Thursday, 25 October 2012

Yeh Jo Halka Halka Suroor Hai...

Sung by the Pakistani music sensation, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

...meray baad kis kis ko satao ge...meri wafa'ay yaad karo ro ke faryaad karo ge...mujhko jo barbaad kiya he...aur kise barbaad karo ge...dil jalo se dillagi achi nahi...rone walo se hasi achi nahi...dillagi hi dillagi mein dil gaya...dil lagane ka natija mil gaya...mein tarapta hun ke mera dil gaya...tum kyu haste ho tumhay kya mil gaya...meray baad kis kis ko satao ge

…who will you tease/agonise after me…you will reminisce my faithfulness…shedding tear after tear…lamenting…as you destroyed me…who next will you massacre…kindling love with burnt out hearts is not felicitous…smiles from those crying is never pleasing…through the extreme passion for love’s connections…was the heart of love taken…the result of meddling in love was achieved…as my heart is taken…agonised…why do you smile…what have you achieved? Who will you tease/agonise after me?

Translation by Dr. Amanullah De Sondy

5 Things WE ALL Need to Know About Pakistan

Richard Clarke described Pakistan as a nation of "pathological liars" on the Bill Maher Show last year. He also called Pakistanis "paranoid." In the public mind there is little apart from suicide bombings, terrorism, violence and corruption associated with Pakistan. Commentators freely call Pakistan a "nursery for terrorism." Every news item from that country confirms this image -- whether the shocking news that Osama bin Laden lived just by Pakistan's premier military academy with Pakistanis claiming they had no idea about his whereabouts, or the shooting, a couple of weeks ago, of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old girl, whose only crime was that she wanted an education.
Surely there is more to Pakistan than this? Yes, there is. Here is the reality:

1. Pakistan's Democratic Foundations

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's founding father, created a modern Muslim state in August 1947, the first of its kind in the Muslim world. A brilliant, successful lawyer with a reputation for integrity and rigid principles, he advocated women's rights, minority rights and human rights. One of his first acts in August was to declare himself the "Protector-General of the Hindu community" and to attend church to reassure the minorities of their inclusion in the Pakistani nation. In his first address to the Constituent Assembly in the same month he laid out his vision for Pakistan: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed -- that has nothing to do with the business of the State."

Fatima Jinnah, Jinnah's sister, played a key role in promoting the visibility and rights of women. Women ambassadors, governors, parliamentarians and editors soon made a mark. It was with this background that Benazir Bhutto emerged as the first female prime minster in the Muslim world. Today, there are some 70 female parliamentarians in the National Assembly and the foreign minister of Pakistan is a woman.

2. The Widespread Influence of Nonviolence in Pakistan 

Sufi Islam -- which promotes the notion of sulh-i-kul, or "peace with all," and non-violent political movements and humanitarian initiatives -- is widely supported by millions of Pakistanis. The great Sufi centers which attract thousands of worshippers every week are spread throughout Pakistan, and the historic city of Lahore can boast the shrine of the celebrated Sufi Master, Data Ganj Baksh. The qawwali, Sufi devotional music, sung by groups like that of Fateh Ali Khan, made an international impact.

(Or the music and songs of Madam Noor Jehan , a legendary and iconic singer in Pakistan (and India)

Pakistan also produced the legendary Ghaffar Khan, called the "Frontier Gandhi" because of his non-violent philosophy and close association with Mahatma Gandhi. Ghaffar Khan led a widespread and powerful movement that was allied with the Indian Congress Party and therefore fell out of favor in Pakistan, but the roots of his non-violent philosophy, as he emphasized, were deep within Islam and his Pukhtun tribal culture. Humanitarian work with a focus on the poor and the dispossessed is symbolized by the saintly Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife, Bilquis. They are the founders of the Edhi Foundation, a social welfare program providing help to the destitute across Pakistan for the past half century. Wearing thread-bare clothes and living a life of extreme simplicity, the Edhis personify the emphasis on compassion in traditional Muslim society.

3. Pakistani Hospitality

Pakistani hospitality is famous. At the birth of the nation in 1947, Pakistan received between 10 and 12 million refugees from different parts of India. Many of these had lost everything they possessed and spoke a different language to the local people. Yet, they were welcomed to the new nation with some of them thriving. There were several heads of government who had a refugee background, including Presidents Pervez Musharraf and Zia-ul-Haq. In the 1980s there were more waves of refugees escaping Afghanistan from the brutal Soviet invasion. Anywhere between 5 and 6 million Afghans sought shelter in Pakistan. One of the side effects of the refugee invasion was the creeping violence that began to appear in society as Kalashnikovs and drugs made their way into the markets. Increasingly, Pakistan's politics became involved with the politics of Afghanistan across the border.
Next time you hear the discussion whether a dozen or two refugees should be allowed into the country as it may threaten its stability and character, think of Pakistan which opened its arms to literally millions of people seeking refuge.

