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The dream that was not mine – Harris Khalique’s poetry

khud pe kia taari use
woh khwab jo apna na tha

(I let the dream take over me/ The dream that was not mine)

Harris Khalique is a poet of myriad sensibilities. Like his cosmopolitanism his poetry encompasses tradition and modernity; the urbane consciousness as well as snippets of the folk wisdom. As a bilingual poet, Khalique is even more important in a country partitioned between the two literary worlds: the native vernacular and the hip, well cut out English domain. A few months ago, I attended the launch of his new collection of poems, Melay Mein and heard the poet recite these poems. Reading and listening to poetry are two separate and distinct experiences. I re-read the slim volume, eight in his oeuvre and realized that Khalique had actually moved on.

The earlier bohemian and carefree Khalique, as he was a decade and a half ago when I first met him, is a different person in this collection. A more anguished soul can be detected under the layers of verse and rhyme. There is evidently a greater reconnection with the past as Khalique invokes the folk, the subliminal as well as the perennial metaphors of our consciousness such as Imam Husain (AS).

The poem that inspires the title is instructive. Melay Mein talks of a mother’s concerns whose child is lost in the maze of life. The pain in this poem is universal and so is the metaphor. Of losing the creativity and the fear of loss. Note the power of these lines:‘jiss ka bacha/ jahan-e baazi giraa’n ke melay mein/ kho gaya hai”. The world is cruel and uncertain and full of charlatans and this is what Khalique’s other poems in this collection also convey. In another poem Ghao, there is mention of dark worlds and demons: […]

The closed minds that deny a civilisation’s glories – where I was quoted

I was most pleased to read this piece by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown entitled The closed minds that deny a civilisation’s glories. I would like to thank Yasmin Alibhai, whom I have always respected for her integrity and courage, to have quoted a few hurried lines posted by me in response to tge butchery perpeterated by the extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere:

Muslims are seeing Koranic injunctions where none exist
Confused Dad Mohamed from somewhere in the US sends his dilemma to an Islamic guidance website through whom Allah apparently communicates his orders – on how we dress, what we do minute by minute, unholy TV programmes, wicked vitamins and even wickeder relations between males and females.
I paraphrase Mohamed’s frantic appeal for clarity. His children watch cartoons, and have stuffed toys, quilts and pillow cases with Mickey Mouse on them. Is all that halal? Now many of us detest the addictive and manipulative Disney brand which targets young children. But this fully grown, procreative adult cannot trust his own mind and seeks instructions from unverified voices of authority. How abject is that?
These global sites control people, push through Maoist “cleansing”. Miserable mullahs are closing down the Muslim mind and heart the world over. Meanwhile “true believers” desperately seek enslavement and thank their enslavers. The questions posed are startling in their naiveté. May we sing? Is it OK for a man to listen to a woman singer? Do I watch a female newsreader? Yes, says a wise one – as long as she is properly covered up and not wearing perfume. Don’t laugh. It is tragic, not funny.
Somehow in the last decade or so, millions of believers have been persuaded that they are repositories of sin because they watch films, love music and paintings, read books, experience temporal pleasures and ecstasies. Remember the ferocity with which the Taliban destroyed all pre-Islamic treasures? Saudi Arabia is guilty of similar vandalism. Thus they seek to recreate the piety of triumphant Islam. Well they didn’t have cameras, mobile phones, cars and computers then. Should these be banned too?
Muslim children are now programmed to obey – robbed of imagination, independent thought and refinement. UK Muslim parents are increasingly coming out against school visits, music and drama, novels, exercise, scientific facts. Teachers know these parental demands leave Muslim children under-educated and emotionally numbed, rendered unresponsive to artistic words, sights and sounds.
This is a travesty of our history, our love of truth and beauty, the intellectual energy that throughout history uplifted Muslim civilisations. The current Science Museum exhibition of Muslim inventions that shaped the modern world proves we were never the barbarians promoted in Western demonology. Some of the earliest manuals on surgery and optics, astronomy and flying machines came out of Muslim regions. And those same places were creative hubs producing great works of art, incredible buildings and intricate crafts.
There is no Koranic injunction against the depiction of the human form, yet pictures from previous ages would today not be painted – a kneeling, sensual angel by an Ottoman artist in the mid-16th century, a man filling his cup of wine. Passion plays were performed through the centuries in all main Arabian conurbations. Poetry was written and recited by both men and women. Music, devotional and romantic, was in every household. All that is under threat today.
The Pakistani blogger Raza Rumi writes: “Who are these butchers of culture? What religion do they follow? They have no religion except barbarism.” Exactly. British Muslims for Secular Democracy (of which I am chair), supported by the British Council, is tomorrow organising a conference on artistic and cultural freedom at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Speakers include Miss Pakistan (who is also a professor), fashion designers, the entrepreneur Saira Khan, painters, stand-up comics, musicians, writers, others who are concerned. The event is open to all. Check the BMSD site. We will be launching an advisory guide for teachers on protecting the interests of the Muslim child. […]

