwa. Orthodoxy has maintained that fulfilling of ritual obligations of worship remains the mainstay of this struggle. However we believe that in Allah’s paradigm Taqwa means something very different, much broader in scope and a lot more deeper than how it is widely understood.

A word of caution here. We are not going to attempt to reject or alter or attempt to reduce the importance of the ritual acts of worship. Rather ours is an attempt to define the acts of worship and worship itself in Allah’s paradigm.

We live in times where Human Civilization is going through pangs of regeneration and self- doubt. We face challenges in the 21st century that threaten the very existence of human beings, both materially as well as on a higher plane of existence. We cannot choose to run away from it. All we can do is to decide how best to use the time given to us? Do we continue to linger in doubt? What is Faith to us in a technology driven and science led world?

As Muslims we believe that  Allah has created this Universe, earth and Life in it.  To really know where we stand in relation to this Universe within which we exist consider the following:  Universe is nearly 14 billions years old. Average human life span in comparison is 70 years. This means that the Universe is 200 million times the human age.

That is how old it is. Humanity has only existed for a mere fraction of this time.

How big is this Universe? The sheer size is beyond human imagination. To give you an idea, our Sun’s diameter is 1.5 million kilometres. If we reduce this Sun to a size of 330 millimetre or one foot, our earth is just 3 millimetre big. You can easily see this on an ordinary measurement ruler.

If we now reduce our earth in size, by further one million and make it only 3 nanometres, so that it is not visible even under the best optical microscope; in comparison now the Milky Way, our galaxy would be 215 km across. Imagine the size difference if you can. Earth is only 3 nanometre in diameter located in a Milky Way that is 215 Kilometre in size. The nearest galaxy Andromeda would be 4800 km away.

In other words if our earth was one Inch in diameter the Milky Way would be nearly 1690 trillion kilometres across in size. Sizes like this are mind boggling and that is why the distances in the Universe are not measured in kilometres but in light years. Time it takes light to travel in one year. Light travels at 300, 000 km per second. In one year Light travels 946 Billion kilometres.

It is approximated that Universe has more than 200 billion galaxies like Milky Way.

And We live on this one Inch planet. Our home.

Now consider the size of one ordinary human in relation to our planet earth and you can see how completely small and insignificant we are in the cosmos.

And yet Allah who created us, and all that there is in the Universe,  and perhaps many more of such Universes, and He has  sent us His Word and gave us the faculty of Reason to understand His Word.


The answer to this ‘Why’ may help us understand Allah’s Paradigm.

Clearly we, our existence and our size do not mean much for Allah. Yet by the special treatment that He has given to us Humans, it must mean something. By giving us the consciousness and power of choice, does He simply want us to blindly obey Him and worship Him?

Is He in need of our worship? Clearly we, our existence and our actions have no impact at all on His Almighty exalted Self.

Now look at this in another way. Each one of us is easily comparable to any other human being; and all of us are in a perfect position to make physical and emotional impact on each other.

So why did Allah send us his prophet and Quran? To preach us His worship in a ritual manner? Is that what He intended to do? To satisfy His Own exalted Self? Clearly it does not make sense.

Or is it that He sent us His message and the messengers, for the sake of our ordinary mortal human selves? In Quran Allah repeatedly tell us that the guidance He has sent us is to help us, how best to lead our lives among human beings and with each other. But He also tell “I have not created the jinns and the humans for any purpose except to worship Me alone.” 51:56

So therefore living life in this world, among other human beings, in a God conscious manner is ‘ the worship’. In other words worship or ibaadat are not the performance of rituals but to do to do what Allah has commanded and to avoid what He has prohibited  with our words , deeds and actions in every moment of our lives. What we do with ourselves and with other human beings is  Ibadaat. Ibaadat is the actions of the heart, the tongue or the limbs.

The world here is what matters most. In fact this Life on this earth is all that matters. It is here and not in  ‘Akhirat’ that our actions and choices matter. On the day of the judgment what will matter most will be our conduct in this world. And our conduct in this world has no direct or indirect bearing on Allah Almighty, and on His Majesty, but it has a direct bearing on each and every human being we live with.

Our conduct in this world is relevant to, and has a direct impact, positive and negative, on, other Human beings, not on Allah.

Therefore what matters most in this world is our relationship to fellow human beings, not our performance of ritualistic worship of Allah.

This is what we mean by Allah’s Paradigm.

It is in this spirit that we want to understand the significance of Fasting in Ramadan. It is with this perspective that we try to see how and why of fasting, and attempt to highlight why fasting should not be reduced to a mere ritual of sahr and iftaar and hunger inbetween.

Fasting in Ramadan is considered as one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. Because we do not believe that a simple religious ritual can be a fundamental pillar, there must be, and there is much more, to Fasting in Ramadan.

Therefore trying to understand this pillar within Allah’s paradigm is all the more important.

Let us begin by analysing what Quran says for Fasting?