4. 'Shining Pakistan' as a Model for Growth

It is difficult to conceive, but only a generation ago Pakistan was seen by the World Bank, Harvard development economists, and developing countries like South Korea looking for role models of growth as an Asian nation on the verge of "taking of.f" Building on its British heritage in agriculture, industry, education, the civil service and the army, Pakistan had made steady strides. It had made a name for itself on the international stage as world champions in cricket, squash and hockey. It had a brand new and smart airline called PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), and the Pakistani President boasted of having the finest Armored Division in Asia. Professor Abdus Salam emerged from this environment to become the first scientist from the Muslim world to win the Nobel Prize, for Physics. It was this scientific base that allowed Pakistan to become the first nuclear Muslim nation in the world.

5. Pakistan as a Traditional American Ally 

Mr. Jinnah set the orientation for Pakistan's foreign policy as an ally of the United States. For about half a century Pakistan remained firmly in the Western camp. There were important economic, cultural and larger geo-political reasons that made the relationship mutually beneficial. Today Pakistanis are bitter about their American ally and blame "America's war" for the destruction that lies over the land. They point to some 40,000 Pakistanis who have lost their lives as a result of the war on terror and the billions of dollars of property destroyed. They blame the uncontrolled nature and violence of the Taliban on America's war. They feel betrayed.

The anti-Americanism is widespread. The good news is that it is not too deep. If you doubt this statement, take a look at the picture of Jackie Kennedy visiting Lahore in 1962. She is in an open car with the Pakistani President and surrounded by smiling Pakistanis throwing flower petals to welcome her. She later visited the Tribal Areas along the Afghanistan border and received a similarly warm welcome. The iconic image of the elegant and smiling American lady who set out to win over Pakistani friends should prompt both Americans and Pakistanis concerned at the sorry mess that is their alliance to ask: What happened to that relationship and how best can it be repaired?

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies and Jesus College, Cambridge. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror became a Global War on Tribal Islam (Brookings February 2013).

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Golden Age of Islam by Sasha Brookner writer, publicist

Published at Huffington Post - All Rights Reserved, Copyright
"In case of differences, provided scriptural language does not violate the principles of reason, that is, it does not commit a contradiction, science should give way." -- Ibn Rushd (Averroes)

There was a Golden Age to Islam once -- a Muslim Renaissance so magnificent, famous, cosmopolitan and cerebral that it's borders didn't always bleed. While some European archaeologists refuse to believe the hype -- not having excavated enough pottery shards -- this era unequivocally produced some of the most enlightened thinkers throughout the Islamic Diaspora. Between the ninth and 13th centuries, the libraries in Baghdad (Bait al-Hikma), Damascus (al-Zahiriyah), Timbuktu (Sankoré), Cordoba (Royal Mosque) and Cairo  (Dar al-Hikmah) contained more books, manuscripts and literature than in the entire Greek world. Thanks to China passing along the art of papermaking and the translating skills of travelers, these newborn Islamic scholars went on to become polymaths. They studied spherical trigonometry, agriculture, physics, medicine and science, using astrolabes to measure the altitude of stars while setting up sophisticated astronomical observatories. While Europe was dwindling away from the Dark Ages and the Church was busying itself replacing science with superstition, these Islamic scholars were setting up psychiatric hospitals, correcting Ptolemy, determining the circumference of the Earth while Rhazes produced sulfuric acid and could distinguish whether you had smallpox, chicken pox or measles. Abulcasis was a gynecologist/dentist and Egyptian patients could refill their pharmacy prescriptions at the Qalawun Hospital in Cairo, a facility that offered American liberal's much sought after universal health care.

(Top Right: Trigonometry - A thousand years ago, Muslim scholars pioneered the study of trigonometry as they observed the movement of the planets, and predicted unknown lengths and angles. Today, trigonometry, including spherical trigonometry, is used in solving complex problems in astronomy, cartography and navigation. ( (Ali Hasan Amro), page 89)

Aristotle, the Greek "master of those who know" was at the top of Averroes and Avicenna's reading list, while some Islamic philosophy paradoxically bordered on secular humanist thought -- with literacy rates that would put the modern day Muslim World to shame. Speaking of literature, two and a half words: Sinbad and Ali-Baba. They became known throughout history as the "Father's of Algebra" with a little help from Diophantus, Aryabhatta, Archimedes, Baudhayana, Hippocrates, Chang Tshang and the Rhind Papyrus (I'm not going to enter that debate in this article), but indeed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can thank al-Khwarizmi for his employment of the word "algorithm."

Some even hypothesize that the Golden Age of Islam may have been more favorable to women. There are reports of numerous female scholars in Moorish Spain, and philosophers such as Averroes of Cordoba were openly honest about the inequities between men and women as outlined in the Hadith, Quran and auxiliary Sunnah. Contrasted with today, this type of rhetoric would have surely got him issued a fatwa alongside Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Rushdie. He continued to share his illuminating insight about Islam's failed dealings with women,

"Our society allows no scope for the development of women's talent. They're destined exclusively to childbirth and care of children and this state of servility has destroyed their capacity for larger matters. It's thus we see no women endowed with moral virtues, they live their lives like vegetables, devoted to their husbands. From this stems the misery that pervades our cities."

