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Scarcely had I finished recounting our 2-Eed history in an earlier post, when along came the first 3-Eed occasion. Imagine. Peshawar and Karachi will now celebrate Eed 2 days apart ... with parts of the country observing it in the middle, too. Wow! So, we've pretty much had a 5-day Eed Festival, if we start with the Bohris, who celebrate all the religious occasions 2 days before the rest of the Muslims in this part of the world. Well, to be fair, from their point of view everyone else is 2 days late! (The jury is still out on whether they'll get zapped two days before everyone else, come Doomsday.) Work - such as it is during Ramzan - came to a grinding halt just before Noon on Friday the 20th, in Lahore (which I happened to be visiting), as people started getting ready for the Jum'ah Prayers (it was the Al Vida' Jum'ah ... the last Friday of Ramzan). Many of them were trying to reach the Badshaahi Masjid to join the large congregation before traffic got heavy. Then there was a weekend, followed by the ill-timed Monday-Wednesday holiday. Eed was expected to be on Tuesday, but the traditional Eed+2 days have now been replaced by the 3-day vacation starting a day earlier, giving out-of-station people time to reach home before Eed. Of course, as luck and stupidity would have it, Eed has now fallen on Wednesday for most of us. So Thursday is a holiday, too. On Friday the 27th, as often happens in such circs, many people will phone in sick - a few will actually be suffering from the after-effects of over-eating and having their mealtimes disrupted again after Ramzan. Admittedly, the more decent (and the gutless) will dodder in, slightly late, and spend the better part of the morning holding a hugathon, calling up a few friends and then getting up around noon to prepare for prayers. Back for a couple of hours, after a leisurely post-prayer lunch, and they too are away for the weekend again! But the decent are in a minority, anyway. For the majority, after their departure on the 20th, their first day in office will be on the 30th and their first day at work will be the 31st . You really can't expect people back in unfamiliar work suroundings to get in the groove on Day 1, can you? Thank Almighty Allah that we are a rich country and can afford such 11-day breaks ... A serious question is How (or even Why) does the owner of a small-to-medium business pay a workforce that's been on half-speed for 15 days, on holiday for the rest of the month, and has obviously fallen short of its deadlines and has caused financial losses connected with this idiotic behaviour? Why should the burden of an individual's beliefs fall on anyone but him (or on the State, if it officially subscribes to the philosophy)? Do Muslims in the USA or UK get half-days off? Or do they not fast? Are there any Hadeeses that support this half-day tradition? The Qur'an certainly does not. The principal of Fasting - I imagine - is to try and get through a normal day, with the additional hardship of shunning all temptations. Where are the temptations if you spend your time sleeping all morning at your desk - The Sehri Süstee Syndrome - and all afternoon at home? Reminds me of Mirza sahab:
In Pakistan, Eed has almost always been plagued by controversies on the matter of when to celebrate it. But that's really a pessimistic view. Think of the joys connected with Moonsightings that would put UFO sightings to shame, Official and Unofficial Eeds, Ramzans that overstay their welcomes, enforced Eeds and enforced non-Eeds.
I can think back to some examples from the days of that arch-Dictator, Ayub Khan, and cite references to them by misraas/shayrs from my favourite humourous poet of the time, Syed Mohammad Jafri (SMJ). If memory serves me well, the President ordered Eed to be held all over the country after some of his province-mates claimed that the moon had been sighted, while the mullas of the province that detested him the most ruled that the method of sighting was unIslamic, insisting that the Ruet-e-Halal Committee (SMJ: Ae ruet-haraam kamaytee tujhay salaam) had to get evidence of a 'natural sighting' and the mehod of going up in helicopters to see the moon behind the clouds was unacceptable.
Karachiites, for the most part, and many others scattered over the country, therefore fasted the next day (SMJ: Hua rukhsat nah jo maahé ramazaañ eed kay din) - while Ayubi mullas roared statements about the kufr of fasting on Eed. (As an aside, some laughingly claim that this was the occasion when Maulana Ehteshamul Haque opposed Ayub and was locked up in a thaana, from which he emerged with the Thaanvi bit added to his name.)
