Questions about burning

Published Apr 30, 2009 11:05am

Nadeem Farooq Paracha gets into another tricky conversation.
Recently I happened to meet a young man who was born and raised in Manchester, in the UK. He had returned to his parents' country with his siblings in 2006, some seven months after the dreadful 7/7 episode. He approached me while I was returning from the parking lot opposite my office building.
'Aslamalaikum!' he said, smiling widely and brightly.
'Walaikumaslam,' I replied, noticing a hint of that Manchester accent in his greeting. 'Brother, where can I find a mosque here?' he asked, that accent now all-to-prominent. I told him about the two mosques in the area and guided him how to get there from the place were we stood. 'Thank you, brother,' he said, smiling brightly again. 'My pleasure,' said I, making my way towards my office building. But long before I could reach it, I heard his voice again. 'Brother!' 'Yes?' I turned around. 'Which of the two mosques should I go to?' he asked. I shrugged my shoulders, thought for a moment and told him any of the two mosques should suffice. 'Oh, okay,' he said. 'But which one do you go to?' he asked. 'Err … none,' I replied. 'Do you go to any other mosque here if not these two?' he asked, politely enough for me to allow him an answer. 'No,' I said, with a vague smile. 'I haven't been to a mosque in a long time.' 'But why, brother?' He asked, still smiling brightly. 'Well, I … ' Before I could finish answering the question, he interrupted: 'Why don't you join me in prayers, brother?' This got me interested. I walked towards him. 'You're not from here, are you?' I asked. 'No, brother, I was born and raised in England. My name is Ashfaq,' he said, shaking my hand. I offered him a cigarette. 'No, brother, I do not smoke,' he said. 'Ashfaq, I am Nadeem. Do you mind if I smoke?' 'Not at all, brother.' He smiled. I invited him to have a cup of tea with me at a nearby dhaba. He agreed. We both sat and ordered some tea and biscuits. 'For how long have you been here?' I asked. 'A year and half, now. I'm studying economics at a university in Karachi.' 'So, how has Pakistan been treating you so far?' 'It's nice. It's my country,' he proudly said. 'Yes,' I smiled. 'But very violent too.' 'Yes,' he said, laughing. 'I've gotten my cell phone stolen twice.' 'Haven't we all,' I said. 'The crime and violence have rocketed in the last many years.' 'Yes, I have heard some horror stories,' he said, shaking his head. 'And yet our mosques are always full of pious worshippers!' I said. He started at me, then looked down at his cup of tea, finally cutting a knowing smile: 'Is that why you do not visit mosques?' 'Partly, yes.' I said. 'But, brother …' 'You can call me, Nadeem,' I politely interrupted. 'Alright,' he said. Then folding his arms in front of his chest he began: 'Brother Nadeem, praying is one of the most important pillars of Islam and …' 'Are you a part of the some preaching group?' I asked. 'Do you say this because of my beard or the way I speak?' 'Both,' said I. 'Is that a problem?' he inquired. 'Should it be?' I asked. 'You tell me,' he said. 'Brother Ashfaq,' I said, now folding my arms in front of my chest. 'Don't you think that had the Muslims spent more time philosophically and rationally determining and investigating the message of the Qu'ran instead of reducing the intellectual discourse in this regard to the matters of ritual and outdated dogma handed down to us by some rigid old men, the sight of full mosques could have then really meant something more than mere ritualism?' Ashfaq unfolded his arms: 'Brother Nadeem, what do you mean by rational investigation? The Qu'ran does not need any investigation.' 'It needs a fresh interpretation,' I said. 'It needs to be interpreted according to the needs of Muslims in this day and age. It is full of metaphors and allegories. It is meant to be interpreted, isn't it? That's what most rational Islamic scholars have been trying to do for so long.' He listened with utmost attention, then spoke: 'This still doesn't mean you stop going to the mosque, brother Nadeem.' I laughed and that surprised him. 'What's so funny, brother?' he asked. 'Can't you see, Ashfaq?' I said. 'That's all that matters to you. Who is going to the mosque and who isn't. Then, when you do find someone who does visit a mosque your next question will be about the way he is praying, or if he is wearing the right praying clothes.… What about the more intellectual and philosophical debates within Islam? They need to be addressed a lot more urgently, don't you think?' Ashfaq went into a thoughtful trance of sorts, running a finger around the tips of his cup of tea. Then he spoke, quietly, as if speaking to himself: 'But such ideas create confusion.' 'Confusion?' I inquired, genuinely surprised. 'I think what you mean is that such ideas create Muslims like me!' I smiled. 'How can you be a Muslim if you do not pray?' he asked. 'Volia!' I threw my arms in the air. 'My being or not being a Muslim begins and ends in my head. I am more concerned about the answers we Muslims are giving to those who are accusing us of violence and destruction. The state of Muslim intellectualism is the pits these days. We are collapsing inwards with outdated talk about  laws constructed hundreds of years ago by inflexible men and their followers who would like to see Muslim societies turn into static totalitarian societies! What is our intellectual response to all this? Is it science, philosophy and reason, or is the response only about nice, brightly smiling Muslims like you who are only obsessed about cramping as many Muslims in a mosque as possible? The intellectual and political space in Islam is being filled by theological dogma, self-righteous antics and mere ritual. Wake up!' Ashfaq smiled: 'Brother Nadeem, calm down. All I asked you was to come pray with me. Why so much anger?' I smiled back: 'Tell me brother Ashfaq, how did you respond to the 7/7 event in Britain?' 'I prayed for the well being of all Muslims,' he said proudly. 'Of course, you did,' I said, with a smile of resignation. 'But, being a good Muslim, did you also pray for the non-Muslims who died in the suicide attacks?' Ashfaq went into the trance mode once again. 'Brother Nadeem …are you by any chance a non-Sunni?' I laughed out loud: 'Brother Ashfaq, are you by any chance an idiot?' Ashfaq went all serious: 'You don't have to get offensive, brother.' 'Ashfaq, what sort of a question was that?' I said. 'Am from this sect or a that sect of Islam? I was talking about something a lot more meaningful than sectarian.' 'Doesn't matter,' he said. 'Islam is for all mankind.' 'Fine,' I replied, 'but how do you plan to prove this? Wouldn't you rather set a more reasonable and intellectual example in this respect rather than a ritualistic one, or worse, a violent one, like that of the fanatics?' 'I am not a fanatic,' he said, his eyes now ogling repressed anger. I offered him a cigarette. 'I told you I don't smoke,' he said, politely pushing away the offer. 'You may as well now,' I said. 'You have already missed your prayers.'