Ayahs for Ramadan


O You who believe !  Saum ( Abstinence and Self restraint  including desisting from common vices such as impatience, anger, unfair criticism, envy. This meaning is broader than Fasting)  is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you become endowed with Taqwa.

So to begin with the purpose of self controlled abstinence or fasting is laid out. It is to make us human beings Muttaqeen.  In other words Saum is not an act of ritual worship that we have made it to be. Its sole purpose is to become a Muttaqi.

Before we proceed further we can take a pause and look at what it means to be Muttaqi. How one can be God conscious and be empowered against evil and become righteous?

Taqwa is the most important and consistently recurring theme in Quran.  But what it means to have Taqwa.

We look to Quran again. A few verses before prescribing  Saum, Allah says


‘It is not AlBirr ( piety, righteousness) that you turn your face towards east and west;  but AlBirr is the one who believes in Allah, the last day, the angles, the book, the prophets;  and gives his wealth, inspite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to al masakin, and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask,  and to set the slaves free, performs as-salat, and gives the zakat,  and who fulfil their covenant when they make it,  and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of the truth and they are AlMuttaqun ‘.

Note how it is laid out. Who is Muttaqi?

Not the one who faces east or west as worship?  But the one who believes.

But wait. What comes straight after belief?

The One who gives his wealth. And Allah specifies the categories of who to give this wealth to, all of who are underprivileged and have nots.

What next?  Who else is a muttaqi?

Those who set slaves free. Those who remove the bondage and serfdom. Those who free one human being from the tyranny  of the other human beings. Most importantly this criterion is mentioned in the same line as performing salt and giving zakat. And it is described in an order of precedence before salat and zakat are mentioned.

When was the last time we Muslims thought that freeing human beings form tyranny was more important, a higher virtue, a higher degree of taqwa than namaaz and zakat? Even today in Pakistan how many millions exit in bondage and yet we keep on praying and paying zakat as our foremost duties and completely neglect freeing these people.

If we expand this theme further and take a negative approach we can assert that those who do not distribute their wealth, and those who do not work towards reducing human tyranny and bondage ,and those who do not work for freeing human beings are not Muttaqi.

They are not God Conscious.

What is the next criterion. Those who keep their promises and fulfil their covenants. Let us pause here and think.

The word is ‘contract’. Every human action that relates to another human being is a contract. Contract based on trust. Trust that the contract and the promise made will be fulfilled.

Here Allah has laid out the most fundamental and primary pre requisite of economic success. Fulfilment of contracts, promises and covenants. Ask any economist and they will tell you that no economy can work efficiently if there is lack of mutual trust and the contracts are not enforceable.

By the same negative analogy used above, those who break contracts are not God Conscious, not righteous and not muttaqi.

And the last criterion in the passage is patience. Self control. We all know that discipline and self control are fundamental to success in human life.

So of the seven criteria laid out to be a Muttaqi, six relate to human conduct and only two of these have been adopted as ritual worships by Muslims , namely prayer and zakat.  Both of these are however preceded by the requirement to redistribute wealth and freeing of human beings from tyranny and slavery.

But here is the most important observation about this passage.  Nowhere in the whole verse does Allah mentions or limits the actions that He commands to be undertaken with  Muslims or believers only.

The instruction is most general and applicable to all human beings across the board.

My understanding of this is very simple. So far as God Consciousness is concerned, helping and assisting a fellow human being, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian , Jew,  Atheist, nonbeliever, whatever, takes precedence over ritualistic worship in the order of things.

We apologise in advance if some sensitivities are offended.

Now let us go back to fasting ayahs. Now that Saum is prescribed. What next.


Just for a fixed number of days. But if any of you is sick or he is on a journey, he may make up the same number of days later. For those who can go through Abstinence only with hardship, there is a way of redemption: the feeding of an indigent. Any additional charity will bring additional reward. However, going through the training program of Abstinence is better for you, if you only knew.

It could not be clearer.  Fasting is for a fixed number of days only. And immediately after announcing this edict Allah gives relief to those who may not be able to physically abstain.  But even more importantly this is followed by the compensation edict for those who cannot fast for one reason or another.

Allah wants a compensation. But this compensation is not in the form of worship or a sacrifice. To compensate Allah one has to look after a fellow human being by feeding them.

It could not be clearer. To compensate Allah for one’s failures, one has to look after a fellow human being. Simple as that.

In the next ayat Allah Almighty chooses the month of Ramadan to fast in.

The month of Ramadhan has been chosen for this collective training since this is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, clearly explaining the ‘why’ of every Rule. And it is the Criterion of right and wrong. Whoever witnesses this month should participate in the program of Abstinence. But if any of you is sick or on a journey, let him practice Abstinence for the same number of days later. God desires for you ease, and He does not desire hardship for you. The postponement is to enable you to complete the period. The objective of this training is to establish the supremacy of God (on earth) for, He has shown you a well-lighted road, and for you to show gratitude.