Ayub forcibly decided to have the country observe Eed in accordance with the NWFP decision (SMJ: Khaalis pathaan chaand hua arzé paak par) that emanated from the committee's Peshawar office (SMJ: 'Peshah var' mullaaoñ nay ramzaañ ko dhakka day diya). Most mullas in Karachi refused to lead Eed prayers and the major (official) congregation had to have the Imam of the Karachi Jail forced into leading the Namaazé Eed (SMJ: Jail say maulvi bulvaaya pa∂haanay ko namaaz / Nah koee bandah rahaa aur nah koee bandah navaaz).
Worse was to come the next day, when the 'faithful' gathered with their imaams to offer prayers only to find that some mosque gates had been padlocked by the government supporters, forcing the crowd to say the prayers on the road. ( (SMJ: Talvaar kay zareeyay say manvaaya eed ko / Sharmindah kar kay rakh diya roohé Yazeed ko!)
All that was years ago. Later, the 'Eed split' took on completely a different meaning as we amalgamated Western customs (under misguided concept of upward mobility) and gave up some of our traditions for 'modernity': Sivaiñyaañ have given way to those disgusting butter-cream laden blobs known as Eed Cakes. (I often wonder if, on some Baqr-Eed we will receive hamburgers instead of the more traditional piece of raan.) The freshly 'bhoonoed' sauñf-ilaechee-naaryal concoction, with its tantalizing odor is a thing of the past; in it's place, satchets with drug-laced meethi supaari and candied aniseed jostle with toffees. Itr, of course, had long lost to Perfumes and Colognes - with names like Passion, Tonite, Sin, and the oddly named male deodorant Hard Luck trying to capture, through mere words, the purported aphrodiasical effects of Itr's heady and erotic aroma.
Eedee - still around, thankfully, in most homes - is also beginning to be replaced in a handful of homes with Eed Gifts. Aaargh. In one Islamabad house, in a well-meant tip-of-the-hat to their American bahu, the elders hung those gifts around with strings (their socks were too smelly, I guess) on a plastic replica of a Palm. The Tree, not a Punjah (in case you think they were making their alam do double duty).
Please. Don't sicken me further by saying "Awww ... Shweeet!" ... My suggestion to the Lord and Master of the house was to go 'totus porcus' (a Wodehouse phrase that always makes me guffaw) and localize Father Christmas by having Abba Eeedoo appear, too. But he was not amused at the image I painted of his potbellied body coming down the chimney (they have one in his house!) dressed in a green dhoti, with a miswaak in one hand and a lota in the other. Eed Mubaarak!
Thursday, October 19th, was a special day for two girls. Ex-Blogger Maleeha and her friend Saima got an opportunity to meet - at close range - their hero, Pervez Hoodbhoy (or Saheeh Pervez, as some now call him). They had arranged an informal evening with Pervez in Lahore. It was held in a hall designated to be a Gym adjoining the Athena Café (situated at 7A Main Boulevard, Gulberg - and a great place, small, intimate, secluded!) despite torrential rains that not only caused a delay in his arrival at the venue and but also affected the numbers who could turn up.
Despite the small group - or, perhaps, because of it - the evening was enjoyable. After explaining, briefly, what Science - especially Physics, the starting point of all sciences - covers, Pervez went on to compare the major role that Muslims had played in the development of scientific thought in the early years of Islam, in contrast to the almost total absence of their involvement with Science in the later centuries, reaching its nadir today.
Citing statistics and examples of how little is spent upon the sciences in Muslim countries and the dismal quality of the people we do produce (an obvious result of the former), Pervez had us all feeling depressed. He also quoted shocking figures for related things, like the number of books translated from Western sources to languages spoken in the entire Muslim world being a fraction of those that are translated in Portugal alone.
Finally, as the main body of his discourse, he offered what, in his opinions, were the reasons for such a decline, a matter that he has covered at greater length in his brilliant book "Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality". [This Pervez wrote his own book, btw.]
