Islamic perspective
Ode to the shahids of Karbala
Five years ago I decided to embark upon a journey, which would take me to distant lands and forgotten times, through temples, churches and mosques. To the metaphysical realm and back. I decided to understand my religion, it's conception, development and propagation through the looking glass of the world. Today after five years, on this fateful night, I write my first account. more
Karbala and the Imam Husayn in Persian and Indo-Muslim literature
I still remember the deep impression which the first Persian poem I ever read in connection with the tragic events of Karbala left on me. It was Qaani’s elegy which begins with the words:

‘What is raining? Blood.
Who? The eyes.
How? Day and night.
Why? From grief.
Grief for whom?
Grief for the king of Karbala’ more

The Veil and Islam
A member of the provincial assembly of the NWFP has introduced a resolution requiring that wearing a veil should be made compulsory for every girl above 12 years of age (Dawn, May 2). Without citing any Quranic text in support of the resolution, Pir Muhammad Khan of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal assumes that Islam ordains the veil for women. If God directs women to veil their faces, then Muslims have no option but to abide by this command. But if on the other hand our Benevolent Creator has not imposed any such injunction, no man can impose it. more
Moinuddin Chishti: A model of Sufi Islam
Sufi Islam, as pointed out by us repeatedly is the most tolerant Islam which is highly compatible with multi-culturalism and pluralism. It flourished in India precisely for this reason. Not only that it produced many great Sufis of indigenous origin but many great Sufis were attracted to India from Persia, Arabia and other countries, especially Central Asia. India has been pluralistic for centuries. It never witnessed any period which had only one religion, or one language or one culture. It was always multi-cultural and multi-religious. more
Role of women in Karbala
These days we find lot of restrictions on women. In many cases they cannot even venture out of homes and are required to restrict themselves to household chores. Very few Muslim women have public roles, much less participating in tumultuous events of our times. And all this is being done in the name of Islam. However, if we cast a glance on early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events along with men.  The Prophet (PBUH) had four daughters from Bibi Khadija and brought them up as model women participating in Islamic revolution. more
Indian Sufis speak out against Wahabi dominance
Recently a huge congregation of Sunni (Sufi) Muslims in Moradabad denounced Wahabi Islam and the spokesperson of the All India Ulama Mashaikh Board, Syed Mohammad Ashraf and leader of the Sufi Islam said we do not accept leadership of Wahabi Islam (hamen inki na qayadat na imamat qabool hai). Syed Mohammed Ashraf said, 80% of Indian Muslims followed the Sunni Sufi tradition while Wahabis wielded control over just 13-14% of the community. more
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: Passion for freedom and communal harmony
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a unique Islamic personality of great Islamic scholarship, patriotism and passion for communal harmony. However, it is highly regrettable that his services to the country have almost been forgotten. From new generation school or even college going students I doubt even one percent would know him and his achievements. I, therefore, heartily welcomed when in a recent meeting of the general body of the Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla whose chairman is currently Prof. Mungekar, also a Rajya Sabha member, suggested that like Ambedkar a summer school be held for Maulana Azad also for college teachers so that they may be acquainted with Maulana’s personality and achievements. more
Does Islam allow for family planning?
Many people, especially women, ask me if family planning is permissible in Islam. They say the imams and ulama say the Qur’an prohibits family planning and quote a verse which says, “And kill not your children for fear of poverty; We provide for them and for you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong.” (17:31). In no way this verse refers to family planning because it is talking of “killing” and you kill one who exists. No law in the world will permit killing one who is already born and hence the Qur’an rightly condemns killing of children. more
Paradise and Hell: Are they for real?
Friends often ask me what do you think about paradise and hell? Are these spaces located somewhere out there wherein people would enter according to their deeds good or bad?  Or are these mere symbols as those who believe in batini (concealed meaning) of the Qur’an? Are these places wherein people would eternally abide in physical sense? In fact it is like people who used to ask the Prophet (PBUH) about the Day of Judgment. more
Tragedy of Karbala: Islam's defining moment
The battle of Karbala for all Muslims is of utmost importance - except for those who consider Yazid, son of Mu’awiyah as a legitimate caliph and the rebellion against him as ‘anti-Islamic’. It is universally observed though the way it is observed differs from sect to sect. Generally Sunni Muslims arrange for sermons on Islam as well as sermons on the events in Karbala. However, there is no weeping, crying or chest beating. more
The Prophet and the terrorist: A dialogue
The events of 9/11 nine years ago changed the face and character of the world. In retaliation to the Trade Centre attacks, as the US and its allies rained death and destruction on Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslims everywhere were made to feel guilty and Islam was turned into a pariah religion. more
On being kafir
In the recent plane crash in Pakistan (28 July 2010) a Hindu youth who was a member of Youth Parliament, Pakistan died and someone wrote on his coffin ‘kafir’ which ignited a controversy. more
Salafism and Sufism: Is the conflict real?