But again Allah provides relief and this time in compensation asks for abstinence in days other than Ramadan. Shall we not wonder why that is so? Clearly God wants to ease our hardship. So much is obvious within the verse itself. But this time instead of Allah asking for Ramadan fasting to be compensated for by another means He wants us to practice it in other days. Why that might be?

This issue is of particular relevance because Ramadan being the lunar month moves in a cycle different from the seasons. Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth relative to the plane of its revolution. Therefore we get Ramadan in summer, winter, autumn and spring and these seasons and the length of days and night varies in different parts of the world making the Ramadan fasting very short or very long for a certain period of time.

Additionally we have issues of Polar days and Polar Nights. Given fair weather, the sun is visible for a continuous 24 hours, mostly north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle. The number of days per year with potential midnight sun increases the farther we go towards the South and North Pole.

There are no permanent human settlements south of the Antarctic Circle. But certain countries in the northern hemisphere experience this. These include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Iceland and United States. About 25 % of Finland lies north of the Arctic Circle. At the northernmost point in Finland the sun does not set for 73 days during summer. Svalbard in Norway is the northernmost inhabited region of Europe. Here there is no sunset from approximately 19 April to 23 August. The extreme sites are the poles where the sun can be continuously visible for a half year.

The opposite phenomenon, polar night, occurs in winter when the sun stays below the  horizon though out the day. At the poles themselves, the sun only rises once and sets once each year.

There are fatwas that advise fasting according to the timing of the nearest country in case of 24 hour fasts. And in case of hardship to break the fast and make it up another day. While such fatwas are welcome measures, and an improvement on the rigid interpretations, these nevertheless fall short of reflecting the Quranic injunctions.

A much more simpler way of dealing with this issue would be to allow fasting in months other than Ramadan, or perhaps shorten the times for fasting, or even better to encourage people to spend time on welfare of other fellow human beings during the month of Ramadan to compensate for the missed abstinence period. Clearly when Allah Himself has allowed fasting in months other than Ramadan why should we stop it?  When Allah desires ease for us why should we make it hard on ourselves and other people?

The next ayat is important. It is an affirmation of Allah’s commitment to those who are committed to Him.


So, when My servants ask you about Me, surely, I am Near. I respond to the prayer of the suppliant when he calls unto Me. Let them also listen to My call, and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.

Then we come to the last ayat about Ramadan.

(Abstinence is only for the daytime.) It has been made lawful for you to go to your wives on the night of the Abstinence. They are your garments and you are their garments . God knows that you would have deprived yourselves, feeling guilty, and so He turns to you and pardons you. So, now you may have intimate relations with them and, besides, seek all good that God has ordained for you. You may eat and drink until you can discern the white streak of light against the black streak of night at daybreak. Then complete the Abstinence until sunset.
Do not have intimate relations with them while on special assignments in the Centers of the Divine System. These are the bounds set by God – so come not near violating them. Thus God explains His commands to mankind clearly, so that they understand and remain observant.

In this ayat Allah now turns to the other basic human need and desire. Sex. And He explains that there is no need to abstain during the night time. More importantly Allah decrees that there is no need to be guilty about having lawful sexual intercourse. It is how very ironic that in His word Almighty openly talks about a subject which we Muslims have made a taboo. The consequences of this taboo behaviour has been dire for the Muslim societies over the centuries.

However for us the more relevant part is how Allah describes wives. Women to be precise. They are described as ‘your garment’. But to make sure this analogy is not treated as discriminatory Allah describes men as ‘garment for them’ that is for their wives. What a beautiful analogy. Garment is such a basic human necessity. Garment hugs our body all the time and without garment humans beings feel naked, vulnerable and ashamed. Garment covers one’s private parts and one’s faults and scars and injuries and disabilities, and ugliness. Garment is also used to enhance one’s beauty. Garment covers what is in one’s soul by hiding the body language less it betrays one’s inner self. Garment is a source of mutual comfort, and acts as a keeper of privacy, reason for décor, and redressers of faults.

After this description by Allah how do we Muslims justify the lowly treatment of wives in our societies is simply beyond comprehension.

And now we turn to the ayat immediately after the ‘Fasting ayahs’. Please read carefully.

So, knowingly, do not devour the wealth and property of one another in a wrongful manner, nor bribe the officials or the judges to deprive others of their rightful belongings. This kind of behaviour drags down your own humanity and harms the collective welfare of the society. [Ithm carries all the meanings given in the last sentence]

If ever there was a proof required that all ritualistic measures that Allah has ordained and prescribed are to train us and prepare us how to act justly with fellow human beings, then this is it.  Immediately after prescribing fasting Allah forbids in categorical terms not to steal and commit fraud and pay bribes. How can this edict and forbiddance can be less of a Fard than Fasting or prayers or zakat?

