Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.

The one and only free public forum for Bohras. The focus of this forum is the reform movement, the Dawoodi Bohra faith and, of course, the corrupt priesthood. But the discussion is in no way restricted to the Bohras alone.
Rabeha Solar
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by Rabeha Solar » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:32 pm

Ali asger is better with politics rather then islamic reforms.

he shud stick with politics, if dont want trouble for himself.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by anajmi » Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:42 pm

And what trouble will you bent fools cause for him?

Rabeha Solar
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by Rabeha Solar » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:05 pm

anajmi wrote:And what trouble will you bent fools cause for him?
miya bhai can cause him trouble, coz he is commenting on miya bhai not on bohras.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by anajmi » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:32 pm

So you want him to be like your Dai who runs when in trouble and then apologizes in front of national TV?

Rabeha Solar
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by Rabeha Solar » Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:43 pm

anajmi wrote:So you want him to be like your Dai who runs when in trouble and then apologizes in front of national TV?
and same miya bhai made huzur(tus) vice chancellor of India's most reputed islamic uni (ali garh). and no wonder miya bhai are always ready to kiss huzur(tus) feet.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by mnoorani » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:32 am

You are so right Rabeha solar.Mola will respect whoever he wants.It was Mola's Ehsaan He donated the largest amount ever in the history of AliGarh University and so the miya bhais realised the noor of Mola and made him the VC. This is the reason that our Mola did not allow the saifee technical to be built as then it would be a competitoon to Aligarh University and all the miya bhai students would have degrees of no value.
It was the same miya bhai,to whom Mola apologised on Nationa TV so that they be saved from lanats.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by progticide » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:05 am

MNoorani a.k.a. Badrijanab a.k.a Doctor a.k.a. Mubarak,

Aapke bhaiyyon ne aapko phir dhokha de diya he.

Enough of your circus act. Now go back to the cage. Shooooo.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by mnoorani » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:15 pm

Jab Mere Mola ,apne bhai mazoon ko bhari mehfil me zaleel kar sakte hai to yeh unki sunnat ban gayee hia.App ko kya?

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Wed Jul 11, 2012 7:44 pm

Rabeha Solar wrote:Ali asger is better with politics rather then islamic reforms.

he shud stick with politics, if dont want trouble for himself.
The Dai is better sitting in the extravagant Saifee Mahal premises rather then getting himself paraded in a palkhi.

He Should stick with Deeni work rather then indulge in ziafats/hadiyats, if dont want trouble for himself in the afterlife !!

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:13 pm

Indian Islamic Scholar Examines the Islamic Clergy's Grip on Indian Muslims

In a recent interview, leading Indian Islamic reformer and author Asghar Ali Engineer answered a range of questions about Islamic clerics' hold on the mindset of Indian Muslims and the reasons behind the community's continuing economic and educational backwardness.

Engineer, author of dozens of books on Islamic reform and head of the Mumbai-based Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, argued that Islamic organizations and clerics in India continue to pose a major hurdle to the progressive development of the community. He also noted that a large number of Indian Muslims are earning good money in Gulf countries but along with it they also bring back an orthodox version of Islam from that region.

"[Indian] Urdu Newspapers Are Also Deeply Complicit… With the Maulvis [Clerics], Routinely Projecting Them As the Leaders of the Community – And By So Doing, Reinforcing Muslim Backwardness"

"The Leading Muslim Center for Modern Education in All of India, the Aligarh Muslim University… Is In the Grip Of the Most Conservative Elements, Such As the Tablighi Jamaat and the Jamaat-e Islami"

"The Muslim Middle Class Will Certainly Have to Play a More Important Role in Community Affairs – Which Can Happen Only If the Maulvis [Clerics] are Sidelined"

'[A] Major Hurdle to Promoting Progressive Islamic Thinking is the Work Culture of Most Muslim Institutions, Which Does Not Tolerate Dissent and Critical Thinking"

"Muslim-Run Modern Educational Institutions… Make Religious Education Compulsory To Control the Students' Minds – And Teach It In a Conservative, Sometimes Very Obscurantist, Manner" ... lamic.html

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Sat Aug 11, 2012 4:31 pm

Asghar Ali Engineer

Recently The Legal Affairs Committee of the Majles, the Iranian Parliament, has told the press that they regard the law that prohibits the girls below the age of 10 from being married off as ‘un-Islamic and illegal.’ Mr. Mr. Mohammad Ali Isfehani, the spokesperson for Majles said “As some people may not comply with our current Islamic system the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. They contradict and challenge the Islamic Shari’ah law.’

Recently in Iran more than 75 female children under 10 were forced to marry much older men. A discussion by conservative legislators is taking place on Khabar Online news website. It is indeed very strange how child marriage can be Islamic in any sense of the word? How can it be un-Islamic not to permit child marriage at the immature age of 8 years? Where Iran is going? This is probably more cultural than religious. After all any law bears footprints of the culture and cannot completely get rid of cultural influences. While Islamic laws are very progressive and transcendent, cultures in Islamic countries are still feudal or semi feudal.

Also, there has been debate among the ulama, as pointed out by Muhammad Isfehani, the spokesperson for the Majles too, about the age of puberty. Many of these Ulama think that girls attain age of puberty by or before age of 10 while others think by the age of 15. But for most of them age of 10 is the age of puberty.

This to happen in Iran where women’s participation in the revolution was so genuine and enthusiastic that they voluntarily took to wearing chador as a symbol of their Islamic identity and a New York Times correspondent seeing a sea of women in black chador in 1979 wrote "I wonder how daughters of those mothers who had caste off their chador could take to chador again". He perhaps did not realize that these daughters were wearing chador as a symbol of their Islamic identity and show their solidarity with leaders of Islamic revolution.

However, their experience right from the beginning was not very pleasant and their expectations of liberation of women were not fulfilled. Gradually the Islamic regime began to tighten its grip over women’s liberty, especially after the death of Imam Khomeini who was a great visionary and believed in using persuasion rather than coercion. The revolutionary leadership began to quarrel for power among themselves, in the post-Khomeini period and unfortunately conservatives won.

And, it is important to note, that in Islamic world whenever conservatives win, first to be affected are Muslim women. Recently in Libya when Gaddafi’s supporters were defeated and his opponents – conservative Muslims – won the first declaration was that now onwards polygamy will be legal as if their revolution was all about polygamy. In Iran too women came to be under increasing control of conservative clergy. A few years ago a woman who was married with children was accused of adultery and was sentenced to death by stoning though human rights activists maintained adultery charges were not proved. And no punishment for her adulterous partner, Men generally goes scot free in such cases.

Coming back to the case of child marriage in Islam, there is nothing Islamic about it, if anything it is un-Islamic. It is well known that marriage is a contract in Islam and Qur’an calls it ‘strong covenant’ (mithaqan ghaliza) (4:21). It does not require lot of argument to conclude that such a covenant cannot be entered into by children of the age of 8 years old that too strong contract. A child does not even understand what covenant is.

Also, it is also well-known that both parties i.e. husband and wife can stipulate conditions without fulfilling which marriage will not be valid. Can a child stipulate conditions? Marriage is a lifelong partnership as Qur’an clearly describes it ‘strong covenant’ and a child cannot be expected to have experience or intellectual ability to choose his/her life partner. Thus child marriage can in no case be Qur’anic or Islamic.

What is then origin of child marriage in Islam? It is simply cultural and child marriage was not uncommon among Arabs. The jurists can hardly escape the influence of their culture and cultural ethos. Though Qur’an did not permit it yet they allowed it because it was widely prevalent around them. They also tried to find justification for it in Prophet’s (PBUH) sunnah. Most of the Muslims believe that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) married Hazrat A’ishah when she was simply seven years of age and consummated marriage when she was 9.

Firstly this hadith appears about three hundred years after the death of Prophet (PBUH) and indepth researches by many scholars clearly show that her age at the time of marriage was not less than 17 or 18 and at the time of consummation of marriage about nineteen or twenty years. Here there is no occasion to discuss this matter in depth but I have seen these researches and there are very good reasons to believe these researchers. How a prophet, who was role model for whole world and who brought about much revolutionary changes, particularly in the status of women, can himself marry a girl of 7 or eight years? It just defies ones common sense.

Since marriage is a contract in Islam, Imam Abu Hanifa, while allowing child marriage for sociological, rather than religious or Qur’anic reasons, had also to make provision for what is called option of puberty (khiyar al-bulugh) i.e. the girl, on achieving puberty or the age of proper understanding, could accept or reject the marriage and her marriage guardian (usually father) also cannot force her to accept the marriage if she is unwilling. Imam Abu Hanifa had to make this provision because he knew her marriage guardian is not an absolute authority to give her away in the marriage as a child.
In fact religion should prevail over culture and not culture over religion. That is why most of the Islamic countries have now prescribed 18 years as an age of marriage and have made child marriage as illegal. Thus Iranian clergy would be better advised not to make child marriage as legal and tenable. I am sure the women organizations of Iran would surely resist this measure on the part of Government of Iran, if at all it takes this regressive measure defying the Qur’anic concept of marriage as a strong covenant.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by porus » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:44 pm

Inside story of Syedna Burhanuddin.

Video featuring Dr. Asgharali Engineer ... ure=relmfu

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:53 pm

Outbreak of Violence in Mumbai – Assam and Burma Killing Of Muslims
By Asghar Ali Engineer

The way things were happening for last few weeks it was not surprising that violence on such scale took place. It was, as if, in store, large scale propaganda was going on that Muslims are being killed all over the world. There is conspiracy to kill Muslims everywhere and on Bodo-Muslim clashes and about Rohingiyah Muslims in Burma prayers were being organized in every mosque and SMSs were circulating about it. Urdu papers were carrying articles saying there is world-wide conspiracy to kill Muslims. Articles simply appealing to emotions, not to reason.

I have not seen any sober and analytical article in the Urdu press in Mumbai. The Muslim leadership was creating a psychology of victimhood in the minds of Muslims and pent up emotions were waiting to explode with some triggering event. The photographs about killing of Muslims in Burma had greatly disturbed the Muslim youth. All photographs, I must say, were not authentic but they circulated on large scale and ignited emotions.

Muslim leadership which hardly does anything for the real welfare of the community always has an eye on such sensitive situations and wants to grab the opportunity to enhance their own interests. Also, mosques were used to announce about rally giving it further religious colour. For those who go to mosques to pray, in large numbers, particularly in the holy month of Ramadan, are gullible and the moment religious colour is given to an issue they become extra-sensitive.

These religious leaders and also some non-religious leaders of Muslims neither fully understand the problem what is the conflict about nor they care to know the facts what is going on the ground. They simply make it a case of conspiracy against Muslims. In Azad Maidan too where rally was organized despite knowing that huge crowd is there with all sorts of people, including anti-social elements, the speakers made highly emotional speeches especially attacking media for not covering killing of Muslims in Burma. Then what more do you want to incite emotions for anything to happen.

It was not only question of managing the crowd; it was utterly irresponsible act on the part of leadership of the rally. If they had expected only 1500 persons to come and 50,000 turned up the leaders should have clearly understood that situation can get out of control any time as they were simply dealing with raw emotions. A wise leadership would not have allowed highly emotional speeches in the midst of such huge crowd and fuel emotions further.

