Month: July 2014

The Book Thief (Book Review) by Markus Zusak

I think the words that would most certainly describe the book for me would be: devastatingly beautiful.

The author has narrated the story of young girl in the times of war in Germany—a child who grows up watching the death of her brother, abandonment from her mother and restarting of another life at Himmel Street, only to be torn apart again by the death of the people who she has loved more than herself.

Despite the story being narrated by Death itself, the novel is never suffocating with the fear of the inevitable—the death, unlike many of the other wartime books that constantly grip the reader with a constant, uneasy suffocating vibe. Rather, it tells a tale of small acts of happiness—of playing accordion, of rolling cigarettes, of playing soccer in muddy Himmel Street, of friendship and book-thievery, of calling Saumensch and Saukerlto your loved ones, of the wagers of getting kiss for a reward, of secrets of hiding Jews and unveiling it to your best friend on the branch of a tree; of growing up and understanding your emotions and the moment of accepting that your best friend may also be your lover.

The Book Thief is a story of veiled, unspoken expressions that Leisel has for her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubberman; her best friend, Rudy Steinner; the secret of Hubberman household, Max; and Ilsa Hermann—her savior and Frau Holtzapfel—who would listen to her reading.

It is a novel that almost had me crying when Leisel saw the corpses of her Papa and Mama. But it turned almost black when Leisel saw Rudy, lying lifeless. Leisel was late, too late to express her feelings for her best friend, her next-door neighbor, her partner-in-crime and her lover.

It’s a book that one would want to read again—at least once, in one’s life time.

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The Almond Tree- Book Review

The book came out in 2012 and my sister won it from the author herself on Goodreads soon after its release. However, I did not know what the novel was about. Later, as soon as I came to know about the subject of the novel, I looked forward to reading it. And I must say, the sincerity and honesty with which the book is written, comes out effortlessly in every page of the writing.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti, (the author) is a Jewish American, who provides a blunt perspective of Israeli atrocities and Palestinian sufferings throughout the book, while at the same time, she presents the other side of the picture where Arabs and Jews can eat, work and celebrate together as human beings. Such a point of view coming from a Jewish author is almost rare these days. With her pen, she has beautifully told a tale of a suffering of a Palestinian family, narrated by Ichmad (Ahmad) Mehmood, a seven year old genius who soon becomes the head of the family and has to make decisions that not change the lives of his family members but his own too, despite the disapprovals of his mother and brother Abbas.

However, it is not just a story of a poor Arab boy trying to help his family. It is a tale of honest love, and compassion, of hard work and devotion for a cause, of fear and hatred and of objects that fuel hatred. It is a book that tells you about the Arab culture, their cuisine and their celebrations, where one cannot help but smile as they celebrate their little ceremonies. It a story of love, that needs no boundaries of race, religion, age or nationality.

History is also a major part of the making of the book. Starting from 1955, the author has genuinely covered all the major events in Arab-Israeli conflict, issue of Jewish settlements (and the indifference of the US and the UN) and the blockade of Gaza.

My favorite part of the book is the heated discussion between Ichmad and his brother Abbas (towards the end of the book) where each one of them is trying to reason as to why he is right and the other, wrong. Ichmad’s point of view is plain, “Think of yourself, Abbas, your family. I can provide you with a nice life, a safe life, one without suffering. A future of your family. Your sons and grandchildren can get the education they deserve.”

But Abbas is right in his own way (and most Palestinians agree), “You’re different from me. I want to do something for my people, but you know as well as I do that Israel wants a Jewish state for Jews only, across all of historic Palestine. And in your country, the Jews determine the Middle Eastern policy. Israel knows it can do whatever it wants because Jews in America will support it.”

Thus, it a battle between choosing better for yourself and choosing a life for the greater good of Palestinians. The odds are high in both circumstances, and one has to see who wins in the end or if, one wins at all.

It is an untold story of Palestine and its dwellers—deserving to be heard—told by a Jewish American, narrated by a Muslim Palestinian, advocating its case for peace between Arabs and Jews, so that the world gets a chance to see a clearer and bigger picture of the conflict and its implications it has had for decades.

