Thursday, August 19, 2010

Surah Ale Imran – The Family of Imran

This Surah is almost like Surah Al Baqarah - Astonishing and covers vast topics. It is very enlightening and good food for thought to all. It has answers to many questions I’ve been seeking and comparing to historic data I am unearthing simultaneously.
Surah Ale Imran begins thus :
Ayat 1- Alif Laam Meem (the knowledge of this is with Allah alone)
Ayat 2 – There is no diety except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence.

The Surah states in Ayat 33 that Allah chose Adam, Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of Imran over the worlds. Here it highlights that Abraham and Imran’s descendents were chosen over the others.
Abraham’s descendents were Isaac and Ishmael whereas Imran is the father of Mary and Mary is the mother of Jesus.

Ayat 35 and Ayat 36 state mention about wife of Imran, who pledged her unborn baby to the service of Allah and thereafter gave birth to a girl and named her Mary (Maryam).

Ayat 37 – Mentions about the upbringing up Mary and her being placed in under the guardianship of her uncle Zechariya.

I am rushing through the ‘ayats’ (verses) pertaining to the life of Mary, her upbringing and giving birth to Messiah Jesus, because I wish to write a detailed article about her life as depicted through Quran. In fact, Surah Ale Imran mentions a lot about the family of Mary (as is the topic of the Chapter itself) and Mary herself. Apart from this Chapter, Quran has a full Chapter dedicated to Mary called – Surah Maryam. This is the only Chapter in Quran dedicated to a woman. That shows the level of importance Mary is given in Quran.

Ayat 42 to Ayat 47 mention about Allah’s message to Mary telling her about giving birth to the Messiah, Jesus.

Ayat 48 to Ayat 55 describe Jesus.

This further goes on to explain that the birth of Jesus is similar to how Adam was brought to life from clay (mud). In this Allah tells us that He is capable of doing anything. So, those who believe that Jesus was begotten by a Holy Spirit, are not correct. God can bring anyone to life in any way possible. We only know how a normal birth takes place. And this order itself is brought by Almighty God (Allah). So we only think within that box. We haven’t seen miracles (because they no longer happen) nor do we know of anything beyond our means of knowing. Hence, we do not think out of the box. But we do not hesitate to think out of the box when it comes to mythology or some occult culture!

Ayat 47 : She (Mary) said, "My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is.

The concept of the birth of Jesus is described through Ayat 59 : “Indeed the example of Jesus to Allah (i.e. regarding creation of him) is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him, ‘Be’ and he was.”

So those who call Jesus the son of God are not right. In fact, in Islam it is considered ‘shirk’ (sin of the highest order) to associate partners or persons with Allah.

Again the highlight in some verses is on Allah being the same Lord who revealed the Torah and Gospel and asks the Believers of the Scriptures to reason.

Here again, human nature comes to light. When I refer to the Almighty as Allah, He is construed as the Supreme Power of the Muslims. When He is referred to as God, we assume He is the Christian Almighty. God or Allah or Elahi or known by any other name in any religion, the Almighty is only one and has remained constant since eternity and will remain till infinity. Why do we then confuse our little brains? I see so much trash on net making fun of each other’s religion and God, and it amuses me as to how can anyone make fun of and respect the same God with different names. Any person with good sense should be sensible enough to understand that.

Muslims, through Quran are urged to follow the religion of Abraham as he was a true Muslim. He was asked by Allah to re-built the Holy Kaaba. This was then done by Abraham and his son Ishmael. When Abraham is called a true Muslim, it is said in the context of Islam. Islam itself means ‘submission to the will of Allah’. So the one who believes in one God / Allah and submits to His will and follows His command, he is a Muslim.

Ayat 65 – ‘O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?’

Ayat 67 - Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists.
Ayat 95 - Say, " Allah has told the truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of the polytheists."

Ayat 96 - Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah - blessed and a guidance for the worlds.

Ayat 97 - In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House - for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves - then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds.

Ayat 84 - Say, "We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him."
This ayat is similar to Ayat 136 of Al Baqarah. In this Surah, again stress is laid on who is actually a Muslim and what he believes in.

Allah states that from the people of the earlier Scriptures too there are people who follow the commandments of God as they were revealed and pray to Him and do good deeds.

Ayat 113 – They are not [all] the same; among the People of the Scripture is a community standing [in obedience], reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating [in prayer].

Ayat 114 - They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds. And those are among the righteous.

