Friday, 23 December 2011

Muslims and the Future of Space Tourism

The high cost of civilian space travel, however, means that only a handful of people will sign up for the adventure.
Last September, Anousheh Ansari became one of the privileged few, paying an estimated $20 million for ten days in space. The experience, made possible through the collaboration of the Russian Federal Space Agency with the US-based Space Adventures (the only company to have successfully launched private explorers into space), included a ride aboard a Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft and eight days at the International Space Station (ISS). Accompanied by NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, Ansari was the fourth person ever to participate in the Space Adventures program since it began sending civilians to space in 2001 (Ansari; Boyce; News).
Ansari (whose first name Anousheh means "happy" or "fortunate" in her native Farsi) was the first female client of Space Adventures as well as the first American of Iranian descent to visit space. She was also the first Muslim woman to make such a trip. (Iranian Baby Names; Ansari)
Not Space Camp
The training one undergoes for a journey to the ISS is rigorous, requiring at least six months of preparation alongside space professionals. Ansari trained at both NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and at Star City near Moscow, Russia. She initially trained as the backup for Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto, whose trip was later postponed due to unspecified health concerns, and took his place. She also learned to speak Russian (Japanese Space Tourist; Boyle; Chilcote; Farwell).
Candidates for ISS travel must be in excellent health and meet certain requirements for physical endurance and mental stamina. They are also expected to display good moral behavior and can be disqualified for previous criminal activity, alcohol or substance abuse, lying, or affiliation with organizations that could harm the integrity of the spaceflight program. (Halvorson).
An MSNBC interactive quiz called "Are You Fit for Space?" lists some of NASA's medical requirements for space flight and asks questions like "Can you hear an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears, from 6 feet away, with back turned to the individual speaking?" and "Do you think you can swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and tennis shoes?" According to MSNBC, the medical requirements of NASA astronauts are similar to those for commercial airline pilots.
"This is not space camp," cautions the Space Adventures website, speaking of the exercises that allow clients to experience the sensation of a rocket launch, fly a Soyuz simulator, and learn to function in a bulky spacesuit made of flame-resistant nomex material. In one exercise requiring scuba certification, clients wear spacesuits underwater as the skills needed to assemble and repair spacecraft at the ISS are learned (Spaceflight Training).
Not Your Average Tourist

Ansari became one of the privileged few, paying an estimated $20 million for ten days in space.

Ansari, an entrepreneur who made her fortune in the telecom industry, blogged from space as she discussed the challenges of eating, sleeping, and maintaining personal hygiene in zero gravity. A self-described "space ambassador," she documented her journey with audio recordings, photos, and videos, and shared thoughts on everything from space sickness to world peace (Ansari).
But space tourism is not without controversy, however, and some used the blog forum to ask Ansari, who immigrated to America from Iran as a teenager in 1984, if the money she spent should not have been used to alleviate the suffering of the Earth's poor instead. Others have described civilian space travel as an elitist activity with no tangible benefits and said that the exploration of space is an "extreme" sport, too dangerous for average citizens to risk (Ansari Space Blog; Why So Much Controversy?).
In response to critics, Ansari, who has served on the boards of not-for-profit organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation of North Texas and the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center, explained that "there are many ways to tackle a problem" and that her preference is to focus on long-term solutions for hunger, disease, and other problems (Ansari; Ansari Space Blog).
"Many of the hunger problems occur because of drought and bad farming practices," she told blog readers. "Did you know that space research helps figure out changes in soil conditions and environment and ways of preventing crop damage?" (Ansari Space Blog).
Ansari, like space tourists before and after her (the fifth, a former Microsoft engineer, just returned to Earth in April), used her time in space to conduct scientific experiments. One experiment, called Neocytolysis, was aimed at gathering data that would help scientists better understand what causes anemia. Another involved the study of lower back pain. Ansari also helped collect data on microbial life forms onboard the Space Station and participated in a "Chromosome-2" experiment to determine the effects of radiation on human space explorers. In addition, Ansari, who calls herself as a "private space explorer," made a series of educational films, intended for use in schools, demonstrating some laws of physics (News; ESA Experiments; Goudarzi).
Space Tourism Gains Momentum

Zero-gravity flights similar to those used to train professional astronauts cost private citizens $5,595. (NASA)

Supporters of space tourism point out that the fees for civilian space travel, while "astronomical" by most people's standards, help fund space exploration and will eventually help make the experience more accessible to private citizens.
The costs are already coming down for less intense space-related activities, such as a jaunt into suborbital space and five minutes of weightlessness offered by Space Adventures for $102,000. Eight days of cosmonaut training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City cost $58,295, zero-gravity flights cost $5,595, and EVA training, or spacewalk simulation, costs $3,475. Perks like space "hotels" may be offered by some companies in the future (Why So Much controversy?; Boyce; Suborbital Spaceflight; More Spaceflight Experiences; Spaceflight Training; David).
According to a report by Space Today Online, a 2002 Zogby telephone poll of 450 wealthy Americans found that 7 percent would pay $20 million for a two-week orbital flight like Ansari's, while 19 percent would pay $100,000 for a 15-minute suborbital flight to an altitude of 50 miles. If the price of a two-week flight dropped to $5 million, the report stated, 16 percent would buy tickets.
Another survey conducted via the Incredible Adventures website found that nearly two-thirds of respondents would like to go around the moon if they could afford it. For the time being, though, that'll still cost you $100 million at Space Adventures, which says its first manned moon expedition could launch as early as 2009 (Tourists Visit; David; Boyce).
Future Plans

SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-prize in 2004 and will serve as a prototype for Virgin Galactic's fleet of commercial spaceships. (Scaled Composites)

Ansari, who holds a bachelor's degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in electronic engineering from George Washington University, is currently working toward a second master's degree in astronomy. Besides her pioneering journey to the ISS, she and her family helped create and fund the Ansari X-prize in 2004, which gave $10 million to the team first able to launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks (Ansari; X Prize).
The winning spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, served as the prototype for the spaceships to be used by Virgin Galactic. That company has been selling tickets for suborbital flights for $200,000 each since 2005 and plans to actually start sending civilians to space by 2009. In contrast to a trip to the ISS, a suborbital flight with Virgin Galactic will last 2.5 hours and require just three days of training. Since there is no vertical launch, this type of flight is also more accessible to the average person in good health (Virgin Galactic).
To keep up with the growing interest in space tourism, commercial spaceports are popping up around the world, including one planned by Space Adventures in Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE. While Virgin Galactic will launch flights from the US state of New Mexico, the company has also tapped into the UAE-market by setting up promotions and choosing Sharaf Travel, a Dubai-based travel agency, to handle ticketing for the region. Ibrahim Sharaf, chairman of the Sharaf Group, has reserved a ticket on Virgin Galactic's inaugural flight, which makes him the first Emirati scheduled to visit space (Nazzal; Gale; Ibrahim Sharaf to Be First Emirati in Space).
Namira Salim, an artist from Pakistan, is likely to be the second Muslim woman in space. Salim, who spends much of her time in Dubai, will be among Virgin Galactic's first 100 passengers and is actively working to promote space tourism through exhibits and other events (Chang).
According to the 2006 World Wealth Report, there are about 300,000 millionaires in the Middle East having a combined wealth of $1.2 trillion. About 59,000 are from the UAE (Sharif).