 

(April 3, 2014)

Impressions

Seasons change. Days change. And so does the time. Even on the clock. For instance, 5 o’ clock of today is not the same as the 5 o’ clock of yesterday, even though all the hands of the clock are at the same place when it strikes 5 both the times. And 5 o’ clocks of for five centuries, twice a day have never been the same.

And yet people expect to find each other the same way they used to, when they meet two days later, or two years after. A little change, and there is disappointment, like the way possessed us has been snatched from them.

It’s amazing how everyone wants to possess a little of everyone else, even if they hardly know each other. You see them in a party, say Hi and you naturally give them a little fragment of you—something for them to recognize or remember you. The way your eyes caught them, the mood you were in, what you were wearing, the smile you gave and the hand you shook for a second or two—you willed yourself to give them a small part of you. Something that they could carry for the rest of their life if they wanted. It is your unknown gift to them—a gift that you possess and yet not possess at all, for it is yours to be given away to anyone who is there to accept, as soon as it is reflected from you. So, at one time, your impression is out there for as many people to grab it as there are and you have no will to control it as to who to give and who not to. It is almost confusing, but not much, as you can control this gift of yours—you can change the impressions you give to others. But then, those impressions wouldn’t be truly yours if you control them—fake would they be—so they would not be a ‘gift’ as I keep calling them. For, sham is never a gift, it’s a debt, a loan which has to be paid at some time or it would be a bad debt, ruining you forever.

Considering this theory of possession, I cannot imagine how many gifts I have given or received and how many of them are fake, and thus are liabilities (either you give or receive a fake gift, it would matter the same—a merciless debt). And maybe, because of the having similar number of gifts and debts, my financial statement does not have any profits at the end of the day.

Maybe it’s time for me to polish my impressions, neither giving what I currently have—as it may be too mediocre to impress—nor faking any—as a sham is as good as a long term debt only. Polishing it a long term investment: it takes time, but then, it gives a gift to everyone at the receiving end. And what would be better than to give everyone a little of my possessions—small and petite, but big enough for them to keep it in their memory. So that when I die, I may not really have died—my fragments of spirit would be in people, possessing my being in them.

Would that mean I made my horcruxes? Innumerous horcruxes unlike only 7 of Voldemort? Would that mean I would be invincible? Immortal?

 

I think we can try.

 

(April 11, 2014)

Wait (Boston)

It had been an hour.

In the light of the sun, is there anyone? Oh it has begun…

The rain continued. Only it looked more like continuous showers than unpredicted rain. The street had been drenched, the puddles had formed already. Only the water in those puddles was clear as crystal.

His eyes were fixed right in front of his car—on a newly formed puddle of water. The puddle kept receiving more rain. The drops created those ripples that he had always enjoyed watching as a child. The ripple would spread wider and wider, until another drop fell at exactly the same place and the ripple would start all over again. It was like the ticking of time—only time would fly a little slower than the falling drops of rain. This wasn’t like back home.

You don’t know me, you don’t even care, oh yeah, she said…

He turned on the car’s wipers for a hundredth time when the visibility became zero again. He had to wait. He told himself. For the last time, before he left. The decision had already been made. He did not know whether it was only him who had made the decision. Yet he wished, hoped that it could change. Only one sincere request, one wishful phrase was needed to make him stay. After all this time.

Essential yet appealed, carry all your thoughts across
An open field,
When flowers gaze at you… they’re not the only ones who cry
When they see you

He almost heard the footsteps reaching, splashing through the rain, running towards the direction of his car. It was incredible that he could hear, despite the loud melancholy music. He lunged forward, almost opening the door of his car.

But he had been dreaming—in the daylight. It was not his fault. He had hardly slept for the past 48 hours. And in his defence, it was not ‘daylight’ as one would call. 3 pm as it may be, but it was as dark as a 6 o’ clock winter evening in London.

He wished the door of the front yard would open now. It had been too much to take. It could not wait much longer.

But he didn’t dare go towards the door himself. That required killing his ego for a thousandth time. He would not be able to face those eyes if he knocked the door. He would have to kill himself for the rest of his life. But more than that, those eyes would never forgive him for it. He had not forgotten the look in those eyes the last time he had tried to approach.

