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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Al-Buraq (The Lightning) was a Horse?

The Qur'an has no such description, of course.

Where, then, did Buraq's human face come from?
Most often it is a female face.

Hadees does mention the Buraq
… but is the female face ever mentioned?
(In any case, some Muslims do not believe in Hadees)

Here's an image of the Buraq

Many more like this are seen everywhere
including on our delightfully made truck art.

Recently Richard Dawkins mentioned a 'winged horse' in his Twitter account, referring to Mehdi Hasan's belief … and Dawkins received a lot of flak from Liberal 'believing' Muslims. I found it strange why Muslims - who, I am sure, would strongly disagree with Dawkins' atheistic beliefs - found this statement something to be really angry about. Anyway, he has published a piece here that is well worth a read.

Why Mehdi Hasan thought it was a horse surprised me, too! I know it is the generally accepted form among Muslims, but a well-read journalist should understand that there is no way that he can prove something like this from the Qur'an, a book all Muslims support and accept. It can always be questioned by others, but many non-Muslims will understand his belief if the Qur'an says so and allow it … just as Muslims allow a Christian to believe that Christ came back from the dead in 3 days, though, according to many of them he was 'taken up by God' as they understood it from the Qur'an. Of course, some differ here, too.

Wikipedia says this: While the Buraq is almost always portrayed with a human face in far-eastern and Persian art, no Hadiths or early Islamic references allude to it having a humanoid face. This, which found its way into Indian and Persian Islamic art, may have been influenced by a misrepresentation or translation from Arabic to Persian of texts and stories describing the winged steed as a "... beautiful faced creature."

Here is one Hadees!

A translation of Sahih al-Bukhari (5:58:227) describes Al-Buraq this way (as the Prophet said)"Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me."


You might want it to be a horse, but the Hadees doesn't say anything about it except its size and colour. Yes, it does mention a donkey and a mule … but that's to talk about Buraq's size, not it's actual breed or genre.

Legends grow up and become articles of faith some day.
Here, for example, is the Naqshbandi's view:
When God ordered Gabriel to carry with him the Buraq for the Prophet to ride, he went to the Paradise of buraqs and there he found forty million buraqs. Every buraq had a crown on its forehead inscribed with the words: "There is no god except God, and Muhammad is His Messenger." Under it was written: "Believe in Me, in My angels, in My holy books, and in My prophets." Gabriel saw among them a buraq who secluded himself and who sat alone crying. Gabriel came to him and asked him why he was in such a state. The Buraq answered: "I heard the name of Muhammad forty thousand years ago, and my yearning for him has prevented me from eating and drinking." Gabriel chose that buraq and he took him.The Buraq had the body of a horse but the face of a human being, with big black eyes and soft ears. His color was that of a peacock whose plumage was set with red rubies and corals, on which sat a white head of musk on a neck of amber. His ears and shoulders were of pure white pearls attached with golden chains, each chain decorated with glittering jewels. His saddle was made of silk lined with silver and gold threads. His back was covered with green emerald and his halter was pure peridot.
How many of you actually believe this?

For more details of Isra (and Mi'raj) take a look here. But remember that many traditions that people have been following are much further from the truth. As an example, Masjid-Al-Aqsa (that Muslims take to be in Jerusalem) was not a mosque at the time of Isra! When Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem after the Prophet's death, a mosque was built there.

Recently Mohammad Shaikh - a young scholar of Qur'an - has also challenged this belief of Masjid-al-Aqsa being in Jerusalem. He finds different answers from the Qur'an and lectures on it from his IIPC. Of course, many other ülemaas call his ideas nonsensical. But that's for the believers to decide. I just know him well from the time he was my Cadet on a Merchant Ship, though I knew his family well.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

What — Me Worry?

PPP has completed a full term in office. Wow! However, the last bit of its term was sadly inappropriate (despite many good laws that were recently passed by its Government), specially when it came to the Shia Murders! Not a word was spoken for a while and very little has happened after the late visits of various bodies.