The first major Holocaust of Muslims took place on Friday, July 15, 1099 in
Jerusalem by the Crusaders. Please remember July 15 as the worldwide
Muslim's Holocausts Day. Please organize rallies and programs on July 15 to
educate and inform citizens of the world about the atrocities committed against Muslims.
Major Holocausts and Genocide of Muslims

1. Crusaders killed more than half million Muslims during and after occupying Jerusalem.
2. Ganges Khan and his forces killed more than a million Muslims during the occupation of Iraq and neighboring areas.
3. Thousands of Muslims were killed / forced to change religion by Spanish Crusaders in South America
4. More than a million Muslims were killed / displaced by Spanish and other European extremists during the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
5. More than 3 million Muslims were killed / displaced by the European colonial powers during and after the occupation of Muslim countries after World War I and II.
6. More than 5 million Muslims were killed / displaced by Tsars of Russia
7. More than a million Muslims were killed / displaced by Communist Government of Russia
8. More than 1.5 million Muslims have been killed in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Far East countries since the World War II.
9. More than half million Muslims have been killed / displaced in Burma
since World War II
10. More than half million Muslims have been killed in India and Kashmir
Since 1947
11.More than half million Muslims were killed by Serbs and Croats in
Bosnia during early 90s.
11. More than 100,000 Muslims were killed in Kosovo and Albania during mid 90s.
13.More than 5 million Muslims have been killed / displaced in
Palestine since 1948
14.More than 5 million Muslims were killed / displaced by the Russian
occupation of Afghanistan
15.More than one million Muslims children died from malnutrition in
Iraq during the US/UN embargo on Iraq during 1990s.
16.Thousands of Muslims have been killed by the secular governments in
Muslim countries, backed by the Western Governments, since the independence
from the colonial powers.
17.Currently, more than one million innocent civilians have been killed
by the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.
18. Currently, three civil wars have been created among Muslims
(Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, etc..)  and several more are in the planning
Phase. These civil wars have killed thousands of Muslims and destroyed the
Economy of many Muslim countries.

1.             H.G. Wells, "A Short History of the World," Penguin Books, 1949
2.             "Chambers Dictionary of the World History," Chambers, 1994.
3.             G. C. Kohn, "Dictionary of the Wars," Doubleday, 1987.
4.             Erna Paris, "The End of the Days," Lester Publishing, 1995.
5.             David Brownstone and Irene Franck, "Timelines of the
                War," Cittle, Brown and    Company, 1994.
6.             A. Hourani, "A History of the Arab Peoples," Harvard University Press, 1991.
7.             Roland Oliver and J. D. Fage, "A Short History of Africa," 1968.
8.             J. Burne, Editor, "Chronicle of the World," Longman, 1989.
9.             N. Davies, "Europe, A History," Pimilico, 1997.
10.           P. Hitti, "History of the Arabs," McMillan, 1990.
11.           T. Pakenham, "The Scramble For Africa," George Weidenfeld & Nicolson,         1997.
12.           J. A. Hammerton, "The Outline History of the World," The Amalgamated
                Press Ltd., 1993.
13.           Cox, George, W, The Crusades (1886); Laffan, R.G.D (ed.
                 and trans.),Select Documents of European History 800 - 1492, (1929)

Note: Anyone who will be able to prove that the above mentioned numbers of Muslim casualties are wrong, will be rewarded with $1000.00

Please organize programs on July 15 to remember the victims of Muslims
Holocausts and Genocides. MAT and ISCC will be holding a memorial service
(Fateha) for the victims of Muslim Holocausts on Sunday, July 15, 2007 at
3:00 PM at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, 5700 Falsbridge Dr.,Calgary NE.

Mughals and Backwardness of Indian Women

By Adv. Irfan Engineer
26 June, 2007
The Presidential nominee of the UPA made an unnecessary statement linking the ghunghat of Hindu women to the Mughal rule. School text-books in South Asia are full of such unverified "wisdom". The authors of the text-books are paid low remuneration which does not attract accomplished academicians to write the school text-books. The text-books reflect the beliefs and perceptions of their urban upper caste male authors, which may not always be factual. In fact text books in Rajasthan even glorify fascism as more efficient than democracy and therefore preferable in many respects. Even after passing school, the impressionistic information imparted to school students through the text books persist if not critically examined by them in pursuit of higher academics or for better understanding. However, presidential nominee should be careful while making such unverified statements. Such statements of a presidential nominee may be misused by communal elements.
Renowned Historian Harbans Mukhiya opines that the practice of ghunghat pre-dated the Mughal rule. Purdah worn by Muslim women in the South Asian sub-continent is not seen in any other country or region. Covering head by wearing a head scarf or chador is more in practice in other countries. In fact, the purdah or burqa worn by Indian Muslim women is modified and adopted form of ghunghat worn by Hindu women. When I was in Central Asian Country – Kyrghystan, the region from where the Mughal Rulers have originated, I didn't find a single women wearing anything like purdah or a veil. Women were dressed more like their European counter parts. If the ghunghat of the Hindu women were under Mughal influence, then Muslim women outside South Asia also should have been burqa or veil. However, this is not the case. Whether burqa influenced ghunghat or the other way round is anybody guess.
The argument that ghunghat was a protective mechanism of Hindu women against the atrocities of Mughals will also not take us very far. The power wielding male aggressor out to satisfy his lust seldom respects burqas or ghunghats. Power wielding elite exploit helpless victims to satisfy their lust without any respect for dress code of any woman. The argument that ghunghat protected women from sexual lust of power wielding men will logically lead us to the conclusion that victims of rape are themselves responsible for the crime and invited the sexual assault as they were not properly clad. How do you explain rapes in police custody and sexual harassment at workplace in that case? Can one imagine a dalit landless labourer sexually assaulting an upper caste woman from a land owning family in a village however she may be dressed? Not because dalit males respect the individuality of the fairer sex but they know that the consequence of such a misadventure. What matters is, who is vested with power and social sanctions and not how one is dressed.
The ideology of right wing Hindu communal elements popularizes the belief that the only oppressors of Hindu women in medieval period were the Mughal aggressors. Otherwise everything else was hunky dory for the Hindu women. No doubt all monarchs have oppressed peasants, landless, lower castes and women and the Mughal Emperors were no different in that respect. Mughal rulers, as all monarchs head an oppressive social structure unprivileging the peasants, artisans and women vesting social sanctions and authority in the hands of local rulers or rajas, landlords, upper castes and male members of the society. Sexual assault on women was just one of the way women were exploited, and sexual exploiters of women were privileged sections of male, irrespective of their religion. The Mughal rule was not without the consent of Hindu rulers and elites of the time, which included the upper caste males, landlords and the priests who gave social sanction to unprivileging women in general and lower caste women in particular, making them vulnerable to sexual assaults. The right wing Hindu ideology absolves the responsibility of the Hindu male elite, the landlords and the upper caste males in oppression of women.
Renowned Historian Uma Chakravorty has studied the oppression of women in ancient India by examining records, documents and analyzing ancient stories. Oppression of Hindu widows and segregation of upper caste women in ancient India has been well documented now. In fact women listening to recitation from religious scriptures were to be punished by putting molten lead in her ears. Tulsidas equated women with objects like drums and animals which deserve to be beaten. Feudal system always considered wives as dasi (slave) and even today many women consider their husbands as their devta (face of god). Rajputs in Rajasthan defend sati with pride as their ancient tradition. There is therefore a basic fallacy in the argument that backward traditions in one community are due to influence of other community. Women across religion, caste or ethnic origins have been oppressed. Comparing or even blaming another community for the plight of women belonging to one's community will only communalize the cause of women's emancipation.
Islam was one of the first religions which recognized the independent existence of women. The Holy Quran does not address only men – it addresses both the genders. Women are entitled to inherit half the share inherited by her brother. Muslim women can also enjoy her property and even her husband may not interfere with her right. The holy Quran also calls upon the Muslim men and women to learn and acquire knowledge and wisdom and to go to China if need be to acquire knowledge. In fact there are many Hadith (Prophet's pronouncement) which prove that women would not only participate in religious and social affairs but would also argue with the Holy Prophet. However, as Islam spread far and wide outside Arab territories, feudal traditions and practices got better of Islam and the feudal elites justified the old feudal practices as Islamic. Muslim women are amongst the most oppressed and subjugated today. Oppressive traditions are product of certain socio-economic system. The feudal values and traditions of the past still continue and women continue to be oppressed irrespective of the religion they follow. Invoking name of god grants far more legitimacy to patriarchy.
Communalizing the cause of women's empowerment will do a great disservice to the cause of empowerment of women. It will segregate and divide the women along community lines pitting them against each other. The need of the hour is that women of all communities, castes, and nations together should lead a war on patriarchy and be assisted in their efforts by men who are for gender justice. Whether women wear burqa or ghunghat by itself is not an issue. What is important is that no woman should be dictated any dress code. Jack Straw's lecture to Muslim women in UK that their veil was an obstruction to good communal relations Christians and Muslims was equally impolite. What is important is that women, irrespective of the dress they chose to wear, including ghunghat or burqa should enjoy all the rights enjoyed by men equally and without any discrimination and that it is their constitutional right to be independent and individual, and the same should be respected by one and all.
Irfan Engineer
Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution,
603, Silver Star, Next to Omkar Building, Near Railway Bridge, Prbhat Colony, Mumbai, India. PIN: 400055.