So he waited.

I think I’ll go to Boston…
I think I’ll start a new life,
I think I’ll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather,
I think I’ll get a lover and fly’m out to Spain…

Why was there so much redundancy in his life? He thought as the song kept playing in the background. It had been on repeat since his two hour long drive from college.

Perhaps it talked about him. It matched so much. And yet it was so different from his own situation. He tried to keep quiet and concentrated on the rhythm of the piano. He needed peace within himself.

I think that I’m just tired
I think I need a new town, to leave this all behind…
I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset,
I hear it’s nice in the Summer, some snow would be nice… oh yeah

The rain continued with occasional thunder. The ripples still formed. The piano kept playing. The puddles were larger than ever. The water seeped through his window and fell on his jacket. Summers had never been so cruel.

 

Until he saw the door of the front yard, at his far right side open.

 

(Feb 26, 2014)

An excerpt from ‘The Night’

It had started getting darker already as we reached there. But there was hassle and excitement nevertheless. We had reached the destination where we had meant to be, even though it had caused a few punctured Jeeps, some lost bags of luggage and some cases of cold. Now that I remember, it wasn’t all gloomy, despite the sickening silence only broken by our vehicles with stupid kids singing sick Bollywood songs and the sounds of unnecessary giggling.

Some of us had landed running, trying to occupy better pieces of land to erect the camps. While the ones, laid back, had automatically taken up the duty of unloading the luggage, the only other job left to take care of.

Putting up the tents was a tough job, the land was rough and unsteady, hands were numb and there was no ounce of light. While I could look up and find perfectly shaped galaxies, they wouldn’t help me locate which of the tent was ours.

Making bonfire was even tougher. With no fuel and no lighters, some broken bark of trees and little match sticks were trying really hard to cooperate but were only adding to misery until cooking oil was used as fuel. Rich resource was depleting somewhere, I could see.

The hustle bustle had completely died down by 8 in the evening. You would think it was already mid-night. If we were in Karachi, we would have laughed till we died at ourselves for dying so early. But this was a grave situation. No one was asleep of course –though I am not entire sure saying ‘of course’- but no one was in their senses, they had been knocked by the cold. As one of my teachers has once said, ‘If you peed here, it would turn into ice’, I think the metaphor suited perfectly for this situation.

 

But somewhere there was life. Because I remember us playing cards in one of the tents- all cuddled up with a phone-torch hanging up at the ceiling of the tent, flickering its light to and fro like a lit-up pendulum, cards laid down on the mat- making little noise (as our faces too were covered), dropping the cards after every other pass as they kept slipping from woollen gloves, only trying to sound normal under the circumstances. And that was the moment –only one of those moments- when I thought ‘This is real life. This is the life when you say YOLO.’

Faith had been restored.  

 

(Oct 27, 2013)

 

Girl with a basketball

It was 2 am,

Of a December night.

One could only hear the sound of her Jordans, or the dribble of her ball, or her deep breaths that would echo in the field which whispered with the trickle of her sweat draining from her body.

Damn, she was athletic, you would say. Or some would call her hot, though she didn’t look at her that way.

Rather, if you ask her, she would tell you of a story when her coach in 2nd grade had told her, ‘You could never play basketball.’ That was the beginning.

Although that was ten years ago but the memory still lives, haunts her every time she fails to shoot straight into the hoop.

She ran, dribbled and shot and if the ball did come back once not making it to hoop after ten good dunks, she started all over again.

She was tall and slender and if you looked at her you would tell her to do ramp-modeling or ask her for cheer leading, but that was just the outlook of it. If you looked at her hands, her hands were dirty and frozen, with blood that had frozen down the cuticles. I had told you it was a cold December night at 2 am and she was wearing a basketball jersey.

And her legs had drenched in sweat for running for hours, and if you ask me, I’d tell you that she’d fall of fatigue right there and then, but the good shots made her come back in the game again, with the same level of energy with which she had started.