Salafism or Wahabism, also referred to as the cult of Ahl-e-Hadith is supposed to be directly opposed to the Sufi strain of Islam. In India too the two sects are opposed to each other though here, due to democratic secular polity, nature of conflict is not very aggravated or violent. The partisans of both the ideologies apart, it confuses many Muslims as to what are their differences about and why they condemn each other? more
The other Five Pillars of Islam
It is well known that Muslims believe in five pillars of Islam i.e. (1) Tawhid (Unity of Allah), (2) Prayer, (3) fasting, (4) hajj (pilgrimage) and (5) Zakat (alms or tithe). There is complete unity among Muslims on these pillars of Islam though some sects like Isma'ilis add two more pillars in addition to these five. But five are accepted by all. more
American aggression against Iraq - who is the terrorist?
The aggression against Iraq by President Bush of America and Prime Minister Blair of the U.K. has attracted worldwide condemnation and rightly so. The forces of these two countries are ruthlessly bombarding Iraq. more
Religion and economic justice
It is usually thought that religion is on the side of establishment and vested interests – economic as well as political and it can never become a resource for justice. more
Landmark judgement on Talaq
Recently the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court gave an important judgement in Muslim divorce case. It is a landmark judgement, which will benefit many suffering Muslim women who are arbitrarily divorced. more
On Sufi approach to Islam
Historically speaking sufism appeared in Islam towards the end of first century of Islamic calender. Some sufis of course maintain that the Prophet of Islam himself is the mainspring of sufism and they draw inspiration from him for their spiritual and devotional practices. more
Islamic world and the crisis of modernism
The rising tide of what is called by the print and electronic media as 'fundamentalism' in the Islamic world from Indonesia in the East to Algeria in the West has created many problems in the world at large. The attack on the WTC in New York on 11th September 2001 has further aggravated the matter and people have come to believe that Islam really is against modernity and stands for jihad. more
A new approach for the Islamic world
The world of Islam is in turmoil today. The events of 11th September in New York have given it a new jolt. The Muslim world was far from stable even before that. It had experienced many crises, conflicts and revolution. The post-colonial phase in whole of Africa and Asia that way has not seen long lasting stability. more
The real meanings of Jihad
Jihad is projected as if it is integral part of Islam to fight against unbelievers and as if it is the obligatory duty of all Muslims to fight against infidels. To say the least, it is not proper representation of the concept of jihad in Islam. more
To the Islamic orthodoxy science is still dangerous
I cannot quite decide which is the more dangerous of the two: George Bush and his obsession with ensuring U.S. global military dominance or the exploding power of brutal fundamentalist religious forces in countries such as mine. more
Religion and poverty
I got an invitation from Union Theological Seminar, New York to participate in a seminar on 'Religion and Poverty' whose convener was Paul Knitter on the occasion of his installation as the Dean of the Seminary, a noted scholar in his field, yet very humble person with a pleasant personality. more
The concept of peace in Islam
Islam is being associated with violence and jihad in the minds of not only non-Muslims but also of many Muslims. The slogans of jihad are being raised by frustrated youth unable to find any other way and also by those who are fighting for national liberation and regional autonomy. more
Holier than thou: Islam and the religious ego
Every religion has its own concept of the 'other', specially the 'religious other'. Generally the followers of a religious tradition looked down upon other religious traditions as inferior and less true, if not untrue though it may not be exactly the scriptural position. more
Why reform movements are necessary
Every society goes through the pangs of reform and change. But, the leaders of society representing the status quo strongly resist any movement for reform and change since it deprives them of leadership. more
Values, not rituals are essence of religion
What is religion? In actual practice religion consists of beliefs, dogmas, traditions, practices and rituals. A believer born in a religious tradition inherits all this and takes everything for granted and believes every thing he has inherited is an essential and integral part of religion. more
The liberating message of the Qur'an
The Qur'an is a revealed scripture of religion of Islam and one of the greatest revealed scriptures. It is in Arabic language and according to the Qur'an itself it is in language easily understandable. Thus the Qur'an says, "And certainly We have made the Qur'an easy to remember, but is there anyone who will mind?" (54:17). more
Islamic spirituality: The forgotten revolution
'Blood is no argument', as Shakespeare observed. Sadly, Muslim ranks are today swollen with those who disagree. The World Trade Centre, yesterday's symbol of global finance, has today become a monument to the failure of global Islam to control those who believe that the West can be bullied into changing its wayward ways towards the East. There is no real excuse to hand. more
Is Islam undemocratic?