How can a Muslim feel guilty if he skips a fast and yet commit the atrocities of stealing , corruption, bribery, dishonesty and feel not any remorse or guilt?

The only answer we have is that over the centuries the priestly class of scholars, jurists, (ulema and fuqaha) have forgotten Allah’s paradigm and instead created a Madhab , a religion with a human theological paradigm. Islam has become like any other religion where ritual worship has taken over, and come to define what is good and what is bad, come to define the duty and the sin, the righteousness and wrongfulness.

It is the ritual worship that has become the yard stick by which a Muslim and his actions are judged.

The tragedy is that Allah Almighty wants an Islam which is responsive to this world, and life herein; and we humans have made it all about rituals of His worship and life hereafter. That is our grave mistake.

Holy Prophet (pbuh) said ‘If a person does not avoid false talk and false conduct during Siyam, then Allah does not care if he abstains from food and drink’ (Bukhari, Muslim).

We invite you to decide for yourself what Allah wants from Fasting and Abstinence.

Is it a method of worship? Or is it a method used to teach human beings how to care ane empathise with others?

As Muslims should we think that Allah needs us and our ritualistic performances? Allah the Almighty , the Creator of all the universe. Allah the  One who is ‘ Ahaad’, and ‘Assamaad’ ( free from all needs and wants). Allah who is ‘ alhayee’ and alqayuum’, eternal and omnipotent. Allah to who belongs all that is in the universe. Does he need our worship?

Does His commands have a broader and deeper meaning then simple rituals or not?

We have given the scales of this Universe earlier and our own comparisons to it. We invite you again to scale yourself. Look at the room you are in right now as you read this. How many of you can fit in that room that must be a tiny part of the city you live in, which is a tiny part of the country you live in, which is a tiny part of the planet earth, which is a tiny planet. A One Inch planet as we discovered above.

We are far too small to be of any significance to Allah. But so far each and every other human being is concerned our actions and our words and our intentions can have deep and significant impact on them, both physical, as well as emotional.

We contend that by only by defining and discovering Islam in Allah’s paradigm can we begin the process of Islamic renaissance.

One fundamental along this path is to understand rituals in their proper context, and to give these appropriate weightage; for example the five fundamentals of Islam are not five fundamentals of  deen ‘Islam’ itself;  but rather are five fundamentals that help create and bind Muslim community in symbolic, ritual and implementory unity. But for an individual Muslim these are not such fundamental duties that they take precedence above other commandments.

At this stage even if we set aside the arguments that social responsibilities ( haquq ul Abaad) are greater ‘ fard’, then ritualistic religious worship, which are wrongly and wilfully given extra weightage, to keep the shop going for the priestly class, which itself has no justifiable existence in Islam; even then there is a question when and how these rituals come to define worship in Islam and when and how these take precedence over mutual relationships of human beings ?
As most of us know that these social responsibilities are not only about one’s self and one’s family and close relatives. Rather these actually relate to all other human beings, including Muslims and non-Muslims. Therefore eliminating all poverty, hunger and injustice is a greater ‘fard’ on any Muslim. His first and foremost duties are to his fellow human beings.

We shall quote here another Hadith from Bukhari and Muuwatta Malik, to illustrate how ‘ concern for humanity and human beings’ is inbuilt into Islamic traditions, only if we care to follow that. Narrated on authority of Abu Huraira

While we were sitting with the Prophet a man came and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have been ruined.” Allah’s Apostle asked what was the matter with him. He replied “I had sexual intercourse with my wife while I was fasting.” Allah’s Apostle asked him, “Can you afford to manumit a slave?” He replied in the negative. Allah’s Apostle asked him, “Can you fast for two successive months?” He replied in the negative. The Prophet asked him, “Can you afford to feed sixty poor persons?” He replied in the negative. The Prophet kept silent and while we were in that state, a big basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet . He asked, “Where is the questioner?” He replied, “I (am here).” The Prophet said (to him), “Take this (basket of dates) and give it in charity.” The man said, “Should I give it to a person poorer than I? By Allah; there is no family between its (i.e. Medina’s) two mountains who are poorer than I.” The Prophet smiled till his pre-molar teeth became visible and then said, “Feed your family with it.”

Rituals and practices’ are not intended to be the only core part of the ‘Deen’ in Islam; unless you equate Islam with a religion in ordinary sense of the word. And over the centuries these rituals have been used by vested interests to control humans and they have successfully put the real core of Islam ie concern for an ordinary human being at the back burner. These concepts have then been used by ordinary people like us to silence their consciences when it comes to our dealings with other human beings or try to balance our acts of omission and commission by performing the rituals.

The primary reason for having rituals is to provide a mean for an identity for the community; and secondarily to make the community stronger. That can only happen by showing  concern for fellow human beings.

All ritual worship is there to serve this purpose by training people.