He worriedly looked at his wrist watch: 'That's correct. I did.' 'Don't worry,' I smiled. 'You wont burn in hell for this.' 'You are right, brother, I wont …' he replied, and then in a quiet but foreboding tone, added: 'But you will.'


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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com

He tweets @NadeemfParacha


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (266) Closed




Jareer
Apr 30, 2009 07:04am
Hahaha! Brilliant.
Babar
Apr 30, 2009 07:12am
Well done Nadeem. I don't know how many of us can actually get up and contradict this madness around us with your intelligence and bravery. We most certainly need a few more like you. Thanks for sharing
Zafar Akhtar
Apr 30, 2009 07:13am
In a recent survey conducted by a well known media organization, it was revealed that more than 80 % of Pakistani population believe in the fundamentals of Islam. The land is therefore ripe for an islamic(enlighten) revolution to take over.Praying five times a day is one of the basic and fundamental requirement in Islam.People like Mr Paracha are in minority in the country. However, i agree that some clarifications and clearer interpretation of the Koran should be arranged by the Ulemas so that these are corretly followed and applied
I E
Apr 30, 2009 07:15am
Claps for you.. simply great!!!
Dr. Raheela
Apr 30, 2009 07:17am
I have been reading your articles but let me share a comment the articles you are writing are far too intellectual that our readers cannot really make up what you are talking about but good, I appreciate your messages
Dr. Raheela
Apr 30, 2009 07:19am
well thats the problem, mind set of majority is like this, need to create general public awareness first
Umair Ghori
Apr 30, 2009 07:32am
Nadeem, Islam is about both Ritual worship of One God AND Pondering over the Message of Islam. While you have been active in "intellectualism" you have missed out on compulsory prayers haven't you? and no amount of pseudo-intellectual response can suffice for this omission. I agree with you on sects though.Sects are created by those who wish to compartmentalise religion into their domains.Each one self-righteous, each one calling the other wrong.Yes we need intellectual discourse of modern & progressive scholars (well versed in Shariah and worldly knowledge)to better understand the timeless message of the Quran BUT we CANNOT miss our prayers.You don't follow that order, you violate the first injunction of islam.
Sarfraz Khan
Apr 30, 2009 05:14pm
This argument is archaic in its nature. You don't "rationally investigate" something when pressurized to do so. That is calling changing your opinion when patronized. Jizya is merely a different name for zakat. It is the same rate and as Haider pointed out, allows for the protection of minorities. All funds collected from Jizya go towards the protection of minorities. Here in the United States, if you consciously object to a war as a soldier you get 1 year in prison, while you pay 30% of your income in taxes. Islam requires you pay 2.5% and you can consciously object all you want. Mr. Paracha, I suggest you investigate yourself. It is easy to say "we need a fresh interpretation" and then walk away to work.
ali
Apr 30, 2009 07:38am
Interesting. Only in the end is where anyone, and all of us make a mistake. Making fitwas and or saying that such and such person is going to heaven or hell. As some Muslim Scholars say that we are not either in the know or able to predict such a thing. Actually making such claims is a version of shirq. Only Allah knows, what someone's deeds are and where that person id going.
A.Narasingarao
Apr 30, 2009 07:47am
Good,We need more rational people like the author in Islam.
Tarik Jaffery
Apr 30, 2009 07:51am
Nice one! Depicted right picture about people around us even those who are brought up in Europe especially England. Most of us have closed our minds and are not prepared to think and argue rationally. Probably this is a requirement to be a religious person. Thats why we are told dont think too much otherwise you will become an atheist!!! We are a community of perfect blind followers of dogmas and preconceived notions where argument and reasoning is apostasy. Can any nation ever progress with this mindset?
Ganesh Sharma
Apr 30, 2009 08:22am
Very well presented points and same are true for every criteria which could be used to identify division in Human Race ( could be religion, cast, creed, sect, color, geography). People with time tend to get diverted from original objective, philosophy or message and start following and justifying practice and rituals which had been put in place by some one as mark of adherence to those objectives. Every practice / ritual needs to be revisited critically and intellectually from time to time in view of changing scenario to highlight message / objective embedded in them specially so with new generation else objectives as always are at risk of being lost to Rituals.