Modesty and Identity in reference to Hijab

By Dr. Khalid Zaheer

Question: The reason why I am writing to you today is that I am and have been struggling with an issue for a long time now and would like to know your perspective on the issue so that it might help me come to a resolution. I have worn a hijab for around 9 years. When I decided to start wearing it, it was because I thought it was something that should be done; so why delay. I did not look into the religious, rational or any other type of debate or arguments for or against it at that time. It was just something accepted that was supposed to be done. A few years ago, I started to read other perspectives on the issue of covering ranging from views that expressed it is not required in Islam at all to views arguing modesty in context to a view arguing complete covering including the face as required. In reading these interpretations and applying them to my own rational understanding, I have tried to put a strong emphasis on Islamic textual interpretation as well as social norms and modernity. I do believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah are primary, but I also believe that the social context and practical life are also important. Also, in the end, regardless of which view might sound “correct”, it will be a personal decision that one must make. More recently, I have been weighing the “costs and benefits” of the head covering. I feel it is a big part of my identity and an example of my faith, and it is mainly for these reasons that I do continue to wear it. On the other hand, I have questioned my feelings toward it both as a part of faith and as part of my identity. This questioning began while I was in Pakistan, so it is not simply a result of living in the US Although it is a strong identifier, good or bad, in the US it is almost equally the case in Pakistan or any other Muslim country (other than those that impose covering on women). There are a number of reasons why I would consider taking off the covering, and this includes reasons of religious interpretation and flexibility, personal ease and comfort in wearing it in various environments, and other reasons which vary in importance. I am afraid that I continue to wear it not so much because of a religious dedication but because I have just become used to it and would feel strange without it. I wouldn't want my reasons for covering to be based on familiarity only. My question to you is: what is your perspective, religious and otherwise, on the head covering? What is your view on the different opinions I have mentioned relating to how the references for modesty for women are interpreted? Does the Qur’an simply state there should be modesty, and therefore, the form that this takes would depend on the social context or is it clearly meant to imply covering the hair at all times? I have not come to a decision on this issue, but I believe that if I did decide to not wear it all the time (as opposed to deciding to not wear it at all - which is not something I am considering at all), I would wear it when the context would require it, i.e. in the Masjid or a Muslim gathering to show respect, or in certain areas in say Muslim countries where such a form of modesty is the norm and where in such a context not covering would be unusual. On the other hand, I believe that the modesty shown should be a little beyond the typical definition of modesty in that context, i.e. In America wearing loose clothing that covers the body in a clearly modest fashion, opposed to the normal standards. I hope that I have made my views clear. I do appreciate the scarf and see the value in it, but I also wanted to clarify the concept of modesty in Islam and how this can be interpreted in practical life. Any guidance you can provide would be very helpful.
Answer: My understanding of what constitutes the obligations of modesty of men and women towards each other when they are interacting is that they should abide by the following rules of interaction:
1. Muslim men and women are not to gaze at each other in suggestive ways in mixed gatherings.
2. Muslim men and women must cover their private parts properly.
3. Women, in addition, should cover their bosoms with an extra piece of cloth.
4. Also, in case if they are wearing ornaments or are otherwise have beautified themselves, women should conceal their beautification from non-mahram relatives, except in the case of their faces, hands, and feet. (24:30-31)
Other than that, according to my understanding, their is no obligation for both men and women, except that they should very clearly know that the Almighty has asked us not “to come near obscenity, both hidden and apparent”. (6:151)
Given this understanding, I believe that covering of the head is an additional measure which good Muslim ladies have always adopted but has never been a necessary part of the shari‘ah for them. However, if in a situation where you find yourself getting teased by men or else feel uncomfortable in their presence, the Qur’an has asked you to cover yourself as much as you can to stay away from their evil. “O prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the women of believers, that [in case of danger of being teased] they should lower their outer part of garments on themselves. That is more likely to ensure that they would be recognized and would not be teased” (33:59).
Given the above understanding, I think what you are intending to do in this regard is well within the limits of Islam. May the Almighty enable us all to follow the right path.

Modern Stress And Its Cure From Qur'an

by Shahid Athar , M.D.
Stress is the most common aliment of modern age. It has been implicated in the causation of peptic ulcer disease, coronary heart disease, depression, auto immune disease, hypertension, diabetes and even cancer. In milder form it manifests in form of unrest, violence, at work, school and home. Common medical problems like tension headache, insomnia, and obesity are also attributed to unusual stress. None of us are free from stress but some deal with it better than others.

Stress results from the following factors:

a. Fear of the unknown and trying to see through and control the destiny.

b. Losses in our life of people and things dear to us and our inability to recover those losses.

c. Inner conflict between our heart and mind between what is known to be the truth and our failure to accept it as truth. Acceptance of truth may require changing our habits and way of life which we may adhere to for some reason like pleasure, joys, taste, pride in race or heritage etc.

Let us examine how Quran deals with such situations.

Our losses are a trial for us:

"Be sure we will test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, but give glad tidings to those who are steadfast, who say when afflicted with calamity: To God we belong and to him is our return. They are those on who (DESCEND) blessings from God and mercy and they are the once that receive guidance. 2:155

Thus in Islam, we do not have concept of the ownership of goods and life. Everything belongs to God and returns to him. So if we don't own that thing why mourn our loss?

a. Our destiny is predetermined. We do not have control on that part. What we have control over is a limited free will, that is our actions, our choice to do good or bad, to believe in God or not to believe in Him, but we have no control over tomorrow's event not related to our actions i.e. whether my wife will have a son or daughter, whether his/her eyes will be brown or black, or whether I will have an accident or not tomorrow. Worrying over such things is of no use.

b. Rejection of faith in Quran is called a disease. This denial of truth is due to arrogance.

"In their heart there is a disease and God has increased their disease and grievous is their penalty because they lie to themselves." (Qur'an 2:10)

Therefore after lying to ourselves, we set up an inner conflict - between heart and mind. In order to contain that conflict the mind sends signals to glands for secretion of hormones like adrenaline which leads to rapid heart rate, perspiration, tremor, the basis of lie detector test.

This lying conflict could be due to "SMALL" crimes like theft or adultery, or big crimes like rejection of God.