Averroes pièce de résistance, "The Incoherence of the Incoherence," paid tribute to the Greek peripatetics of the Ancient World and made a plea to the Arabic World for a reconciliation of philosophy and theology, sophisticatedly broadening his horizons by incorporating Neoplatonism with the teachings of Malik ibn Anas for his ultimate understanding of the universe. So renowned was he, that Dante and his charming tour guide Virgil later discovered him in Limbo where he could live out his days on green pastures with his first circle of hell comrades, Plato and Aristotle. Unfortunately, Averroes peers including the fundamentalist thinker al-Ghazali, who rebuked and discarded the works of any non-Muslim (kafir), tended to be at the writing vanguard of encouraging caliphs to strip women of comprehensive human rights.

(Above Right: Chess - An illustration shows a Muslim and Christian playing chess in a tent, from King Alfonso X’s 13th-century Libros del Ajedrez. (Courtesy of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, page 46)

Shamefully, barbarism has always found a way to dismantle even the greatest of societies (ask the Visigoths). While Christians crusaded against the Spanish Moors, about 2,500 miles South East, Hulagu Khan and his genocidal horde of sociopaths claiming to be Buddhist swept in and closed out Baghdad's free thinking utopia. Regrettably for intellectualism, the Mongols had a predilection for burning libraries; subsequently the Enlightenment movements had to wait that much longer to figure out Jesus wasn't an original story. But more importantly, the Arab World would be left with one book to read and re-read and re-read for what would seem time eternity.

In the 13th century, Islam should have made its graceful exit; instead, it survived to become a nation of hermeneutists who would have nothing remotely scholarly to debate for the coming centuries besides whether "flogging" a woman to death should be considered the same thing as "stoning" her to death, and how much dhimmi taxes should be raised at the next lunar month. The Golden Age had officially departed to it's 72 virgins. As Europe entered its own 16th century Renaissance, the Arab World reverted back to the mind sophistication level of their seventh century illiterate warring caliphates who only accepted instruction from divine sources, courtesy of hearing voices from Allah via the Archangel Gabriel via Muhammad, once emerged from a cave in Bedouin attire. In fact, I have been unable to locate one Quranic passage that encourages secular (ilmanniyya) education outside of scripture. Most of the quotes attributed to Muhammad such as "the ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr" came from the Hadiths of al-Suyuti, al-Bar and al-Jawzi, which were a collection of post-Muhammad proverbs and narratives written by men who wanted to add their two cents even after the prophet clearly said of the Quran, "Nothing have we omitted from the Book." Subsequently it makes sense that aside from Ba'athists, there are few Mullahs or imams in the Arabic world in favor of the separation of din (religion) and dawlah (state).

The disciplines of science, philosophy, gender studies and history are mitigating factors for those who clutch steadfast to archaic religious tradition, which is why for the most part believers in developed countries have a tendency to interpret primordial texts a little less literally. Orthodox Jews, who have access to The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, are less likely to live out the tale of Jonah jumping into the mouth of Shamu trying to repent sins of eating shellfish (Shout out to "Blue Planet: Sounds of the Sea"). Conversely, men and women in American Muslim communities are excelling quickly through the ranks of higher education, the Nation of Islam has been transformative in the black community and although there are more accusation of Orientalism than honest dialogue about their brethren 6,000 miles away, there is an understanding that Islamic law must be subservient to the U.S Constitution, a living text that allows for modification and revision, unlike the Quran. As is evident, Islam -- much like the Judeo-Christian religion -- can only attempt tolerance and co-existence while parallel to a liberal arts education and a secular system of jurisprudence, without which there is an inevitable clashing of civilizations.

(Above Right:  Gardens - A 17th-century manuscript shows Sultan Babur holding a plan and watching his gardeners measure flower beds. (V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, page 222)

Unfortunately, in the same regions that once flourished almost 1,000 years ago, we are witnessing the calamitous affects of the Mongol invasion and Christian Crusades. The Muslim world continues to invest only 0.2 percent of their GDP on science, research and development. There are a mere 500 universities in the entire Islamic Diaspora, while not a single higher education facility has been featured in the Top 100 Ranking Universities of the World due to the curriculum focusing more heavily on Surah Al-Fajr than Einstein's Law of Relativity. Since 1901, only two muslims have ever been awarded the Nobel Prize in Science (perhaps more if Scandinavian committees counted the chivalrous chemists concocting poison gas elixirs to throw in the schools for girls).

The current literacy rates for males in Islamic communities are dismal, ranging from 43 percent in Afghanistan, 58 percent in Pakistan and 70 percent in Egypt to 30-40 percent throughout Mali, Senegal and Guinea. For female literacy rates you can often take these paltry numbers and divide them by two.

These statistics are heart breaking for a girl like myself who once found insight into my own life through the analytical writings of the legendary brown philosophers of the Middle Ages. In light of the rampant violence, gender disparity and blind indoctrination at the expense of intellectual advancement pervasive throughout the Middle East and Africa, I find myself romanticizing the Golden Age, hoping at some point in the distant future that type of luminosity might return to the Muslim World.


A profile created and directed by one of my students Norma Moreno at the University of Miami