There is a verse (Ayat 168) in Chapter Ale Imram which I found to be quite philosophical and interesting.
“Those who said about their brothers while sitting [at home], "If they had obeyed us, they would not have been killed." Say, "Then prevent death from yourselves, if you should be truthful."
Though the verse is in reference to the battle of Uhud, by itself also it has a deeper meaning.

Finally in the ending verses, there are teachings on conduct and patience. Highlighting two important ones.

Ayat 188 - And never think that those who rejoice in what they have perpetrated and like to be praised for what they did not do - never think them [to be] in safety from the punishment, and for them is a painful punishment.

Ayat 200 (last verse of the Chapter) - O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear Allah that you may be successful.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Independence Day!- What is Azadi ?

On 15th Aug, 2010..... I look back and feel nice to be born in a free country (after independence). The people who were born in pre-independence India, did their utmost best to get us our freedom. They went through trials and tribulations to get us our free nation - India, as it stands today. My great grandfather and grandfather (pad-nana and nana) also did they bit for the nation. They were Sayyeds and followed Islam very closely. In fact my pad-nana covered his face (a cloth falling around his turban) as he went out of the house. He was known as 'red-haired Hyder saab' as he was red-haired and his ascendents is heard to have migrated to India many many years back from Iraq (except Dravidians, India has mostly people moved from other lands in ancient times). He was fair and good-looking too. He did a lot of social work and helped the poor and deprived people around him. The non Muslims in Ambejug-Karwar also respected him a lot. Even the non-Muslim women stood to one side as he walked down the road. He, himself, humbly walked with lowered glances, as is the way of true Islam -humility!

His son, my nana, Sayed Abdul Hamid, himself followed his father closely. He also lived simply and humbly. He was always ready to help others - Hindu or Muslim, when they needed help. My mother's family themselves were not well -off. They just managed the basic necessities and had a few cows / buffaloes to meet other needs. But that was the usual trend in Karwar once. Even, when there was nothing in the house, my grandfather didn't hesitate to give away something or call over someone for lunch/ dinner. Such was their greatness. And my nani was another sweet lady, who obeyed and helped him live his life fruitfully, fulfilling the duties God has made mankind for. She was small in stature, much like a doll. Fair and pink. From the time I saw her, she had a wrinkled body, but looking at her one could say that she was very beautiful once. My grandfather was taller than her, but again fair and handsome, as his wrinkled face stated and from what I hear from my mother. These were people with kindness, who never got angry on others, yet spoke for wrong and at the same time were quick to forgive.

My grandfather, joined the freedom movement during his time and used to be mostly travelling. Of course, there was arrest warrant issued on him by the then British government. To evade British arrest, he moved to Goa. Goa was then under Portugese rule and the British had no say there. In Goa, he built a small home in Vasco, where some of my mamus (maternal uncles) stay to this day. His nature was to keep helping people around him. In Goa, again my grandfather started his social service. People were uneducated in Baina, Vasco and many Muslims were not aware of their own books. 'Nana' started his work of educating people - literary and religious. He founded a small education centre, which is now a big school in Baina. But since he was kind and humble, he didn't keep any stake in it. Nor did he do it for any acknowledgement or fame.
He once also went to prison for the sake of Indian freedom. There he wrote a song, 'Bhagyawaan dharti chi aamhi lekra...' (marathi). My mom remembers the opening lines as he used to hum them often. As Karwar was once part of old Bombay State, Konkani and little Marathi was spoken there. Now the highlight in Karwar is mostly on Kannada, though most people speak Konkani. Sadly, most of his literary works were not preserved by his children. Also, in those days, he was mostly travelling and their living conditions were not great. So, most writings were lost or spoiled over a period of time.

He used to wear a pyjama and kurta and a sherwani coat on top of his kurta. And a white turban completed his attire. A white beard made him look cute. I remember as a child, when he'd come to Mumbai (at our old RBI quarters at Mumbai Central), he used to love peppermints and used to carry a packet hidden on him. Such humble people are difficult to find these days. His life was an example of a good Muslim, who followed the 'sunnah' of Prophet Mohammed, Alhamdulillah. They lived amicably with fellow non-muslims as with people from their own community. People to this day take his name with respect.