The example is praying in the mosque with others. Aside from the fact that watching thousands and hundreds people pray together is one of the most impressive sights on display; a display of unity and discipline, it is one of the oldest methods of ‘ Networking’.

Prayers in the mosque are your local facebook, your local twitter and your social media all combined in one. It provides an ideal opportunity to meet, talk, share ideas, converse, conduct business etc. We have discussed fasting at length above. Paying zakat is clearly to redistribute wealth and improve egalitarian credentials; hajj is essentially a bigger version of namaaz ba-jamat, where Muslims from all over the world can get together.

So you see even in the ritual worships the whole emphasis is ‘people and other human beings and relationship among them’ not on mere worship.

Islamic rituals of worship are not like rituals in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Bhuddism or any other religion where expiation or atonement of one’s sin is the only purpose. Muslim worship is about creating a permanent God consciousness that can be practiced for the welfare of other human beings.

The fact is that the core of Islam is ‘concern for humans’ and everything revolves around it. However over the aeons this has slowly taken a secondary place behind ritualistic practices. It is time the correct order of precedence is restored by re-establishing Allah’s paradigm.

The concept of four as ibadaat as the only fard and exclusively is neither in Quran nor in Sunnah. This concept of fard worship has done much harm to the true spirit of Islam. Muslims have contended themselves with performance of rituals and forgotten the rest. Most importantly this and such concepts created tyranny of a man over another man though a class of self declared priests whose utterances became like word of God himself.

And there is nothing more antithetical to the Allah than this tyranny. It is akin to shirk.

We relate an episode from Muslim history to extol this point further. While I cannot vouch for the historical veracity of this 100 % , the spirit and true purpose of Islam can seldom be reflected better than this story.

It is said that Abdullah bin Mubarak performed hajj and was sleeping inside Ka’abaa, that he had a dream. In that dream he saw tow angels talking to each other. One says to the other that this year no one’s hajj has been blessed by Allah. The other one says no you do not know the full story. Allah has blessed but only because of a certain person who lives in a certain town ( and he the related the name of this person and this town). Ibn Mubarak woke up and he felt a deep impact of his dream. He set out to find this person.

He reached his destination and found the house of this person. As he knocked on the door, an old man opened the door. Ibn e mubarak introduced himself and he was invited in. it was a poor household and there was only the old man and his wife. They were childless. Ibn e mubarak told them of his dream and his reason for his visit and asked them had they performed the hajj this year. And could they explain his dream.

The old man offered him food and drink and told him that they had not performed hajj and he knew not about his dream. However they had intended to perform hajj but then could not. Ibn e mubarak asked them why could they not go to Hajj. His host then told him that he was an ironsmith. They were childless and had been saving money for a long time to allow them enough savings to perform hajj. After years they had sorted their plans out to perfom hajj.

However a few days before they were due to leave , he heard his Jew neighbour’s kids cry incessantly, while their mother was cooking. The same happened the next day when they cried themselves to sleep and the next day. when this happened the fourth day he went around to check and found out that his neighbour had died and his widow had not enough to feed her kids and look after them. he said ‘ I came back and felt so ashamed that not only I did not know my neighbour had died, I did not know about the plight of his kids. So we talked and my wife and I decided to give all the money to the widow to set her in the business to fend for herself and her kids.

Ibn e mubarak began to cry and told the old man that doubt they were better people than him and no wonder Allah had blessed every one because of them.

Islam, was and is, never about rituals. It spread due to its egalitarian and socially just spirit, and a progressive manifesto. We humans then created Shariah, which over the years have been further distorted and been spun to serve vested interests.

To start the Islamic renaissance we believe it may be even better to start afresh from the original paradigm of the prophet (pbuh)and build a new muslim paradigm for today’s world. Prophets discourse was Allah’s paradigm and that is the need for the day.

We believe that Islam our deen was complete in prophet’s time’. Now what does this mean and what is its significance? It means that every decision that was made after the deen was complete, every decision made by the companions, the scholars and the jurists is their  personal interpretations and opinions, according to their  understanding. Further these decisions are political, jursitic or legal in nature, were made in particular historical contexts and are not fundamentals of deen. Therefore none of these are binding in nature, immutable or unchangeable.

Let us not forget that by common consensus the very first command from Allah is ‘ Iqra’ ( read) and not ‘pray’. Therefore reading, being able to gain knowledge and education are a primary obligation for a Muslim. But how many millions of Muslims are fooled into believing that there is no harm in being illiterate and ignorant as long as ‘ namaaz roza’ has been done. What a grave distortion and injustice that is with Allah’s commandment?

How our ulema has distorted the meanings of things is illustrated by another example. Relaince of the Travellers is a classic manual of Shariah written by Ahmad ibn Naqib al Misri in mid fourteenth century. Its first chapter is the Book of knowledge. It declares certain knowledge to be unlawful. No surprise but the list ( very sadly) includes philosophy, astrology ( a predecessor of astronomy) and the sciences of materialists.