3 stages of spiritual development of soul age

a. Nafsul Ammara : -The Passionate soul
"I do not absolve myself Lo the (human) soul is prone to evil
save that whenever my Lord has mercy. Lo, Lord is forgiving;
merciful." (Surah Yusuf 12:53)

This soul inclines toward sensual Pleasure, passion and self gratification , anger, envy, greed, and conceit. Its concerns are pleasure of body, gratification of physical appetite, and ego.

Hadith "your most-ardent-enemy is your evil self which resides within your body" (Bukhaii).

If this evil soul is not checked it will lead to unusual stress and its resultant effects.

b. Nafsul Lawanunah (The Reproaching Soul).
"Nay, I swear by the reproaching soul" (Qur'an 75:10)

This soul is conscious or aware of Evil, resists it, asks for God's grace, and pardon, repents and tries to amend and hopes to achieve salvation.

"And (There are) others who have acknowledged their faults. They mix a righteous action with another that was bad. It may be that Allah will relent toward them. Lo! Allah is relenting, merciful." (Qur'an 9:102)

Hadith "These are two impulses within us. One spirit which calls towards good and confirms the truth. He who feels this impulse should know that it comes from Allah. Another impulse comes from our enemy (Devil) which leads to doubt and holds untruth and encourages evil. He who feels this should seek refuge in Allah from the accursed devil."

This soul warns people of their vain desire, guides and opens the door to virtute and righteousness. It is a positive step in spiritual growth.

c. Nafsul Mutmainnah- The Satisfied Soul .
"O (you) soul in (complete) rest and satisfaction. Come back to your Lord, will pleased (yourself) and will pleasing unto him. Enter you then among my devotees, enter you in my heaven." (Qur'an 89:27-30)

This is the highest state of spiritual development. satisfied soul is the state of bliss, content and peace. The soul is at peace because it knows that inspite of its failures in this world, It will return to God. Purified of tension, it emerges from the struggle with obstacles blocking the peace of mind and heart.

What should we do in panic and despair?

In panic non-believers behave differently than believers. They have no one to return to, to ask for mercy and forgiveness, their life is this life, which they cannot control, thus get more depressed and increase in their state of wrong doing. Then we will see that if they are used to casual drinking will start drinking more and become alcoholic, or a barbital criminal.

On the other hand a believer should do the following:

a. Increase dhikr (Remembrance of God)

"who have believed and whose heart have Rest in the remembrance of God. Verify in the remembrance of God, do hearts find rest." (Qur'an 13:28)

b. Increase their prayer.

"O you who believe, seek help with steadfastness and prayer. For God is with those who are steadfast." (Qur'an 2:1530)

c. Ask forgiveness

"And I have said: seek forgiveness from your Lord. Lo He was ever forgiving." (Qur'an 71:100)

In addition to above we are also asked to continue to struggle to up-grade ourselves.
" surely God does not change the condition in which a people are in until they change that which is in themselves." (Qur'an 13:11)

Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race

By: Ramzy Baroud
War Foretold
When I resorted to Mark Twain's writings I attempted to escape, at least temporarily from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his "The Mysterious Stranger", although published 1916, still left me with an eerie feel. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we hold as a "matter of course" - a favorite phrase of his. It summons the awful tendencies of "our race": our irrational drive for violence, be it burning 'witches' at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the "little monarchs and the nobilities."
As the Iraq war rages on, Twain's words ring truer by the day. "The loud little handful will shout for war...Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will out shout them and presently the anti-war audiences will thin and lose popularity. Before long you will see the most curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men. And now the whole nation will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. "Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after the process of grotesque self-deception."
Twain, whose genius undoubtedly surpasses time and space, wrote the above passages nine decades before the world's leading statesmen, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged their case for war, based on falsities and refused to examine any refutations; they rallied millions, investing on their ignorance and blind patriotism to carry out a war whose outcome is akin to genocide. The text was also written long before the thousands who stood for human rights, rallied and organized against the war, defended the constitution and civil liberties were "shouted out" and "stoned from the platform"; thousands of those "fair men" and women have endured such a fate, the latest being Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved American mother who lost her son, Casey, in Bush's war for oil, strategic repositioning of the empire and the neoconservatives' ceaseless hunt for Israel's illusive 'security'. She too was shouted out, and in a heart-wrenching letter, she reached the conclusion, most difficult for any mother to reach, that her son, Casey died for nothing.
But Bush is adamant to carry on with his costly endeavor that has espoused so many new chasms within his country, and in the world at large: religious contentions and political turmoil, damage that neither Mr. Bush, nor his most luminous advisors have the will nor the brains to remedy.
"But what does it amount to?" says Twain, using one of his story's characters, an angel to convey the idea: "nothing at all. You gain nothing. You always come out where you went in. For a million years the race has gone on monotonously propagating itself and monotonously re-performing this dull nonsense - to what end? No wisdom can guess! Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a parcel of usurping little monarchs and nobilities who despise you; would feel defiled if you touches them; would shut the door in your face if you proposed to call; whom you slave for, fight for, die for, and are not shamed of it, but proud."
Sheehan couldn't get an answer for why Casey was killed; many more might want to live with the illusion that their loss didn't go in vain; but dead American bodies continue to arrive back to US soil only at night; the wounded are maltreated and hidden from the public eye, only occasional courageous reports manage to break the silence and the perfected propaganda. In Iraq, the sheer number of dead and dying defies belief; the entire country is now gripped in an endless strife that shall define the cultural and social disposition of future generations; it's often easy to comprehend and come to terms with a total number of deaths when they are presented in a neatly packaged chart or a website, no matter how harrowing; but once you learn of the individual stories, you wonder whether the days of burning witches at the stake were better times: a young girl raped before her own family and later killed with her own baby; entire families massacred in broad daylight; militants chopping off limbs and ears and noses under the watchful eye of the Iraqi police, for their victims belonged to the wrong sect and stood on the wrong side of the war.
"The Mysterious Stranger" ended up being a figment of a little boy's imagination - or was it? - its meaning is overreaching and very much real. The war is real and frightening and hurtful; it's not an intellectual argument; it cannot be reduced to a few images and captions and editorials; nothing can ever capture a moment where a mother receives the corpse of a son or the scene of a father kneeling before the shattered body of a daughter. It's all real, and it's all our own doing, whether by supporting, financing and fighting the war, or by staying silent as it rages on.
Ramzy   Baroud's latest book is "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London). See link below to buy this book.

Make that the new ONE TRUE Religion.