February 15th, 2010|Guest Writer, Islam, Islamophobia, media, Middle East, Religion|5 Comments

Baytunur – an academic platform in Lahore

Announcement by Taimoor Khan Mumtaz

Baytunur registered as a trust in the year 2006 to promote the understanding of the spiritual branch of Islam known as ‘tasawwuf’ or “Sufism”. Managed and supported by six trustees, its academic activity is overseen by a board that includes three trustees and three scholars. It also has an academic advisory council.

 The Islam Seminars:  are a series of seminars and/or colloquiums that are held in spring and/or summer each year where different scholars are invited to speak in an interactive environment on a certain topic. The topics are usually set on public demand. The inaugural seminars were held in collaboration with Iqbal Academy Pakistan in Lahore, Pakistan and Teachers’ Development Centre, Karachi in 2007. To date a total of six Islam Seminars have been conducted. […]

May 19th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Lahore, Sufism|3 Comments

Ghamdi on Islam and the Taliban

A friend sent this piece with an introductory message that ” Ghamdi’s life is under threat by the Taleban as they want to eliminate all who can challenge them. Can they eliminate 168 million of us?” Ghamdi is a beacon of hope and enlightenment in these dark days.

The Taliban say that democracy is a concept alien to Islam. According to them, the ideal method of establishing a government according to Islam is the method adopted by Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. Constitution, parliament and elections are evil innovations of modern times. Islam is not bound by any of these institutions for its enforcement. The interpretation of governance conveyed to us by the Hanifi School of jurisprudence is enough for us. The ijtehad of modern jurists are also vague. The ancient jurists have delivered their decisions regarding individual and collective life.  These have all been arrived at […]

May 14th, 2009|Islam, Islamophobia|Comments Off on Ghamdi on Islam and the Taliban

Revisiting the concept of Jihad in Islam

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)*

The word ‘jihad’ is derived from the root juhd, which means ‘to strive’ or ‘to struggle’. It denotes the exertion of oneself to the utmost, to the limits of one’s capacity, in some activity or for some purpose.  This is how the word is understood in Arabic grammar.

Because fighting against one’s enemies is also one form of this exertion or striving, it is also sometimes referred as jihad. However, the actual Arabic word for this is qital, not jihad. Fighting with one’s enemies is something that might happen only occasionally or exceptionally. However, jihad, properly understood, is a continuous action or process that animates every day and night of the life of the true believer. Such a person does not let any hurdle affect his life, including desire for gain, the pressure of customs, the demands of pragmatism, lust for wealth, etc.. All these things serve as hurdles in the path of doing good deeds. Overcoming these hurdles and yet abiding by the commandments of God is the true jihad, and this is the essential meaning of the concept of jihad. There are many references to jihad, as understood in this way, in the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. […]

September 23rd, 2008|India, Islam, Islamophobia, South Asian Literature, Urdu|5 Comments

Weird science – the perils of Muslim scholarship

I am posting Ziauddin Sardar’s article published in the New Statesman (August 21,2008) that explores the ‘nonesense”of some Muslim scholars who claim that everything from genetics to robotics and space travel is mentioned in the Quran.

Science has acquired a new meaning in certain Muslim circles. When classical Muslim scholars declared that “whosoever does not know astronomy or anatomy is deficient in the knowledge of God”, they were emphasising the importance of the scientific spirit in Islam and encouraging the pursuit of empirical science. But today, to a significant section of Muslims, science includes the discovery of “scientific miracles” in the Quran. […]

September 11th, 2008|Islam, Personal|6 Comments

Islamophobia of Muslims

A sad day for Pakistan and progressive Islam. A close associate of Javaid Ghamidi– perhaps the best known Pakistani exponent of enlightened (I hate the word “moderate” – it such a Western construct!) Islam was shot yesterday. It is not just a threat to Ghamidi and his Institute Al-Mawrid but a […]

August 25th, 2006|Islam|0 Comments