It is also not correct to say that they expected only 1500 people to turn up as they were making announcements inside the mosque on Friday and also posters were put up. It means they aimed higher and made efforts to mobilize large number of people and succeeded in it. Ideal thing would have been to have a dharna by about 1000-1500 seriously interested people for a day long dharna and then they could have met Chief Minister or Home Minister. There was no need at all for such a huge rally.

And if at all such a huge rally was organized why such emotional speeches were made? They should have understood the sensitivity of the problem. But then if they did, how can they be Muslims leadership without arousing religious sentiments? In fact as far as Assam is concerned hardly any one of those who actively organized the rally knew anything about the nature of conflict except that Muslims were killed.

What was the history of Bodo-Muslim conflict in Assam? Bodos are not killing Muslims because of their Muslimness but the fundamental problem is of land. Bodos are in conflict with other communities also like Adibashis, Santhals and others and they have come in conflict with all these communities. Though it is not true that Bangla Deshis are migrating in large numbers (this is largely the Sangh Parivar propaganda) by unfortunately Bodos, in order to fulfill their ambition of Bodo-land and for evicting Bengali Muslims and other ethnic communities from the 4 districts of Bodo Territorial Council, are using this propaganda for their own purposes. One can of course blame the Congress Government for giving Bodos BTC to buy peace with militant Bodo outfits. They should not have without taking other ethnic communities in confidence and giving them proper representation. We have dealt with this issue on our last article on Bodo-Muslim riots in Kokrajhar and other districts.

As for Rohingiyah Muslims it is the Military Government of Myanmar which is to be blamed. I visited Rangoon after the recent riots and interviewed large number of Rohingya Muslims. No such problem existed until 1981. They were treated as regular citizens and had voting rights. It was the Military Government of Myanmar which suddenly and without any proper reason, took away their papers from them and tried to expel them from Rakhine district of Western Myanmar.

It treats these Muslims as foreigners and wants Bangla Desh to settle them in its territory which is totally unjust. Rohingya Muslims have been in that province for centuries and there is no case to describe them as outsiders. Most of them had settled there with Muslim rule. But the Military Government of Myanmar has been killing Burmese of other provinces too and killed several Buddhist monks also during pro-democracy demonstrations.

It is true that some Buddhist monks have issued pamphlets against Rakhine Muslims to show solidarity with their co-religionists which they should not have done. But then like others Buddhists monks also are getting politicized as their pro-democracy demonstration also shows. But in both cases (i.e. Assam and Rohingya Muslims) it is not part of any worldwide conspiracy to kill Muslims as it is being propagated.

In Mumbai violence media came under attack for no reason except that provocative speeches were made against media. It was quite ill-advise. A wise leadership would rather try to win over media rather than antagonize it this way. Also, one cannot tar the media with the same brush. Both print and electronic media has different ideological and commercial approaches. A blatant attack is totally wrong and even if a section of media is ideologically against or indifferent to Muslim problems, solution does not lie in attacking its journalists, or OB vans. It is at best foolish.

Urdu papers often write that let Ulama-kiram (Honourable Ulama) guide the Muslim ummah and give it a lead. How can one expect Ulama who hardly have knowledge of the modern world and for whom provoking religious sentiments is part of their orientation, can provide leadership. It is not to say that all Ulama are like this but a large number of Ulama – and this has been proved repeatedly in political matters - behave either in opportunistic or emotional way.

And let us remember all this happened in the holy month of Ramadan. The ulama never tire of telling us that this month of fasting so that we become more patient and able to control our anger and we must devote us entirely to ‘ibadat i.e. acts of worship, compassion and charity. What was then hurry to take out this rally in this holy month when no fresh incidents were taking place. The Assam situation had come under control and what was urgently needed was to collect money, clothes, shoes and medicines for those in relief camps in those four districts.

In this holy month of charity they could have concentrated on collecting relief for those unfortunate 4 million people who are rotting in relief camps in most unspeakable conditions. Many Bodos also have been killed in retaliatory actions and quite a few Bodos are also living in these relief camps in as bad a condition as Bengali speaking Muslims. As a good and compassionate Muslims, in this month of charity they should adopt inclusive approach and collect relief for Bodos too. This is what the Holy Qur’an also requires of them.

If instead of making it a conspiracy against Muslims, if they had condemned killing of Bodos too and prayed for all it would not have acquired such emotional proportions. Also the rally also should not have been exclusively a Muslim rally but a rally with the support of all sections of Indian society i.e. Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and all others – besides Muslims – to strengthen our secular character. It was not only exclusively Muslim but organized by Raza Academy – representing Barelvi Muslims. What a sectarian approach. Deobandis were to organize separately a day after but was postponed because of violent turn which the rally on Saturday took.

If we have to be against violence and it should be our serious commitment – we have to be more and more inclusive. Whenever sectarian approach is adopted, it becomes easier to resort to violence and if it is inclusive of all sections it is not only more democratic but also likely to be more non-violent. Sectarian approach also results in competitive approach and inclusive approach is also cooperative approach.

The police is now saying the violence was pre-planned which may result in harassment of many Muslim youth. It is shameful that some rallyists molested women constables and seized revolvers from them. The police may take revenge for this. Let us hope police does not. But one must say the police had shown lot of restraint and Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik himself had come and spoken from the platform appealing Muslims to show restraint in this holy month of Ramadan.

Let us hope wiser counsel will prevail and peace would not be disturbed.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:22 pm


Asghar Ali Engineer

A Coptic American, extreme right winger and Islam hater made an anti-Islam film and put it on internet. Its reaction was very violent in the Muslim world beginning with Libya wherein an American ambassador Christopher Steve along with four other consulate staff was killed in violent demonstration. It was followed by violent demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen, and other places. Saudi Arabia which normally remains officially silent also had to strongly protest on Government level.

Of course some countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and others remained comparatively peaceful though signs of unrest are there in these countries too. In other words the countries covered by Arab Spring were mostly affected. And on this occasion a private agency in Iran once again renewed the prize offer (with increased amount of 3.3 million dollar) on Rushdie’s head.

Rushdie of course reacted characteristically by saying that blasphemy should be one’s right. It is difficult to say what shape this renewed offer on Rushdie’s head will take. It may remain only a formal announcement. It seems difficult that it would become a raging controversy as it did when Ayatollah Khomeini had declared price on Rushdie’s head. Politically it was very different context.

Ayatollah Khomeini then was a great hero for the Muslim youth as he had declared America a great Satan (Shaytan-e-buzurg) and America all over the Muslim world then was seen as an evil incarnate who had tried to stop an Islamic revolution and Rushdie was seen as a western agent who had, in the name of human rights, insulted the Prophet of Islam
thus trying to weaken Islamic revolution. One cannot expect that kind of reaction from the Muslim youth anymore.

But as for the anti-Islamic film Innocent Muslims there is a different political context (i.e. the Arab Spring), no less significant than Islamic revolution of Iran. The only difference is that Iranian revolution was actively opposed by America whereas Arab Spring was seen as favourable by American rulers under the pretext of bringing in democracy to the Arab world.

In Libya America and NATO forces had played an active role in overthrowing Gaddafi who had played an anti-American role throughout his life except perhaps during the last phase when he had tried to reconcile with Western powers. In Syria too America, like Libya, is interested in what it chooses to call ‘regime change’. Needless to say both in Libya and Syria America had not played so innocent a role as it would like the world to believe.

Today both in Libya and Syria Al-Qaeda has become hyper-active but even at the cost of making al-Qaeda quite active, America’s priority is to destroy Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, the old enemies of America and the only obstacles in total domination of Middle East by America. Both of them have been anti-Israel too and with their elimination, America will be free to promote its interest in the area.

For al-Qaeda too it suits well as both Bashar al-Assad and Gaddafi have been enemies being revolutionaries and seen as anti-Islamic forces by them (i.e. al-Qaeda) Thus both the regimes, ironically, are seen as enemies both by America and al-Qaeda. Thus the violent demonstrations against the film are result of number of factors. What is to be understood is that these demonstrations are less Islamic and more for down to earth factors – political, economic and sociological.

The media, especially western media, is portraying these demonstrations as purely a violent religious act, act of fanaticism
particularly because it is Islamic. It is not so simple as the media is portraying it. First of all we must reckon with the oil factor. America’s sole interest in this region is neither Islam, nor democracy, nor dictatorship, for that matter. It is oil, pure and simple.

There is as yet no alternative to oil and most of the oil resources of the world are in this region. America wants to maintain its grip on this region at any cost. The first danger it smelt in the region was the Islamic revolution of Iran. U.S. was exceptionally hostile to Iranian revolution. Not because it was Islamic revolution; it was because Iran was emerging as challenge to American leadership in the region. It was equally hostile to Fatimi’s democratic revolution in early fifties of the last century and to undo that revolution it had used Ayatollah’s against the Fatimi’s secular democratic revolution.

After the then Iranian revolution of 1950s number of left-oriented regimes emerged in Middle East i.e. Iraqi and Syrian (Baath Party-led revolution) and Libyan Revolution in 1969, apart from Jamal Abd al-Nassir’s Young Officers’ coup in Egypt in mid-fifties. Nasser’s revolution was no less dangerous than that of Iranian revolution in 1979. It nationalized Suez Canal and France, Britain and Israel invaded Egypt morally supported by USA. It was Soviet Union which threatened these powers and made them retreat.

The Arab Spring, was also seen similarly an opportunity by America to intervene and do away with ‘enemies’ like Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. But like before, it is not as simple as America thinks. The demonstrations are aimed politically against American interests in the region. Of course it is utterly foolish to make such film which has been described as ‘idiotic’ or utterly simplistic.

It is true the American regime, much less the people, had anything to do with making of the film and so one wonders why kill its ambassador and consular staff or why demonstrate against America. These demonstrations do not mean that people put responsibility of the film on America. It clearly means that they have utterly hostile feelings towards American domination and repeated interference in the region. They want America to get out of the region.

Unfortunately America does not want to learn lessons. After Libya it rushed to the aid of rebel not for its love of democracy in Syria but for its hatred of the enemy i.e. Bashar al-Assad. America is fully aware of the fact that al-Qaeda is trying to capture the rebel forces. But it thinks Bashar al-Assad is much greater enemy and it can take care of al-Qaeda later. Let not America think that the rebels in Syria would feel grateful to America after success of rebellion. These rebels too carry anti-American feelings hidden in their hearts and when time comes they will manifest it as it happened in Libya.

Many moderate Muslim intellectuals are saying that moderates should speak out against violent demonstrations. I fully agree with this viewpoint. We must oppose violence anywhere and in whatever form. Moreover it is not people of America who are to be blamed for events like anti-Islamic film. It is after all small number of right wingers who are compulsive haters of Islam.

Also, people of America like any other people of the world, are manipulated by the powerful media to think that American foreign policy is right in the Middle Eastern region. For them the principles, and not the interests, play role in framing these policies. Also, hatred is not the right answer for hatred. As a Muslim and as a Gandhian I think love and understanding is the right answer.