The audience had little to debate with him on the main theme of his talk, but he hit a couple of raw nerves - one being that of that delightful 'master of evil genius', Gorpy, who has posted her comments - when he chose to describe wearers of the naqaab as 'abnormal'. Pervez held - not unreasonably at all - that communicating with a person was more difficult if facial expressions were hidden. He compared the effect to talking with someone in a box and opined it was not natural for people to want to hide their faces. For me, this part of the discussion was of special interest. One, because just that morning I had sat in on a debate among some educators on whether teachers (especially at the Nursery and KG levels), with naqaabs or burqahs, should be inflicted upon children. The supporters felt that it was bigotry to exclude someone who was, after all, only excercising her personal 'freedom'. The opposite camp used arguments similar to that of Pervez and also felt that the little children would find it difficult to relate to a teacher who was hooded. While Gorpy has pointed out that it seems to be males who are talking about these issues more, the objections in my morning discussions had come from females. Two, because ever since I've read Sam Harris's excellent book, The End of Faith, I am less given to tolerating the intolerant. I grew up, like many of you, in an environment where, although no immediate member of my family wore a burqah, some fairly close relatives did. I cannot recall, ever, seeing either side raise an eyebrow about the wearing or the shedding of this form of dress. It was a non-issue, at par with some of the women wearing ghararas while others wore saris.
Today, because of the increasing presence of Fundamentalists and Terrorists, and the consequential stupid viewing of all Muslims as belonging to one of those two groups, the reactions of many non-Muslims (and also of some Muslims) is more extreme. The veil has now become an issue, further feeding crazy Huntingdonian ideas, with people often interpreting its rationale in ways that even the wearer may not have considered. What has gotten even more muddled in this heat is the fact that most people assume the veil to be an essential of Islam. This week's Friday Times contains an excellent article ('Ladies as Hooded Bandits' - by Khalid Hasan) - but since the weekly insists on asking for money for its web-based edition (unlike India's Tehelka) - I cannot provide a link. But you know me ... Why would that prevent me from offering you a chance to read it through my favourite device, the free download?
What else was fun for me that evening? Meeting someone I had been anxious to meet for a while: Ms Kauser Sheikh, whom all of her Kinnaird College students have always spoken of in respectful and affectionate terms (and I have met quite a few of them over the years).
You're obviously wondering, what's the steroid connection? So, here it is before I put an end to this post: Pervez had arrived exhausted, stressed, and red-eyed ... with most of us assuming that the last bit was caused by the first two. But things got worse during and after the heavy meal that Saima and Maleeha took us to, at the rather imposing and very elitist Polo Lounge. And Pervez had to see an eye doctor the next morning, who diagnosed a condition that was/is a bit scary. He is now being treated with steroids. Imagine the power with which he would have pushed forth the point about 'abnormality', had he taken his steroids before the lecture. [Get well soon, Pervez. We love you!]
Much criticism has been levelled at President Musharraf's memoirs - In the Line of Fire - from specifics, like Retired General Ali Kuli cclaiming passages of the book to be total fabrications, to generalizations, such as questions being raised everywhere on whether a sitting president should have the right to write about things that are - in the view of some - State Secrets or the public washing of our dirty linen. Others are annoyed at his using state money to travel, with a large entourage, to promote his book at state expense, a point countered by his supporters saying that the book has caused tremendous excitement internationally, in political and book reading circles, and has managed to have the Pakistani view on matters such as Kargil, Kashmir and other issues, read for the first time by millions of people. One writer in the Urdu press - always off at the most delightful of tangents - has asked that if the book were to win The Best Fiction Award would the money go to the President or the ghostwriter. My feelings are that much of the hoohah in Pakistan can be settled through a simple process. Following the line of reasoning the the President is paid (for all the positions he holds) by the national exchequer from monies that belong to the people of Pakistan, and that the nature of his employment demands that he is on the job 24/7, I think he really can't really be writing books, parrying with Jon Stewart, staying away from his desk on promotion tours, and making additional money on our time. On the other hand, I also understand that Pakistan has, arguably, benefitted from this exposure and, in any case, folowing a tradition religiously, the writing was done by someone else. So here's a suggested compromise: Maybe the President should share some of the benefits with us. I don't expect him to give us all a part of the earnings, but one thing he can do is make the book free for Pakistanis. Since that cannot be a practical solution in terms of the costs of publishing and distribution involved, the very least would be a token bow to the concept via a free download of a pdf version, don't you think?