Death is here to stay … while Life moves on. We now have politicians campaigning everywhere for the elections on May 11th … and being attacked (quite often even killed). Every party has had that happen to it (or will have it, as the election dates get closer).
Here, for example, is Norbalm (Norbert Almeida - who also sends messages of crime out on the Phone if you subscribe to the service) and his first message this morning: #Karachi early morning 4 bodies. Shot/tortured dumped in different parts of the city.
We also have peculiar laws here, too.
Ahmadis cannot freely vote in Pakistan due to the discriminatory processes introduced in the election related laws which climaxed during the regime of former dictator General Pervez Musharraf. He bowed to Islamists' demands (as did Z A Bhutto!) and issued a Presidential Executive Order, effectively barring Ahmadis from participating in the election process. The Executive Order No. 15 of 2002 excluded Ahmadis from the country's joint voter roll, requiring they be registered on a supplementary voter roll, and necessitated that Ahmadis must sign a declaration to renounce their faith in Islamic tenets.
Let's look at a major belief among Shias themselves (and the Sunnis).

'Imam Mehdi'— the 12th Asna Ash'ari Shia Imam — (the Shias believe) was taken away by the Will of Allah when he was a child, and he will 're-appear' before Doomsday. Strangely, the Sunnis, with no information about this from the Qur'an, also believe in Imam Mehdi's coming to Earth because it is mentioned in the Ahaadees. Naturally, there are strong differences: The Shia Imam has been born! The Sunni Imam Mehdi will be born!

Would some of the Muslims in Pakistan (Sunni or Shia) be annoyed, too, if the Aga Khanis or the Bohris were not allowed to vote? They are considered Shias, but are not part of the Asna Ash'ari group which is the major portion of Shias.

The Aga Khanis have a Living Imam, which is why I could not find a proper Imam Mehdi piece on the Internet about their beliefs. The Dawoodi Bohras have this to say, and this … parts of which could even be considered Blasphemy. Bohris, according to an article on the Internet "believe in appearance of Imam Mahdi who will fill this earth with justice while it is filled with oppression. They claim that Imam Mahdi appeared in North Africa whose name was Abdullah and founded Fatimid dynasty which is drawn from the progeny of Ali and Fatima."

And we are not even counting the Alawis/Nusayris of Syria, although Ayatullah Khomeini accepted them as being part of the Asna Ash'ari Shias, despite their heterodoxy.

The mad/bad militant groups from Saudi Arabia, known as the Wahhabis, as well as their growing followers in Pakistan, have claimed that Shias are not Muslims at all … and some other Sunni sects agree with them, including the Barelvis (*). Wahhabis also 'separate' the other Sunni groups from Islam (or consider them as having been shifted away from the 'true' religion) when left to their own devices.

Members of the Deobandis, a stricter version of the Sunnis in our subcontinent, are anti-Qavvaali and Milad and many other things that the Barelvis practice. The Barelvis add new ideas to Islam (considered a küfr by the Deobandis) … and soon these things become an 'act of faith' to their followers.
Startlingly it was a Barelvi who killed Salman Taseer … and he has hundreds of supporters from the Deobandi and the Barelvi crowd.
Yesterday, I saw this item in the news:
Thirty-two members of the U.S. Congress lawmakers have sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. The letter bluntly says they cannot accept the May election results in Pakistan if Ahmadis are not also included as part of Pakistan's joint electorate.
The lawmakers impressed upon Secretary Kerry saying, "we cannot stand idly by and allow four million Ahamdis to remain disenfranchised and outside the electoral process. You have a unique opportunity to advocate on behalf of an entire segment of Pakistani society which has long been marginalized and oppressed…"
Secretary Kerry has been asked to 'press' Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to immediately repeal Executive Order No. 15 of 2002 and have reminded President Zardari that with the historical successful completion of a term of democratically elected government, he has a unique opportunity to remove discriminatory voting restrictions on Ahmadis.
Can President Zardari agree? If he does, will Pakistan's Interim Government accept it? Or will Zardari be considered a Blasphemer by the JI and others?