To prevent such violent demonstrations the Imams should play creative role in Friday sermons. They should explain to Muslims what are Islamic values and why they should desist from such demonstrations. Also, as a value we oppose US policies, not America or American people. American principles are as great as any other principles. Among those principles are freedom of expression and freedom to follow ones dictates of conscience. There can be no compromise of that.

But this is possible only when our Imams are highly educated and capable of analyzing facts as they are. The kinds of Imams we have are illiterate in matters other than Islamic Shari’ah and Islamic theology. Imams play very significant role in lives of Muslims, especially in Asian and African countries. Muslim intellectuals and moderate Muslims should see to it that Imams should not only be Islamically educated but also in other matters as they influence Muslim thinking on socio-political matters through their sermons on Friday.

The Muslim media also has to play highly responsible role in such matters. We see that Muslim media also, like Imams of the mosques, play to the gallery. Today we are living in the age of democracy and in democracy media plays very important role. We know western media too does not play responsible role. On one hand it displays deeply rooted prejudices and on the other, it guards the interests of multi-national corporations.

But if we believe in Islamic values of justice and peace we have to suppress our anger and display more patience failing which “Islam stands for peace” will become mere rhetoric and such display of violence on all such occasions does show it is mere rhetoric. As good Muslims we should go beyond mere rhetoric and show in action that we stand for justice and peace.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:44 pm


Asghar Ali Engineer

The recent attack on Malala Yusafzai, a 14 year old tribal girl from Pakhtunkhwah province of Pakistan shocked not only Pakistan but the whole world. There was near unanimity among the people of Pakistan that attack was not justified and there were demonstrations against it and collective prayers were organized for her recovery. Even tribal leaders from her town condemned this outrage. This news was carried prominently by the international media. Fortunately she survived and is reportedly stable in Birmingham hospital where she was flown by air ambulance provided by the Government of Dubai.

The Taliban of Pakistan claimed that attack was carried out by them and their leader Maulana Fazlullah is hiding in Afghanistan. The Government of Pakistan has requested the Government of Afghanistan to hand over the Maulana and his colleagues. It is a matter of shame that a religious leader should be involved in the attempted murder of a teenage girl. Her ‘crime’ was that she was campaigning for education for girls.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan has justified shooting Malala on religious ground and described her as ‘spy of the west’, justifying the attack the Taliban further said “For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying enemies,” Second reason they gave was “She used to propagate against mujahideen (holy
warriors) to defame (the) Taliban. The Holy Quran says that people propagating against Islam and Islamic forces would be killed.”

As it is obvious it is an extremely weak defense of attack on her. Firstly, if Taliban know Islam, a child cannot be punished unless he/she attains adulthood. Only those who can understand the consequences of what they are doing (people with reasoning power) are liable to punishment in Islam Even prayers, fasting or hajj are not obligatory on children. Secondly, niyyah (intention) is necessary for performance of an act in Islam. Even prayer or fasting without niyyah will not be acceptable.

The weakness of the argument is obvious from the fact that Taliban have equated campaign for education of girls with ‘spying’. It is quite ridiculous. And before trying to execute somebody the crime has to be proved in the court of law. And Islamic punishments cannot be executed by anyone but one has to take the case to the court of Qadi who would hear
that case, demand proof and ask for witnesses. Even as grave a crime as zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse or adulterous relationship) requires four witnesses who have witnessed the act of penetration itself for imposing the Islamic punishment of hundred lashes (or stoning to death though there is controversy about this punishment).

No one can take law into one’s own hand and execute anyone who has committed the crime. There will be total anarchy in the country. Only a duly constituted government can appoint properly qualified Qadi in Islamic law who can try the accused and pronounce appropriate sentence. There can be mitigating circumstances also which a Qadi has to take into account.

Not only that Taliban are not government, they are not even fit for being called mujahideen. A mujahid fights only in the way of Allah (fi sablillah) which itself is an act of great responsibility and it means that there would be no selfish desire involved or no arbitrariness at all. Taliban’s acts are far from Islamic or in the way of Allah (fi sabilillah) but more often than not, they are oppressive, exploitative and totally arbitrary besides being inhumane.

How strange that Taliban are describing campaigning for education as an act of ‘spying’. Can there be more irresponsible and arbitrary judgment than this? Do mujaqhideen act so irresponsibly or since they had decided to murder an innocent teenage girl and are trying to find lame excuses and labeling oit as ‘Islamic’? They can deceive themselves but not those who are experts in Islamic law and method of dispensing Islamic justice.

The Taliban should know that a Qadi or a mufti, while calling something ‘Islamic’ has to quote from Qur’an or sunnah or both and where there is any ambiguity, to quote opinion of some Imam or founder of anyone of the school of law and not just describe anything one wants to do as Islamic. It is a gross error to do so and much more so if done intentionally which is what the Taliban have done in this case. Just by calling something Islamic does not become Islamic.

There is total unanimity among all Islamic scholars that ‘ilm (knowledge) is obligatory on all Muslim men and Muslim women (muslimah). The Prophet (PBUH) did not use the word Muslim which would have included both men and women but mentioned Muslim men and women separately so that Muslim women are not left out in the matter of acquiring knowledge. And the Prophet (PBUH) made acquisition of knowledge for both men and women obligatory. Do Taliban deny this hadith?

Can then acquiring knowledge be equated with spying? The Prophet is also reported to have said that a man who has a daughter and educates her and marries her with an educated man will enter paradise. The Prophet (PBUH) even goes to the extent of saying that I take guarantee for his entering the paradise. The Qur’an makes us pray that O Lord! Increase me in knowledge ( Ya rabbi zidni ilman) and all commentators agree that this applies to both man and woman. Qur’an calls knowledge as light and ignorance as darkness and again Qur’an makes us pray O! Allah take me out of darkness into light.

All this clearly shows that what Taliban have done is patently un-Islamic and must be strongly condemned. All those responsible for the dastardly act must be tried in court of law and of found guilty must be given stringent punishment.

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:28 pm

Bohras won't back Modi: Asghar Ali Engineer

New Delhi : He is the liberal face of Indian Islam and the Bohra community. Author and activist Asghar Ali Engineer, who has dedicated his life to studying communalism in India and South Asia, believes that his community (Bohras) will not vote for the BJP in the Gujarat assembly elections in December.

"For too long, the Bohra leadership and the Gujarat government have been in cahoots. And there is a reason for this. The Dai (supreme leader of the Bohras), Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, has high stakes in Gujarat from where he gets crores of rupees as income from Bohra religious and community centres. He cannot do this without political collusion. So, the Bohra leadership keeps Narendra Modi in good humour. Modi in turn uses the Bohras and showcases them before the world to show that Muslims support him, as he knows that ordinary people cannot distinguish between the Ismaili Bohras and the other sects of Islam."

Engineer, who was in the city to attend a seminar, told IANS: "The Bohra leadership usually influences its flock to support the BJP. But this time, hopefully, they should vote against the BJP like other Muslims."

Speaking of the Gujarat elections, what, in Engineer's opinion, would be the outcome of the polls?

"I think Modi will win, but his margin will diminish considerably due to anti-incumbency, opposition from within the BJP, and the revolt by leaders like Keshubhai Patel," says Engineer.

Bohras are a mercantile Muslim community of the subcontinent, mainly found in Gujarat and Mumbai. They are Shia Muslims. The Bohras trace their belief system back to Yemen where they were persecuted due to their differences from mainstream Sunni Islam and Zaidi Shia Islam. This prompted the shift of Dawoodi Bohras to India, especially to Gujarat in the 11th century.

Engineer's struggle against the Bohra leadership is well known. He leads the progressive Dawoodi Bohra movement, which aims to challenge the absolute authority and hegemony of the Dai over the affairs of the Dawoodi Bohras who form the larger subsect among Bohras (the smaller one being the Sulaimanis).

"We are not reforming religion. We want to make the Dai accountable. Also, we want no interference from his office in our secular activities," clarifies Engineer, who has been physically attacked five times by the Dai's supporters for his beliefs.

Does he ever feel hopeless?

"Not at all. My struggle will go on as long as I am alive. Not everyone supports me or opposes me. I feel that the large, silent majority supports us but cannot empathise with us since there is the fear of community ostracisation."

The Bohra community has also become infamous for the medieval practice of female circumcision. "It is very sad but true. Tradition once established becomes impossible to eradicate. This practice of female circumcision goes back to Fatimid Egypt ( 969-1171). The Fatimid Caliphate was also Shia Ismaili and is hence held as a role model for the Bohra community. But nothing in the Koran mandates this practice. Even male circumcision, for that matter, is 'Sunnah' (tradition) but not 'Farz' (duty)," says Engineer.

And what is Engineer's opinion on the tide of rising Wahhabism in many parts of the Muslim world?

"The Wahhabi and Salafi strains of Islam are sectarian, purist and revivalist. They will be a danger to the Muslim world. We want tolerance and pluralism. We want to co-exist with other communities. Wahhabism will not allow all that," he says. ... im+News%29

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by badrijanab » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:13 am

ghulam muhammed wrote:
The Bohra community has also become infamous for the medieval practice of female circumcision. "It is very sad but true. Tradition once established becomes impossible to eradicate. This practice of female circumcision goes back to Fatimid Egypt ( 969-1171). The Fatimid Caliphate was also Shia Ismaili and is hence held as a role model for the Bohra community. But nothing in the Koran mandates this practice. Even male circumcision, for that matter, is 'Sunnah' (tradition) but not 'Farz' (duty)," says Engineer.
DB (i.e. Islam) Shariyat says Imam is speaking Quran and the book Quran is otherwise, and Imam is "Masoom" (flawless). Thus, if Imam practiced and promoted "khatna" for men and women then that is the only best course for mumineens to pursue.

Above statements infers that Engineer is enemy of Bohra faith.

By opposing practices of Imams and Prophets (about "Khatna") he is intending to reform religion with his fancy marxist and incorrect interpretation of Quran and sunna.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ozmujaheed » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:11 am

Sir Engineer thank you and salute you for taking the stand against the FGM and I hope this statement will rally all reformist to eradicate this practise from Bohra culture.

Wow what a milestone

I am still waiting for Mansoos to be brave and make a statement .

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by seeker110 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:51 pm

Only a merciful person can be brave, but if you rob the miskeen and yateem, you become the flag bearer of the cowards. Girteen hain shesawar maidan-e-jung mei, Wo tifil kiya geree jo guthnou ke bal chalei.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:40 pm


Asghar Ali Engineer

Recently a women’s organization in Mumbai Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Association conducted a survey and found out that in 18 of the sufi Mausoleums women are prohibited from entering Astana i.e. sanctum and sanctorum in which they were previously allowed. Main among these mausoleums is Haji Ali Dargah which is highly popular among non-Muslims as
well. Hundreds of non-Muslims, particularly Hindus, can be seen visiting this Dargah.

The report was released to the press and it caused furor. It became hot topic of discussion attracting full media attention. Number of news papers and T.V. channels began focusing on this issue as to why women cannot enter mausoleums and mosques. Is it really prohibited? And if so why and on whose authority? In fact for everything Muslim maulavais and maulanas rush to consult hadith and if something is stated in hadith follow it blindly.