Apple's "Mecca Project" Provokes Muslim Reaction On October 10, 2006, an Islamic website posted a message alerting Muslims to what it claims is a new insult to Islam. According to the message, the cube-shaped building which is being constructed in New York City, on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets in midtown Manhattan, is clearly meant to provoke Muslims. The fact that the building resembles the Ka'ba is called "Apple Mecca," is intended to be open 24 hours a day like the Ka'ba, and moreover, contains bars [an entirely misrepresented reference to the advice-offering counters, dubbed Genius Bars by Steve Jobs - Zakintosh] selling alcoholic beverages, constitutes a blatant insult to Islam. The message urges Muslims to spread this alert, in hope that "Muslims will be able to stop the project."
Muslims Aren't Offended By Apple Store By Shahed Amanullah, October 11, 2006 Recently, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) stated that an anonymous Islamic website in the Middle East urged Muslims to show their outrage at the Apple Store in New York City, which built a pavilion coincidentally resembling the cube shape of the Ka'aba, the ancient structure in Mecca towards which all Muslims pray (the actual structure is glass, though MEMRI referenced a black plywood cover during construction). Predictibly, the post brought out cries of indignation from people upset that Muslims would be offended (yet again). But missing in the report was the name of the purported website, why it was considered authoritative on the matter, or any actual offended Muslims (our straw poll garnered a collective shrug, along with much respect for Steve Jobs, himself the son of an Arab). It's not the first time the controversial organisation has selectively framed an issue to show Muslims in a less than positive light.
Although Sabeen and I were there on business, the thrill of meeting our friends was always an overwhelming thought. And what a wonderful time we had. Four-and-a-half hectic days, working with some of the best people in Journalism, loads of Idli & Dossa at Sagar, great - and sensibly priced! - Espresso at Barista, interspersed with mad rushes through Mercury Records, FabIndia, PeopleTree, and - ooooh - those adorable and intoxicating little bookshops! However, for me, this trip to Delhi had a very special meaning. [C'mon guys, change the name: You have Kolkata and Mumbai ... why not Dehli, at least, if not Dilli!] ... We landed there on the 4th of October, almost 60 years to the day when Ummi (my mother) and I had left to visit her sister in BudgeBudge - an oil-bunkering station near Calcutta for ships on the Hooghly River - where my uncle was posted by the Indian Customs. I was just 6 ... and totally unaware that we were leaving our house for the last time, to become an unintentional part of the frenzy that was the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Before setting out for Dilli, this time, I had decided - very firmly - that I would formally begin writing my memoirs on that day ... even if it meant jotting just the first few lines. And, so, this is just to report that 'Ships and Shoes and Sealing Wax' has now DEFINITELY begun. One chapter will deal with a child's view of the 1947 chaos and may be of interest to more than just the immediate and extended family for whom these memoirs are being written. To whet your appetite I just want to say that my family ended up here not of choice but by fate. Abi (my father) came in from the Middle East - where he was posted as a doctor in some medical Camp for recovering soldiers - and went to Dilli to see how things were and judge if Ummi and I could move back there, because my uncle had 'opted' for Pakistan and would soon be sailing out to Karachi. He found that the house in Dilli where we lived, and had hoped to continue living in, was burnt and razed to the ground during the insane riots that accompanied the Partition ... so, we left with my uncle for Pakistan (after a whole series of adventures and dangers between Calcutta and Bombay - but, for that, "Buy the book!") ... not without almost an assurance by Abi's Muslim friends and leaders in the Congress Party, including my wife Nuzhat's grandfather, Dr. Syed Mahmud, that the madness would soon settle, that the two countries and communities would forget and forgive - there were even rumours that Gandhiji was planning to move and live in Pakistan - and we could shift back 'home' in a few months. Haah! My parents never did go back to the city they loved and had decided to make home - away from the qasbaat of Lucknow where they were originally from. Here is a poem Abi wrote. I did want to keep it in his own handwriting. It's been difficult to scan, but I hope it is, for the most part, readable. You may need to use the magnification tool in some browsers.
The ad below appeared in the Dawn (October 8, 2006). It was brought to my attention by The Loan Ranger, Naeem Sadiq. Yaqeen Curriculum Development urgently requires female composer for institutes of high repute in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Gulshan-e-Jauhar. ELIGIBILITY