pspuvahca
Apr 30, 2009 08:24am
here's an article every truly patriotic pakistani must read and pass it on to others so that the country could yet be saved, because the politicians and the army generals dont care any more.. --------------------------------------- I want my country back Friday, April 17, 2009 By Sehar Tariq Eight years ago I boarded a plane to the United States to come to college. I was 17. As I left, my father hugged me and told me to never come back because he believed that soon Pakistan would not be a country fit for me to live in. I told him he was trying to save money by not having to buy me tickets to come home. We laughed it off. I hugged him goodbye and that day my father and I began our great debate about the fate of Pakistan . Abba told me to stay away. I defied him every time. I came home twice a year. I only flew PIA. I refused to do an internship in the US I worked every summer in Pakistan . I moved back when college ended. I started work in Pakistan . I worked two jobs because there was so much to do and not enough time to do it in. I was inspired and energised. I was hopeful and optimistic. Today I am neither. And I have lost the debate with my father about the fate of Pakistan . The Parliament by endorsing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (NAR) has heralded the end of Pakistan as I knew and loved it. Today, the elected representatives of the people turned Pakistan into Talibanistan. Today we handed over a part of the country to them. I wonder how much longer before we surrender it all. Today we legislated that a group of criminals would be in charge of governing and dispensing justice in a part of Pakistan according to their own obscurantist views. They have declared that the rulings of their courts will be supreme and no other court in the land can challenge them. They have also declared that their men that killed and maimed innocent civilians, waged war against the Pakistani army and blew up girls schools will be exempt from punishment under this law. A law that does not apply equally to all men and women is not worthy of being called a law. Hence today we legislated lawlessness. What was most disturbing was the quiescence of the Parliament to this legislation. The utter lack of debate and questioning of this ridiculous legislation was appalling. The decision was not informed by any independent research or expert testimony, and to my knowledge none of the parliamentarians are authorities on matters of security, rule of law or regional conditions in Swat. This signals disturbing possibilities. Either our politicians are too afraid to stand up to criminals or maybe they don't possess the foresight to gauge the national impact of this action. There is no hope for a country led by cowards or fools. How can one be hopeful about the political future of a country where the will and the wisdom of politicians becomes hostage to the threats of barbarians? How can I be optimistic about a country where doyens of the media like Ansar Abbasi hear the collective silence of the parliamentarians as the resounding support of the people of Pakistan , but are deaf to the threats issued by the Taliban to anyone opposing the legislation? How can I feel secure in a country where the army, despite receiving the largest chunk of our resources, cannot defeat a bunch of thugs? How can I expect justice when there are different laws for different citizens, and I as a woman am a second class citizen? How can I be inspired by a country where there is no culture, no music, no art, no poetry and no innovative thought? How can I be expected to return to a country where women are beaten and flogged publicly, where my daughters will not be allowed to go to school, where my sisters will die of common diseases because male doctors cannot see them? How can I be expected to call that country home that denies me the rights given me by my Constitution and religion? I refuse to live in a country where women like me are forced to rot behind the four walls of their homes and not allowed to use their education to benefit the nation. By endorsing the NAR and giving in to the Taliban, Parliament has sapped my hope and optimism. Parliament has dealt a deathly blow to the aspirations of the millions of young Pakistanis who struggle within and outside the country, fuelled by sheer patriotism, for a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Pakistan . When there is no hope, no optimism, no security, no justice, no education, no progress, no culture
Driftwood
Apr 30, 2009 08:31am
A very myopic view of Islamic values has led the world to believe that we are a rigid religion with no room for change/adaptation/evolution (call it whatever u want). 'Ashfaq' is a muslim but a version moulded by teachers who themselves had limited excess to enlightenment through education. I wonder how we could revive Islam atleast to the days of glory & enlightenment when we were in Spain. -zatara
Sher
Apr 30, 2009 08:34am
"Brother" I wish calling each other brothers could bring people closer but unfortunately that is not the case. Anyway, Brother Nadeem I waish there are more people like you in Pakistan who can come forward and say outloud what you just said. Pakistan is about to collaps only because of these so-called pious and mosque-going people who would not stop and think for moment that they could be wrong in their blind faith and that they are the obstacle in Pakistans becoming a prosper state so that human beings can live like human beings. Keep it up Nadeem. Cheers.
sha
Apr 30, 2009 08:45am
Reminds me of several conversations with British born 'Pakistanis'.
Nasir Ghaznavi
Apr 30, 2009 08:48am
We have heard about the difficulties homosexual people face coming out of the closet! In Pakistan it seems it is more difficult to publicly disclose your religious identity. BTW Good piece, even though it looked toned down it was courageous.
Anoop
Apr 30, 2009 04:51pm
a very well written article. i like the line where ashfaq asks if nadeem is a non-sunni n he says-"it doesnt matter". n also where he tells nadeem that he'll go to hell for not praying..
Atif
Apr 30, 2009 08:58am
Quite ironic , author claims to espouse an intellectual train of thought, but the article is riddled with intellectual holes, lack of subject knowledge and a inadequate grasp of how to conduct a reasoned argument. Is this reflective of how our young people(nadeem) are trained in educational institutions in pakistan these days ?
Rajat Khanna
Apr 30, 2009 09:06am
brilliant stuff.. I'm from New Delhi and respect Islam as much i respect my religion. but one thing bothered me that y i hvanet heard people qestioning rigid things in islam as we qstion in our religion or as its there in Christianity.. every religion must abopt itself to present condition
Rajat Khanna
Apr 30, 2009 09:07am
Brilliant Stuff :)
Hamza Masood
Apr 30, 2009 09:07am
This is by far one of the most amusing takes on our woes I've seen. How I would love to get into such a conversation myself! But ah, who are we deluding?