They do not want to understand that even if hadith is authentic it has a context and the Prophet (PBUH) said something in a particular context. Our Ulama simply quote hadith completely ignoring the context. It was for this reason that the Prophet (PBUH) discouraged people from collecting hadith as he knew it will cause lot of problems after his death. Our Ulama take pride in being *aslaf parast* (i.e. worshipping ancestors) rather than *Khuda parast* (i.e. worshipping Allah)

Naturally when press questioned some Ulama about prohibiting women from entering *dargahs* they promptly quoted hadith and said since it is prohibited in hadith they cannot be allowed. In fact they were not even honest enough to state that the whole issue is controversial. Some quote hadith from Imam Bukhari saying it is prohibited while some quote hadith from Muslim saying it was prohibited but later on the Prophet (PBUH) allowed it.

In fact why the Holy Prophet had prohibited women from entering qabristan (cemetery) was that some women whose loved ones were buried there would embrace the grave and wail and cry and beat their breasts/ Prophet (PBUH) always discouraged weeping and wailing and breast beating and encouraged dignified way of grieving. Women were found doing it more than men and hence he discouraged women from entering cemeteries but later allowed it if they visit graves in dignified way.

But many Ulama (aslaf) thought women are weak and unable to control themselves ignored this later relation by the Prophet (PBUH) and treated it as absolute ban and enforced it wherever they can. The Prophet was very *humane* and had asked women to avoid going to cemetery out of human consideration but his followers (some of them) treated it as absolute ban. There is no other reason for banning entry of women to cemeteries and in fact they are as much entitled to enter cemetery and visit the graves of their loved ones as men.

One Maulana even went to the extent of saying that women’s entry to dargahs is banned as when women enter dargah they (sufi saints buried there) see them naked. There is limit to absurdity of belief.

The saints who strictly controlled their bodily instincts during their lifetime would give in to these temptation and would be disturbed by these women after their death. Religion is something noble and transcendent and should not be stretched to such absurd length. It shows the intellectual level of these followers.

In fact instead of raising ourselves to the high moral level of religion we drag it down to our lowly thinking. I need not repeat it here that Qur’an has accorded equal dignity to women. In South Asia women are not allowed to enter mosques whereas they are allowed everywhere else including the holiest mosque Ka’bah where men and women pray together and circumambulate together (going around Ka’bah called tawaf)

The Prophet clearly has said that do not stop Allah’s female servants from entering into His House and yet our Ulama do not allow them to enter mosques. Is it not because of their misogyny? I asked one maulana, is Friday prayer obligatory for women and should they not pray in mosques on Friday as men do? He said yes but then who will cook the afternoon meal if they go to mosque? The Maulana did not even know that under maintenance it is for men to serve cooked food to his wife (see *Fatawa Alamgiri*). Fatawa Alamgiri clearly says in one of the fatwas that it is for men to either serve cooked
food to his wife or pay for a cook’s charges.

Qur’an, through its teachings tried to take us beyond the given society so that women could realize their full potential and dignity but men, with their hardened patriarchal attitudes were not ready to accept gender equality as it hurt their male ego and hence through various means managed to lower her dignity to pre-Islamic level. The Islamic world still has bad
record as far as women’s rights are concerned. If they are serious about Islamic teachings it is high time they raise themselves to the level of Qur’an and accord women what is due to them.

Qur’an and hadith both lay great stress on acquiring knowledge (*ilm*) and yet our Ulama have issued fatwas not to teach women beyond what is necessary to perform their obligatory rituals like prayers etc. It is a matter of great shame and the earlier we remove this spot of shame better it is for us. Women’s education and high status is sine qua non for our progress.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:31 pm


People can be MORE harsh here if they start posting photoshop pictures of your Dai and Mansoos, actually a REAL close-up picture of the Dai with his bottom dentures protruding out is enough to counter your post so oppose someone intellectually and with solid proofs instead of resorting to such cheap tactics.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:37 pm

What makes Bohras such blind followers?
by Asghar Ali Engineer

Some of us wonder why such dogmatic and blind following of the Da'i among the Bohras? Even highly educated and wealthy Bohras display such blind following. Is it so in the case of Bohras alone or is it a general trend among people?

tend to think that the Bohras have special psyche and no matter what you do they are going to follow the Da'i blindly and dogmatically. I think this is partly true and partly not. The matter is extremely complex involving many factors and without appreciating all those factors involved we will not be able to understand why Bohras are so submissive to religious authorities.

Before we analyse the reasons of submissiveness on the part of Bohras it is highly necessary to throw some light on the nature of religious authority and doctrine the Bohras follow. It also definitely influences the religious behaviour of the Bohras.

The Ismaili Shi'ah sub-sect evolved as a secretive sub-sect for number of reasons. Firstly, the Isma'ili Imams had to go underground for fear of being detected by the Abbasid intelligence agents and spies. Even the most trusted network of da'is was not able to know the identity of the real Imam. Also, Shi'ahs in general and Isma'ilis in particular, practised taqiyyah (dissimulation) and did not disclose their real religious beliefs. And, like any other underground movement, the followers of the Isma'ili sect had to pledge their absolute loyalty to the Imam or the network of da'is appointed by the Imam. And it was for this reason that the da'i of the particular jurisdiction used to take strict oath of allegiance (mithaq) from his followers. Of course the mithaq was taken in the name of Imam of the period (imam al-zaman).

Thus it was demanded from every Isma'ili that he or she should submit to the authority of the da'i and Imam unquestioningly. The Isma'ili religion also stressed on the hidden meaning of the Holy Qur'an (ta'wil), not to be disclosed to the uninitiated. Only those at the advanced stage of learning could aspire to know the hidden meaning. The ta'wil could be taught only to those who would accept it unquestioningly.

The Isma'ili religion, unlike mainstream Islam, is based on the concept of hierarchy and each authority at the lower echelon has to submit to the one at higher echelon. There cannot be any compromise on that. These religious authorities are known as hudud in the Isma'ili terminology. The had (plural hudud) at upper echelon demands total obedience from the had at lower echelon. Thus the Isma'ili religion is religion of obedience and submission to the authorities. No dissent is permitted. There is no culture of openness and democratic discussion.

This has been unique to Isma'ili religion and one can say this does affect the Bohra psyche to some extent. However, it should also be made clear that human behaviour is hardly determined fully by religious beliefs. Human behaviour itself is quite complex and is determined by several factors - social milieu, cultural practices, self-interests, familial context and religious beliefs. Also, some individuals are liberal and open-minded and some tend to be very orthodox and rigid. Individual character, though determined by social milieu and family upbringing, does play crucial role.

All of us also share common traits with other human beings and in that respect we are no different. All human beings need psychological props and sense of belonging. Thus socio-cultural, religious and national identities play an important role in our lives as human beings. Without sense of belonging a human being becomes rudderless. And Bohras are historically a highly well knit community. It is in this respect that ex-communication or barat (social boycott), as every Bohra knows, becomes highly effective instrument of enforcing obedience on the part of priesthood.

Thus most of the Bohras fall in line for fear of social boycott and for fear of loosing sense of belonging. Most of the Bohras live in small or middle-sized towns and being very few in number (few scores of families in every town), this sense of belonging becomes very acute indeed. In such small sized communities dependence on the community and inward discipline becomes much more important for an individual. For priesthood also it is much easier to enforce discipline in smaller communities. Among Sikhs too one who is declared tankhayya (outcaste or ex-communicated) has to fall in line soon.

In the case of Bohras there is an added factor: they happen to be a trading community and a trader values peace above all and is most reluctant to involve himself in social or religious conflicts. The traders try, as much as possible, non-confrontationist postures. And so do Bohras. They prefer to submit than to fight. After the British came in India and a professional middle class began to emerge among the Bohras in bigger towns there began to emerge some signs of dissent. It is therefore important to note that modern reform movement began only at the turn of last century. Court cases were filed and consciousness for social accountability took shape.

However, this professional middle class was never very strong and this class also was not totally independent as it emerged from among the trading class. Thus this class also remained quite dependent on trading class though it did develop a measure of autonomy. But it could hardly sever its umbilical cord from its trading past. In most cases even nuclear families did not develop except in very big cities. Many Bohras continued to live in joint families thus individual members being subject to family discipline. One will find several instances of individual members inwardly supporting reform movement but having no courage to take open stand for fear of consequences within the family.

Thus emergence of new middle class did not help much as it was neither strong nor fully autonomous. Thus it will not do to think that modern education by itself will bring about desired change. Social behaviour, as pointed out, is much more complex and determined by several factors. Human behaviour is not finally determined by modern education alone. Moreover the modern education, at least in India, is not designed to develop critical consciousness among its recipients. It is designed more to conform to authorities than to critically evaluate its worth. It is hardly intellectually stimulating.

Our educational institutions are more centres of acknowledgement rather than centres of knowledge. And add to this the fact that Bohras hardly send their children for university education. Also, they are hardly interested in humanities or subjects like philosophy. They are more interested in subjects, which would boost their knowledge and efficiency for their trading activities. Such education lays least emphasis on developing critical consciousness.

There is another important factor which needs to be taken into account: the Bohras are minuscule minority within Muslim minority in India (and abroad too). It being so, it feels more insecure than other larger minorities. More insecure one feels, more inward-looking one tends to be and more dependent on conformity to the authority. The Bohras have lived with persecution mania for centuries in India. And this has certainly taken its toll. Modernity is too recent in this respect and culture of modernity has hardly struck roots among them. Recurring communal riots in which Bohras as traders sustain much greater economic losses than other Muslims drive them further into community's fold and make them more impervious to forces of change. More insecure one feels, more conservative one tends to be.

Role of the priesthood

The Bohra priesthood is highly organised one, to say the least. It may deny benefits of modernity to the community but itself uses all most modern methods of organisation to keep the community under control. It has certainly devised new methods of indoctrination including what it calls daris (a wrong word according to Arabic language). Daris is very effective way of brainwashing, particularly youth and women. The ignorant are given totally distorted information about religious doctrines with a view to reinforce authority of the present religious hierarchy. It seeks to legitimise present authoritarian power-structure which privileges the da'is family above all others in the community. It projects the family as Royal Family, which has the right to rule. Even the Holy Prophet's family never claimed such privilege.

Da'i's family has now taken away autonomy of the 'amils (local priests) and the 'ulama who enjoyed complete autonomy earlier. Even the sermons they deliver during Moharram (wa'az) are now totally controlled by the da'i's family. Now the sermons are nothing more than lavish praises for his family and his so called achievements. This is proving very effective for brainwashing particularly the youth and women.

Also, various youth and women's committees have been formed to give them limited role to develop a sense of participation in community's affairs. The members of these committees are carefully chosen for their loyalty and also for their ability to control any dissent and even to terrorise the dissenting members. The youth particularly acts as storm troopers of the ruling hierarchy. Da'i's birthday (salgirah) or his father's death anniversary ('urs) is celebrated on grand scale and advertisements worth lakhs of rupees are inserted in major and minor newspapers thus trying to influence the minds of people as the rulers in the past used to do.

