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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

ویزاگاپٹم آج بہت یاد آیا ۔۔۔

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Dear God …

… why does Ramzan make everyone believe they are Soddy Arabians?

That, I suppose, should have been
Dear Allah, why does Ramadan … etc.

OK, maybe some of them did come from there, too, to India, Africa, Malaysia, and also to other Eastern and European places, when the Arab Muslims were expanding their empire. What they did about this set of rules from the Qur'an, I don't know. But surely some Aalims of the times must have thought that you could bend it a bit. Not too much, though!
The first verse of the minor jihãd, the armed struggle, revealed at that time is in Chapter 22, Surah Al-Hajj, of the Qur’ãn, verses 39-40. It clearly explains the purpose of the minor jihãd: “Permission is granted to those who are fighting because they have been oppressed … those who have been expelled from their homes without any just cause…” (Surah al-Hajj, 22:39-40). Again, referring to the non-believers of Mecca who waged war after war against the Prophet and his followers in Medina, the Qur’ãn in Chapter 2, Surah al-Baqara, verse 190, says: “Fight in the way of God those who are fighting against you; and do not exceed (the limits). Verily Allãh does not love those who exceed (the limits).”  (Surah al-Baqara, 2:190). In this verse, the talk is about responding to a war by defending yourself; there is no talk of initiating aggression at all. Even in the defensive mode of struggle, Almighty God warns the Muslims that they should not “exceed” beyond the proper limits. (You can see the original here.)
Most of the people, we know, converted — from Pagans, Jew, Christians, Hindus, and many other religions. Some with a feeling that this religion is much better than theirs. Others - quite a few - converted because the rulers or conquerors were Muslims. A few, because they were (and still are!) threatened. We hear that in Pakistan many Hindu girls are abducted by Muslims and are married off to one of them.

SA, please note, is a country. That's all! It has no reason to be the Head of the Muslims' faith, just because it has the most important parts of the early Muslim culture there. The Ka'aba, the Prophet's house and Mosque, and many other important areas happen to be there, yes. But the King of SA does not own them. They do serve those areas, as did the heads of Arabia before. Sadly, the present heads and their teams sell some of the historic sites that now have new hotels and other places built on them because they don't think it is Islamic to keep these sites. Pity. It takes away a lot of history when they do this. They do this to the graves, too — so we do not know where many of the Muslim leaders, men and women, are buried.

Of course, it is their kingdom and they can do anything they like — except do something to the Ka'aba or the Masjidé Nabvi. We hope so, anyway.

The worst part, of course, is that SA also send tons of money - one way or another - to slowly enforce their own brand of Islam: Wahhabism. Their proteges are many, from LeJ to other nutcases, including Al-Qaeda, plus a few Caliph-loving groups who want to move us back a thousand years. There are many Sharia-loving Muslims everywhere (in UK and the USA :) to start with, who want everyone to follow the Sharia (regardless of how variously it is interpreted in each different group's ideas).

Among their open-hatreds are the Ahmadis, whom almost everyone seems to think should be killed, even when they are offering their Friday prayers in their own masjid. Not only were they killed there, the killers also went into the hospitals where some of the injured were and, helped by the medical staff,  opened fire there, too.

Now there are, increasingly, Shias that are targeted. We can see every day how many are killed by these mad-bad-sad groups. Type in something like 'Shia Killings in Pakistan' in to your Google and you'll find loads of sites discussing this. In Balochistan the killings of Hazaras - a Shia group - is done daily. They are easy to identify with their language or facial description. They are stopped and taken off buses, they are beheaded or shot, their bodies stay on the roads with Shias (and several sensible Sunnis) protesting about these deaths … but nothing really comes of it. The killers and their leaders tell the press that there will be many more Shia deaths and this can often be seen in the newspapers.

Other Shias get killed too. Even the Bohris have been attacked in Karachi. Aga Khanis have been spared but enough is written about them in hardcore fundo papers that is fairly false in most cases.

In Karachi we have seen Shia Doctors killed (and with each doctor's death we have a smaller number of doctors treating a larger number of patients!) … and we have heads of businesses and lawyers and more tortured and killed.

This is Ramzan and I am told that in the first 14 days we still have Muslims killing other Muslims - (about 75 have died so far!) - many of them for sectarian reasons, with Shias mainly being the target, except for political killings. And imagine: the killers and the victims, are fasting. Wow! (As an aside, even the dacoits are fasting and asking the victims to make Sehri for them.)