When I compare this with the people of Kashmir valley, who feel that they will be better off as a separate nation and in a better state to guard their culture, it hurts me no end. People who ingrain in youth heads that Muslims should live in Islamic states/ countries only, are leaders who themselves do not know the essense of Islam. Prophet Muhammed SAS lived amicably with non Muslims of those times. The real challenge lies in being a true Muslim against all odds. Only in a mixed society, is one compelled to follow one's religion better. Because, your every action is not only yours, but represents your community's. And everyone is watching you. You might not have an open space in every office to offer Muslim prayer (namaaz), nor concession for going home early in Ramzan. But every struggle one makes to emerge a good Muslims inspite of all odds, is what true jihad is all about. Jihad actually means 'Struggle'. But sadly the term is misused and misunderstood in this age.

Why do I say that living as a Muslim in a non-Islamic state/ country is more challenging? When everything around us is conducive to our requirement, we lose the spark and the essence of our own teachings. We start to take them for granted. In fact, when I look at Pakistani girls, I sometimes find them more modern than many non-Muslim girls here in Mumbai or whole of India. Even in Kashmir (in a 2 day stay in Dec), I saw more interactive culture than the one we follow in my own house. Of course, from what I heard about certain cultural practices being followed in Kashmir, I would hardly call it Islamic. When I, as a Muslim, step up and work with fellow non-Muslims, I am asked about my culture, my practices. Also when people hear about something in Islam, they wonder aloud why I am not doing the same. And that requires explanation. And to explain, you need to know. It is almost like you are being monitored to follow your own religion.

If I avoid 'non-Halaal' meat stating I prefer to eat from specific non-veg restaurants, I am given an odd glance. In areas, where they are no places serving halaal meat, I prefer to eat veg food stating that I prefer veg when outside. Only to those who understand and specifically ask, I mention about 'halaal' food. And explain the concept, if required. Recently on my way to Ajmer, an elderly lady (from a Jain couple of Ajmer) travelling with us in the train, asked me whether there were two types of Muslims -one with hijaab and another without. I had to explain to her that all Muslims have to cover themselves from head to toe. Of course, it was embarrassing for me. So, it is kind of a check for me. In Ramzan, even on specific days, when I am not allowed to fast, I prefer not to eat or drink water through the entire day in office, instead of giving personal description of things. Because my every action as a Muslim is accountable! Without a test, how can we pass or fail? So also, 'this' (living in a non-Islamic state) is like a test.

In certain Islamic countries, people have started taking things for granted. Following same old practices passed over through the ages, without referring to the Quran and Hadeeth, whether these are correct or not. Some have even started moving away. Only the attire has remained and the values almost vanished! Whereas most Muslims living in non-Islamic countries like UK, USA, India, Singapore and many more countries, follow their religion better. (There are a few exceptions everywhere!) They read the Islamic scriptures/ books and get initiated into the religion and hence get a better understanding. Or, for those who have already been Muslims, reading scriptures of God become more essential to answer the questions posed by their non-Muslim colleagues and friends from time to time.

Coming back to the question of 'independence' and so-called Azadi that the Kashmiris are seeking. Entire Kashmir is a beautiful land, blessed by God. The culture is rich and the hospitality is indeed great. This lovely land with lovely people has been sought by Pakistan and China alike. Many parts (not shown in Indian map) have been occupied by Pak and China. In all the tension, there has mostly been military in the land. Also, rest of India, was earlier very scared to go to Kashmir, due to the continued unrest there. In this way, it has mostly been isolated from other parts of India. There have been limited movements from Kashmir to other parts of our country. Also, we hardly hear of marriages across J&K state and other states. Such may be very few. This has helped retained the original flavour of the land along with hostility towards the military. All this has further made the people there feel aliented and unwanted by Indian government. This of course, has been combined with cross border terror from Pak to occupy the land. Often the common man in Kashmir has suffered.

Keeping all this in mind, the frustration of the people is understandable. The people there want nothing to do with Pakistan nor India, but want a separate country with access to both India and Pakistan. This sounds like a rosy dream to the Kashmiri youth. But reality is different from rosy dreams. Every country has its share of ups and downs. And so has every state. There are some people in Mumbai too, who want to throw non Marathis away! Some tribes of North -East have been wanting a separate nation for years. (But we can't let everyone have their own way!) In this turmoil, the civilians living in North-East keep suffering and lose lives. They too have been living under military surveillance since years now. But the plight of Assam is never looked into, nor is it highly spoken of by we Indians. Maybe, there are no immediate neighbouring nations around there, which are a considered a threat to India.