Rajat Khanna
Apr 30, 2009 09:09am
Basic concept of each religion is Love for God or Allah.. and it should not be guided by what you wear or by size of beard.. We all are God's blessed kids and must remember that.. other things are not significant
Fahad
Apr 30, 2009 09:18am
NFP not every one is an intellectual power-horse able to discuss with you the intricacies of religious philosophies and proofs of correctness of his or her faith. Social sciences, philosophy and theology are, by definition, sciences. It is childish on your part to anticipate a level of maturity in laymen for these topics. I do not anticipate that you will be able to discuss with me the pros and cons of using linear programming for grid level micro-management of end user device. Neither should you expect this poor sole to discuss with you issues which are critical but are beyond the domain of his thinking, knowledge and perhaps grasp.
Kavitha Shetty, Mumbai
Apr 30, 2009 09:20am
praying five times a day doesn't make anyone a good muslim. It's extremely importent to be a good human being first rather than be a good muslim or a good hindu or good christian. Any sensible person takes no time to understand this logic. Time is probably our greatest threat for pakistan now. The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to pakistan's socity. What seems farcical today could become tragically real tomorrow.
Pramod kumar
Apr 30, 2009 09:21am
well done Nadeem its good to see that there are people like who really understand what is religion and what should be its purpose. Religion are meant for humanity . i really appreciate that part of conversation in which you asked ashfaq for praying non-muslims as well. b'coz i strongly believe that religion teaches you humanity and if you can not think of well of the whole humanity then either there is some problem religion itself or youdo not understand the religion and in most of cases it's 2nd thing.
Satish
Apr 30, 2009 09:28am
Great article Mr. Nadeem. I wish everybody thinks the way you think! Cheers to you from India.
Tariq Mahmood
Apr 30, 2009 09:36am
Nadeem, Thoroughly enjoyable! On a serious note, I think the first 300 years in the Islamic history must be a compulsary subject in all educational systems. I think it is time to bring back Mutazillism back to the front again.Let reason prevail and lets leave the final judgement with Allah...
Salman
Apr 30, 2009 09:39am
I agree with Nadeem. We need to remember that Islam promotes the "middle way". We need to go back to the "message" of the Quran and understand what God is telling us, and not get caught up with wearing our trousers above our ankles and making sure our beards are of a certain length. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but that is not the primary or most important message of Islam. I'm no scholar, but I'm pretty sure that Shariah cannot be enforced at gun point, music is not haraam and suicide bombing is. Women have equal rights and education is a desirable trait - so no need to blow up those girls schools. However, saying that, praying is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, and no matter how you look at Islam, it is an obligation. But praying and having intellectual debates and retrospection about Islam are not mutually exclusive. I attempt to do both on a daily basis.....
Arsalan
Apr 30, 2009 09:54am
True, the gap in Muslim ideology is being filled by the lowest intellectual being of our country. Although, there are a few bright spots, in the form of Dr. Zakir Naik, who focus on the bigger issues while also addressing the underlying wisdom behind the
Farrukh
Apr 30, 2009 09:54am
I think Islam is a very dynamic religion and requires interpretation based on the current time and needs of the Muslim world. Its high time that people should realize this and start using their own logic and take guidance from people who believe in logical interpretation of Islam. Islam has always allowed research and use of logic in order to better understand. Even in the time of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.), people used to get together in Masjid-e-Nabawi to discuss religious matters and dialougue used to take place. Everyone was allowed to put up questions and seek answers so that they could follow Islam's guidelines in a better way. There is a desperate need to have these activities in this day and age so that questions in the minds of Muslims, specially youngsters are answered and they feel satisfied and strong in their beliefs.
yahya tunio
Apr 30, 2009 09:56am
nadeem has rightly identified that we are more bothered about certain rituals rather than rational investigation and interpretation.pakistani urbanite neocons have been found to be more of this breed!
J S
Apr 30, 2009 10:01am
Mr Zafar, I don't know who conducted the survey you mention, but clearly you missed the point of Nadeem's article. Instead of the "enlightening revolution" you expect, we need a revolution in the lines of Nadeem's views. Alas, there don't seem to be enough such brave people around.
Vijay
Apr 30, 2009 10:07am
Good write up! it compels ppl to think (sane ppl). To Zafar: You missed the point Nadeem is trying to make. Praying 5 times, sporting a beard, wearing the pyjama 2 inches above the ankle are all superficial aspects of religion. Your looks can not make u more or less devout. Interpretation of religion should not come from Ulemas or pandits or fanatics. It should come from within, from YOU. if u leave the interpretation for some one else then he/she will do it as he/she deems fit. This may be wrong or may be right. Crusades were fought for hundreds of years in name of religion. In hindsight, they were actually fought for territory.
Raza Bashir
Apr 30, 2009 10:16am
Good one dude. One of those rare moments when i totally agree with you. I think Islam's progress depends upon its ability to get rid of the clergy and replace it with scholars having knowledge of both religion and the practical world. Till then we will be at the mercy of the mullahs preaching retrogressive policies and vested social entities like feudals, waderas and politicians clinging on to the mullahs to gain more power and leverage at the cost of the common man (especially already marginalised sections).
sdas
Apr 30, 2009 10:33am
I am a non-Muslim and God bless you ! Muslims with your courage and convictions can change the violent ideology that we are seeing these days.
Hashim
Apr 30, 2009 10:37am
I agree with you but not praying is no excuse. Its been a while since Iv gone to a mosque for prayers other than Friday, but it being filled with fundamentalist is not the reason. How did it get filled with fundamentalist??? is it because Muslims who think rationally stopped going and in their absence there was no one to initiate intellectual discussions???
Emjee
Apr 30, 2009 10:42am
Applause.We really need more people like Mr.Paracha, people who have the courage to contradict such elements in our society.
Farooq Malik
Apr 30, 2009 10:50am
Well written and exactly what all of us need to do. Engage and convince those who have been brainwashed to open their eyes to the true religion.