Her brown hair pinned tightly in a long braid, were all wet turning into a shade of black; she had wanted them cut short so as not to bother much, but she remembered her mother had told her in 4th grade to keep them long so she could touch them and recognize her. You see, her mother could not see or she would have come to all her games.

More running, more dribbling and then a slam dunk.

‘This is what I want’, she would tell herself. A Euro step, and a double pump, bam! She got it in there.

She could hear their whistles and shouts and her Mom and Dad cheering her name. She knew they were not far enough.

152 shots today.

With a bow at the bleachers, she picked up her hoodie, put it on covering her face and left the outdoor court, whistling and dribbling.

 

(Aug 20, 2013)

Concept of Religious Liberty in Islam

 

Introduction

 

The phrase ‘Religious Liberty’ can be taken as a very loaded terminology because it consists of two words that have always been a target of heated debates, each in its own capacity. The term ‘religion’ over the years has been defined as an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values.[1] Whereas, liberty can be defined as immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority: political independence; freedom of choice or personal freedom from servitude, confinement or oppression. Thus, religious freedom is can be explained as the freedom of an individual (or a society) to manifest or practice religion or worship as one wants to, including the freedom to change the religion, leave one religion or not follow any religion. In order to fully understand the concept of liberty of religion (or religious liberty) it is necessary to understand the term ‘human rights’ because that is where the debate starts from. There are two categories in the non-Western societies; one, for whom the conceptualization of human rights is a product of Western civilization, according to which it has a neo-imperialistic[2] tone and is used to dominate, control and restrict the progress of non-Western societies while for the other, it reflects the concerns of a vast majority of people and thus the fact that it began as a Western construct does not mean that it’s a western idea or concern.[3] These two categories divide the non-Western societies into conservative and liberal schools of thought respectively that would further the debate in the two divergent directions.

The basic premise of human rights is based on the idea that individuals possess rights simply by destiny of being a human. And liberty of religion is seen is one of the important elements of human rights that are addressed in the Abrahamic religions.

Islam and Religious Freedom

The major debate that comes within Islam with respect to religious liberty is regarding the act of apostasy, where a Muslim leaves the religion to convert his/her religion or chooses not to follow any religion. However, the Universal declaration of UN provides a complete liberty on religion stating in Article 18 that:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’

There are varying views of Muslims regarding the Universal Declaration human rights. Those who support almost all of the articles of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are of the view that these articles do not deviate away from Quranic teachings. However, regarding the aspect of religious freedom, they argue in the favour of retaining the pre-modern Islamic legal view which says that the human rights instruments Islam provided fourteen hundred years ago are very comprehensive and provide every detail including the freedom to practice religion stating that ‘each person has the right to freedom of belief and worship according to one’s religion’[4] whose essence comes from the Quranic verse, ‘To you your religion, to me my religion’. But the question of changing one’s religion from Islam is not addressed very clearly in the Quranic documents and therefore remains a sensitive topic for most of the Muslims.

Although the Orthodox school of thought of Muslims agrees upon the freedom of right of religion given by the Quran which is evident from the verse which says, ‘There shall be no coercion in the matters of faith’; it still has reservations with the article 18 of UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Religious Freedom and the Views of Various Muslim Scholars

One of such scholars is Sultan Hussain Tabandeh from Iran who argues that in an Islamic state those religions that follow Abrahamic religions and believe in one true God form the basis of Islamic religion and thus enjoy complete religious freedom in their faiths. However, followers of other religions that do not believe in one God and therefore are contrary to Islam do not have the official right to freedom religion under the Islamic state laws.