So where are we headed?

Last night I saw a video - something you must see to understand that there are a few voices of reason in Pakistan. I know that this young man may not win … but I think he deserves your vote if you are in NA-250/PS-113. Talk to him first, though! There may be other areas where he may have very different and, often, contrary views to you.


(*) When I was at sea - and studying all religious beliefs - I came across a Chief Engineer who was a Barelvi. He had literature from his sect and gave me a copy of Imam Raza's works to read. Imam Raza is the Head of the Barelvi School of Thought (and is not the Shia Imam Raza). He has written many books, including a Tafseer of the Qur'an. One person had written to him and asked him that if he wanted to marry a Muslim Girl and there were no other Muslims in the area where he lived, what should they do for the required Vakeel. The book had this answer (it's not verbatim, but the gist is the same): If no Muslims are available get a person from Ahl-e-Kitaab (The People of the Book), that is a Jew or a Christian. Do not get Kuffaars (Disbelievers), such as a Hindu or a Shia!

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Monday, April 15, 2013

A bit late, but Comics come to Pakistan …

T2F was where 'Umru Ayar - The Comic' was launched a day ago. Take a look at this lovely story. That's a bunch of 6 young people who love Comics and want to bring them seriously into Pakistan. A great start. If you love Comics, do subscribe to their Facebook page. Hope they succeed.

The group intends to bring out loads of classic tales, crime stories of Ibné Safi(!), and much, much more. I am sure they'll need more people and if you are into drawing comics maybe you should join them or have a word and see how your art can be used - independently or with their work.

I certainly wish we develop and bring out the talent to make Comics and Graphic Novels. We need lots of talent. We need people who understand the art of making such things, from the good old style comics … all the way to Manga … and more. We need all our people reading them the way they read them in other parts of the world, from children to grown-ups.

While I love the work these young people put in - (I've read all their previous free issues) - but, on a personal level, I'd rather have my favourite Graphic Novels in good old black & white. Really.

If you haven't seen what they are like, take a look at almost anything from the Master of it all, Will Eisner (often called 'the father of the graphic novel'). He authored some of the most wonderful books ever.

There's, of course, Scott McCloud whose work is amazing and Understanding Comics is in a class by itself. Being an artist isn't enough. Read Physics! Honest! Read this book and you'll see why. Read People, Accents, Expressions … after all, they'll be in your books, no?

Graphic Novels or Comics are brought out by teams of people … and, occasionally, by a single person who knows and understands all this. Become one … or get someone you can discuss these things with.

Art Spiegelman whose marvellous Maus is worth a reading again and again … and specially if you have a CD-ROM version of it to see. I wish they'd re-release it soon. Maus also was the first Graphic Novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Joe Sacco - (whose birthday I share, along with Gandhi Ji) - has written several Political Graphic Novels, including Palestine.

And, finally in this list, there's Marjane Satrapi whose Persepolis was superb. The film was wonderful, too. There are many others one could name and I'll leave them for another time.

Coming close to home, Indian Comics are superb, too, and there's always a good choice to buy new ones when I am in Dilli or Bombay:

Take a look at anything by Sarnath Banerjee (start with his 3 books). He's a wonderful friend who comes to Karachi sometimes. Worth meeting if you are here.

Amit Dasgupta's An Indian By Choice is another way that comics can be made - simple, modern, wonderful, important.

And for a REAL treat, buy Bhimayana - a story by Durgabai and Subash Vyam about the life of Ambedkar. The illustrations are amazing in the fabulous artwork by Srividya Natarajan and S. Anand. This was considered one of the top Political Graphic Novels by CNN.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

RIP Manzoor Sahab

Ustaad Manzoor Niazi Sahab

Qavvaali has lost one of its finest masters
and a great gentleman today!