So the focus is again on Kashmir. A land of beauty and culture. Paradise on earth and a major tourist attraction for India. Apart from that, we have the Amarnath temple there, which is an important place for the Hindus. Let us think whether a separate country with free access to two countries is possible? Nopes. It is a security threat to our nation. 'Free Access' is always two ways! If a Kashmiri can enter Pakistan and India freely, it also means the other way round. Any Pakistan wanting to create trouble in India, can easily enter into Kashmir and from Kashmir, into India without a passport. Presently, there is a lot of terror activity in Pak. With a separate Kashmir, it will only be a hub for terrorists to hide. And finally, it will attract the fate of a country like Afghanistan, which has attracted lot of bombing only on suspicion and also because it does not have a reputable global presence at a higher plane. Finally, Kashmir will have UN intervention and become a US military base. And once a military base, always one! So, the military rule still remains! So, where is the 'azadi'? This is one aspect of the future of the sought 'freedom'.

What is the other serious repercussion of a separate Kashmir? The trade, finance and companies running in Kashmir at present, are linked to India and run because of the Indian economy. Indian rupee and economy has stood strong even in times of recession. The same cannot be said for Pakistan. Kashmir is presently surviving on handicrafts like embroidery, carpets and other hand made articles. Most people are involved in Trade. There are Kashmiris who go to various cities in India and sell their handicrafts. A few other types of small business exist too. Another important link with rest of India is the widely networked J&K Bank. Many Kashmiris are employed through it. Will the rest of the branches exist if Kashmir is separated? Also other Indian companies having branches/ outlets in Kashmir will have to close down. Such a move will only make Kashmiris unemployed and more dependent on traditional handicrafts. This will worsen economy there and push people to poverty.
Another aspect - Will other nations, who have been waiting to acquire Kashmir since ages, be quiet ? A separate small Kashmir with no economy or good military base or International standing, will only make it an easy target for any country to attack and acquire it. So the so-called 'Azadi' that the Kashmiris want is only a highly exaggarated dream. And Kashmiris should wake up from their slumber! You are one of us and we love you and want you to be a part of India as always!

We should strive for 'freedom' of our souls instead. What is true freedom or azadi as a good human being ? As a human, we should strive to be free from sins, free from bad practices, free from evil and Satan. Only then can a person totally be called free or azad. In Ramzan, when our endeavour should be to fast, do good deeds, give charity and devote our time to prayer and acquiring religious knowledge, thoughts which lead to destruction only weaken our faith and keep us away from the mercies of this blessed month.

As someone truly said -'It is easier to make babies now than make someone a true Indian and even a true Muslim'.

Proud to be part of a nation, which has churned great heroes and given a lot of contribution to maths and science and even computer technology! Jai Hind.

Desert Rose

Desert Rose with Cactii !!!
Me and my brothers :)
When my youngest brother put our camel ride snaps of Pushkar on his Orkut profile, I told him I'll put this one on my blog with the caption 'Desert Rose with Cactii'. I like the term 'desert rose' and the song with the Arabic tune! It really intrigues me.... With Azeem, I become a total teenager, but sadly, he works/ studies in Pune! 'Look Azeem, I did it ! And no, you're not the rose!' ;-p

Friday, August 13, 2010

Can a Believer follow occult / magic ?