Tabandeh also disagrees with the freedom to change one’s religion by saying that this decision might be under force or pressure or could be induced by false motives such as getting divorce etc and therefore it is not appreciated. He also strengthens his argument based on the premise that no man of sense would ever turn down the better in favour of the inferior and therefore anyone who penetrates beneath the surface is bound to recognize Islam’s superiority over other religions. Tabandeh is of Shia sect whereas many Sunni scholars share similar thinking when asked about their points of view regarding the freedom to religion. One of the Sunni scholars from Egypt, Hassan Ahmad Abidin states that ‘belief is a fundamental human right’ and ‘Islam does not force anyone to profess it’, he talks about the time of Prophet (PBUH) when apostasy was prohibited because people would profess Islam only to harm the religion and therefore Islam prohibited apostasy in order to safeguard the Muslim community. He says that Muslim community is strong today and therefore does not need such protection and therefore there is no need to retain the ruling. This argument of Abidin looks like taking a very secular point of view at the face of it. However, he further goes on to elaborate that question on which religion should an apostate convert to and says that if he is going to convert to a better religion than Islam, then Islam should not punish the apostate i.e. if an apostate is going to convert to a religion that guarantees better rights for him and his community than Islam, then no one would support Islamic ruling of punishing the apostate. However, in reality, Islam is the best and the perfect religion which gave rights to human beings that had never even been thought of before. And therefore, he indirectly indicates towards the Islamic ruling of punishment.

The right to freedom of choosing religion has hence been given by Islam according to the majority of Muslim scholars however the right to apostasy is not. The classical Muslims jurists argue on the premise that Islam is one true religion and hence turning away from such religion which is perfect and addresses all the problems and rights of human beings cannot be tolerated.

The Cairo Declaration of Human rights in Islam as well as the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights formed by the Islamic Council of Europe also deal with the aspect of freedom of religion however they do not address the problem of apostasy as it has been addressed in the UDHR of 1948. Both the charters follow a more conventional approach to religious freedom which could rather be taken as ‘limited’ freedom to religion. For example, the article 10 of Cairo declaration on Human Rights states that:

‘Islam is a religion of unspoiled nature. It prohibits any form of compulsion on Man or the exploitation of his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or atheism.’

Although this article allows the freedom from compulsion on any religion, it suggests that conversion is from Islam to any other religion is prohibited as it could be used for the exploiting the basic rights of a human being.

In case of further looking at the liberty to profess religion, it is important to look at the point of view of Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina, born in Tunisia and is from Indian origin, he teaches subjects associated with Islam at the University of Virginia. According to him, there is a fundamental problem with interpreting the word ‘Irtidad’ as apostasy, since the term ‘Irtidad’ meaning ‘turning away’ was originally used for the battles that were fought against those Muslims who would refuse to pay taxes to the Islamic state after the demise of Prophet (PBHU). He compares this with the Christian concept of apostasy where it means ‘historically an abandoning of exclusive and institutionalized religion for another.’[5] He agrees that question of apostasy in Islam is very complex, and says that the treatment of that offence in the light of Quran is beyond human jurisdiction. As Quran says:

‘And, whosoever turns (yartadid) from his religion, and dies disbelieving – their works have failed in this world and the next; those are the inhabitants of the Fire; therein they shall dwell forever.’ (K. 2:217)

This verse according to Sachedina makes it clear that if a person turns away from his religion (Islam), he is punishable by Allah only and although it is a serious offence, its punishment depends upon the civil interpretation of the act by the political and judicial authority of the Islamic state.

Furthermore, Abdulaziz Sachedina holds the Muslim political authority solely responsible for determining the act of turning away from Muslim public order (Ridda) by proposing that in the absence of an ‘ecclesiastical body’, it is the responsibility of the state authority to determine the criminality of ‘Ridda’ and take appropriate action to deal with it. Therefore, basically the act of apostasy in Islam has been shaped by the civil considerations which have shown a harsh reaction towards the act of apostasy, without taking into account the Quranic doctrine of freedom religion which emphasizes that no human agency can confer an individual’s spiritual destiny. As long as apostasy remains a private matter and does not harm the society at large, there is no particular punishment in the Quran. Instead, when it defies sanctity and intrudes the rights of Muslims, then it is treated as a physical belligerence towards the faith. When such conditions prevail, it is no mere apostasy, rather it is treated as an act of subversion that may cause chaos and thus may threaten the unity of Islamic society. Sachedina agrees that under such circumstances, apostasy is punishable by the severest penalties, a violent rebellion against God, the Prophet and the whole Islamic community.