Naveed
Apr 30, 2009 10:53am
Could not agree with you Mr. NFP.
Imran
Apr 30, 2009 10:55am
Great Job....people need to wake up....we are a collapsing society.
Abid Ali
Apr 30, 2009 10:56am
Great Nadeem. Hats off to you for this brilliant piece.
Amin Hussain
Apr 30, 2009 10:59am
I don't really understand the point of this being a dialogue. By any measure, the article was quite simply a sermon about the need to re-evaluate the "philosophical and intellectual" aspects of Islam, and breaking out of the ritualistic rut that we find ourselves in. There's nothing new in that. Every Muslim who can string together two words of English is raving about the need to bring a 1400 year old religion to the modern world. But how many people are actually doing something about this? Would this space not have been better utilised by some investigation on how to achieve this? On an unrelated note, another interesting tendency that I see developing is the negation of the necessity of prayers by declaring them ritualistic and hypocritical. This again is another example of the extremist/divisive nature of our public. I, myself, am not a regularly namazi but that is not due to some ideological belief nor is it some act of symbolic protest. It is quite simply because my personality is such that I find it easier to adhere to the more "abstract" (for want of a better word) of the teachings of Islam. Some people find it easier to adhere to the ritualistic aspects. People on either side of this divide are not willing to cross over or study the other. Since no one has established that prayers lead to hypocrisy or that they are inconsequential, I must conclude that people on both sides of the divide are looking for excuses to not change their own behaviours by trying to declare the practices of the other as farcical.
Babar Hasan
Apr 30, 2009 11:00am
Simply brilliant Nadeem. I absolutely agree with what you are saying. We Muslims are totally engrossed in the rituals of Islam while entirely missing the big picture here. Look at the response from Zafar Akhter, I call this delusion. Sadly and ironically even educated folks in living in the west are living in their own make belief world. A world where just being a Muslim has guaranteed us heavens, hoors and eternal purity.
Gurjinder Singh Sahi (Canada)
Apr 30, 2009 11:08am
Thanks Nadeem for your article, Salam Walekum I am glad that Pakistan is still not devoid of its intelligentia. Your article is a living proof. It is a fact "Man can kill for the religion, man can die for the religion but man cannot live for the religion".And this narrow interpretation is not limited to Islam, other religions have its share of the self righteous self appointed preachers who consider it their birthright to preach about a religion that they were born into not by choice but the supreme power that binds us all in humanity. The truth is we begin to worship what we don't follow, simply because it is the easier route.Islam is a great religion but unfortunately hijacked by people who are missing the real essence of the Prophet's message.Important is not to say the prayer but to keep your mind and heart in the prayer. Important is not to read the Koran like a parrot but to live by the principles of Koran.The lives of Bulle Shah and Sheikh Farid and other Sufi saints were tough because of their love for God.But they were not preachers they were practicers of the faith. In my limited vision, I think the Muslim youth (sorry, I think the youth of all religions) needs a direction which takes them more into living fundamentals and the fundamentals are not do's and dont's, they are the spirit of the love of God that the Sufis lived.The path to God attainment is tough and it is easier to fall prey to a make believe world which promises instant gratification following a list of do's and don'ts.I could go on and on but then the reaaders would mistake me to be a salesman for Aspirin. Khuda Hafiz
Shivkumar Israni
Apr 30, 2009 11:10am
While I am not a muslim, nor this is a comment about Islam. In general, in most of the religions, followers have become ritualistic in their approach, where form is more important then the substance. Religion tied to symbols but devoid of spiritualism is really no religion and that is what the followers need to think. For me religion is honesty of thought, honesty of word, honesty of action with a compassionate heart. Whether one prays or not, one needs to be humane.
sandeep kumar
Apr 30, 2009 11:11am
Why aren't more such articles published in Pakistani newspapers. Simply brilliant! Makes me feel proud of my neighbor.
MUHAMMAD
Apr 30, 2009 11:12am
Well done Nadeem. We are all for you.
Chandan
Apr 30, 2009 11:24am
really brilliant... I'm short of words for appreciation.
SRay
Apr 30, 2009 11:25am
Great Nadeem...keep it up....Pakistan really needs Muslims like you to make it a better place than it is today.
Amit
Apr 30, 2009 11:29am
Unfortunately dogmas cannot be defeated by rationalism. History tells us that the situation has to become really worse before people wake up. Like communism in Russia. People like Zafar Akhtar are indeed in the majority. Islam needs its own period of renaissance. Like the period of renaissance in Europe lead to a complete separation of church and state. In Europe the process was led by science. It will have to be the same here too. Religious education in madrassas have to be replaced by a secular science based curriculum. It would be much better if the US stopped the drone attacks and just funded a large number of schools for the next 20 years. For both Pakistan's as well as the world's future, i.e.
Maham Farhat
Apr 30, 2009 11:34am
I appreciate the sense of humour Mr Paracha has but I think this time he has gone a bit too far. I agree with him on the need to discuss and debate Islamic teachings. But this 'change' that he is wishing for should not contradict the values of Islam i.e what is taught clearly and literally (not figuratively) in the Quran and Sunnah such as praying five times a day. This should not be changed just because a few people deem it to be 'incovenient'. Mr Paracha may not be a practicing Muslim and he has every right to be what he is provided that he does not ridicule other people's beliefs.
Asiban
Apr 30, 2009 11:42am
Zafar Akhtar you are mistaken. I am sure the entire muslim population of Pakistan believes in the fundamentals of Islam. As far as praying is concerned, it is a direct communication between the individual and his/her Creator without the need for an intermediary. Especially one with whose ideology and/or hidden agendas an individual may not concur. That is why the vast majority of 21st century muslims prefer to pray at home rather than kneel behind a 2nd century mullah. Qudos to you Nadeem. We need more of you to keep this conversation going.
