Friday, 9 May 2008

Scottish Parliament: Time for Reflection 2008

Scottish Parliament
Time for Reflection
Wednesday 7th May 2008
Amanullah De Sondy
Centre for the Study of Islam
University of Glasgow

"You may be expecting a convoluted theological enquiry from someone who comes from an ancient divinity school in the west of Scotland. But don’t worry I have no intention of doing that. Not least because I have arrived here today, not from the School of Divinity at Glasgow University, but from this city’s Craiglokhart Tennis Centre, where I am officiating as a line umpire, at a professional tennis tournament. So I wonder if it were possible to mix my passion for theology and tennis. Love-15.

Love is the language of theology, faith and practice, but at times lost in the sea of our own delusions. As a Scot, who happens to be Muslim, I grew up thinking about what it meant for me to be a Muslim in Scotland. At times stuck between Scottish society and the culture that my parents brought from Pakistan in the 1950s. It was inevitable that those in the same position as me would have an identity crisis. Many tried in vain to create an identity, the boxed label, Scottish Muslim, was one which truly confused me, for there has to be a Scottish Islam for there to be a Scottish Muslim? This ‘Scottish Muslim’ label is stuck between the Pakistani Islam that the first generation brought with them and the medieval Islamic utopia of the ‘golden age’ which many preach, I found myself unable to accept any of these. I strived for my faith to be complemented by Scottish society, and for this to be accepted and most importantly criticised by those around me, warts and all, beyond political correctness. For it is only through reflection with the other that our own identities are strengthened.

Love is a great vehicle to shape this. For me, love is the essence of the Qur’an. A text, which, for me, is perfectly ambiguous with its many shades of black, white and grey. A scripture which can quite easily support the actions of those wishing to promote love and war. For after all, it is a text, and every reader has their own way of interpreting that text.

But love is a term open for multiple interpretations. Love brings with it its own challenges that we must all consider. The famous 20th century Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who lived in Pakistan and was from the same city as my parents, Sialkot in the Punjab, was what I would consider a progressive Muslim. Seeking the beautiful in Islam, through a critical enquiry into its ugliness. Faiz offers us all some food for thought on love.

“The self of a human being, despite all its loves, troubles, joys and pains, is a tiny, limited and humble thing.”, he said.

His most famous poem, has changed my outlook on life, titled, ‘Mujh Sey Pehli Si Mohabbat Meray Mehboob Na Mang’, which translates,’ ‘Don’t ask me for that love I once gave you, my beloved’. He weaves love between the harsh realities of war, hatred and self-interest. That when one realises harsh realities one is unable to return back to the utopia of love or absolute ideals, that love cannot prosper in isolation to all that surrounds it.

And so it is my heartfelt prayer that we are all led in our duties as theologians or as politicians in a realistic love considering the realities and rationalities, weaving our Scottish tartan within its diverse shades of black, white and grey. Only then will our beloved Scotland win, game, set and match.

Thank you."


  1. So good, Aman. I would imagine it was as scary experience. Politicians, generally, need to learn much about love. I looked at the carpets in the newly buit Scottish Parliament, and thought it would not be long before they were soaked with the blood of those who truly loved and put self interest behinf them.

  2. According to Ali Eteraz, Faiz Ahmed Faiz was an atheist. Is that assumed as such due to his favoured opinion of communism? Because apart from that link, I've never seen any reference to it.

  3. Sumera,
    I think that folk labeling Faiz as an atheist is because he did not carry his faith on his sleeve, many in the past have been hurled the same abuse. If you read the poem he wrong 'Hum Dekhain Gay' you will see it is very spiritual.