Keeping in mind the caveat that one must always be careful with stories of this nature, since it almost certainly involves someone translating what was really said into English, and we all know how accurate and unbiased the MSM has been on that account. Did some of the 19′ers get interviewed for this? See the comment on the ahadîth, ya’ani, b/c of course we Moslems don’t have the methodology, the education, the history to classify and verify our own religious sources. Do you know why? Because we need modernity. We need Western academic techniques. Anything else is not reliable. Our way of Isnad is outdated because (a) it’s an ancient thing and (b) it didn’t originate in Cambridge (either one).
“Modernity” (whatever that is), Universalism, Evolution, Science — these are the new One True Ways, the West the new Holy Lands. I don’t mind when Christians or Muslims say “One True Way.” I don’t mind when Universalists or any one advocating the above mentioned say it either. What I do mind is that Christians, Muslims, and others are denigrated, mocked, and despised (oddly, in the name of “tolerance”) when they say it, but people who engage in “One Way and Only One Way” rhetoric in the name of Universalism or whatever are encouraged and praised. It has been my personal experience that people tend to be True Believers in something. If it isn’t deity and religion, it’s science, or politics, or even something like the Goth subculture or music or film or NASCAR or whatever. Have you ever met a True Believer in music? These guys can be more intolerant and fanatic than most so-called “religious fundamentalists.”
In any case, my guiding philosophy on these sorts of debates is “lakum diynakum wa liya diyn.” To you your way, to me mine. I think if more people — of any stripe — adopted this attitude, things might go a lot easier.
They say Islam must adapt to modernity. They say that Islam must answer the “challenge of modernity.” I personally think this is nonsense. It is “modernity” that must answer the challenge of Islam. Islam has posed the challenge, not our times. The challenge is for all people in all lands in all times. Answer it or don’t. Rather, answer it today or answer it in the future, but eventually, according to the Qur’an, we will all answer.
In any case, it would be helpful to know what we’re calling modern and what we’re calling something else. I don’t see much conflict in being a practicing, even “Traditional Muslim” in today’s world. My own long-running website is called Modern Muslima. There are obstacles to overcome, personal challenges, but if you can find me anyone of any religion or persuasion that doesn’t have obstacles to overcome and challenges to negotiate in today’s world (or yesterday’s, or tomorrow’s), I’d like to hear about it. I think that’s called life. Honestly, I’m not even sure where this article is showing that there is a “clash” between these Fatawa and modern life, unless by “modern” they are referring to some of the modernist methodologies for deducing rulings that have popped up in the Ummah in the last century. But somehow I doubt that. I think by “clash” they mean it simply doesn’t sound palatable to the modern Western ear. A “clash” is not illustrated by something like that now notorious breastfeeding fatwa — particularly when some of the strongest critics were “Traditional” ‘ulema. Nor is it illustrated by Sheikh ‘Ali’s statements in a book on the urine of the Prophet (aleihi salaatu wa salaam) — no matter how uncomfortable it made some journalist somewhere.
In any case, it is also helpful to define what we mean by “Islam.” When some people say “Islam” and the “challenge of modernity” they mean Arab culture or Pakistani culture. Others mean Shari’ah. When I say that Islam is the challenger, not the challenged, I mean Islam in it’s most basic, fundamental (eek) form. The challenge is Tawhid and Messengership, and what those two things entail. The challenge is given in al Qur’an.
There is only one God. There is nothing worthy of being worshipped except that One God. He is Allah. He is God. El es Dios. He has no partners. He begets not nor is He begotten. He is the Eternal, Everliving, Creator of the Universe and all its marvelous secrets. This is the challenge: do you accept or not?
God sends Messengers to humanity for guidance and nourishment. Among them are Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and John. May God bless them all and give them peace. His Last Messenger was Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, a trader from Arabia. He gave this Messenger His Last and Perfect Revelation, the Qur’an, as a Message for all humanity. He gave us this Messenger as an example how to live the Qur’an. His teachings are preserved, no matter what some Times reporter tells you. May God bless him and give him peace. This is the challenge: do you accept it or not?
If you do not, to you your way, to me mine. If you do, welcome. Either way, we can all live together as human beings, the “brotherhood of man.” Everything else falls into place or it doesn’t. Sometimes not right away, and sometimes not ever. The rope is accepting this challenge. Hold fast to this rope, and hold fast to those among you who have accepted this challenge. We may be the largest self-help support group in the world. We will support and encourage one another to make this journey, even if we have our own issues to deal with. The people who don’t support and encourage you with this challenge are only the ones who are most in need of our support and encouragement.
I’m not a perfect Muslim by any standard. I wouldn’t even call myself a good Muslim. And this isn’t false modesty or some idea that I must denigrate myself in order to be perceived as humble. It just is what it is. But I have begun to answer the challenge, in whatever weak and feeble way. If I have accepted this challenge and moved beyond it towards implementing other things that result from it, then anyone can. Saying, “Yes, I believe there is only one God and Muhammad is His Final Messenger” doesn’t mean you want to live the lifestyle of 7th century Arabia. Keep your electricity, your computer, your car, your supermarket. Nothing in the challenge of Islam says that you have to give up your society and culture or the time you live in. Just give up what God dislikes or has forbidden, and keep what is good. In every time and in every place, including the Prophetic era, people had to do this. THAT is the challenge. Do you believe in Him and listen to Him or don’t you? Do you believe in Him and want, in your heart, to listen to Him, but find it difficult? Okay, that is the nature of this world. That is the nature of your humanity. Welcome.
I will tell you, you do not have to be ready to wear hijab or give up music or do anything else but pray in order to answer this challenge. And if you answer it, if you accept this challenge, and you’re still not ready to prostrate yourself before your Creator, well, welcome and let’s work on it together. This is the challenge of Islam: to modernity, post-modernity, and every other era or epoch in the history of humankind. The challenge of Islam is not confined to a particular culture or period in time, no matter how some Muslims may behave.
Stripped down to the core, the challenge of Islam is Tawhid and Messengership. It is not hijabs and polygyny and la riba. Millions of people, including Muslims, are showing themselves unable to get past these things, thinking that hijab, polygyny, and la riba are the essence and the fundamentals. But what is hijab without Tawhid and Messengership? It is a piece of cloth on your head and arms and you lowering your gaze. It has no meaning beyond that if it isn’t rooted in Tawhid and Messengership.
Anyway… I think this might be my last post for however long. I could post tomorrow or I could not. I’m leaving in a little more than 24 hours. I slacked off on getting the house ready to close and now I’m'a payin’ fer it. I’m sorry if this is rambly brambly. I was waiting on some phone calls and now it’s veddy late but I saw this and wanted to share it and then I started riffing and … now I must go. :: waving ::

Islam led The World in Science and Art

by Mohamed Elmasry
(Sunday, June 24, 2007)

"Today, it would seem that the civilizations of East and West, or the Muslim and non-Muslim world, have become reversed. But perhaps it is more a case of having forgotten those former glories in the pursuit of present-day material and political agendas. A re-discovery and renewed appreciation of Muslim accomplishments would benefit all of humanity, allowing us to see - and hopefully resolve -- present conflicts within the wider spectrum of human history."