While Abdulaziz Sachedina reflects a softer picture of Islam by depicting his views about apostasy, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a highly influential Islamic cleric of Egyptian origin depicts a completely opposite view regarding the treatment of apostates. Also the spiritual and intellectual leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi is of opinion that Islam’s diligent use of executing apostates is one of the reasons that ensured Islam’s survival since the 15th century, saying, “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today.” He gave this Fatwa on Al-Jazeera television on the show Life and Shariah which has an estimated audience of 60 million. His work, “Crime of Apostasy and Its Punishment in The Light of The Quran and Sunnah,” exclusively deals with the issue of apostasy. According to Qaradawi, Islamic faith rests on two portions of testimony, faith in the oneness of God and the finality of Prophet-hood which ends at Muhammad (PBUH) with universal message which renewed all of the previous religions, and thus the second portion of the testimony compliments the first and similarly the denial of second would be the denial of first. And therefore, the denial of any two of the portions of the testimony would be considered apostasy which according to Qaradawi is a serious crime and should be punished severely. He further goes on to explain how is threatening for Islam and Muslims as it is not only a change of mind of apostates but it also threatens the faith of other Muslims by their conspiracies.

Building his case of the serious threat that apostasy is, he proposes it to be resisted in every form possible. As prescribed by four out of eight schools of Muslim thought, the traditional punishment for apostasy is death. He quotes various sayings of the Prophet to support the verdict of death as punishment for apostates. One of the Hadith as narrated by Ibn Abbas says:

‘Whosoever changed his faith, you should kill him.’

Also Ibn Masud narrates another Hadith of Prophet:

‘The blood of Muslims, who testify that there is no god but Allah and that I am the messenger of Allah, is not lawful (to be killed) except for one of the three reasons: revenge for killing a soul, a mature person committing adultery, and one who has abandoned his faith.’

Considering his strong position as being one of the most influential Sunni Muslim clerics in the world and the author of more than 100 books on Islam, his fatwa automatically carries weight. However, it is upon the discretion of Muslims as well the Islamic states as to how they approach the problem of apostasy.

Kemal. A Faruqi, a Pakistani, Islamist and Modernist who articulates a position that is embedded deeply in Islam while at the same time aligning that position that is compatible with post-enlightenment modernity. His analysis of the law against apostasy says that there should be no punishment for religious apostasy since the tradition of this punishment was actually focusing on political treason, given the fact that it was protecting the first Islamic state which had a minority of Muslims and thus could not afford losing Muslims (basically hypocrites) who were converting to other religions in order to harm Islam.     Mark Gould,[6] who has analysed Faruqi’s work, however says that this tradition was an error and it goes against the fundamental right of one’s freedom to choose any religion and Islam’s point of view of ‘there would be no coercion in religion.

 Apostasy, as translated by various Muslim Countries

Although most of the Muslim states recognize the religious liberty of their people in terms of professing and practising their religions, however there have been strict laws in place when it comes to the liberty to leave Islam for any other religion or atheism. For example, in Saudi Arabia, public apostasy is a serious crime under Saudi law and is punishable by death. Similar is the case with Sudan that declares death penalty for apostasy which was introduced in 1983. Yeman also applies the same law for apostates. However, in Malaysia, the topic is controversial and although highly prohibited, it does not punish the apostates. Same is the case with Iran and Oman. However, on the other end is Morocco where the conversion of Muslim to another religion may pass unpunished and is not a crime under civil codes.

Pakistan maintains a strict position in terms of religious freedom and has formed a ‘Blasphemy law’ (in 1986 under Zia’s regime) which also covers the aspect of apostasy.

Conclusion

Looking at the various points of view of various scholars all around the world as well as the laws that have been established by various Islamic states in order to address religious liberty, it is clear that different schools of thought use different approaches to tackle the question of freedom to exercise religion. Throughout the analysis, it has been observed that Islam allows no coercion in terms of converting people to any religion including Islam; however, the freedom to change religion to a Muslim to convert into another religion has not been clear. In addition, there is also a heated debate as to whether an apostate has to be punished or not, and if yes, under whose jurisdiction does this responsibility fall into. While most of the states that practice capital punishment for the act of apostasy, the question still remains: Are these Muslim states practising Shariah law to such an extent in the other spheres of life as well that such a serious punishment be justified on their behalf rather than resting their case under the jurisdiction of God?