Muslim lagging behind?  Case closed.

Before we finish we want to relate you another story from the annals of history. It is said that prophet Ibrahim ( abraham) always had a guest at his table at dinner time. One day he had none. He went outside and waited for someone to pass by. He called in the first person passing by who was an old man of 90 carrying wood on his back. Abraham offered him dinner and brought him in.

When they started to eat, the old man dipped in. Ibrahim stopped him and said ‘ you haven’t said bismillah’; to which old man replied ‘ ibrahim do you not know I do not believe in you God’. Ibrahim said in that case I cannot have meal with you. The old man got up and left saying ‘well you invited me, its not as if I came begging.’

Soon he had left that Allah spoke to Ibrahim and said ‘ Ibrahim what kind of person are you that you cannot feed a human being one meal. It is ‘I’ he does not believe him and yet I have fed him and looked after him for 90 years. Whilst you did not even put up with him for one meal and a short time. So what is your problem?’. Ibrahim it s said was profoundly sorry.
So should we not go back to prophet’s Islam? Our prophet turned back and did not perform ‘hajj’ to avoid bloodshed and make it easier to fulfil is long-term strategy than a short term gain?

Let us put this another way. No one can argue with the fact the foremost  and the most fundamental pillar of Islam is ‘ Towheed’. It is Twheed that rids us of fears and limitations. It rids us of the gods of dependence on other people, greed, money, selfishness, etc. All these are the same social evils that afflict Muslim societies. Why is this so?

Because when we think of Islam all most of us think of is following rituals of prayer, fasting, zakat and hajj. We have truly forgotten Allah’s paradigm where human welfare and well being is the true worship.

In the final analysis, the ritual worship in Allah’s paradigm is not an end on to itself. This is in stark contrast to human theological paradigm, that dominates the Muslim world almost exclusively and wherein ritual worship is seen as an end onto itself. In Allah’s paradigm, the way to Allah takes the path through human heart and human welfare, not through rituals devoid of human love and empathy. Ritual worship in itself does not, and can never make one God conscious or God fearing, unless and until it makes the worshipper’s heart soft an full of human milk of kindness. Because that is the real reason for Allah asking us to worship and pray.

A brief word here about Sufism. We are not advocating Sufism where ‘tareekat’ creates tyranny of one human being over others, and where all one is concerned about is his own salvation, and where this world and its affairs are to be abdicated and looked down upon.

Allah’s paradigm instead cherishes this world, the life herein and establishes a personal code of conduct for both the spiritual as well as material well being to be shared and cherished with fellow human beings, regardless of their creed, belief, colour, race, origin and language.

We truly believe that Islam offers the best, the most balanced and the most moderate way forward in the 21st century and in  times to come. But it is not the Islam of rituals. It is the Islam of the Prophet imbued and guided by Allah’s paradigm.

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An angel writing in a book of gold

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the Presence in the room he said

“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,

And with a look made of all sweet accord,

Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,

Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.


کے پی: تعلیمی اداروں میں لڑکیوں کے لیے عمر کی حد ختم

پشاور: خیبر پختونخوا کی حکومت نے صوبے میں قائم سرکاری یونیورسٹیوں اور کالجوں میں لڑکیوں کے داخلے کے لیے عمر کی زیادہ سے زیادہ حد کو ختم کردیا ہے۔

اس کے علاوہ یہ فیصلہ بھی کیا گیا کہ مقامی حکومت کے تعلیمی اداروں میں داخلہ لینے والے جسمانی معذوری سے دوچار طالبعلموں کو تعلیم اور رہائش اور کھانے پینے کی سہولیات مفت فراہم کی جائیں گی۔

جمعہ کے روز خیبر پختونخوا کے کالجوں میں حیوانیات کے ماہرین کے فورم کے ایک افتتاحی اجلاس کے دوران اعلٰی تعلیم کے وزیر مشتاق احمد غنی نے ڈان کو بتایا ’’موجودہ دور میں صوبے کی لڑکیوں کو اعلٰی تعلیم کے حصول سے روکا نہیں جاسکتا۔‘‘

اس اجلاس میں اعلٰی تعلیم کے شعبے کی سیکریٹری فرح حامد خان، ایڈیشنل سیکریٹری خالد خان، کالج کے ٹیچروں کی ایسوسی ایشن کے صدر نصر اللہ یوسف زئی، پروفیسروں، ڈاکٹروں اور کالجوں کے پرنسپلوں نے شرکت کی۔

وزیر مشتاق غنی نے کہا کہ ’’اگر کوئی لڑکی غربت یا کسی بھی دوسری وجہ سے اعلٰی تعلیم کے حصول میں ناکام رہ گئی ہے تو وہ اب کسی بھی کالج یا یونیورسٹی میں داخلہ ٹیسٹ دینے کے بعد داخلہ لے سکتی ہے۔‘‘