The priesthood also buys off politicians with money and votes. It maintains contacts with key politicians of all political parties, including the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the known minority baiters. These leaders are invited to da'i's palace on special occasions. Thus as an American scholar Theodore Wright Jr. put it, the priesthood manipulates outside democracy to frustrate democracy within the community.

The priesthood has eminently succeeded in following two-pronged strategy of imposing thought control within the community and manipulating the political leaders to deny reformists any support from outside. This has paid rich dividends to the ruling da'i. These strategies were evolved mainly during the period of 51st da'i and it has been much widened and deepened during the period of the present Da'i.

Today the priestly hierarchy is much more stronger thanks to the NRI factor. Like the communal outfits like the VHP the da'i receives tremendous money in pounds and dollars from those Bohras who have settled in UK, USA , Canada, Hong Kong and other countries. Money is transferred often through hawala and other illegal means. In fact the priesthood has established regional headquarters in UK and USA.

The Bohra NRI's also face identity crisis like other Indian NRI's in these foreign lands. They feel quite alienated in these countries and compensate their sense of alienation by inclining more on the community. As VHP exploits the NRI's feeling of alienation for funds the Bohra high priest is not far behind. NRI's have added immensely to the wealth of the Bohra high priest. More wealthy he becomes more power is added to his formidable establishment.

The reformists are struggling consistently in view of all these formidable challenges. Their success lies not in becoming equally powerful like the Bohra priesthood (in fact it will be their defeat) but in consistent efforts to promote humanism and true Islamic values of truth, compassion, justice, equality, human dignity and democratic functioning. The reformists value openness and accountability and reject rigidity, dogmatism and narrow-mindedness. For them this struggle is success itself.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by pheonix » Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:02 am

ghulam muhammed wrote: The reformists are struggling consistently in view of all these formidable challenges. Their success lies not in becoming equally powerful like the Bohra priesthood (in fact it will be their defeat) but in consistent efforts to promote humanism and true Islamic values of truth, compassion, justice, equality, human dignity and democratic functioning. The reformists value openness and accountability and reject rigidity, dogmatism and narrow-mindedness. For them this struggle is success itself.
How has democratic functioning become a Islamic value? Now who is trying to mislead the people?

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by Bohra spring » Wed Jan 02, 2013 5:07 pm

Phoenix , Adam

We rarely argue ...but as a courtesy please state your position...

Are you a family member of kasreali trying to protect your family heritage out of your own wish

Or are you a jamaat official from the media team who has been asked to defend the dawaat and accusation we throw on the site ?

You must also be reporting back the conversation and trends?

Are you trying to salvage the Abdes who may be shifting alliances ?

Our purpose is to topple your kasreali power and grip?

What is your purpose on this site ?

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:51 pm


Asghar Ali Engineer

Recently we read with great pain that the extremists in Pakistan killed several women who were active in administrating the polio dose to the children. They think it is an international conspiracy to reduce population of Muslims in the world as polio dose makes a person impotent. Some Muslims and Imams of the mosque in India too thought likewise and asked Muslims in their Friday sermons not to allow social workers to administer polio dose to their children.

But in India it was just an appeal, no one was physically harmed, much less killed. In Pakistan these extremists believe in culture of violence and for them the only solution for defying their orders is to be shot dead. Malala was shot as she did not listen to Taliban and stop advocating education for girls. Those who kill others in the name of Islam are far from being Muslim, let alone pious Muslims. In order to be pious Muslims one has to be just. The Qur’an says that “Do justice, it is closest to piety”. (5:8)

How can one claim to observe norms of justice by killing others? Justice is something most difficult to do, even for murder we require at least two pious and honest witnesses and to prove rape or fornication we need four such witnesses. One has to make it sure, according to shari’ah law that before accepting witness, that witnesses are honest and pious. Witnessing cannot be accepted from anyone. And killing someone is permitted only in certain specific cases like murder and there too, if it is not *qatl-e-‘amad * (deliberate and coldblooded murder) Allah prefers pardoning with or without compensation).

To kill someone without justification is great sin. Qur’an says that “whoever kills a person unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed whole humanity. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved the whole humanity.” (5:32) it is very important statement of the Holy Book. Life is sacred and is not cheap that anyone can kill any other person without any reason or rhyme. There has to be strong justification for taking anyone’s life. If life could be taken by anyone and any time the whole humanity will be wiped out in course of time.

Normally weapons should be used for protecting and not taking life. And which rule of Shari’ah has prescribed that administering polio should be punished with death. That cure did not exist in those days. The orthodox people greatly resist any change in shari’ah law even with proper justification but do not hesitate to change shari’ah law or innovate one through false reasoning when it suits their interests. This is what killing women administering polio amounts to. It is pure innovation with false justification.

These very extremists would not mind producing and selling drugs through smuggling to buy weapons and destroy thousands of young lives. All intoxicants are strictly prohibited in Islam, particularly liquor and drugs and yet Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are known to be producing, smuggling drugs and buying weapons. I have attended anti-drug confere3nce in Afghanistan and know how thousands of people are suffering because Taliban want weapons. Even many women are addicted to drug in Afghanistan. So much for the Islam of Taliban.

Also whoever said that polio dose makes men impotent? Have they done any research on that? Or they believe only in hearsay? To believe in something without confirming its truth is highly condemned by Qur’an. Qur’an calls it *zann* (suspicion, guess). See the Qur’anic verses 48:9, 48:12, 49:12, 53:23 etc. how Qur’an condemns zann. In some cases, it says it is even sin, in some cases it is our personal desire and has nothing to do with truth and Qur’an advises believers to avoid *zann* as much as it can.

And if these Taliban, who are killing those administering polio dose it is mere *zann* and has nothing to do with objective reality. And it they have confirmed its truth let them produce the proof. Or do they want these young
children born to live life of polio affected people paralyzed for whole life? Life is a beautiful gift from Allah. Do they want this beautiful gift to become affliction for these young ones? That too on mere suspicion or guess?

Also this campaign has been launched by the UNO to eliminate this curse from our earth and make our lives healthier and happier. It is far from aimed at Muslims. Polio dozes are being administered throughout the world. Whole humanity is benefitting from it and particularly in Africa and Asia where most poor of the world live. It appears it is a conspiracy of Taliban to paralyze the coming generation of Muslims so that they can live at their mercy and through their charity?

There is so much emphasis in Qur’an and hadith on knowledge (‘ilm) and instead of being forerunners of science and scientific attitude Muslim extremists are being so ignorant and superstitious? And they want to keep Muslims in darkness of ignorance through sheer power of gun. Muslims are in fact duty bound to eliminate ignorance and usher in an era of enlightenment. But Taliban do not want modern education, especially for women, do not want modern medicines and do not want freedom. Instead they are spreading gun culture. Is this Islam? We have to produce young Muslims to fight this menace of Taliban and it is no less a curse than polio.

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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:41 pm


By Asghar Ali Engineer

It is believed by millions of Muslims across the world that Shari’ah laws are immutable and represent divine will. It is based on serious misunderstanding. Shari’ah is not and cannot be immutable. Recently I was invited to what is called Jaipur Literary Festival held in Jaipur (Rajasthan) from 24-29 January to be part of a panel discussion on the book
*Heaven on Earth…..* by Sadik Kadri of London which is on application of Shari’ah laws across the Muslim world. He has travelled to different Muslim countries and talked to various Ulama and Muftis about Shari’ah laws as applied to their respective countries.

All of them were defenders of conservative Shari’ah formulations and refused to admit any change. They maintained that Shari’ah being divine, cannot be changed. It is from this rigidity of our Ulama that this misunderstanding among common Muslims emanates that Shari’ah is divine and hence immutable. In fact our Ulama forget that ijtihad is not only permitted but encouraged by the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and the hadith pertaining to Ma’adh Ibn Jabal is well known that when Prophet (PBUH) appointed him to the governorship of Yemen and when he came to take leave of the Prophet, he asked him How will you govern Ma’adh said according to the Qur’an. The Prophet (PBUH) thereupon said if you do not find the solution to the problem in Qur’an, Ma’adh bin Jabal said according to Sunnah. But if you do not find it in sunnah also? He said *ana ajtahidu*(i.e. I will exert myself to find the solution. The Prophet thereupon
patted his back and said you are right.

All Ulama accept this hadith and yet while theoretically admit permissibility of ijtihad, refuse to do it or allow it saying there is no one capable of doing it. In fact what is unalterable is principles and values underlying Shari’ah laws i.e. *usul al-fiqh* cannot be changed but laws based on these *usul* and values must be changed with the change in the social and cultural context. In fact cultural context plays very important role in formulation of Shari’ah laws. The Arab adaat (customs and traditions) form an important part of Shari’ah formulations.

Late Abdur Rahman Wahid, President of *Nahdat al-Ulama* in Indonesia who also became President of that country told me once that there was great debate among the Ulama of Indonesia whether the Indonesian customs and
traditions can become part of Shari’ah laws as applicable in Indonesia and those who advocated Indonesian addat ultimately one.

Let us remember that what was called Muslim ummah (community) during the Prophet’s time was limited to Arabia only but when Islam spread to different areas ummah was no more confined to Arabs alone but to Iranians, Uzbeks, Turks, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians also. Thus there were various linguistic and cultural groups with so many different linguistic and cultural communities. The Shari’ah laws were influenced by these factors. Thus ummah was no longer homogenous group but comprised of various religious and cultural communities with their own age-old customs and traditions.

However the values, *maqasid *(intentions) and *masalih *(welfareness) of human beings did not change. Maqasid al-Shari’ah and Masalih al-Shari’ah do not change but in order to maintain these values, maqasid and masalih in tact the rules framed by Ulama must change. When Imam Shafi’I moved from Hijaz to Egypt which was confluence of Arab and Coptic culture, he realized this and changed his position on several issues.

However, what I am saying does not apply to ‘ibadat i.e. matters pertaining to worship, world hereafter etc. but only to matters pertaining to * mu’amalat* i.e. inter-personal relations like marriage, divorce , inheritance and many other similar socio-economic matters. Most important of course among these is matters pertaining to marriage, divorce etc. In Jaipur I spoke mainly on women’s position in Shari’ah and women’s position in Qur’an.

The fact that pandal was packed with people shows the interest the women’s position in general, and that of Muslim women, in particular, generates. I said the book deals with only status quo and application of Shari’ah laws of patriarchal and feudalized Islamic societies. It very much misses what I call transcendental Qur’anic vision. Qur’an gives absolutely equal rights to man and woman without any discrimination.

However, Qur’an was revealed in a highly patriarchal society and also later got feudalized when khilafat turned into feudal empire. Thus patriarchy and feudalism completely distorted the fundamental Qur’anic vision of gender
equality and women’s individuality and dignity. Unless we understand this sociological and cultural aspect and relate it to theological ones, we will miss the very revolutionary role which Islam wanted to play in totally transforming women’s status.