Bibliography:

  • Abdulaziz Sachedina, ‘Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism’ (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 96-101.
  • Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, ‘Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam’. 2004
  • Beckwith, Grant Garrard , ‘Uzbekistan: Islam, Communism, and Religious Liberty–An Appraisal of Uzbekistan’s 1998 Law ‘On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’’. Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, 2000, Issue 3
  • David Little and John Kelsay, “Freedom of Conscience and Religion in the Qur’an,” in Human Rights and the Conflict of Cultures: Western and Islamic Perspectives on Religious Liberty’. (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 53-90.
  • Frank Crimi, ‘Al Jazeera Star: Death to Apostates’, Feb 20, 2013
  •   Paola Bernardini, ‘Religious Liberty, A common Challenge for Catholic Muslim Dialogue.’ 2012

 

[1] Definition taken from Wikipedia. Several definitions from various dictionaries were taken into consideration while looking for one fine definition and the one written above integrated all the definitions of ‘religion’.

[2] Dominance of some nations over others by means of unequal conditions of economic exchange.

[3] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Apostasy, Religion and Islam; 2004

[4] Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed, Freedom of Apostasy, Religion and Islam; 2004

[5] ‘Apostasy’ in ‘The Encyclopedia of Religion’, Vol. 1, p. 353ff. and fn. 20.

[6] Author of Kemal. A Faruqi’s Reconstruction of Islam(ic Law): A modernist Position in Islam(ic Jurisprudence).

Music is?

Music is sweet. It lets you listen to magic in the chirpings of birds, that would otherwise have been rhyme-less tweets.

Music is painful. It makes you go back to those old moments when that music played and the moment took place.

No matter how happy the moment was, it makes you cry because it happened and cannot be brought back.
And it would make you cry for the excruciating moments that took place when that music played.

And well, you can’t do anything about it.

If only, you could erase those memories?

And now, whenever, wherever, that music would play, it would bring back all those memories whether they brought joy or made you cry, they would send you back in the sands of time.

I said music was painful.

Because it brings the state of ecstasy, any level lower than that-a state understated and it would pierce your heart. Because it’s easier to glide a step further, but the fall is what is most agonizing.

 

You say music is inspiring.

Yes, it’s one of the perceptions. A way of looking at things.

But I’d rather say it’s a clue to find what you might have lost. Or a guide to help you get to destiny.

Not an end in itself but a means to an end.

I found nature more appalling-with music. Music became a complimentary element, adding tunes to the moods of life, making me appreciate the symphony that it made.
Thus music wasn’t a destiny, nor was nature, rather it established a staircase to the road towards an initially unknown end that finally became the destiny.

In the tunes of nature, the rhythm of the drops of rain, the late night chirping sounds of crickets, the harp that was played somewhere far away that made me question the existence of such magic; I found something I had lost while I wandered.

I found Him.
I found God.

They tell me I might be committing a huge mistake. Something that is prohibited can’t help you find your destiny.

I feel guilty, and so even though I could have been happy, my heart is never content.

I’d told you, music was painful.

 

Epilogue–

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ―Bob Marley

How you might want to spend your four years at college

My four years at college are about to end. There are so many things I did, and many things that I should’ve done and so many of them, I’d still want to do while some time still remains. So here’s how you can make the best of four years of your college.

So while you go to college to study, remember to live your life while you study. Go crazy, do experiments, break rules, make friends and take a 360 degree turn, trust me, you’ll love the feeling of it.

And live in dorm, or hostel, whatever you call it. Life would be tougher that way, but interesting. So next time, when you eat from mess, you’ll know how mom’s cooking feels when you get back home. Sharing a roommate would tell you the reality of life (trust me on this, realities would unveil). Sharing is not easy, but you would get used to it for the life later. So decorate your room for the 4 good years, make collages, take pictures, celebrate mid-night birthdays, throw some parties and crash some weddings, order at mid-night, try to cook new stuff and DO NOT worry.