Dilip Kumar Roy, Mumbai
Apr 30, 2009 11:43am
Reading this piece was a cathartic experience. All sensitive human beings who feel confused and wary of the direction that Islamic societies are taking will feel a sense of release on reading this blog. Congratulations, brother Nadeem. P.S - You and I are of the same sect, I am sure, even though we are of different religions - the sect of sanity and rational discourse
Saleem
Apr 30, 2009 11:45am
Nadeem the way you articulate the situation of 'ummah' is brilliant! Keep writing
Arun
Apr 30, 2009 11:56am
The spirit of the law sometimes is more important than the letter of the law. Courageous, brilliant! Problem is, you are making yourself an "outsider" and what you say will be automatically dismissed without a hearing.
Pakistani
Apr 30, 2009 12:00pm
The visible, yet ignored truth.
Schazad Bangash
Apr 30, 2009 12:03pm
I am a huge fan of NFP. I always enjoy wat u write. Everytime u have come up with something different and its enlightening as well. I commend u on ur intellect and ur courage. Hope to read more of the good stuff from u.
M K Khan
Apr 30, 2009 12:03pm
Brilliant! Thanks a million!! If only there were many more Nadeems with such intelligence and guts, we would not have faced so much of shame from all over the world! Nowadays even Islamic Country's are blaming us as a fountainhead of terrorism! Come on Nadeem, we need many more such daring articles so as to give a respectable position to our neglected womenfolk!
Naiman
Apr 30, 2009 12:04pm
Nadeem, I like the article. Nicely done and I agree with most of the things you say in this article. But here is the aspect that struck me while reading. It seems like you are trying to prove a point through reasoning or arguments (or debating). My first thought was that: Is a debate a best way to influence people like Ashfaq (who obviously are a product of a system which is somewhat against the intellectual debate and relies of metaphors, myths and rituals). "What is any other way" is something I do not have a concrete answer. Again my limitation here that over time theology in Islam has been restricted to metaphors, myths and rituals. And this of course provides a source of inspiration / guidance to the people like Ashfaq. On the other hand, like you arguments in the article; my reasoning is restricted to the criticism on the existing theology in Islam. Unless I/You/We are able to provide the alternative vision of Islamic theology. I/You/We are always restricted as whining persons who can offer no good as an alternative to a common person.
Ismail Latif
Apr 30, 2009 12:09pm
Good job Nadeem. I copmletely agree that different interpretation of Quran should be permitted and intellectual debates should be allowed. The horse vision mentality of few Muslims should be changed. Any Islamic country should allow freedom of expression of all matters including Quran and religion. At the same time one should not force his/her ideas on others. If you want to promote a message then live yourself as an example so that others will follow you. Jazak Allah Kair
amaad
Apr 30, 2009 12:12pm
Do I have to be a "non-Sunni" to appreciate a well written Expos
Masood Haider
Apr 30, 2009 12:12pm
It is not a matter of whether or not one can get away without praying five times a day. It is if anybody has the right to tell another person what to do and spread the gospel of hate and intolerance. Pakistan should declare Taliban as 'enemy combatants' and anyone who beat the drums for Taliban should be tried for treason.
amaad
Apr 30, 2009 12:13pm
Do I have to be a "non-Sunni" to appreciate a well written Expos
Srini
Apr 30, 2009 12:17pm
Great post. I'm very much impressed with this post Nadeem.
Pratap Gowd
Apr 30, 2009 12:20pm
Dear Author, Brilliant work. It is people like you who will bring an end to this madness. I am sure there are a number of Muslims like you around, who feel the same. But unfortunately, very few are heard in the din created by the violence being unleashed by a few fanatics. I pray that people like you come out and make themselves heard. Ritualism and blind belief in dogma is a bane of all religions.
Taha Rafiq
Apr 30, 2009 03:27pm
On spot, Mr. Haider.
Abhishek
Apr 30, 2009 12:30pm
Bravo! Very articulating indeed, Fanatics both Islamic or any other religion should go thru this piece of article. Regards
cafeclifton
Apr 30, 2009 12:31pm
People like NFP might be a minority, but its the same minority that helped make Pakistan and will protect it as well. The fundamentals of Islam or any religous dogma are debateable and open to interpretation. If Mr. Zafar Akhtar thinks prayer is even close to one of the main problems facing modern Islam or Pakistan today, then he belongs in the 7th century.
Shree
Apr 30, 2009 03:25pm
Good thought provoking debate.Intellectuals, learned, respected people in the society must rise to the challange posed by rigid selfserving,self proclaimed religous leaders and their sermons Intellectuals have to voice their thoughts, initiate such debates in every possible place and lead,provoke the commom men and women to think.common people have no confidence in themselves to have an independent opinion.They are too busy to earn their bread for family.Opposing strong headed people is just beyond their means they just are honest followers.All religions preach tolerance,peace and harmony.It is more often than not misinterprited for gainfull malacious purposes of few.Unemployed yoths are easy to radiclise as it gives them raw power,authority and money which otherwise is difficult to earn at such an young age.Majority is helpless for want of leadership willing take up challange.This is indeed good beginning.Congrates and good luck
Atif
Apr 30, 2009 12:32pm
Very well written. However, I wonder why is praying and sophisticated thought mutually exclusive? Unless of course some think that Islam is a man-made system and everything within was perceived and portrayed just to suite the time, the rituals have a huge role to play. About masjids teeming with people is not necessarily a true statement. In my experience, apart from Friday prayers, a tenth or twentieth of the size of the masjid would be enough.