However, it is highly regrettable that Muslim societies could not produce ulamas who could have had capacity to relate sociology with theology. Even in modern and post-modern societies our ulama totally lack transcendental
vision of Islam. They have become prisoners of the past and have frozen Islam into feudal patriarchal society.

We need theologians with future vision to fulfill Qur’an’s mission of going beyond present which is full of injustices. Our society is full of gender injustices and Qur’an’s central value is justice, justice in all areas of life Gender justice is as emphatically emphasized as justice in social and economic matters. In order to emphasize gender justice it is high time that we produce female theologians with profound knowledge of Arabic language. Even the most conservative ulama cannot oppose the concept of female theologians.

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:41 pm


By Asghar Ali Engineer

Modernisation and change has brought many problems in its wake. The change is hardly ever smooth though we often like it to be one. Many religious communities have gone or have been going through turmoil in this process of modernisation and change. What is referred to as rise of fundamentalism in world religions in general, and in Islam in particular, owes its rise, among other things, to this tortuous process. No wonder then that the Bohra community has also been witnessing cataclysmic upheavals of late. In a way the problem for this community is probably a shade worse as it is not only tightly-knit but also under the tight grip of the priesthood used to govern the community with an iron hand.

Any community ruled with an iron hand for long develops a psychology of servility. It begins to crawl where it only needs to submit and it prostrates where it has only to bow. The bohras have not only been governed under absolutist rule, they have faced certain adverse historical situation as well. They were, until nineteenth century, a persecuted community considered as it was heretical by other Muslims. Persecution leads to sense of insecurity which in turn results in dependence syndrome on some or the other authority and if this authority happens to be religious, this dependence gets further reinforced. Thus persecution-complex breeds dependence-complex and creates fertile ground for development of authoritarianism.

Today in the bohra community if there is any most major problem it is authoritarianism. Authoritarianism, as is quite natural, refuses to accept doctrine of accountability in any form or any field. The reform movement which started around turn of our century never demanded accountability from the Da'i in the field of religion; it demanded accountability only in secular matters and even that was refused.

I would like my bohra sisters and brothers to understand that a true religious spirit never leads to authoritarianism in any form, not even in religious form. The holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was extremely gentle and polite and never showed any trace of authoritarianism. No wonder the holy Qur'an says about him, “And surely you have sublime morals (Khuluqin ‘azim)”. His sublime morals won him great admiration even from his enemies who too referred to him as al-amin i.e. the trusted one. Thus he was gentle, polite and a model of honesty and integrity. No one could accuse him of authoritarianism even in religious matters. It should be remembered that Islam categorically rejects authoritarianism and absolutism even in religious matters. It was not for nothing that the holy Qur'an says, “Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner”( 16:126) . Also the Qur'an has resonantly proclaimed,“There is no compulsion in religion”(2:257).

These are no mere exhortations, it is a serious attempt to build a non-authoritarian, open and democratic culture respecting human conscience and right to believe. The whole Qur'an and the Prophetic traditions are suffused with this spirit, not to talk of the Prophet's conduct which was a model of this most humane culture and tradition. The Bohra priestly establishment's conduct, on the other hand, represents total negation of open, democratic, conscientious and humane religio-cultural model represented by Islam and early Islamic society. The Bohra priestly model is authoritarian to the core. It has no place for democratic openness, let alone conscientious dissent. It is most intolerant and absolutist. It is highly coercive and far from persuasive.

Islam lays great emphasis on reason. All the prophets of Allah rejected those earlier traditions which rested on sanctity of time but did not measure up to the criteria of reason. Whenever leaders of unbelievers (kuffar) referred to their ancestral traditions the prophets exhorted them to use their own reason and bear testimony to the truth from Allah. Many verses can be quoted to this effect from the Qur'an. Prophet Ibrahim Khalilullah defied idol worship of his father Azar and instead followed the course of deliberation, reasoning in keeping with the revelation from high on.

Islam, let us remember, is not religion of blind faith. It calls upon mankind to follow rational faith - synthesis of faith and reason. Even iman bi al-ghayb (faith on unseen) cannot be construed as irrational though it may at the most be described as supra-rational. It is in fact faith in future and its various potentialities as they unfold and of whom we have no knowledge and hence it is described as ghayb (unseen). The Isma'ilis and M'utazilas - two important sects of Islam - laid great deal of emphasis on reason. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Isma'ilis in particular imbibed all the knowledge that was available even outside the Islamic world of the time and incorporated into, and synthesised with, the doctrines of Islam. They acted according to the Prophetic tradition al-hikmah dallah al-m'umin (wisdom and knowledge is lost property of the faithful, it should be appropriated from wherever available). Resa'il Ikhwan al-Safa are an outstanding testimony of all this.

The Bohras should not only be justly proud of this intellectual heritage but should do everything possible to disseminate it and elevate it to new heights in this age of explosion of knowledge. However, it is very sad, indeed very tragic, that the Sayedna's establishment does everything to negate this proud intellectual heritage and instead inculcate, slavish mentality and blind unquestioning faith. The Daras in Surat (the theological seminary) too, strives to produce theological robots who only act on commands and carry out programmes as fed through software produced by the Sayedna's close relatives, the coterie surrounding him. The trainees at the Saifee Daras are not allowed to raise any questions, let alone approach traditional theology with critical openness and carry out researches in various fields of received theological knowledge. If the Kothar did not have powerful vested interests in perpetrating blind obedience, the Daras at Surat could have become a great and invigorating, stimulating center of Isma'ili theological and philosophical research . The community does have resources for such activities.

Let my Bohra brethren know that the Isma'ili and Fatimi Da'is of yester years were great intellectuals of their time well versed not only in the Isma'ili theology an philosophy but also in comparative religion, in natural sciences, in mathematics and in Greek philosophy which was considered in those days as the highest achievement of human mind. They were not found wanting in any field of knowledge. They could take on any intellectual giant of their time in religious and philosophical polemics. Sayedna J'afar Mansur al-Yaman, sayedna Muyyad Shirazi and Hamid al-Din kirmani are some of the shining examples. Muyyad Shirazi entered into polemics on number of questions with the great poet and intellectual Abul Ala M' arri. It is said that Abi Sina, the great philosopher, was also an Isma'ili, though he never made it public for fear of consequences. Even if he had not been, there were great many philosophers, eminent writers and poets who proudly entered the ranks of Isma'ilis and proclaimed it with sense of pride.

It was not easy to be a Da'i. He had to fulfill more than 100 rigorous conditions to qualify as one. Sayedna Hatim has included these conditions in his celebrated work Tuhfat al Qulub from a risalah compiled by Sayedna Ahmad Nishapuri. These conditions are very rigorous indeed. A Da'i has to be most knowledgeable - in fact competent in knowledge of other religions, secular philosophies of the time, physical sciences etc. so that he could enter successfully into arguments with others in order to demonstrate superiority of his religion. A Da'i has to be an efficient administrator, a statesman of high quality, shrewd in worldly matters, polite, gentle, compassionate and wise. There are many more such conditions laid down in the Risalah.

Our Da'i hardly fulfills these conditions. Our ‘Ulama do not have adequate knowledge of their own religion, let alone competent knowledge of other religions, secular philosophies and physical sciences. They have been trained, as pointed out above, only to be obedient robots. It is considered great crime to think, to question and to doubt. Questioning and doubting is most subversive and is severely punished. No wonder than that our community has become intellectually most stagnant. We read Quran not to think and contemplate deeply over its verses (the Quran says that this “Book that we have revealed to thee abounding in good, that they may ponder over its verses and that the people of intelligence may take heed, 38:29”) but to recite only to earn thwab (religious merit).

The bohra religious establishment is today completely devoid of any intellectual vigour and stimulation. It has totally lost the Quranic spirit in other respects too. In my humble opinion there are four extremely significant words in the Quran which represents its real spirit. These words are ‘adl, ihsan , rahmah and hikmah. All these represent essence of any religion and are most essential for building a humane society. You cannot build a humane society without justice, benevolence, compassion and wisdom.

Can kothar claim any of these virtues? Its every act is contrary to these concepts. It is most unjust, in fact outright tyrannical; it has never known benevolence. On the contrary it is so greedy that it has become totally insensitive to others needs, it has no sense of obligation towards others, it only makes demands for itself. Any establishment which is based on injustice, tyranny and greed, loses all its potential for compassion. One cannot expect compassion from those who are completely insensitive to others suffering. And where is the question of wisdom (hikmah) where there is no spirit of ‘adl and ihsan. In fact ‘adl and rahmah (justice and compassion) are twins, one cannot exist without the other. Qur'an lays so much emphasis on ‘adl (justice) that it equates it with taqwah (piety). (5:icon_cool.gif. as for hikmah (wisdom) the Qur'an observes, “And whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good” (2:269).

As for rahmah it is repeatedly asserted in the Qur'an that Allah is Rahim and Rehman (Merciful and Compassionate). It is thus more than clear that a truly Islamic, imamic and religious establishment, society or rule has to be based on these four fundamental virtues. If it lacks these it is anything but Islamic and humane. We thus appeal to our Bohra sisters and brothers to do everything possible to bring about these virtues and promote them so as to make our religious establishment most Islamic and humane.

Critical thinking is most fundamental to any change. No revolution or social change is possible without freedom to think, criticise and evaluate. Freedom of conscience is most fundamental to modern democratic society. It is this freedom which Sayedna's establishment is trying to prevent. They see nothing but subversion in it. This is not only against the spirit of modern democracy, it is totally opposed to the Qur'anic spirit too. The Qur'an gives option even between iman and kufr (faith and unbelief) through its doctrine La ikraha fi al-din (there is no compulsion in religion). It leaves it to the conscience of the believer though warning him of the severe consequences of kufr (unbelief). we should, therefore, refuse to submit blindly and unthinkingly to Kothar (Sayedna's religious establishment). A truly faithful is also a truly fearless creature. Faith and fearlessness are integrally connected. Only those who lack integrity of faith are fearful. Deliverance from exploitation cannot come without fearlessness.

When Prophet Shu'aib and his followers were threatened by the arrogant chiefs to be thrown out from the town they fearlessly replied : “Indeed we should have forged a lie against Allah, if we go back to your community after Allah has delivered us from it. And it is not for us to go back to it, unless Allah, our Sustainer please....”(7:88-89). We should have iron determination and fearlessness of Shu'aib and his followers. If our religious chiefs boycott us let them. We who have firm faith in Allah and His guidance, His Prophets, angles, Day of judgment, should not be fearful of such boycott and firmly refuse to return to the community of those who violate the Qur'anic spirit in every conceivable manner.

We are great inheritors of Fatimi D'awah and its glorious traditions. Its intellectual contribution to Islam and humanity has been second to none. Its intellectual achievements can make anyone proud. It led humanity from darkness of blind obedience to the light of creative thinking. It is our duty today to enrich this tradition and not shame it by blind submission to the forces of darkness and exploitation. The Fatimi Imams had established al-Azhar, then Islamic world's greatest institution of learning and had furnished it with the collection of best books then available in the world. The scholars of the world used to flock to it for higher learning.