Go and break some rules. Surpass curfew timings, write petitions against what your conscience does not agree to, disagree and discuss, disagree and persuade, disagree and convince. Protest against the wrongs and break the rules again if you have to make things right. But don’t get caught!

 

And don’t worry if you’re alone when you initiate, trust me, the word spreads like fire here and people would join you. Make a good move: even if people don’t recognize it today, at least you have a good story to narrate it to your kids.

While you’re at it, expand your humanitarian side. Appreciate art. Listen to all genres of music, watch theatres  visit museums and art galleries and most of all, read books. Save one fifth of your pocket money for books, visit book stores, join book clubs, read about books and discuss books with people. Don’t leave your room without carrying a book in your bag, for what books tell you, even your best friend hides sometimes.

Develop a literate personality. Read on religion, art, science and politics. Participate in discussions and debates; attend seminars and conferences, for they are a treasure of college life. And don’t forget to disagree -It reflects that you have a point of view that you fear to share.

And yes, be adventurous! Make spontaneous plans. Call friends and let them know about your program. It doesn’t matter where you want to go, if you’re passionate, the road will take you there somehow.

So wander off. Pack a bag, take a camera and follow the light. Use all modes of transportation: ride a cycle, take a rickshaw, travel in bus and experience a Ching Chi. Explore places that were lost in time and tell the world about it. This habit of travelling would never let you lose yourself even if people think you’re lost.

But don’t fear, for fear takes away the thrill. So ride on the most dangerous rides you ever felt have been invented, lie in the middle of the road at night, bathe in the 3 am rain of a January night, climb on the roof of a stair-less building, spend your summer break in the hottest of lands and winter in the coldest of valleys. You’d know the beauty of life, the splendour of nature, and who knows you might even find God!

And about those college events, participate and play an active role. Not for the sake of those I-am-in-every-event-just-so-you-know photos but to put something worthwhile in your resume. Be a Manager, Director or whatsoever they offer, but make sure no one is taking any advantage out of your work. And don’t forget to resign publicly when they do. They should know who they’re messing with!

Be a fun-sport. Go to social events, enjoy parties, socialize, have a crush or two (or many) and have the time of your life. Play sports. Join basketball team or football, hockey or cricket team, but keep playing. It’ll keep you in the mood of spirit. Go for long walks early in the morning or late at night. Manage a company of a friend if you can sometimes, because that would give you an entirely different perspective of what you usually experience alone. And Oh, don’t forget to play foosball. It’s a great game, takes all your miseries away- a bad paper, a missed class, an absent mark, a missed chance or maybe a broken heart, foosball is the solution.

For the purpose of coming here, take challenging courses and witty teachers, go to library and come back at 12 am. Take notes, talk to teachers and don’t forget to group-study. It’s miraculous. Not only in terms of learning, but trust me, it does wonders. The discussions that follow the group studies never get old to catch up to. Be a nerd during exams. You wouldn’t want to care what clothes you’re wearing during your exams because nobody does. I’ve seen people who forget to wash their face and brush their teeth, or maybe they don’t get time for it because they were doing some early morning rote learning. As long as you get a decent grade, that’s all what matters.

And while we’re talking about studies, beware of the mother of all diseases: Procrastination. Not being obstinate about it, but everyone does: an assignment submission, a report deadline, case compliance or daily readings, I know you would procrastinate. So keep yourself ready for pulling out some nighters. Stock on some caffeine; get your tools ready to stay awake all night during the last part of the semester and meet your deadlines.

And well, get decent grades because it sucks to have a bad GPA. You might say that it doesn’t bother you or you’ll get a job nevertheless, but dude, it shows on your resume for the rest of your life. So while you enjoy the best four years of life, never get the three letters out of your mind. But wait, don’t panic! Also, please don’t drop. (My heart dies a little every time I hear someone drop out of college).

 

(March 18, 2013) 

 

 

There are moments when time stops and you cannot think beyond that moment. It’s very Paulo Coelhoic, unreal, and philosophic to imagine, but there are times when you stop and ask, why so much pain and suffering?

Death looks so much easier. But then when is it that you live for yourself? It’s always about other people.

 

 

(March 4, 2013)