In a TV show a senior editor of a well-known Indian daily threw a question at me, why Islam is so undemocratic? It spurred me to write this article. The question must be answered. Is Islam undemocratic by nature of its teachings? more
The tragedy of Kerbala
In 50 A.H. when Imam Hasan (A) was poisoned, the duty ofImamat became the responsibility of his younger brother ImamHusain (A). At the time, Muawiya bin Abu Sufyan, the governorof Syria and arch-enemy of the family of the Holy Prophet (S), was virtually the ruler of the whole Muslim Empire. more
Horr's ultimate choice
Horr was the name of one of the high-ranking commanders of the army of Omar-e-Sad who faced the grandson of the Prophet of Islam Hussain-ebn-Ali, with orders from Yazeed-ebn-Muawiah to either get Hussain's allegiance for his corrupt Khalifat, or kill Hussain and all his friends. more
Muslims, modernity and change
It is generally assumed that Islam is opposed to change and rejects modernity. Those who think like this are found both among Muslims as well as non-Muslims. In fact this debate has been raging among Muslims since nineteenth century i.e. since colonial experience began. more
Haj in social perspective
This year (circa 2000) I received an invitation from the Minister of Haj, Government of Saudi Arabia Syed Iyad Madani to perform Haj as his personal guest and I siezed this rare opportunity to go for the pilgrimage. Syed Iyad is not only a thorough gentleman but also a person of very open mind and liberal disposition. more
Compatibiility of Islam, secularism and modernity
The Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) of Leiden, Netherlands, recently organised a three-day workshop and seminar series around the theme of Muslim intellectuals and the challenges facing the Muslim world of the present. more
Islamic states have no Qur'anic sanction
A number of Islamic countries claim that they are an Islamic state and that secularism has no place in their society. Some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia consider secularism to be a great sin. Is there any concept of an Islamic state in the Qur'an? more
Islam and modern age
Every religion prescribes its own prayer system, Islam also does. Every religion has its own unique system and it is this uniqueness which is precious. Islam prescribes its prayer system without challenging prayer systems of other religions as it recognises the uniqueness of prayer systems of other religions. more
Twenty First Century, religon and peace
The new millennium is about to dawn and it would be interesting to see how religion faces new challenges of the coming century. The World Conference for Religion and Peace (WCRP), an international organisation based in New York organised a four day international conference in Amman, Jordan from 25-29 November 1999 to define the role of religion in promoting peace in the world in the twenty first Century. more
Islam's concepts of ethics
Every religion lays great emphasis on ethical aspects of human conduct in its own unique way. Generally there is great commonality between different religions as far as moral and ethical questions are concerned. In fact to mould a moral character is the most fundamental function of religion. more
The caravan of summer
Something of the real difference between pilgrim and tourist can be detected by comparing their effects on the places they visit. Changes in a place, a city, a shrine, a forest may be subtle, but at least they can be observed. more
Qur'an and Isma'ili ta'wil
Qur'an is divine but its interpretation is human and hence there have been different interpretations of various Qur'anic verses. The differences in interpretation of the Qur'anic verses was not a later development but began shortly after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). more
On methodology of understanding the Qur'an
There have been numerous interpretations of the Holy Qur'an. This itself shows the great significance of this great scripture revealed to the Holy Prophet of Islam. The Qur'an has inspired millions of people across the globe and continues to do so and will continue to do so as long as human beings exist on this planet. more
Islam and plurarlism
Today's world is fast becoming pluralist with variety of religions, languages and cultures in one country particularly due to fast developing processes of modernization, liberalisation and globalisation. more
Islam and securlarism
Many people feel that Islam is quite incompatible with secularism. Some even maintain that as long as one is Muslim he cannot be a secularist. This is further reinforced by the propaganda by some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia that secularism is haram and that all secular nations are enemies of Islam. more
Muslim women and maintenance
With the recent judgement of the Bombay High Court the controversy about the maintenance of a Muslim divorcee has been revived. Similar judgement by the Apex Court in mid-eighties popularly known as the Shah Bano case had caused much turmoil in the Muslim community. more