Venugopalan
Apr 30, 2009 12:41pm
It is a complex issue to make a superficial comment. Faith , even blind faith as a support system for a society consisting of majority poor and illitrate, cannot be easily commented upon. Also is true need for any religion to change in tune with times and be open to newer interpretations . This change must come from people who matter in the religion, to really cause a change and not from Nadeem or me
Muhammed
Apr 30, 2009 12:42pm
I imagine that you were a lot older then Ashfaq and you get to write one side of the story. Frankly you have a little understanding of Islam. Your article didn't impress me much
Pradhuman Singh
Apr 30, 2009 12:44pm
Hi Nadeem Your open mind conveyed to the man, what greatest saints failed to do. I m glad that there is more hope out there than hope lost. Well done
Mamata
Apr 30, 2009 12:50pm
Hi Nadeem, This is one of the most bueautiful articles that i have read since a long long time. Keep up the good work and congrats for this excellent creation.
vimal
Apr 30, 2009 01:00pm
As a non-muslim, I would love to see more of nadeem in this world who accept that non-muslims also have rights to live their life. My 2 cents on the thoughts that, "Yes, as most of religions now has reformed, Its time for Muslims to reform and spred the word of Love. Peace to all.
Sameer Malik
Apr 30, 2009 01:04pm
I always find that 'Ashfaq' types have a very poor sense of humour. Everything is always 'black or white' to them. Thanks for a very enjoyable read, Nadeem and I'm glad there is still a voice of sanity still emanating from Pakistan
Suresh
Apr 30, 2009 01:12pm
Cast, creed, religion, everything was meant only to help the downtrodden, and not to fight with each other. Teachings of any religion was meant to refine the human society. Make us better humanbeings, and make the world a better place to live in. It should not make any difference if one is a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Hindu etc. Let us forget our differences, and learn to live together.
Adil
Apr 30, 2009 01:14pm
NFP: Great job, as usual. Zafar Akhtar: Not only does your conclusion not follow your premise (vague 'media' survey), but you also think you can put minorities by the wayside because that's what a majority wants. Keep your belief to yourself and try to attract the "gumrah" with your piety, not with intimidation!
Shafiq Khan
Apr 30, 2009 01:20pm
Interesting but questionable conduct. Who is there to referee between the two points of view. Given: five times a day ritual is required by a Muslim with some exceptions. Then how would you determine the disputes between believers. It seems that the Muslim scholars from different schools of thought do not hesitate declaring others Kafar.All of our great leaders were declared Kafar by some religious scholar . Whose interpretation of Islam should we accept? True enough Nadeem's ultimate fate has been decided by 'brother' Ashfaq, because he performs prayers but in the correct Mosque. O,Boy. Our scholars need to grow up before 'brother' Ashfaq gets a chance to grow up and find out who he is.
S Kumar
Apr 30, 2009 01:54pm
Bravo Nadeem, Nicely narrated. You make a brilliant point here. Also reading through most of the blogs and comments i find many of you pakistani origin is very concerned about the growth of radicals (see whats happening in Swat). I see majority of you are moderate peaceful human beings Still those radical elements are getting stronger and stronger. So what i dont get is, if majority is for peacefull means and shuns violance, why is these radicals gettign stronger?
Avinash
Apr 30, 2009 01:21pm
Good one. Claps for you indeed :-)
zees
Apr 30, 2009 01:27pm
LOVED it! LOVED it! Ahh what happened to the Islam of compassion and intelligence. This rote blind following is terrible.
Ravi
Apr 30, 2009 01:33pm
What a wonderful article. A fundamentalist meets a rationalist over a cup of tea. Fassbinder, would have mad a film had he been alive. It is in the nature of most adherents of all religions to largely shun the effortful intellectual pursuits and replace it with mostly mindless ritualistic practice. So this is not unique to Islam but almost all religions. What puzzles me is how so rapidly Pakistan has jettisoned its widely practiced Sufi Islam. Many Muslims reject Western culture on the grounds that it is alien to them; however, they very readily adopt Arab (Wahaby) culture, without realising that it is just as alien to Pakistan as any western culture is.
Larry Stout
Apr 30, 2009 01:34pm
Zafar Akhtar is spot on when he says, "People like Mr Paracha are in minority in the country." Enlightened people are always a minority, Mr. Akhtar.
Karim Khan
Apr 30, 2009 01:37pm
For Zafar: Yes, people like Nadeem are a minority in Pakistan and hence the reprehensible condition you find yourself in. An Islamic revolution? Can things get any worse than they are now?
Asim Rizvi
Apr 30, 2009 01:39pm
Well, you are right about that interpretation thing, and that intellectual approach rather than just following rituals. But that guy was just asking you to attempt the 'compulsory question' in an examination paper. Without attempting that question no matter how intellectual you may be, you cant pass the exam!! Moreover, Islam does not end in one's mind. One has to perform some practical obligations for keep being a muslim.
Syed
Apr 30, 2009 01:47pm
The topic you have picked up is of immence importance and yet most of us do not bother or are simply too busy to open up The Quran, read for ourselves and try to understand it if then we get stuck then we should refer to some real religious scholar. You know the danger is there when we do not open The Quran and take a short cut and rush to a self centered maulavi. The result is obvious as such the falliable person to whom we are going for guidance without having any homework or knowledge will surely propagate his ways of deen. Do not blame others, blame yourself only them we will get corrected otherwise results are all around us similar to the character which has been quoted in the write up. Be peacful and aquire knowledge through reading and learning habbits. West is prospering because they value education and do not waste time as we do in fighting each other. We have to learn a lot from them.