Can a Believer (of God/ Allah and His Scriptures) simultaneously also be a member of an occult group or be amongst those who follow magic ? This is a serious question in today's world where a lot of things are misunderstood or ingrained into immature heads.
Of course, Dan Brown, got me interested in this subject when I watched 'Angels and Demons'. Checking back on history threw light on many untold, unheard secrets, which exist even today. This again is highlighted more clearly in his book, 'The Lost Symbol'. Lot of this magic and occult practices go back to the time of King Solomon and have their source in the 'Temple of Solomon', as it is known. King Solomon was a prophet of God. And was a true believer, but many people during his times took to magic, sorcery and put some blame on King Solomon too.
Even in today's society, the cult (or cults) exist. Many unsuspectingly become members without even knowing the 'secret' of these cults.
An important question here is - Can a Believer also be a member of such cult groups ?
The answer lies in Surah Al Baqarah (Ayat 102) :
And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic and that which was revealed to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut. But the two angels do not teach anyone unless they say, "We are a trial, so do not disbelieve [by practicing magic]." And [yet] they learn from them that by which they cause separation between a man and his wife. But they do not harm anyone through it except by permission of Allah . And the people learn what harms them and does not benefit them. But the Children of Israel certainly knew that whoever purchased the magic would not have in the Hereafter any share. And wretched is that for which they sold themselves, if they only knew.
The detailed translation (tafsir) of above verse/ ayat as below (reference - :
And they follow (wa’ttaba‘ū is a supplement to nabadha, ‘[it] cast away’) what the devils used to relate, during the time of, Solomon’s kingdom, in the way of sorcery: it is said that they [the devils] buried these [books of sorcery] underneath his throne when his kingdom was taken from him; it is also said that they used to listen stealthily and add fabrications to what they heard, and then pass it on to the priests, who would compile it in books; this would be disseminated and rumours spread that the jinn had knowledge of the Unseen. Solomon gathered these books and buried them. When he died, the devils showed people where these books were, and the latter brought them out and found that they contained sorcery, and said, ‘Your kingdom was only thanks to what is in here’; they then took to learning them and rejected the Scriptures of their prophets. In order to demonstrate Solomon’s innocence and in repudiation of the Jews when they said, ‘Look at this Muhammad, he mentions Solomon as one of the prophets, when he was only a sorcerer’, God, exalted, says: Solomon disbelieved not, that is, he did not work magic because he disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching the people sorcery (this sentence is a circumstantial qualifier referring to the person governing the verb kafarū); and, teaching them, that which was revealed to the two angels, that is, the sorcery that they were inspired to [perform] (al-malakayn, ‘the two angels’: a variant reading has al-malikayn, ‘the two kings’) who were, in Babylon — a town in lower Iraq — Hārūt and Mārūt (here the names are standing in for ‘the two angels’, or an explication of the latter). Ibn ‘Abbās said, ‘They were two sorcerers who used to teach [people] magic’; it is also said that they were two angels that had been sent to teach [sorcery] to people as a trial from God. They taught not any man, without them saying, by way of counsel, ‘We are but a temptation, a trial from God for people, so that He may test them when they are taught it: whoever learns it is a disbeliever, but whoever renounces it, he is a believer; do not disbelieve’, by learning it; if this person refused and insisted on learning it, they would teach him.
Allah couldn't have been more clearer than this. So let us all be shepherds.
Who is a shepherd according to Hadeeth?
“Each one of you is a shepherd. And each of you will be asked about your flock. A ruler also is a shepherd and he will be asked about his flock. And every man is a shepherd to his family. And every woman is the custodian of her husband’s house and his children. Thus each one of you is a shepherd and each one will be asked about his flock.” [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Surah Al Baqarah (Verse - The Cow)

Quran begins with a small verse - Surah Al Fatiha (The Opening), praising Allah. This surah is part of the five obligatory prayers (namaaz) of the Muslims. It asks God (Allah) to guide us on the right path, the path of those HE favoured, and not of those who have incurred the anger of Allah or those who have gone astray.

This is followed by a very long verse (surah), called Surah Al Baqarah. Through this verse Allah tells us to recall some of the incidents which happened before Prophet Muhammed (SAS). It re-iterates there is only one God (Allah). And urges everyone, (including people to whom God first revealed the Torah and then the Gospel) that Quran is the final relevation of Allah and is from the same Lord they follow.
The highlights of Surah Al Baqarah :

Let us begin with understanding why this Verse has been named - The Cow. This is only with reference to one incident of Moses, which is mentioned in the Surah.