This was the last time I heard him, singing a naat that, years ago,
he and his elder cousin Ustaad Munshi Raziuddin Sahab,
had sung at the mausoleum of The Prophet in Madina.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Piece for Pynchon

Postdialectic Narrative
in the works of Pynchon

Zaheer A. Kidvai
Head of the Department of New Media, Hamdard University

1. Contexts of absurdity

The characteristic theme of Hubbard’s[1] critique of postdialectic narrative is the role of the reader as artist. Scuglia[2] implies that we have to choose between deconstructivist appropriation and the pretextual paradigm of narrative.
It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a cultural theory that includes art as a whole. If deconstructivist appropriation holds, we have to choose between postdialectic narrative and posttextual socialism.
But Bataille uses the term ‘the patriarchial paradigm of discourse’ to denote the stasis, and eventually the fatal flaw, of precapitalist sexual identity. The primary theme of the works of Spelling is the common ground between class and narrativity.
Thus, the subject is contextualised into a neocapitalist nihilism that includes culture as a paradox. In Models, Inc., Spelling deconstructs postdialectic narrative; in Robin’s Hoods, however, he examines neocapitalist nihilism.

2. Spelling and deconstructivist appropriation

“Society is intrinsically meaningless,” says Marx; however, according to Hubbard[3] , it is not so much society that is intrinsically meaningless, but rather the absurdity, and hence the defining characteristic, of society. In a sense, Hanfkopf[4] holds that we have to choose between neocapitalist nihilism and postdeconstructivist deconstructivism. The subject is interpolated into a postdialectic narrative that includes sexuality as a reality.
In the works of Pynchon, a predominant concept is the distinction between opening and closing. Therefore, Derrida promotes the use of deconstructivist appropriation to deconstruct and read class. Baudrillard uses the term ‘neocapitalist nihilism’ to denote not discourse per se, but subdiscourse.
If one examines postdialectic narrative, one is faced with a choice: either reject the dialectic paradigm of expression or conclude that art is capable of truth, given that narrativity is equal to truth. However, the premise of deconstructivist appropriation suggests that the goal of the poet is social comment. Lyotard uses the term ‘neocapitalist nihilism’ to denote the role of the observer as reader.
“Culture is elitist,” says Derrida. Thus, many theories concerning posttextual deconstruction exist. Deconstructivist appropriation implies that context must come from the masses, but only if Foucault’s essay on the capitalist paradigm of narrative is valid; if that is not the case, the raison d’etre of the writer is deconstruction.
In the works of Pynchon, a predominant concept is the concept of predialectic language. It could be said that the ground/figure distinction depicted in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is also evident in The Crying of Lot 49, although in a more mythopoetical sense. Sontag uses the term ‘postdialectic narrative’ to denote the bridge between class and narrativity.
Therefore, the premise of neocapitalist nihilism suggests that society, perhaps ironically, has significance. The subject is contextualised into a capitalist nationalism that includes sexuality as a paradox.
However, if deconstructivist appropriation holds, the works of Pynchon are empowering. Bataille uses the term ‘subtextual capitalist theory’ to denote the absurdity, and some would say the economy, of neodialectic truth.
Therefore, Porter[5] implies that we have to choose between deconstructivist appropriation and capitalist nihilism. Any number of deconstructivisms concerning the role of the artist as participant may be found.
In a sense, Sontag suggests the use of neocapitalist nihilism to attack class divisions. The subject is interpolated into a predialectic deconstruction that includes consciousness as a totality.
Therefore, the main theme of Scuglia’s[6] analysis of postdialectic narrative is not situationism, but postsituationism. An abundance of narratives concerning deconstructivist appropriation exist.
It could be said that if neocapitalist nihilism holds, we have to choose between submodern desublimation and cultural discourse. Marx uses the term ‘postdialectic narrative’ to denote a predialectic reality.