اعلیٰ تعلیم کے محکمے کے ایک اہلکار نے ڈان کو بتایا کہ صوبے میں قائم سرکاری یونیورسٹیوں اور کالجوں میں گریجویشن یا اس سے اوپر کی کلاسوں میں داخلہ لینے والے لڑکیوں اور لڑکوں کے لیے عمر کی حد الگ الگ تھی۔

صوبائی وزیر نے کہا کہ معذور طالبعلموں کو تعلیم اور قیام و طعام کی سہولیات مفت فراہم کرنے کے ساتھ ساتھ کالجوں اور یونیورسٹیوں میں داخلے کے وقت ان کی عمر کی حد میں دس سال تک کی چھوٹ دی جائے گی۔

انہوں نے بتایا کہ معذور طالبعلموں کے لیے کالجوں اور یونیورسٹیوں کی عمارتوں میں ریمپس، خصوصی ریسٹ رومز اور دیگر سہولیات بھی فراہم کی جائیں گی۔

مشتاق غنی نے کہا کہ وزیرِ اعلٰی کے تعلیم کے لیے مختص فنڈ سے پچاس کروڑ روپے اور اعلٰی تعلیم کے لیے مختص فنڈ سے تیس کروڑ روپے پی ایچ ڈی کے لیے دو غیرملکی اسکالرشپ کے لیے اور چودہ سو چھپن اسکالرشپس برائے چار سالہ بی ایس پروگرام کے لیے رکھے گئے ہیں، اور یہ اسکالرشپس طالبعلموں کو میرٹ کی بنیاد پر فراہم کی جائیں گی۔

The walking wounded of Waziristan

Owais Tohid
It’s springtime in Sadat Ullah Dawar’s beautiful village of Issori. The hills in front of his mud house rise from among the lush green fields, which are covered with blue colour flowers, ‘Sparlah’, bathing the valley with their scent. In the backdrop stands the majestic mountain of Shawal in North Waziristan still covered with white snow. The graying patches show that the melting has begun. The colourful migratory birds flying over the valley stop to drink from the freezing cold waters of the Tochi River before moving on. Continue reading

The walking wounded of Waziristan

It’s springtime in Sadat Ullah Dawar’s beautiful village of Issori. The hills in front of his mud house rise from among the lush green fields, which are covered with blue colour flowers, ‘Sparlah’, bathing the valley with their scent. In the backdrop stands the majestic mountain of Shawal in North Waziristan still covered with white snow. The graying patches show that the melting has begun. The colourful migratory birds flying over the valley stop to drink from the freezing cold waters of the Tochi River before moving on.

Sadat, too, is moving on. He is locking his ancestral home to take his old grandparents — Dilawar Khan and Bi Jan — to the nearby town of Bannu. Unlike the birds, he doesn’t know when, and if, he’ll be able to return.

Crossing the fields, Sadat quietly plucks a Da Sparlay Gul (flower of spring) and keeps in his pocket. Wherever he goes, a small part of home will now go with him.

“All tribesman love their home in the springtime but my Bi Jan says, ‘Son let’s leave because it has become so dark here that one cannot see his own hand.’”

The shadows of darkness to which Bi Jan refers, lengthened in this valley more than a decade ago with hordes of foreign militants moving in from the Afghan border through the rugged hilly terrain and thick jungles of Shawal Mountain from Paktika province and Kurrum tribal belt into Mir Ali.


At a private educational refuge for Waziristan and Dawar students in Bannu, these young men spend much time preparing for their exams and keeping an eye on political developments back home.— Photo by Ihsan Khattak

The local clerics, whose influence has steadily grown over the years, played on the religious sentiments of the tribesmen, calling on them to host these “mujahideen” out of a sense of brotherhood. Others, who were less idealistic, were lured with money. So the tribesmen welcomed these war-battered and defeated warriors and offered them shelter, believing that they would soon disappear back into the war-torn land of Afghanistan. But the hordes kept coming, first a trickle, then a flood.

Everyday there was a fresh convoy of militants of different castes, creeds and colour. Low key and ‘quiet’, tall and athletic, Al Qaeda militants of Morrocan, Egyptian, Algerian and Sudanese origin. The round-faced, flat-nosed and ruthless Uzbeks; the fair-skinned Chechens. The short Uighur Chinese with their thin scraggly beards. Muslim converts from America, Germany and France known collectively as the ‘Gora Taliban’. Thousands of local jihadis joined their ranks, distinct because of their appearance and inability to speak Pushto, these were the long-haired and short-tempered Punjabi Taliban.

The temporary shelters the militants sought soon turned into entrenched sanctuaries as they allied with local commanders Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Siraj Uddin Haqqani. After forming the Tehrik-i- Taliban, thousands of fighters turned this tribal belt into the world’s most dangerous labyrinth, threatening peace inside Pakistan with suicide attacks and in Afghanistan by fighting US and Nato forces. Soon, the US drones were hovering over the hamlet and raining missiles while the militants unleashed a reign of terror on the ground.