Today an ad for Josh (a condom) was removed from TVs because it was considered offensive … “Airing of such immoral advertisement on Pakistani channels - and that too in the holy month of Ramazan - warrants serious action,” said F. Mughal. (It was because of Foreigners that I had to shorten his first name. Especially in Ramzan.) Killing is OK, I guess.

To push us further back, way back - and we are not even counting schools being blown up, or even Taliban's attack on Malala (who received a strange letter from a Taliban Leader) - there are news items every day that tell us what's happening in KPK. This is a PTI ruled province. Here is an editorial in The Express Tribune that appeared yesterday after people 120km away from Peshawar put out a new local law.

I am certainly not saying that the PTI is responsible for this … but Imran Khan and PM Nawaz Sharif's parties want to negotiate with the Taliban. The Taliban and their other 'groupies' have little to offer in such a negotiation. They want the Khilafat (Caliphate) back. They want Sharia everywhere (including the rest of the world - in the long run). And they want women in the house, unwilling to learn or do anything other than religious ideology.
The Hadees that many of us heard in our childhood - and one that is still heard from scholars - was that the Prophet had said that Muslims (he didn't say Muslim men!) must go everywhere to find knowledge, even to China! Obviously China was not offering much in the way of Islamic teachings. But who cares: "We'll-do-what-we-want-and-forget-the-good-things-that-the-Prophet-said!" is the order of the day …
If you think Pakistan is going from bad to worse, think of what's happening in other parts of the world. They are all getting there.

Here you will find why the major portions of the world that follow FGM are Islamic. Closer to home, in India and Pakistan there are groups that follow it, too. Remember the history: People were being converted, as soon as Islam arrived, from every religion or belief system, to Muslims. There was no way that anyone would have said "No Circumcision", because circumcision was carried out by many Arabian tribes, among them pagan Arabs as well as Jews (and some Christians). Mainly done for religious reasons, it was generally for males … but in many cases women were also included. The allowance made it possible for Jews and many others, who had been circumscribed earlier, to join into the Muslim world and not get left out. It is from a Hadees that almost all Muslims do it … and it is not a Farz! Yet you will find recently converted people of all ages being forced to do it. Why?

Recall Indonesia, where the Ahmadis are often killed. The killers gets a light (3 months to 6 months) sentence … but Ahmad Nuryamin, an Ahmadi, stabbed Rendy Apriyansah while trying to defend himself. The court sentenced him for 9 months. Supporters of Rendy said Ahmad should have been given a nine year punishment.

Think of Malaysia. Once considered a heaven for modern Muslims. A lot of my friends wanted me to shift there. I am glad the thought never crossed my mind. Once people in Malaysia were doing very well, with a big Chinese population and a fairly large Muslim population. But was it going to last? No.  This is the beginning of what they are up to now.

In Sudan in the Lubna Hussein case, the (eventually commuted) sentence of lashing was for wearing trousers – an offence that not even the Qur'an or other sources of religious law had foreseen and legislated against. One cannot ever forget that the execution of Islamic thinker Mahmoud M. Taha - for the charge of apostasy - was one of the most farcical miscarriages of both religious and civil justice in the country's history.

It's 2013 … Muslims. Wake up!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Thrills of Hypocrisy

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Kite Pictures?

I guess a couple of you may have thought about the birds in the sky that we see all the time … but the majority would have considered pictures of the kites we fly through the air. Like this one.

What a lovely image … by Nicolas Chorier.

But this blogpost is more than just a Kite Picture. It is a picture by Nicolas Chorier … a delightful photographer whose camera is tied to a kite. It goes all the way up and takes amazing photographs through a remote control. And they are taken in India … so they are full of life, and colour, and versatility.

Nicolas … getting to shoot a picture

(I suppose you could get many shots that you can be proud of in Pakistan, too, Nicolas. How about coming over for a while?)

There are others who take such pictures, too, I guess, but I found his images remarkable. Perhaps it is because I love photography (though I am a really bad picture taker). If you look at his images, there are some, like the one at a hotel below, that show you how great things can look from just a little above!

Hotel entrance

There are others that are taken from slightly higher, like the gorgeous coloured boats, here (Aren't the colours just amazing?) ... 

Tamil pirogs

… and have you ever wondered how the sardines that these boatsmen caught, look when they are everywhere on the beach.