Though this verse is the longest one and highlights incidents from the lives of many Prophets - from Adam to Moses to Jesus, I am listing some of the important highlights of the Surah, which are universal and beneficial to all.
Who is a Muslim (A Believer) ?
According to Ayat 136 - Say (O Believers), "We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendents (Al Asbat) and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims (in submission) to Him".
Al Asbat =the 12 tribes of Israel descended from Jacob.
About Charity :
Ayat 262 - Those who spend their wealth in the Cause of Allah, and do not follow up their gifts with reminders of their generosity or with injury, their reward is with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
Ayat 274 - Those who spend their wealth (in Allah's Cause) by night and day, in secret and in public, they shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
About Kind Words :
Ayat 263 - Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allah is Rich (Free of all wants) and He is Most-Forbearing.
About taking interest (usury) :
Ayat 275 - Those who eat Riba (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitan (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: "Trading is only like Riba (usury)," whereas Allah has permitted trading and forbidden Riba (usury). So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Riba (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allah (to judge); but whoever returns [to Riba (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire - they will abide therein.
What is Rigteousness ?
Ayat 177 - ''Righteousness is not that you turn your faces towards the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves ; (and who) establishes prayer and gives zakat; (those who) fulfill their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true. And it is those who are the righteous".
Change of Direction of Prayer :
Till the verse was revealed , the Qibla (direction of prayer) was Masjid-e-Aqsa at Jerusalem. This was later changed to Masjid Al Haram (Makkah).
Ayat 142 - The foolish among the people will say, "What has turned them away from their Qibla, which they used to face. Say, "To Allah belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path."
Ayat 144 - We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face towards Al Masjid Al Haram (Mosque of Makkah).
Surely Allah knew about the disturbances that were to take place in Jerusalem at a later stage. That is why the Qibla and centre of worship was changed from Masjid-e-Aqsa to Makkah. If in today's age (when a lot of unrest is going on between the Israelies and Palestine), Masjid-e-Aqsa would have continued to be the direction of Prayer and worship, what a dilemma Muslims around the world would have been in! Surely, Allah is the Al-Knower and knows what is best. Subhallah!
About Patience and Test :
Ayat 155 - And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.
Ayat 156 - Who, when disaster strikes them says, "Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.
Ayat 157 - Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the rightly guided.
This Verse also has the Ayat 255-Al Kursi, which describes the Lord -
"Allah! There is no god but He - the Living, The Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him Nor Sleep. His are all things In the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede In His presence except As he permitteth? He knoweth What (appeareth to His creatures As) Before or After or Behind them. Nor shall they compass Aught of his knowledge Except as He willeth. His throne doth extend Over the heavens And on earth, and He feeleth No fatigue in guarding And preserving them, For He is the Most High. The Supreme (in glory)."
May Allah guide us all.

Zikr -e- Ilahi by A R Rahman

Wonderful Zikr-e- Allah by A R Rahman. It concludes with chant of 99 names of Allah!

Hasbi Rabbi - by Sami Yusuf


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Camel Ride at Pushkar

Our two day trip to Ajmer packed a lot of things in short time. First day, we went to Ajmer Sharif Dargah, then to Sarwar Sharif, which is 75 kms from Ajmer city. It was one n half hour non stop ride on a straight, clear road. Sarwar Sharif houses the dargah of 'Khwaja Fakhruddin Chisty', a companion and 'peer' brother of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty (Khwaja Garib Nawaaz). We halted for an hour and returned back to Ajmer in same time.

Next day we went to Pushkar and covered a few places in Ajmer itself like 'Soniji ki Nasiya' (it has a wonderful huge gold model of the Jain concept of Universe, you need to see it to believe it), Akbar Fort cum Museum and Ana Sagar Lake. I felt that the Museum charges of Rs 5 per person (Indian) and Rs 10 (for foreign tourist) was very less for of the place.

Pushkar houses the Pushkar lake, which is considered sacred to Hindus. It is usually crowded during the Pushkar Fair. We found a lot of partiality towards European tourists there. 40 feet from lake footwear is not allowed. But, we saw 3 pretty European girls venture close to the lake with their footwear on, without objection. When we near the same point where the girls were (away from the marble side from where people actually take a dip), we heard someone shouting from far, 'chappal upar, chappal upar'. But the girls continued to flaut the discipline laid down there.

The small town around the lake, was kinda sweet and peaceful. There were beautiful traditional artifacts. The market mostly caters to the European tourists, hence has many clothes and designs to suit their tastes. Though I was warned that Pushkar can be very expensive, I found it quite reasonable, wherever I checked. The highlight of our Pushkar trip was the 'Camel ride'. Though the camel owners were insisting for Rs 200 for a 2 hour ride, we wanted to have a short ride just for fun and experience, so we bargained at a lesser rate for half hour journey. I was skeptical how the camel ride would be. Then I thought to myself - 'This is the ride of our dear Prophet Muhammed SAS' and suddenly I was keen on sitting. The owner guided us saying that we should keep our body balance backwards as the camel gets up. With those instructions I managed the ride and the bumps while climbing uneven land. I had this feeling that I was way back in time in the land of Arabia and riding through the land there. Thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the small halts the camels used to take to relish the 'greens' on the ground.
The two days at Ajmer-Pushkar were memorable, Alhamdulillah.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lost and.... found ?