Recostruction of Islamic thought
How do we look at a religion? As a set of rituals, dogmas and institutions? Or as values and thought system? Some emphasise the former and others the latter. Generally the masses of people are more concerned with rituals dogmas and institutions whereas the intellectuals lay more emphasis on thought system and values, particular on the thought system. more
The concept of Islamic state
Islamic state is a most discussed subject both among supporters as well as among its opponents. Is there any such concept? Can we call any state an Islamic state? There are many claimants of course. Interestingly among the claimants are military dictators as well as monarchs. more
An Islamic perspective against animal sacrifice
Every year, with the onset of Hajj and it's accompanying 'Id celebration, as well as that of the 'Id al-Fitr, the issue of animal sacrifice, and subsequently, that of meat consumption in the Islamic world, rises to the foreground, both amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. more
Religon in politics
A decade ago I spent a couple of hours with Morarji Desai, a well known politician and one-term prime minister of India. I was researching the campaign by Hindu religious parties to build a shrine to Lord Rama on the spot where then stood the 16th century Babri mosque. more
Composite culture: celebration of Indian unity
Composite culture is celebrated by some and denounced by others. The purists of all religions denounce the concept of composite culture. They accept nothing short of 'pure Hindu' or 'pure Islamic' culture. The pure culture, needless to say, divides while composite culture unites the people of a country. more
The key terms in the Qur'an
Every scripture, every religion and every ideology has its own terminology, some terms among them being, what can be described as key terms. These terms play very important role in understanding the scripture, religion or ideology. In case of a religion it is certain scriptural terms which play fundamental role. more
Change and reform in the Muslim world
The world is on the verge of the twenty-first century and different belief systems are being critically examined by experts in various fields. Religion and religious beliefs are no exception. more
Fundamentalism, traditionalism and communalism
Generally no distinction is made between fundamentalism, traditionalism and communalism, they are often used synonymously. However, it is not so. These terms have distinct meanings and different implications. more
Ikhwanus Safa: A rational and liberal approach to Islam
Rasa'il-e-Ikhwanus Safa (Epistles of Brethren of Purity) have been considered an encyclopaedic work of 3rd or 4th century of Islam. This work consists of 52 epistles (Rasa'il) though there is controversy about the exact number. Some scholars claim they are 50 in number while others maintain 51 and yet others 52 or 53. more
Imam Hussein: A martyr in the cause of justice
The tenth of Muharram is a day of mourning for all Muslims, and for Shia Muslims in particular. It marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussein,the grandson of the Prophet, which took place in the 61st year after the Prophet's migration from Mecca to Madina. more
The concept of ijtihad in Islam
Change is inevitable in human life and society. Dr Allama Iqbal, the noted poet, also says that “it is only revolution which is permanent” and everything else keeps on changing. In the event of constant change, can religion and religious law remain unchanged? more
Islam and modernity
What is the relation between Islam and modernity? Generally it is thought to be negative. But it is very superficial approach. In fact one has to go deeper both into Islamic theology and history as well as into the meaning and significance of the term ‘modernity'. more
Islam - the ultimate vision
Every religion has its vision, I would say visions. Religion is a subjective thing, an inner experience. Thus each follower can have his/her own vision realized through one's religion - born in or acquired. more
The soul of the world order: Islam and scientific fundamentalism
A crisis of knowledge of immense proportions overwhelms the contemporary Muslim civilization: The erstwhile “Civilization of the Book” is humbled today under the intellectual thatch of the West. This is an indictment made, paradoxically, in good faith! more
Declaration toward a global ethic: An Islamic response
Every religion preaches global ethic in one form or the other. Certain religious pronouncements do shock some with modern consciousness and they tend to decry religion. more
Muslims and the mainstream
Often question is raised by those with communal bias and sometimes even by those with secular outlook whether Muslims are part of Indian mainstream. more