Sardines drying on the beach

The pictures - specially those of people - are all wonderfully taken, with Nicolas pressing the shutter at the right time. Everything is in perfect focus. Wow!

Are you into shadows? A good photograph shows them better than you imagine … and its far easier when taken from a kite …

Mangalore shadows

… and if it has close-ups of people in it, it can be breathtaking.

Kalaripayatu fighters

(Click here and see more of this tale)

Of course, Nicolas also takes pictures in which there no humans, such as wonderful architecture and more. Here is one of my absolute favourites —

Car and Coconuts

Others prefer his amazing temple pictures. Here's one.

Matiari Temple

India is full of these, so I hope to see many more images from him.

Get his 'India from a Kite' for your iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad, right now. Its going to give you a treat. Lots of images to see. Details to admire. Amazing angles.

I have fallen completely in love!!!

If you want to see a lot more of Nicolas Chorier's images, Nicolas has a website that gives you lots of pictures. It also has a Limited Edition part that allows you to buy some of them and some books that you could get from India (I hardly see any great photobooks in Pakistan).

Taking pictures from a kite is a lot easier to do in India/Pakistan, too, where getting permissions for taking a helicopter is pretty difficult … and fairly expensive, even if the local authorities give you the required permit. Flying over many areas is often prohibited! And you can't do it whenever you want to do it! But your Kite, your Camera, and the Remote is always with you and it takes about 10 minutes to set it all up!

On that site you can also learn about the way he takes his pictures, in case you want to try and do the same thing … though it is expensive (but certainly much cheaper and better than a helicopter, anytime).

Have fun!!!

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Subhan Nizami: France loves his Qavvaali …

… and so will you, when you come to T2F's late night Ramzan Qavvaali session on the 20th July, 2013! It's going to be a treat.

Subhan comes from the illustrious Qavvaal Bachchaa Gharana of Dehli, originally started by Hazrat Amir Khusrau to sing Qavvaali. He is from the generation of their leaderMian Samat Nizami.

Subhan Nizami's father, Ustad Afaq Ahmad Nizami, was a classical singer, a librarian of his gharaana's music, and he also performed qavvaali. Subhan's daada, Ustad Iftikhar Nizami, was famous not just for his qavvaalis but for the beautiful Ghazals and amazing Thumris that he sang. I heard Iftikhar Sahab on several Sundays when he (and Masood Bhai, of the Harmonium fame) would perform among friends. 

Iftikhar Sahab was a favourite performer of mine and we invited him for an evening of music when I was getting married. Fortunately, despite a really old tape-recorder, I recorded his singing — and it is the only recording of his voice that we find now. I have asked anyone who has any more of his recordings to put them on the Internet. Nothing so far! I have put my recordings on a CD that's available at T2F.
(Lutfullah Khan had one recording of Iftikhar Sahab that he had taken from me. He cleaned it up. It's much better than the version I have, I imagine, but he hardly ever shared his recordings with anyone else. In fact almost several hundred 78s were also copied from our house … but he always said he would not share it until they became public property in a library. I hope they now find a way to share that wonderful set. His recordings are a lovely collection, well documented, and kept remarkably well under his own supervision.)
Iftikhar Sahab's ancestor was Ustaad Qutab Bakhsh Khan - known to all of us as Hazrat Tan Ras Khan. (In India, Tan Ras Khan Sahab's family perform Qavvaali, too: Ustaad Meraj Ahmad Nizami and many others.) You must have heard of Ustaad Samat Nizami and Ustaad Tan Ras Sahab from the latter's great-grandchildren (and, now, their children, and their children's children) whenever they perform qavvaali anywhere. Here is a list of Tan Ras Sahab's progeny in Pakistan: Iftikhar Nizami, Munshi Raziuddin Ahmad, Manzoor Niazi, Bahauddin Khan, Afaq Ahmad Nizami, Naseeruddin Saami, Farid Ayaz and Abu Mohammad, Abdullah and Habib Ahmad Niazi, Mohammad Najmuddin and Saifuddin Mahmood, Urooj Saami, Subhan Nizami, and Hamza Akram.

Go through the above list and, yes, you'll find Subhan, too … but there are a lot of chances that you have never really heard him sing. And with the stupid ban of YouTube it is even less likely.

I am an absolute fan!
So are the people in France!!!