It is becoming more widely known that the first university of Europe was established in Spain by Muslims. But how many of us - whether academically inclined or not - know that university professors’ formal black gowns originated with the kaftan, the traditional outer robe worn by Arabic men since ancient times?
Six centuries before Christopher Columbus sailed westward to prove the earth was round (only to be "interrupted" by the New World!), Muslim mathematicians of Kufa in Iraq not only knew that our planet is a globe, but had also calculated its circumference with remarkable accuracy. It’s no wonder that Crusaders who trekked from Europe to the Holy Land to liberate it from "heathen" Muslims, returned home with many new lessons in civilization, as well as practical inventions and scientific insight.
From the eighth to the tenth centuries, Baghdad flourished as the world’s most civilized city. Its university was attended by 6,000 students from all over the world and it boasted an endowment equivalent to millions of dollars. Baghdad streets were also paved, drained by covered sewers, and illuminated - while pigs still roamed the dark and muddy streets of Medieval Paris.
For some four centuries (roughly 700 through 1100 AD) Arabic -- not Latin -- was the international language of knowledge. During this Islamic "golden age," many Christians studied this language and attended Muslim universities.
Aristotle and Plato were rediscovered by Muslim scholars who translated many Greek manuscripts into Arabic. They are the originators of modern chemistry, meteorology, mathematics, sociology, and geography. Muslim surgeons were also the first to dissect the human body, which was forbidden to Christians by the Church.
Muslims during this period had a renowned passion for intellectual and scientific pursuits; the first known telescope was built for a Muslim caliph.
Without the Arabic numbering system, which included decimals and the cipher (zero), modern science and business would be impossible.
Many of today’s finest cotton fabrics -- including muslin, damask and cambric -- originated with Muslim agriculturalists and artisans. And in tribute to Muslim metallurgy, Damascus swords and Toledo blades are still highly prized. Sugar, coffee, rice, cherries, citrus fruits and numerous other culinary delicacies and seasonings reached European (and ultimately, Western) tables because of Muslims.
One of the greatest contributions of Islam to the Western world was the art of papermaking, adapted and developed from techniques pioneered by the Chinese. Without good quality affordable paper, the spread of printing and the availability of books for universal education would have been impossible.
The duty of every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime brought together scholars from the most distant countries; thus, scientific knowledge spread rapidly and new discoveries were easily shared and exchanged throughout the Muslim world and beyond.
While Christian Europe was still enveloped in darkness, poverty and gloom, overshadowed by ecclesiastical intolerance, Muslims had established a highly advanced and sophisticated civilization that historians to this day have not satisfactorily explained. The Belgian-born American writer May Sarton, referring to Islam, said; "The creation of a new civilization of international and encyclopedic magnitude within less than two centuries is something that we can describe, but not completely explain ... It was the most creative movement of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century."
And while the Christian world dealt with those who dared to question established dogmas by burning them alive at the stake, Islam encouraged free thought and developed the rational experimental method, which is the foundation of modern science and philosophy. Before the Prophet Muhammad, people did not dare to conduct experiments, for fear of reprisal by evil spirits. Muhammad dealt a mortal blow to many false superstitions and elemental fears and helped to prepare human society for the great potential of scientific inquiry.
In one of his most memorable sayings on the subject, Prophet Muhammad affirmed that "the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr." He taught Muslims that ignorance was humanity’s greatest poverty, that a mind without education is like a brave man without arms, and that knowledge brings people -- irrespective of gender, age, race or religion -- into the highest rank of human accomplishment.
The greatest Jewish treatise of the Middle Ages was written by Maimonides, not in Hebrew, but in Arabic. And in another example of interfaith engagement at that time, a Christian served as head of a college in Damascus.
Islam also developed its own distinct architecture, whose influence can be traced through India, to China, Africa, and Russia. While the Tartars transmitted Islamic culture and art to Russia, the Turks brought it to the Balkans, Austria, Poland, and Southern Germany. Bavarian native costumes, Hungarian rugs, and Prussian helmets still reveal their Islamic origins in design.
Christian Europe was admittedly slow in recognizing Islamic culture as the originating source of the Renaissance. But through the influence of Islamic scholarship, especially in Sicily and Spain, European civilization was transformed.
"Let us compare the two civilizations," said Seignobos in his Histoire de la Civilisation au Moyen Age (History of Medieval Civilization) "which in the eleventh century divided the Ancient World. In the West – miserable little cities, peasant’s huts and great fortresses - a country always troubled by war, where one could not travel ten leagues without running the risk of being robbed; and in the Orient - Constantinople, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad - all cities of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ with their marble palaces, their workshops, their schools, their bazaars, their villages and with the incessant movement of merchants who traveled in peace from Spain to Persia.
There is no doubt that the [Muslim] and Byzantine worlds were richer, better policed, better lighted than the Western world. In the eleventh century, these two worlds began to become acquainted; the barbarous Christians came into contact with the civilized [Muslims] in two ways – by war and by commerce. And by contact with the Orientals the Occidentals became civilized."
Today, it would seem that the civilizations of East and West, or the Muslim and non-Muslim world, have become reversed. But perhaps it is more a case of having forgotten those former glories in the pursuit of present-day material and political agendas. A re-discovery and renewed appreciation of Muslim accomplishments would benefit all of humanity, allowing us to see - and hopefully resolve -- present conflicts within the wider spectrum of human history.
Further Reading:
Seeking Knowledge -- Our National Imperative
by Habib Siddiqui
Setting the Record Straight: What is taught in the West about Science and What Should be Taught
by Kasem Ajram
Islamic Intellectualism
by Murad Wilfried Hofmann
Pre-Columbian Muslims in the Americas
by Dr. Youssef Mroueh
The Islamic Community In The United States: Historical Development
by Muhammed Abdullah Ahari
Turkish Language and the Native Americans :: Traces of the Altaic Words "ATA", "APA", "ANA" and Their Derivatives in the Languages of Some of the Native Peoples of Americas ::
by Polat Kaya
The Melungeons :: An Untold Story of Ethnic cleansing in America ::
by Brent Kennedy

Democracy, Sure But On Whose Terms?

Parvez Ahmed
Posted Jun 28, 2007

I am writing this from my hotel room in Doha, Qatar where I have been invited to speak at the 7th Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade. Back home this event has perhaps not received any public attention. While the smallest of violent event from the Muslim world brings with it instant analysis of the Islamic causality to such violence, the studious efforts of the Muslim world to take steps towards democracy and development are routinely neglected. Also conspicuous by their absence at this event are policy makers from America.
Today was the opening night of the program. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani opened the forum with an introspective lecture about the need for democracy in the Middle East and his personal disappointment at the slow progress being made towards this goal. Democracy may not be the best form of government, except as Winston Churchill said all other forms have been tried and they failed.
The other major speaker at the event was U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke about his personal observations about the Korean experiment towards democracy and argued that economic development is the pre-cursor to democracy. He probably meant sustained democracy. As the next speaker former Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Chinawatra attested to by citing his own undemocratic removal from power by the military junta was primarily the result of mounting economic problems in Thailand.
Usually the openings of such forums are staid events and one does not expect fireworks. But surprisingly there was a small one. Current leader of the British House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reiterated President Bush’s view that democracies do not wage wars against each other as one of the rationales for democratization. This provoked an angry response from Amr Moussa, General Secretary of the Arab League when he pointed out the false causality between democracy and peace as democratic regimes (U.S., Britain and Israel) have invaded and occupied foreign lands from Palestine to Iraq.
Therein lies the dilemma of democratization in the Middle East. On one hand Muslims and Arabs admire the freedoms and free enterprise afforded to citizens who live under democracies from India to America. On the other, they note the hypocrisy and double standards when Western leaders refuse to engage with the most freely and fairly elected government in the Middle East, that of the Palestinian Authority. At the same time the protection of human rights, so sacred to democracies, are routinely violated as evidenced by Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the CIA rendition programs, which are being carried with the support of the undemocratic regimes in Syria, Jordan and Egypt.
One leading Arab journalist recently wrote that one of the leading sources of instability and political economic distortion in the Arab world is the unchecked use of state power, combined with the state’s whimsical ability to use the rule of law for its own political ends. About two years ago the Pew Forum hosted an event called, “Islam and Democratization in the Middle East.” One of the questions explored was if Islam was the main factor behind the hereditary autocracies of the Arab world and therefore perhaps a major obstacle to democracy? The fact that two-thirds of the Muslim population around the world live and participate in democracies indicates that the faith of Islam is no barrier to democratization. The experience of democracies in countries with large Muslim majority is just as new and imperfect as they are in countries where Islam is not the majority faith.
During my past trip to Doha for the U.S.-Islamic World Forum sponsored by the Saban Center at Brookings I had met Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo. In 2000 he was arrested by Egyptian authorities and spent more than 500 days in prison. In 2003 he was acquitted of all charges and released.
When we met 2 years ago, Saad spoke about the how America needs to positively engage with Muslims who hold deep sentiments that their faith ought to inform and guide them in their politics (no different from view of many Conservatives in the U.S. and also an increasing number of Democrats). In a later Pew lecture he cited examples that these Islamists (a term that is commonly used for Muslims who view Islam to be an integral part of politics) have been more effective than their secular predecessor. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development party has been more willing to compromise on Cyprus than its Kemalist secular predecessor. It has also been more accommodating and tolerant toward Kurds. Moreover, the Islamists have not lived up to the urban legend of “one man, one vote, one time” used by many to keep them outside the political process. The appeal of the Islamists is so strong in the Middle East that it is difficult to imagine a viable democratic society without their cooperation. Ostracizing them can radicalize their fringe.
The Quran, in verses 42:38, and 3:159, instructs that the basic principle of governance should be based on “mutual consultation,” or shura. Islamic scholars say shura contains three essential elements - equal rights for all citizens, majority rule for public policy and the promotion of justice and human dignity.
Yet another inspiration for governance comes from the life of Islam’s exemplar - the Prophet Muhammad, who on his deathbed refused to appoint a successor, sending a clear message that it is up to the people to decide how they wish to be governed. After the Prophet’s death, shura was used to elect the next head of state.
The Prophet Muhammad, like the Biblical prophets David and Solomon, was also the head of a state, although not a king. Among his first acts as head of state was to draft a constitution. The constitution or charter of Madinah provided a pluralistic framework involving due rights and protection for all people who were governed by the state. Signatories to the constitution included several religious minorities, whereby each side retained its identity, customs and internal relations. The constitution also contained its own bill of rights including guarantees for freedom of religion.
A World Values Survey conducted between 2000 and 2002 gives some practical insights into Muslim attitudes towards democratization. About 68 percent of respondents in both Western countries and Muslim majority nations strongly disagree that democracies are indecisive and have trouble keeping order, and 61 percent in both societies strongly disagree that it’s best for a country to have a powerful leader who decides what to do without bothering about elections and government procedures. Over 85 percent strongly agree that democracy may have problems but it’s better than any other form of government.
Islam can be a source of inspiration in governance but certainly does not have to be an exclusive source. The Prophet Muhammad characterized believers as people who accept wisdom no matter what its source. This principle served Islam and humanity well in Spain where Muslim egalitarianism formed the basis of an impressive civilization based on knowledge, rational inquiry and tolerance, eventually becoming the precursor to Europe’s Renaissance.
Democracy will come to the Middle East, sooner than later. The people and their faith demand it. The question is which model serves America’s interest best – violent imposition of democracy as in Iraq or ostracizing it as in Palestine or supporting its organic growth by being intellectually and diplomatically engaged, something for which we have not expended a great deal of our resources . Judging by the reactions of the people I meet in this region, undoubtedly, the latter is our best chance to bring the world back from the brink of a clash of civilization to the la convivencia of mutual respect and understanding.