Unfortunately we have forgotten these traditions and are not even aware of our intellectual heritage. Let us create institutions of higher learning and come out of the Jamatkhana syndrome. The institution of jamatkhana has been continuously reinforced in last few decades to distract our attention from other pressing problems and to create a disgraceful culture of obedience. Thanks to it we have fallen far behind in higher learning though at one time we were the leaders in that field. I do not say that the institution of Jamatkhana be abolished altogether; it may have some purpose to serve in a small community of small businessmen. However, it should not become our obsession. All our resources should not be put only in that basket. There are other and more useful baskets inviting our attention.

There is also shameful levels of poverty in our community today. Thousands live in hutments or ramshackle houses. Hundreds are unemployed and many more on fringes of illiteracy. They too deserve our urgent attention. There are enough charitable institutions in the community but all have slipped under the control of Sayedna's authority. The Quran strongly condemned hoarding of wealth by the Jewish ahbar (priests). The Quran says admonishingly, “O you who believe, surely many of (the Jewish) priests and monks eat away the property of men falsely, and hinder (them) from Allah's way. And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in Allah's way - announce to them a painful chastisement”(9:34).

Our priests are also guilty of eating away people's properties and hoarding hordes of money and living a life of vulgar luxury when thousands are living on fringes of poverty. Yet, strangely enough, the community has been putting up with such state of affairs. Not only this, we go on giving them more and more money. This plunder must stop right away. The collection of zakat and other dues should be made by a democratically responsible body and resources so collected must be spent on welfare of the poor and needy and on building institutions of research and higher learning. The priesthood should be paid their wages for their religious services, and no more. It is their due. The control of all the properties vested in the community should rest with community. The priesthood should have no control over it.

All the ills we are suffering from today is on account of centralised control in the hands of the priesthood. In fact it has become virtual owner of all that which rightfully and legitimately belongs to the community. We have made the priesthood so powerful that we have become powerless so much so that we are being treated as utter slaves and nothing but blind submissions demanded from us. In other words we are ourselves responsible for this state of affairs. It is for us to liberate ourselves. The reformists have shown the way. They have also provided a democratic model which has been functioning now for several years. It is now for the community to break the shackles of slavery and veer round the reformists. Fatimi Da'wah has been imprisoned by powerful vested interests. Let us liberate it from the clutches of exploiters and make it a dynamic institution that it once was.

Bohra spring
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by Bohra spring » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:06 pm

GM Bhai good job, when was this article written ?

It is fabulous and Ustad Engineer is miles ahead in strategic and intellectual thinking. It is a loss that PDB leaders and spokesmen have not heeded or understood his foresight and able to articulate his vision into a strong mission. I assume Mr Engineer silently reads the adhoc debates.
All of them were defenders of conservative Shari’ah formulations and refused to admit any change. They maintained that Shari’ah being divine, cannot be changed. It is from this rigidity of our Ulama that this misunderstanding among common Muslims emanates that Shari’ah is divine and hence immutable. In fact our Ulama forget that ijtihad is not only permitted but encouraged by the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and the hadith pertaining to Ma’adh Ibn Jabal is well known that when Prophet (PBUH) appointed him to the governorship of Yemen and when he came to take leave of the Prophet, he asked him How will you govern Ma’adh said according to the Qur’an. The Prophet (PBUH) thereupon said if you do not find the solution to the problem in Qur’an, Ma’adh bin Jabal said according to Sunnah. But if you do not find it in sunnah also? He said *ana ajtahidu*(i.e. I will exert myself to find the solution. The Prophet thereupon
patted his back and said you are right.

All Ulama accept this hadith and yet while theoretically admit permissibility of ijtihad, refuse to do it or allow it saying there is no one capable of doing it. In fact what is unalterable is principles and values underlying Shari’ah laws i.e. *usul al-fiqh* cannot be changed but laws based on these *usul* and values must be changed with the change in the social and cultural context. In fact cultural context plays very important role in formulation of Shari’ah laws. The Arab adaat (customs and traditions) form an important part of Shari’ah formulations.

When Imam Shafi’I moved from Hijaz to Egypt which was confluence of Arab and Coptic culture, he realized this and changed his position on several issues.

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:37 pm

The article below was posted somewhere else on the forum but as it concerns Mr.Engineer I thought it correct to post it again on this thread as it is relevant to Mr. Engineer.

Faith and Reason

By Lyla Bavadam

The autobiography of Asghar Ali Engineer is a perceptive commentary on society written with unassuming scholarliness.

WHEN Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari released Asghar Ali Engineer's autobiography, A Living Faith, he described the author as a modern-day Spinoza. Comparisons of the two thinkers march side by side. Both are radical and free thinkers, grounded in moral philosophy and steeped in democratic political thought. Like the 17th century Dutch philosopher, Engineer has offered rational critiques of formalised religion.

Asked about his work, Engineer said, “People have asked me why I wrote this autobiography. My only answer is that I felt like sharing my experiences, and I wanted to reach out to people who matter and who are concerned. I have three aims in life – peace and communal harmony, social reform, and gender justice.

“Sixty-three years after Independence we are still lagging far behind in all these. Our society suffers from exploitation in the name of religion. Religion is supposed to make you humane and compassionate, but people kill in the name of religion. I discovered they kill because of vested economic interests, political interests. It is a clash of interests that causes violence – not a clash of religions as is commonly believed. I have given an account of all this in my book.” Born in 1939, Engineer graduated in civil engineering and worked for 20 years as a sanitation engineer in the Bombay Municipal Corporation before he retired prematurely to work for the Bohra reform movement. He has authored more than 50 books and innumerable articles. He is the director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, the head of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, and the founding chairman of the Asian Muslim Action Network.

He is also one of the founders of the People's Union for Civil Liberties. He was awarded the Communal Harmony Award in 1997 and the Right Livelihood Award (widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize') in 2004.

For the past three decades, Engineer has been fighting for reforms in his Bohra community and has had to pay a heavy price for it: he was excommunicated and he faced physical assaults.

He believes that “to be a truly religious person one has to have four qualities. A quest for truth. Humility. Compassion. Being anti-establishment. The reforms I am fighting for in the Bohra community… I am up against a very powerful establishment. I have met five Prime Ministers to try and get them to intercede in what is happening among Bohras, but they all told me they were helpless.”

His understanding of Islam is deep and uncomplicated and at the same time unsparing. Yet, as the historian Mushirul Hasan, who wrote the Foreword for A Living Faith, said, “… he argued for reforms and innovations within the inherited traditions.”

Reform Movement

There is a wonderful innocence in Engineer. A complete believer and follower of his faith, he cannot fathom the authoritarian manner in which it is being applied. The majority of the community acquiesce to the absolute authority of the high priest, Syedna Burhanuddin, who controls the community with an iron hand. A handful of people do not. Engineer is one of them.

His earliest experience with the diktats of the high priest was when he, as a young boy, was told that he would have to perform sajda (prostrate oneself) before the Syedna. He refused, saying it was un-Islamic since sajda is performed only before Allah. A marshal who noticed his refusal caught him by the neck, called him a shaitan (devil) and forced him to prostrate himself.

The haplessness of his father in that situation must have served to keep the memory alive in the young Engineer. Many years later, when he wrote an article in support of Bohras in Udaipur who had challenged the Syedna, Engineer again felt the heat of the powerful priests. A group of angry Bohras surrounded the building of The Times of India in which the article appeared and threatened to burn it down if an apology was not printed. The newspaper banned future articles by Engineer, but that was not the end of his tribulations. His relatives and friends pressured him to apologise.

In all clarity and innocence of belief, he writes, “I maintained that there was no question of apologising as I had not done anything wrong. I was against exploitation in the name of religion and not against religion per se. I was fighting against exploitation and restrictions on freedom of expression which is both my Islamic as well as constitutional right.”

But his relatives would not accept these arguments. “They prefer to buy their way to peace rather than fight for any principle, much less the principle of freedom,” he writes. Finally he was presented with an ultimatum. “They said that if I wanted to maintain any relationship with them I would have to withdraw myself from the reform movement or they would never see my face again. I said I would prefer their absence than give up my fight for freedom. No one from my family ever met me thereafter.”

That last line, so powerful in its reality, is written with a moving simplicity, and is typical of Engineer, who has never dramatised his life even though there is enough material in it for a thriller. His mother, torn between her loyalty to the Syedna and her love for her son, chose the former but was still taunted by the community. Engineer writes of how she would sometimes come to his office and “weep before my colleagues…”.

When he and other reformists launched the democratically elected Central Board of the Dawoodi Bohra Community at an all-world reformist Bohra Conference in 1977, stories of oppression began to flow from among the one lakh delegates who attended. Engineer writes: “In one case in Udaipur, a father who was with the reformists died of acid burns and his son who was Shabab (an orthodox Bohra organisation) was forced to marry on the day his father's funeral procession was held. He was even asked to curse him.”

Unlike the rest of his community, many of whom acknowledge that greed is the driving force behind the tyranny, Engineer has refused to tolerate it. This is actually a refusal to be cynical, and to that extent he is truly a revolutionary, albeit a non-violent one.


Asghar Ali Engineer. Interestingly, Engineer is himself the son of a priest and was brought up with strict and deep religious training. This makes his arguments all the more strong as he is completely capable of a serious debate on religious knowledge. The establishment recognised this and saw him as enemy number one.

His work in garnering support for the reform movement was tediously slow. The Bohra establishment wielded power by fear, and this prevented many from supporting Engineer. But small things such as the gathering of 64 signatures from the staff of the Aligarh Muslim University, assistance from Jayprakash Narayan, and the overwhelming support of almost all sections of the media furthered the cause of reform. But regardless of all this and despite the fact that Engineer made the movement an international one, he feels sad that the community is still in the grip of the high priest.

Social and religious reformer, linguist, intellectual, writer – there is no all-encompassing label that describes the author. He is as much a student of Marx as he is of Farman Fatehpuri, the Urdu scholar who authored seminal works on the poets Mirza Ghalib and Muhammad Iqbal. Marx guided him to take an objective view of religion while he still remained grounded in the essential teachings of Islam. In his book he writes, “Although I remained a believer, I too was converted to Marxism. In my opinion it is not necessary to be an atheist to be a Marxist.”

Taking his cue from Christian liberation theology which originated in South America, Engineer learnt to take the best of all knowledge from diverse streams. This thirst for combining faith and reason – what perhaps can be called pure knowledge – is something of a trademark. Being open to all influences is particularly valuable in the current age where exists, as Kumar Ketkar, editor of Divya Marathi, says, a “dangerous trend of middle class and intellectual conviction that justifies communalism”.

Engineer's endeavours for communal harmony began in the post-Emergency days when the Janata Party was in power. Communal violence broke out in Aligarh, Varanasi and Jamshedpur. When Indira Gandhi returned to power, the dangerous trend continued, with the politicising of communal tensions. After a number of riots in Biharsharif in the early 1980s, Engineer went to investigate them. He found that the “RSS machinery was well oiled in the area and it spread rumours in villages which were instrumental in spreading the violence”.