“We have been caught between the earth and the skies,” says Sadat, who has rented a house for his grandparents in Bannu and struggles to set up a transport business there. “The Americans kill us by firing from the skies and men with ugly faces (militants) have made our lives miserable on the ground.”

And then there are the lives those very militants have ended entirely. Sadat recalls his friend Deen Wali, a 28-year-old transporter who was ruthlessly executed by masked militants on suspicion of spying, a day after a US drone attack in which militants were killed. Young Taliban militants pulled him out of his shop and dragged him across the road. “Amriki jasoosi, Ameriki Jasoosi (American spy, American spy),” Sadat remembers the militants shouting as they dragged his friend. “Two of them held his arms and the other two his legs, and tied explosives around the whole body while my friend was screaming.”

The tribesmen, including Deen Wali’s family members, gathered around but nobody dared to stop the Taliban militants. “The militants walked backwards, moving away from Deen Wali, and pushed the remote button. The explosives detonated, shredding him. His flesh and body parts flew everywhere.” The militants left the scene in a convoy of vehicles leaving behind the clouds of dust, despair and helplessness. The regularity of such horrific events such as this compelled hundreds of tribal families to leave their homes. Hundreds of Sadats, Dilawar Khans and Bi Jans.

Now in Bannu, Sadat’s grandfather Dilawar spends his day sitting cross-legged on a wooden takht under a tree on the roadside. Surrounded by the young and elderly tribesmen wearing woollen Waziri or Chitrali cap, they huddle their charpoys around an old fashioned three-in-one stereo recorder to listen to news in Pushto on Deewa and Mashal radio stations. As soon as the news bulletins end, their commentaries and analyses start.

“It’s an international war which has engulfed us,” says North Waziristan’s influential tribal elder, Malik Shad Ameen Wazir. “The volcano is in Afghanistan but it erupts in our tribal areas.”


Waziristan: Towns, tribes,lands and population

For tribal elders like Shad Ameen, the solution lies in negotiations through what he calls ‘real’ jirgas and not the military operations, drone attacks or even the ongoing peace talks. The tribal elders feel the peace negotiations and negotiators simply do not represent them. “How can the tribal people be represented by the Taliban, who are the very force that tarnished our social fabric, tribal values and traditions? Our hujras are not safe, our jirgas have been targeted,” says Malik Shahden. “We are suffering on every count. We cannot afford unending military strikes on our land, nor do we want to see our land be ruled by Taliban.” Pausing for a moment, he continues: “Our elders had a saying that if a woolen blanket gets leeches, you don’t burn the blanket, you pluck out the leeches.”

Another elderly tribesman laments the experience of displacement. “We tribesmen, who lived for centuries on the mountains, have been made into kochies (gypsies),” he says. He recited a couplet in Pushto, that translates to ‘Our mountains have been burnt so the birds are building their nests on our palms’. “We are now like those birds,” he says.

These wandering tribesmen are now scattered through Bannu, Kohat, Hangu and Peshawar. They carry with them deep invisible wounds of divided families, lost livelihoods and ruptured lives. “I am physically here but my soul is in the valley,” says Gul Saleh Jan. “I lost my young son when my house was bombed. I buried him with my hands, said my farewells, and then left so that my other children could have a future.”

Saleh Jan’s two surviving sons are now studying in Bannu like hundreds of young teenage boys who had come from villages like Hasu Khel, Ippi, Idak, Issori and Hurmuz, all lie in Mir Ali town. These Waziri and Dawar students live in small hostels and study at private tuition centres. But memories and concerns haunt these students. Hakim Dawar for instance, cannot sleep at night as he worries about his father constantly. “He forced me to leave the valley but he is still there among the dark shadows.”

The tribesmen relate that every Waziristani keeps anti-depressan t tablets in their pockets. Sadat takes his grandmother Bi Jan for psychiatric treatment every week. She stopped talking since she left her village of Issori and now sits idle the whole day. “We console her and tell her that the situation is improving just to make her feel better. Today I told her that the village is preparing to celebrate the harvest so after a long time she smiled back at me.” Sadat himself smiles as he says this, though the furrows on his forehead reveal his true state of mind.

Sadat’s grandfather Dilawar Khan wants to go for a walk to Dau Sadak, the main road which leads from Bannu to North Waziristan, and I decide to accompany him. The old tribesman takes a deep breath, filling his lungs with the breeze that wafts in through the valley. “I can smell the Waziristani spring,” he says. I can see Sadat holding the Sparlay Gul he had plucked from the field outside his home, a lifetime ago. The scent may have long since dissipated but it still revives his hope that he might yet go back to the lush green fields, the ice capped mountains, the freezing cold Tochi river, to his own valley — North Waziristan — to enjoy the spring of new beginning. But only once the long, cold winter has finally passed.

The writes tweets @OwaisTohid