A quick history in the turning point between the West and the Moslems:

A quick history in the turning point between the West and the Moslems: The Battle of Tours 732 AD.The following opinion was expressed about the Franks by the emir who conquered Spain, and who—had he not been recalled—might have commanded at Tours. It shows what the Arab leaders thought of the men of the North up to the moment of their great disillusionment by “The Hammer.”

From an Arabian Chronicler
Musa being returned to Damascus, the Caliph Abd-el Melek asked of him about his conquests, saying “Now tell me about these Franks—what is their nature?”
“They,” replied Musa, “are a folk right numerous, and full of might: brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in event of defeat.”
“And how has passed the war betwixt them and thyself? Favorably or the reverse?”
“The reverse? No, by Allah and the prophet!” spoke Musa. “Never has a company from my army been beaten. And never have the Moslems hesitated to follow me when I have led them; though they were twoscore to fourscore.”

Isidore of Beja’s Chronicle
The defeat of the Saracen invaders of Frankish lands at Tours (more properly Poitiers) in 732 A.D. was a turning point in history. It is not likely the Muslims, if victorious, would have penetrated, at least at once, far into the north, but they would surely have seized South Gaul, and thence readily have crushed the weak Christian powers of Italy. It is very unfortunate that we do not possess scientific accounts of Charles Martel’s great victory, instead of the interesting but insufficient stories of the old Christian chroniclers.
Then Abderrahman, [the Muslim emir] seeing the land filled with the multitude of his army, crossed the Pyrenees, and traversed the defiles [in the mountains] and the plains, so that he penetrated ravaging and slaying clear into the lands of the Franks. He gave battle to Duke Eudes (of Aquitaine) beyond the Garonne and the Dordogne, and put him to flight—so utterly [was he beaten] that God alone knew the number of the slain and wounded. Whereupon Abderrahman set in pursuit of Eudes; he destroyed palaces, burned churches, and imagined he could pillage the basilica of St. Martin of Tours. It is then that he found himself face to face with the lord of Austrasia, Charles, a mighty warrior from his youth, and trained in all the occasions of arms.
For almost seven days the two armies watched one another, waiting anxiously the moment for joining the struggle. Finally they made ready for combat. And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like North a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts [of the foe].
At last night sundered the combatants. The Franks with misgivings lowered their blades, and beholding the numberless tents of the Arabs, prepared themselves for another battle the next day. Very early, when they issued from their retreat, the men of Europe saw the Arab tents ranged still in order, in the same place where they had set up their camp. Unaware that they were utterly empty, and fearful lest within the phalanxes of the Saracens were drawn up for combat, they sent out spies to ascertain the facts. These spies discovered that all the squadrons of the “Ishmaelites” had vanished. In fact, during the night they had fled with the greatest silence, seeking with all speed their home land. The Europeans, uncertain and fearful, lest they were merely hidden in order to come back [to fall upon them] by ambushments, sent scouting parties everywhere, but to their great amazement found nothing. Then without troubling to pursue the fugitives, they contented themselves with sharing the spoils and returned right gladly to their own country.Chronicle of St. Denis
The Muslims planned to go to Tours to destroy the Church of St. Martin, the city, and the whole country. Then came against them the glorious Prince Charles, at the head of his whole force. He drew up his host, and he fought as fiercely as the hungry wolf falls upon the stag. By the grace of Our Lord, he wrought a great slaughter upon the enemies of Christian faith, so that—as history bears witness—he slew in that battle 300,000 men, likewise their king by name Abderrahman. Then was he [Charles] first called “Martel,” for as a hammer of iron, of steel, and of every other metal, even so he dashed: and smote in the battle all his enemies. And what was the greatest marvel of all, he only lost in that battle 1500 men. The tents and harness [of the enemy] were taken; and whatever else they possessed became a prey to him and his followers. Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine, being now reconciled with Prince Charles Martel, later slew as many of the Saracens as he could find who had escaped from the battle.Source.
From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 362-364.
Scanned in and modernized by Dr. Jerome S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Were Muslim Rulers Brute, Fanatic and Intolerant?

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

(The writer can be reached at and

Certain historians working on projects to malign medieval Muslim rulers have selectively highlighted the acts of brutality against conspirators.

Muslim rulers of medie-val India were primarily empe-rors as did the rulers of their or previous ages.

They were autocrats in keeping with the political traditions then. Any threat or challenge to their seat of power was dealt with a strong arm. So they were unkind to their enemies, brute against the rebels and warriors against the rival powers. If the challenge came from within the royal family or clan, the response was in no way different. They did not spare their parents, siblings or even offspring when they came in between them and their power. All rebels and challengers were crushed mercilessly.

But when it came to wooing the people after having established their power, they adopted all strategies of carrot and stick, inducement and allurement and punishment and retribution. But certain historians working on projects to malign medieval Muslim rulers have selectively highlighted the acts of brutality against conspirators or military action against rival kingdoms. For instance, much is said about killing of three brothers by Aurangzeb, namely Dara Shikoh, Shuja and Murad. But seen in the perspective of power struggle those days, such acts were not unique in case of Aurangzeb alone. Mauryan emperor Ashok, glorified for his rule, grabbed the throne after killing 99 of his brothers. He ordered burning alive all the 500 women of his harem, because some of them dubbed him ugly. He even ordered killing of 500 Brahmins opposed to Buddhism.1 Such mayhems were not exclusive to Aurangzeb or Ashok. History is replete with instances where emperors sought assassination of challengers to their throne and annihilation of rivals and their kingdoms. But in matters of day to day administration, these very emperors could be seen as perfect epitomes of grace, decency, compassion, piety and absolutely normal behaviour. They had mastered the strategies to woo masses with a finesse that equalled their ferocity in the warfare. Babur’s will provides a little help in giving us insight into the methodology the founder of the Mughal empire employed in India.