Then came the Shah Bano case, the conversion of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram (Tamil Nadu), riots in Meerut and Bhagalpur, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Throughout, Engineer attempted to gather information, prepare reports and keep passions low on both sides, but the voice of moderation was not heard. He says he had the distinct feeling that Indian secularism was being shredded. His involvement with secularism and anti-communal work is a natural corollary of his reformist work. The obvious common bond is that he is committed to building an inclusive society, one in which humanity overrides all else.

If there is any criticism of the book, it is that it does not reflect adequately the dangers, the violence, the struggles and the tireless striving that have been a part of Engineer's life. It is not that he avoids these aspects of his life – he cannot because they are what have made the man – but he describes them with a blandness that is almost disappointing to readers, especially those who have followed his work via newspaper reports.

For instance, take the case of the very first attack on his life; an incident that most other people would describe in minute detail is dismissed in a couple of lines by Engineer. It happened in Calcutta [now Kolkata] in 1977 when Engineer had hired the Muslim Press Club for a press conference to further the reformist cause. The Syedna had heard about the press conference and paid a large amount of money to the club to cancel the reservation.

Of what must have been a tension-charged atmosphere, Engineer writes, “I found the premises locked and waited with a journalist friend for someone to come and open it. Suddenly some people began gathering around us. I became suspicious but stood there. Soon a large number of Bohras and some goondas collected there and attacked me. I could not run. But my journalist friend knew some young people from the area and summoned them to help me. They lifted me bodily and fighting their way out, took me to a nearby building which was a safe place. I escaped death very narrowly.”

A striking quality about Engineer is his rationality and his calm approach to whatever comes his way. This equanimity is what comes across as one turns the pages of the book. On reflection, even though there seems to be a disconnect with the turbulence of his life and his manner of relating it, it is actually a fitting style for Engineer to tell his own story.

“It is difficult to write an autobiography because in our society to come out with the truth is a very challenging thing to do,” said Engineer. “I have tried to be honest and truthful… as much as a human person can be.”

There is no doubt that the book is a perceptive commentary on society written with unassuming scholarliness. It is an accurate representation of the author and his life and hence a true autobiography.

Source: Frontline

URL: ... cleID=5744

ghulam muhammed
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Re: Articles By Asghar Ali Engineer.


Unread post by ghulam muhammed » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:30 pm

The Reformists And Their Problems

By Asghar Ali Engineer

It is said that political evolution can be brought about overnight but it takes years and great deal of struggle to usher in social or religious reforms and even after years old struggle much remains to be done.

Among others I would like to throw light on less known reform movement among the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. It is unique in many ways. It began right in the beginning of 1901 and still continues and reformists in this community witnessed both physical as well as mental violence.

Why is taking so long for reforms to be ushered in, in this community. It is the only community which has witnessed longest period for reform and greatest challenges to usher in reform and yet has never given up. It is true it passed through various phases of success and failures and also of betrayals on the part of leadership and yet goes on. As the community is spread all over the world, especially in India (bulk of the Dawoodis live here), East Africa, Yemen, parts of West Africa And now in Gulf countries like Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi etc. and U.K., Canada France, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and so on.

It originated in Gujarat, India through conversions from middle caste Hindus who were mostly traders and city dwelling from 12th Century onwards. As per community’s history their conversion in Gujarat began through efforts of 2 Isma’ili da’is Ahmad and Abdullah. Lakhs of Hindus were converted including some Rajputs from ruling classes but schism in 14th century when Jafer and some of his followers converted into Sunni Islam (there are many Sunni Bohras in Gujarat even today) reduced their numbers. Today there number in India and abroad is around 1.5 million.

The unique feature of the Dawoodi Bohra community is the control its priesthood exercises over it. It is this control which reformists are challenging since the beginning of twentieth century and is unable to break. There are many reasons for this some of which h we will discuss here. Firstly the priesthood is a historical institution which evolved when the Isma’ili movement was underground.

As we know in every underground movement priesthood has to be ruthless and succeeds only if it succeeds in establishing tight control. And what is more important in this underground movement is that it is primarily of religious nature. If it is merely political in nature it gives way with change of balance of power but if it is of religio-political nature it makes it quite formidable to break its stranglehold.

This is what has happened in case of the Dawoodi Bohra reform movement. The Isma’ilis lost political power (it was known as the Fatimid Sultanate) in Egypt with Cairo as its capital and the Isma’ilis remained in power up to 12th century. By then conversions had begun in India and when the Mustansariya branch of Isma’ilis lost power in Yemen also and the seat of mission known as Fatimi Da’wah was transferred to India. The reason for this transfer to India was loyalty and deep religiosity of people of India towards the mission. Few Da’is continued to be of Arab origin but subsequently from 18th Da’i onwards the Da’is also became Indian.

Though Isma’ili mission or Fatimid mission was not exactly underground but almost underground with well established priestly hierarchy with tight control over the faithfuls. It had to hide its beliefs from Sunni rulers of Gujarat. The Sunni rulers, more often than not, treated this sect as Rafzi i.e. those strayed from the right path. It was for the head priest (Da’i) to deal with the political rulers and hence all powers were centralized. Nothing could happen in the Dawoodi Bohra community without permission of the Da’i.

As British rule provided some relief to Bohras from fear complex High priest’s problems increased as member of the community began to challenge him. Modern secular education added to his problems. So the fiftieth Da’i decided to suppress modern education and refused permission to teach modern subjects in the madrasa at Burhanpur in 1902 and boycotted those who started modern school in defiance of the Da’i. Ex-communication was challenged in the British Court and was fought up to Privy Council.

This is the beginning of the reform movement in the Dawoodi Bohra community. With the dissent and challenges increasing the Da’i tightened the leash and the 51st Da’i Tahir Saifuddin tried to suppress reform movement both by use of mental and physical violence. Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy’s family was first to face both violence and ex-communication. It was very rich family but was almost ruined in this mighty fight.

Tahir Saifuddin sahib, the 51st Da’i cracked down on reformists so severely that all those highly placed Bohras who had declared their support to them were forced to retreat and fall in line with the priesthood. Persecution of reformists is a long winding history and has been dealt with in detail in my book The Bohras. It is indeed a frightening picture. Much more frightening, almost terrorizing, was to follow when there was massive revolt against the arbitrary rulings of Da’i to dissolve legally constituted cooperative bank, a library and a scholarship society as allegedly these organizations were set up without Da’i’s prior permission.

Udaipur has large number of male and female with high educational qualification and in this revolt there was clear divide of educated versus very little educated Bohras. Highly educated on the reform side and less educated or illiterate persons on Da’i’s side. This revolt unleashed reign of terror in the community very similar to emergency period in the country from 1975 to 1977. Anyone having even remote connection with reformists were ex-communicated and some known for open sympathies subjected to targeted violence. One among them was Prof. Mohommad Hasan Bhopali in Indore who taught economics at Christian College.

In Udaipur it resulted in street violence and large number of women with reformist connections were attacked and molested. The Nathwani Commission appointed by Shri Jaiprakash Narain has recorded many such violent incidents and serious violations of human rights of reformists. It is indeed very dark picture of history of social reforms in modern democratic India. It clearly shows how influential religious priesthood is and how politicians swearing by democracy and modernity play openly partisan role siding with most obscurantist forces in the society.

From 40 years of my experience in the Bohra reform movement I have concluded that it is not only highly difficult to bring about social change in modern democratic society but it is much easier to promote obscurantism and superstitious movements. This I am not saying out of frustration or hopelessness but out of concrete experience. All forces are ranged against reformists, and it is specially so in a backward, illiterate democratic societies. The rich and powerful fully exploit and manipulate religion and religious sentiments to perpetuate their monopoly for power.

The elected governments fear this power of manipulation of religious sentiments and fall in line with such forces, be it Saibaba or Syedna. They publicly and openly patronize them to exploit them for political purposes, as well as for money. It is also very painful story as to how Muslim leaders who repeatedly complain of violations of human rights of Muslim minority also sided with the Bohra religious high priest not because reformists were posing any challenge to Islamic beliefs but because all of them wanted to benefit from Syedna’s wealth

Syedna has accumulated huge wealth and has very powerful ‘religious’ establishment and all politicians want to benefit from it. Syedna Muhammad Burhanuddin, the present Da’i, and all his relatives have accumulated thousands of crores of rupees unaccounted wealth but no income tax authority dare touch them even if they have concrete evidence of violations of tax laws. They are fully protected by politicians.

Syedna Burhanuddin openly felicitated Narendra Modi twice at his Jamia Saifiyah Seminary and donated generously to his election kitty but not a single Muslim leader protested, much less boycotted him. He put the felicitation ceremony on YouTube for anyone to see. Modi has eloquently praised Syedna for his leadership qualities. He says in his speech that he (i.e. Narendra Modi) is great admirer of Syedna. And why not - birds of same feather always fly together.

Thus in our modern democratic India all vested interests are inter-linked and support each other to protect their mutual interests. But there is nothing to despair about. Hope and faith are our powerful instruments. Sometimes or often change is imperceptible as imperceptible as a black ant in a dark black night crawling on a black rock. It can never be seen so change in our society is almost imperceptible but yet it does take place.

Should we continue to struggle in such circumstances? Yes, of course. It is real test of our deeper conviction. There are those who live for convenience and those who live for conviction. Living for conviction is real living, living for others and living for convenience is living without purpose and for oneself. Living for oneself ensures bodily pleasures and living for others gives us spiritual pleasure.

Yes, living for others requires great deal of suffering, injuries and even death. More you suffer, more inner spiritual pleasure you feel. In seventies when our reformist struggle was at its height, I would continuously receive phone calls saying we know what time your daughter goes to college and we are going to rape her. You will soon hear this news. I will open a letter and dead lizard and cockroaches will drop out. I was set upon inside the Mosque of Jami’ al-Hakim in Cairo by more than 15 persons. I fell unconscious and escaped death very narrowly. My both eyes were damaged and it took more than an year for eyesight to become normal.

I was severely beaten up at Mumbai airport as myself and Syedna both were coming back from Bhopal alleging that I had tried to push him from aircraft and my office and house both were destroyed completely. I was stabbed once in Hyderabad. Similarly they stole letterheads from CBI office and distributed a press release in CBI’s name that I was involved in prostitution racket for Arabs from West Asia and that I pushed one women from the terrace of a hotel. All papers ignored it but one Gujarati paper from Surat published it but later apologized for the mistake.

I as well as many of my colleagues have been suffering from social boycott for more than 40 years now which means we cannot meet our close relatives and loved ones even on the occasion of Eid or when someone dies. I was not allowed to take part in funeral of my own brother under the threat that his dead body will be thrown out if I did not leave and there was no choice but to leave the cemetery. Subsequently when his only daughter married I could not participate.

All this happens in 21st century and in socialist democratic India and no one can do anything about it. Hundreds of reformists Bohras are suffering and there is no way one can get relief. But we have no complaint. We quietly and peacefully struggle for our rights and our convictions. Our religion is sacred to us and precisely for this reason we cannot allow it to be exploited by vested interests like the Bohra priesthood. The world has seen that we have struggled for our democratic and human rights only in democratic way. We cannot commit or violence to be committed, in the name of our religion.

Asghar Ali Engineer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai ... ms/d/10006