I'd gone to Ajmer for a couple of days. We (me and my brothers) went by 9.40 pm Aravalli Express from Borivali on Saturday (31st July). This train reaches Ajmer at 4.40 pm next day. On our return journey, we came by the super-fast Jaipur Bandra Express, which leaves Ajmer at 8.30 pm and is supposed to reach Mumbai at 1.30 pm next day. Of course, the 'supposed to' remained a supposition only as next day early morning, we were told by the chai-wala who got in at some station at 7.30 am, that the train was running an hour late.

As our seats were confirmed at the last moment, they were scattered. I was to occupy the side seat (bottom berth) diagonally opposite to the compartment where my brothers were. They were allotted upper and middle berths opposite to each other in the one compartment. Our bags were pushed beneath the seats as we occupied our positions in the train. This train has two major halts, from where people were to board the trains at later stations at a later time. A major halt was at 1.30 am in the night too!

As majority of the travellers slept and even switched off the lights and drew the privacy curtains, the people coming in later, were clueless where to sleep and were pulling the curtains to check the seat numbers. People were adding more luggage, adjusting their own, while the earlier commuters slept. One passenger was to board our compartment too at 1.30 am, and we saw him in the morning!

Several people got down at Surat at 11.15 am next day, including two (mother-son) from our compartment, where our luggage was neatly tucked beneath the seat. The man who boarded the train at 1.30 am had two big baggages tucked beneath the seats where our luggage was! His family was in some other compartment. After he brushed his teeth, he moved in with his family. When the Surat duo got off with a lot of luggage, which included severals bags beneath one entire seat, a big box between two seats and a few bags here and there, I had a slight doubt where my bag was! I told my brother. He though I was joking, and shrugged it off in true brother-sister tuff style! And anyways, in a First Class AC compartment, one rarely comes across people with malafide intentions. As most people got off, we had also moved into one compartment and sat together. Because of non-stop rain from Rajasthan and dull and dark weather, we were bored major part of the journey.

The train was to reach Borivali at 2.30 pm (4th Aug). At around 1.50 pm , we started assembling our bags and preparing to get off at Borivali. It is then that I realised that my black trolley bag was missing! Again my older brother pacified me saying it might be behind the luggage of the man who got in past mid night! My younger checked behind that too and finally confirmed that the bag was missing ! My heart sank. It had my clothes, and some traditional stuff I'd picked from Ajmer and Pushkar for friends and family. It also had some personal things and cosmetics. Plus it had tucked between a 'janamaaz' (again picked from Ajmer Sharif), a special Arabic to English pocket sized Quran gifted to me by a colleague. Now this is a special possession, as I checked and found out that it is rare and a Saudi Arabia publication, not easily found locally.

I was angry at my brother for not taking my words earlier in the day seriously. We re-checked all the places including the top berths again. Again, same result - 'bag not found'! I called my Dad to inform him. He told us to check the surrounding compartments in the same coach. We did that. No result. In fact, when we started asking people around, some even got defensive. I called my brother-in-law for his advice. He told us to look out for TC or railway police and inform them of the theft first. Meanwhile both my brothers were checking under other seats in the coach. The man of husband-wife-baby family sitting on the side seat of our compartment, told us that only one group had vacated the compartment since morning. The mother-son at Surat. But hearing that I gave up hope that the bag would ever be found. He suggested that we take the PNR number and names of them and later trace their numbers through railway and check if they'd picked my bag by mistake. Knowing how little time one had once back to Mumbai routine life, I had little hope. Also, following up with people of Surat only on a hunch, was useless. My Dad suggested that even if we don't find the bag, it was better to inform authorities at Borivali station of such occurences so that if these are frequent on the route it could be highlighted (and action taken).

In life, I've learnt to mentally calm myself as I've learnt to cope with losses and shattered dreams. Only this time it was material, so I thought, what's the big deal anyways. Only I didn't want the Quran and another religious book inside the bag to be disrespected by anyone. Also, a few things taken for others, meant something to me. Losing 'my' things meant they could be replaced. Thinking of all these things, I prepared to get off at Borivali which was only a few mins away. Even the PNR number of the Surat duo was collected. The TC remarked that such instances were unheard of in upper class compartments. When I reflected back, the Surat duo had also taken their luggage in front of my eyes. I would have noticed my bag being taken away, if at all. But I couldn't recollect anything. I was irrirated at the person, who'd tucked his bags over our luggage and was nicely sitting 4 compartments away with his family. We'd questioned him also in the beginning and checked through their bags, but he said he hadn't moved any bags! In fact, there was a mini chaos in the entire coach as people came to know of the incident. Most of the people were going to get off at Bandra (the final destination of train). I also wondered if in the night as the train halted at places, some outsider might have pulled the bag away, seeing people in deep sleep.