From Subhan's concert in Paris

France - you'd probably be surprised to hear - has a great Dhrupad following, a Qavvaali following, and a wonderful Indian Classical Music following: Have you ever been to this page of a Sitarist and Musicologist?

The Dhrupad they listen to is the Dagar Brothers methodology that promotes a Hindu form which was supposedly the original. They don't really accept the Muslim Dhrupad that was introduced by Amir Khusrau which, according to Munshi Raziuddin, is more delightful and far better than the ones that Dagar Brothers sing. But that's your choice. I love both of the forms (and totally adore the Dagar groups). Music, as far as I am concerned, has neither religion nor caste.

Martina Catella, a musicologist, who spent almost 10 years in Pakistan, had earlier released a DVD of Pakistan Qavvaals (Faiz Ali Faiz) and Spanish Flamenco singers/musicians … but has now moved away from them as the Faiz seems to have branched out into all sorts of stuff and she finds them less interested in 'pure music'. She is a complete fan of Subhan, along with Saida Haidar, a great Sufi follower and lover of Sufi Music (and of Lucknow!)

Martina was so impressed by Subhan that she decided to offer him a present in a form of short documentary of 30 min as an intro to his promising career. Here it is, especially for you.

Password: heart

Not only is Subhan's singing marvellous, he also gave - as you saw in the film - qavvaali classes to some French musicians. I am glad he did not say that he is 'the most brilliant singer', as most other singers here very often do, specially when running other singers down.

At his concert in Theatre de la Ville - a prestigious hall in Paris where only really big names are accepted - Subhan gathered 2300 persons in a place where there were only 1600 seats. People were sitting all over the the floor, on the stairs, everywhere. Police had to intervene to stop further entries for security reasons.

In his February 2014 Concert, planned by Radio France, he was booked for one show that would have had 1500 people. This soon became three shows … and all were sold out. That's several months in advance! And people are still writing to Radio France to add another day. Wow!

When Saida said to me that "French and Europeans understand and appreciate more Purbi, Hindi, Urdu, Farsi kalaam than Pakistanis"… it is, in some ways, a fact. She added, "At least they appreciate them and cherish them as a work of art ."

When I asked her about Subhan's performances in Paris, she had lots of things to say. Here is one part of that conversation: "Subhan brings out the best of the Dehli Gharana and it's historical background. In France he is very much appreciated and has a very specific public among Sorbonne professors, Radio and TV professionals, and music students who regularly attend all his performances or rather demand them ."

Subhan's group is the only group - in Pakistan's years of existence - which was ever invited by the Ministry of Culture in France. They were received by the Minister herself, who thanked them several times for being there. (Is that how we treat any musicians coming from anywhere?)

Subhan, himself, is a rather soft spoken young man and never ever promotes himself. He hardly ever speaks, except to people nearer his own age, and told me that speaking to older people was considered impolite in his family, except that when they do, they must do so with total respect. His younger brothers, too, are just as soft spoken — or were, to me. Amazing in today's world!

To end - and to give you an idea of what you are likely to hear on the 20th July (when you absolutely must come to T2F) - here is a piece that you will enjoy. It was performed by Subhan and his group at the Ursé Mubarak of Hazrat Yaqoob Jan Auliya.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saaray Jahaan Mayñ Dhoom …

When Nawab Mirza Khan, known to most of us as Daagh Dehlvi, wrote this shayr
Urdu haé jiska naam, hameeñ jaantay haéñ, Daagh,
Saaray jahaan mayñ dhoom hamaari zübaañ ki haé!
he had certainly not seen what was to become of the National Language of Pakistan.

Urdu certainly seems to have become less written or read in India (and even more so from just a few years ago) … but it is also disappearing fast in its own 'Official Country'.

Pakistan made Urdu its National Language, allowing the Mohajirs (people who went to Pakistan after the 1947 Partition) to 'own something', I guess. Others, of course, had a land that they could call their own.

(The local people had their own languages in Sind, Baluchistan, NWFP, which they chose as their Provincial Language. Punjab, despite its own well-spoken language in all of its areas, chose Urdu as its Provincial Language. This was fought against heavily by others in Punjab, but to no avail.)