Babur’s will

It says : My son take not of the following: Do not harbour religious prejudice in your heart. You should dispense justice while taking note of the people’s religious sensitivities, and rites. Avoid slaughtering cows in order that you could gain a place in the heart of natives. This will take you nearer to the people.

Do not demolish or damage places of worship of any faith and dispense full justice to all to ensure peace in the country. Islam can better be preached by the sword of love and affection, rather than the sword of tyranny and persecution. Avoid the differences between the shias and sunnis. Look at the various characteristics of your people just as characteristics of various seasons.2


Akbar was prominent in making bridges with non-Muslims. He scrapped jizyah, and jatra tax. He gave high positions to Bhagwan Das and Raja Man Singh, both kings of Rajasthan.

Alauddin honoured Jain munis

Alauddin Khilji is today dubbed a ruler highly biased against Hindus. But instances to the contrary are aplenty. He used to honour the Hindu divines. He invited the Jain Muni from Karnataka Mahasen in his court and conferred honour on him. He had provided free access to Digambar Jain community leader Poornachandra of Delhi and Ramchandra Suri.3

Case against Tughlaq

A Hindu leader filed a petition in the chief qazi’s court against Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq for murdering his brother without any reason. Qazi ordered the Sultan to present himself in the Court. Mohammad bin tughlaq sent word that he would be standing in the dock and there should be no favour or special treatment be shown for him in the court. The Sultan persuaded the plaintiff to accept Qisas and was thus acquitted. 4

Piety had nothing to do with power

Maligning of Muslims necessitates that rulers are shown to be rigid followers of Islam. If Muslims rulers were to be rigid about the rituals of Islam, some of them could have performed Hajj. None did. Because it involved at least eight months of travelling outside their capital. They could not risk their seat. In fact, when they wanted to get rid off some officer, they forcibly sent him to Hajj by seeing him off Surat port which served as the gateway to Makkah from India then. Emperor Akbar thus exiled Bairam who was his foster mother’s husband and his attalik (mentor or tutor) and advisor, to Makkah during early years of his rule.

In contrast, spiritual father of Sikhism and social reformer, Guru Nanak performed Hajj and built a Gurdwara in Baghdad while returning, which exists even today. All that means that piety guided their individual behaviour as well as the statecraft till it helped the State project a benign image of itself. But when a threat was perceived to the State, it took a back seat.

Jehangir killed Guru Arjan Dev

It is true that Emperor Jehangir ordered execution of the fourth Sikh guru Arjan Dev. The instance is presented in evidence of Mughal ruler’s intolerance. Though he did not consider Arjan Dev a spiritual leader, he never interfered with his missionary activities. But he ordered his execution when the Emperor’s son Khusrow revolted against Jehangir and went to Arjan Dev for his blessing near the bank of Bias river. Even Historian Jadunath Sarkar who is quite biased against Mughal emperors, has considered it a political act, not a communally motivated act.4

Jehangir imprisoned Mujaddid Alf Sani

Emperors did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims if they felt threatened from any quarter. Jehangir imprisoned Shaikh Ibrahim Baba Afghani in the fort of Chunar (near Allahabad) and Mujaddad Alf Sani in the fort of Gwalior because the people were increasingly flocking to them for guidance. He saw a new pole of power emerging which he took as a challenge to his rule. However, he later released Alf Sani and conferred honours on him and included him in his courtiers.

Jehangir married Rajput princesses

Jehangir married a number of Rajput women. First of such wives was Manbai, sister of Raja Mansingh. Second was Jagat Gusain, daughter of Raja Uday Singh. Another was Karamsi, daughter of Raja Keshavdas Rathore. Lahore Raja Darya Labhas’ daughter, daughter of Jaisalmer Raval Bhim, and daughter of Jagat Singh who was son of Raja Mansingh. These matrimonies were aimed at cultivating political alliances. However it will be quite fair to accept that while Rajput wives in Mughal household were quite common, there are hardly any evidences of Mughal princesses being married outside the Mughal households. Jehangir also built a temple in his palace which was meant for his Rajput mother, Rajput wife and their friends.

Rajput-Muslim clash

Jehangir used to keep Rajputs in good humour. In one of his army’s expeditions to South, his commander Mahabat Khan was leading the army comprising leading Rajput chieftains and Syed chieftains. Among Rajputs, Raja Gridhar was a leading chieftain while Syed Kabeer was a leading figure among Sadath chieftains. On some petty issue, a rift came about between Rajputs and Sadaths. It snowballed into a full scale skirmish in which 26 Rajput chieftains and four Sadath leaders were killed. Raja Gridhar lost his sons. Mahabat Khan perceived the gravity of the situation and immediately went to condole the death of Raja Gridhar. This greatly defused the situation. Jehangir ordered the arrest of Syed Kabeer. He was executed in qisas for the sons of Raja Gridhar.6

Attending Hindu discourses

Jehangir used to go to the Hindu sanyasis and attend their discourses (Haqeeqat and Maarafat). He mentions his meeting with Chadroop near Ujjain. He climbed a very difficult ascent to reach his small cave and spent some hours with him to exchange views on philosophy and mentioned this in his Tazuk e Jahangiri. Chadroop was a real mendicant who had completely renounced the world and its pleasures. Later Chadroop shifted to Mathura and when Jehangir learnt about it, he visited him several times. It so happened that when people knew about Chadroop’s proximity with the emperor, they began to approach him for several recommenda-tions.

Once Hakim Beg, co-brother of Jehangir (Noor Jehan’s sister’s husband) was appointed at Mathura. He did not like Chadroop. So he ill-treated the mendicant. When Jehangir learnt about it, he dismissed Hakim Beg and seized his jagir and withdrew his titles.

Jehangir imprisoned his son

Imperial policies of favour or punishment revolved round the question of power. It is evident from how Jehangir loved his Rajput wife and punished his son. Jehangir’s most beloved wife was Manbai, daughter of Raja Bhagwandas. When she entered the royal harem, she took the name ‘Shah Begum’. She bore prince Khusrow and princess Sultan Begum. Khusrow wanted to directly inherit the throne of Akbar and therefore raised the banner of revolt. This very seriously hurt Shah Begum who was wife of Jehangir for 30 years. She consumed a big quantity of opium and died while Jehangir was on a hunting expedition. When Jehangir learnt about it, he did not eat for four days. When Khusrow was defeated, he was condemned to lifelong imprisonment, though not a very severe captivity.

No rechristening

Today we have this spectacle of changing the names of town and cities. There are demands for renaming Allahabad as Prayag and Ahmedabad as Karnavati. But Aurangzeb forbade his military commander Ameer Hassan from rechristening the Fort of Brahampuri in Deccan as ‘Islampuri’. He reprimanded his qazis when they decreed that Hindu prisoners from conquest of Satara (now in Maharashtra) to be converted to Islam and Muslim prisoners to be incarcerated for three years. Following conquest of Golconda Fort and the surrender of Qutb Shahi sultanate, Aurangzeb received a complaint from a Brahmin family that the Shivalinga image from their house had been stolen. The complainant woman said that her husband was not eating since then and was on the verge of death. She suspected the hand of some Muslim families. Aurangzeb ordered his officials to search and restore the image and in the event of failure, to subject the entire village to punitive action. The image was found and the culprits were punished.
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