Finally, Borivali came and we prepared to get off. Again as we passed the 'bohra' family (the ones who'd got in at 1.30 am), my older brother asked them to contact us in case anything was found anywhere. Now the man really took offense, thinking we were doubting him. We got off at Borivali station with the remaining baggage and waited. My brother went back in the train to give his mobile number to the passengers going further so that they could contact him in case they found anything. Though no such luck seemed possible, as we had checked most places. After a 10 min halt, the train started to move. And my brother was seen coming back..... with my black bag! It was like magic. Almost as in the movies, when the hero finally emerges through a foggy background..... I asked him how and where he found it. He said as he got in the train to give his contact details, the man from the Bohra family pointed to a bag lying in a corner, almost near the last compartment near the door (4 away from where we were seated!), and asked him, 'Is that bag yours?' When my brother saw it, he realised, it was !

I immediately called my Dad. I told him that my bag was found. His words began to fumble, his voice was trembling and he was almost in tears as I could sense from his voice! I asked him why he was crying. He said, "Your Mom just said that since we were returning from the house of Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, such a thing can never happen! And no sooner did she complete the sentence, you called to say that your bag was found!" This entire realisation, also made me emotional. Such miracles I'd heard of, but experienced for the first time. We said, 'Shukran Allah, Alhamdullilah' and proceeded towards home....

Case of the Missing Cushion

Last Saturday, on my way back home from office, I noticed one entire seat in Ladies First Class compartment empty. I wondered why, as I got in. And when I did, I got the answer. The cushions were missing. The seat had been cut open with a sharp object from the middle and the cushion had been pulled out. The ripped open rexine was then covered over it from both sides. As it was raining outside and some seats were messy with rain water, this seat was totally avoided as water had collected in the folded parts of the rexine. Later on as the crowd started pouring in, someone suggested cleaning the seat and making place to sit. A few ladies, who were already wet, decided to forget hygiene, and preferred to sit through the long journey!

In Mumbai, it is not uncommon to see parts of public infrastructure being robbed / flicked for making fast bucks. Earlier the swanky dustbins, introduced a few years back on Mumbai roads, were robbed. Later on they were anyways discontinued after the train blasts and the Taj Hotel sabotage, for safety reasons. Then, when the ticket punching machines were introduced, we had street urchins to beggers to drug addicts, feeding the machine with papers and cards just to have it punched with 'something'. This something was of course the ticket validating time and station codes. When genuine people punched their tickets, the ink was barely visible, cutting a sorry picture in front of ticket checkers!

One of my previous posts, had pictures and stories of two missing seats from Ladies First Class compartment alongwith with cushion and rexine and the supporting plank below. Long back I've seen a couple of autorickshaw seats with railway logos while travelling in an auto. I wonder whether only the rexine part of the seat was ripped apart for it or the entire seat was flicked to make a luxurious seat for the autorickshaw !

Now as we slowly intent to convert Mumbai into a Shanghai-like city and have the Metro soon to be launched, I wonder how many more such luxury items (for which the working class is heavily taxed at source) will go missing ! God bless Mumbai and its citizens. Especially the train travellers!

What is Righteousness ?

Many people wonder what is righteousness and come up with their own conceptions. But why should we live on conceptions when Quran clearly defines what is expected of a true Muslim ?

We all have become very mean people in this world. We have forgotten the teachings of Quran and Hadeeth. We try to twist religion to suit us. In fact, when you actually start reading the Quran with meaning, every little doubt is cleared with ease. Nothing in the Quran is not followable in today's world. The message is universal and for all times. But we follow what suits us and what we are already following. And we discard which does not suit us. In fact, at all times, our endeavour should be to learn, grow and correct where were wrong till now.

Coming back to point and main question - What is Righteousness ?

According to Surah Al- Baqarah (Verse No 177) :
''Righteousness is not that you turn your faces towards the east or the west, but (true) righteousness is (in) one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask (for help), and for freeing slaves ; (and who) establishes prayer and gives zakat; (those who) fulfill their promise when they promise; and (those who) are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.''

This is word to word from Quran. In this short verse Allah says everything that HE expects from humans in conduct.

May Allah guide us all on the right path.