When I arrived as a child in Pakistan (a story that you can read of in parts of my own blog Windmills of My Mind), I discovered that the language all my neighborhood children spoke had many words I had never heard of — but we adopted those, too. Children came from Katch, Bombay, Hyderabad, U. P., Bihar (all in India) and the local kids came from Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab, and an occasional one from NWFP. The Bambayya market language was the most common one - I think, at least among the groups that I played with - as many Gujratis and Parsis spoke that often, and so did many Christians when they decided to speak in Urdu. The Anglo-Indians spoke 'thorough' English :)

In my own house, Urdu was a very strongly important area. I was not to use the 'stray' words I picked off the streets when talking to my parents! (Purbi - which some older women in the family spoke - was something I loved but could never speak it.)

Urdu plays took place, often, and mushaaeraas took place every few days, from little ones at houses to large ones at public places. Poets from India and Pakistan were all to be seen at most of them. The English Newspaper, Dawn, had an Azeem-ush-Shaan Mushaaerah (which eveyone called Azeem-ud-Dawn Mushaaerah). On Jigar Sahab's Death Anniversary one of the finest mushaaerahs took place in Karachi and is still remembered by anyone who heard it.

When I was at sea for 25 years, in the Merchant Navy, I spoke in English to even our own people whenever ship agents came on board ... because we'd been taught that its rude to use a language that others can't comprehend. Germans, Dutch, Belgians, and the French, sat through with us at dinner and spoke as often to each other in their own language as they did to us in English ... but they hadn't been ruled by the Brits who'd set these 'laws' for us!!! When the 'foreigners' were not around, we generally spoke Urdu.

Each time I returned home from a trip I found it strange to see people speaking to each other, increasingly, in English. The waiters at restaurants would answer in English even if my questions and conversation were in Urdu. Soon, some of them even seemed to have forgotten common words. If I wanted more ice in my drink and said "Zara aor barf (or ''baraf', if that's how you pronounce it!) chaahiyay…", I'd get stared at by the waiter who'd then ask "You mean Ice, sir?"

An American Professor visited me from the USA just 4 years ago and stayed in Pakistan for 9 days. On his website he wrote that in his years of going around the world Pakistan was the only country where he noticed that families spoke to each other in English at restaurants and other public spaces.

A school teacher at KGS - the most respected school in Karachi - while teaching my daughter's class - said that children must take Urdu books from the Library so that they can understand it and speak it better. She added, "otherwise how will you speak to your servants if you don't know their language" ... which certainly put an end to the National Language question in the student's minds!

Of late, many people have come up asking how to get rid of this crazy Englishophobia. I don't think there is a direct answer or even if there should be one. However, the Urdu language isn't that difficult, is it? In Pakistan, and in India, we listen to ghazals, geets, watch films that are Urdu-Hindi-Hindustani, whatever you want to call it. Ghalib is heard and liked (despite some terrible mistakes in the well-known play). Faiz still gets people jumping with joy when a singer recites his verse. Akhtari Bai's and Talat Mahmood's ghazals thrill thousands.

The problem is the fact that people can't read! I wish they could ... but it's not the biggest problem at all. I can't read many languages and have to read their translations… and some of them could be nowhere near the original work. But technology has changed. Recordings of Urdu works (equally usable in Pakistan, India, and for our many citizens abroad) can now be easily available.

Enter, Usman Siddiqui!

Usman has a degree in Industrial Enginering and Operations Research. An avid reader, he also runs The Readers Club (, a book rental service for Karachi. With his colleague Jawad, he has started his latest initiative. Urdu Studio (, which aims to be the premier online portal for delivering high quality digital Urdu Audio Books. If you own iPhone you can download his app now. Soon his audio books will also be available on Amazon.

Given the amount of time that most people spend in the car (or, in my case, in the bathroom!), audio books are a tremendous area to get into. I adore them.

Urdu Studio has several good books, short stories, and loads of poems and selections from mushaeraas. Go there and download one. Right now!

So far there are many things available and much more is expected to join in very soon. Take a look at some of their current Audiobook selections:

Asghar Gorakhpuri, Iqbal Azeem, Mustafa Zaidi, Obaidullah Aleem, Waqif Muradabadi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Muzaffar Warsi, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Athar Nafees, Iqbal Safipuri.

One of their examples will give you an idea of the quality: Qasmi Sahab reciting his ghazal Andaaz Hoo Bahoo Teree Aavaazé Paa Ka Tha

Saadat Hasan Manto, Mirza Azeem Baig Chughtai, Mehram Ali Chishti, Col. Muhammad Khan, Ibn-e-Insha, Qudratullah Shahab, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, Patras Bokhari

Thanks, Urdu Studio. Wish you the best!!!

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