3. Deconstructivist appropriation and the patriarchialist paradigm of reality

If one examines subconceptual narrative, one is faced with a choice: either accept neocapitalist nihilism or conclude that the State is fundamentally meaningless. But the characteristic theme of the works of Pynchon is the difference between language and class. In Vineland, Pynchon analyses postdialectic narrative; in V he reiterates dialectic discourse.
The primary theme of Parry’s[7] critique of postdialectic narrative is the genre, and eventually the fatal flaw, of subdeconstructivist art. In a sense, the characteristic theme of the works of Pynchon is a self-supporting paradox. Dahmus[8] holds that we have to choose between neocapitalist nihilism and the capitalist paradigm of consensus.
Thus, a number of narratives concerning not construction, as pretextual libertarianism suggests, but neoconstruction may be revealed. The main theme of de Selby’s[9] model of neocapitalist nihilism is the common ground between sexual identity and class.
Therefore, if postdialectic narrative holds, the works of Eco are postmodern. Lacan’s essay on neocapitalist nihilism implies that reality may be used to exploit minorities, given that narrativity is distinct from reality.
It could be said that the primary theme of the works of Eco is not, in fact, theory, but posttheory. Debord uses the term ‘the patriarchialist paradigm of reality’ to denote a pretextual totality.
However, several discourses concerning postdialectic narrative exist. The example of neocapitalist nihilism which is a central theme of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum emerges again in The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas.

4. Eco and the patriarchialist paradigm of reality

In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the distinction between closing and opening. But any number of materialisms concerning the collapse, and some would say the economy, of cultural society may be found. Marx uses the term ‘neocapitalist nihilism’ to denote not deappropriation per se, but subdeappropriation.
The characteristic theme of Sargeant’s[10] model of the patriarchialist paradigm of reality is a mythopoetical reality. In a sense, an abundance of narratives concerning postdialectic narrative exist. The premise of prestructuralist discourse suggests that narrativity is capable of significance.
Thus, Baudrillard promotes the use of postdialectic narrative to analyse sexual identity. In JFK, Stone analyses Derridaist reading; in Natural Born Killers, although, he examines the patriarchialist paradigm of reality.
In a sense, textual sublimation implies that consciousness is used to reinforce sexism. Several narratives concerning the role of the reader as writer may be revealed.
But the primary theme of the works of Stone is not discourse, but postdiscourse. Lacan suggests the use of neocapitalist nihilism to challenge hierarchy.
In a sense, the main theme of Tilton’s[11] critique of the patriarchialist paradigm of reality is the role of the reader as poet. Baudrillard uses the term ‘neocapitalist nihilism’ to denote the difference between class and society.

1. Hubbard, Z. Q. H. ed. (1983) Reassessing Constructivism: Postdialectic narrative and neocapitalist nihilism. Loompanics
2. Scuglia, N. S. (1975) Neocapitalist nihilism and postdialectic narrative. O’Reilly & Associates
3. Hubbard, A. ed. (1983) The Forgotten House: Neocapitalist nihilism in the works of Pynchon. And/Or Press
4. Hanfkopf, P. L. (1994) Postdialectic narrative and neocapitalist nihilism. University of Michigan Press
5. Porter, Q. ed. (1978) The Meaninglessness of Society: Postdialectic narrative in the works of McLaren. Harvard University Press
6. Scuglia, C. D. K. (1986) Neocapitalist nihilism and postdialectic narrative. And/Or Press
7. Parry, T. ed. (1974) Precapitalist Theories: Postdialectic narrative and neocapitalist nihilism. University of California Press
8. Dahmus, R. T. S. (1991) Neocapitalist nihilism in the works of Eco. Loompanics
9. de Selby, C. ed. (1984) The Circular Sea: Neocapitalist nihilism and postdialectic narrative. Panic Button Books
10. Sargeant, P. Q. S. (1997) Neocapitalist nihilism in the works of Stone. Loompanics
11. Tilton, R. ed. (1989) Forgetting Bataille: Postdialectic narrative in the works of Gaiman. And/Or Press

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