Indranil Sinha
Apr 30, 2009 01:40pm
Such a logical and rational argument. Wonder why more people do not think like this. Islam needs reinterpretation...and not by the ulemas
Himanshu
Apr 30, 2009 01:50pm
Very good reply of a good moderate muslim to a possible fanatic. If Islam is for all mankind then why shias are killing sunnis? Why Islam is making Muslims whereas it should be making good humans? Quran should be a text of religion not strict/forceful rules. If you are pressurised to do something with sword or gun then its called rule/dictatorship/oppression. Religion should give me freedom from wordly activities and illusions. Always remember whatever you do is only for your self satisfaction and self justification. God is great, he don't need your prayers for his greatness. he needs you to make his world a good peaceful place.
Dr.Rao M. Yasrab
Apr 30, 2009 01:57pm
Nadeem F Paracha is most read writer in King Edward medical university.Paracha sb has rightly said that we need the modern interpretation of islam bcoz the languge which is used in Quran is metaphoric.we must think with reason. thanx
Anubhuti
Apr 30, 2009 01:58pm
Mr. Paracha, Congratulations for such a wonderfully written article! It would hold good for all the religions existing in this world, a very typical conversation between a religious fundamentalist and a rational. Such thoughts need to be rightfully propagated across the world.
pushpendra
Apr 30, 2009 01:59pm
Brave try...it's rare nowdays
Ismail Latif
Apr 30, 2009 02:00pm
Dear Nadeem, The Muslim societies are under rage and frustration, because of the following reasons: 1. Many Muslim countries are still ruled by brutal monarchs, where as the other religions are enjoying the fruits of democracy. This brings lot of frustration to Muslims. 2. The world body has not solved the problem of Kashmir and Palestine, which again brings lot of frustration. The people of Kashmir and Palestine have suffered enough under the occupation. 3. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech is the fudamental rights of the Muslims and any people. Somehow the Islamists are opposed to freedom of speech, which creates doubts on Islamist to hold the power to rule the country. May Allah help to solve these problems.
Saima K
Apr 30, 2009 02:01pm
You are spot on. Its time of reinterpretation of all islamic scripture. What we need is to open the doors of 'ishtehad'. Islam has been hijacked by myopic, uneducated, narrow minded thugs with or without long beards. It is becoming increasingly difficult for muslims like me who are intelligent, educated, creative and well-read in histroy, logic and philosophy to come to terms with 7th century values, such as a women no matter how intelligent, has nothing intellectual to offer to the society. She is cursed because of her gender. Btw, I worry for your safety, given the extremely intolerant atmosphere in Pakistan.
Amir
Apr 30, 2009 02:03pm
Surprisingly Nadeen lived to tell the story of this discourse. In a country where blasphemy is punishable by death, such discourse is impossible. Repeal the act! it is barbaric and stifles intellectual discourse.
Sujith
Apr 30, 2009 02:04pm
There are many Nadeems in India, so we are progressing. Nadeems think and act positively. We hope, may Pakistan get many Nadeems, we do pray for that. Aftaq, a genration is spoiled now, think about those many people in the west northern area of your country, do they live like the human? they are still in stone age. Bring them to the main stream, a healthy,developed Pakistan is in the interest of the world.
Nanavaty
Apr 30, 2009 02:15pm
Pakistan and the rest of Islamic world needs more of such thinkers Well written !!!
Piddu
Apr 30, 2009 02:18pm
It makes for an interesting reading: a. That a UK based Muslim has such religious/sectarian dogmas is alarming. If one of the most modern societies does not change long held (mis?)perceptions, but reinforces them -then what will? Is this making out a case for Muslims in the west living in closed groups. b. That one gentlemen makes a fine case for liberal interpretations from an environment rife with practitioners of the old is instantly heartening. If being in the midst of the cauldron raging with answers to this debate does not corrupt his ideas - then what will?
AMac
Apr 30, 2009 02:33pm
The outcome of conversations such as the one portrayed here will be momentous. For Pakistan, of course, and India. Also for those of us who live in the West. If Brother Ashfaq and his allies triumph in Islamabad and Karachi, many people are likely to get hurt. Once unleashed, the fires are unlikely to spare Sunni or Shi'a, heretic or infidel. Brilliant exposition, Mr Paracha.
Rajeev
Apr 30, 2009 02:37pm
Very refreshing and well conveyed message.
Singh
Apr 30, 2009 02:40pm
Nice Artical, Root to all evil is religion, when try to enforce on other. answer to this is comlete moderne education. No religious book should be part of that in school. Religion what your parents teach. Only then there will be more nadeem than asfaq. Nadeem u r not alone in this matter.
Tom Sawyer
Apr 30, 2009 02:40pm
This simple, subtle but hard hitting piece has the seeds of a possible renaissance in Pakistan. Unfortunately it will not resonate with the majority of uneducated and poor masses of Pakistan.
Rizwaan Malik
Apr 30, 2009 02:58pm
I agree for a need for clarification and discussion and more raotional interpretation of Islam, howevevr praying is good too, prayer calms your mind and emotionally attaches you to Allah!!, which is important, for a person who parys becomes more godly and becomes more tolerant human being.
Optimist
Apr 30, 2009 02:47pm
Like another bro said earlier, Ashfaq was just asking Nadeem to attempt the compulsary question in the examination. No doubt Ashfaq cannot give a verdict that Nadeem will burn in hell, but based on a 5 minute conversation Nadeem isn't justified in giving a verdict about Ashfaq's whole life either. If Ashfaq doesn't practice outside what he talks about in the Mosque, that's his problem. I tend to believe that a munafiq (hipocrite) who prays regularly is not a better person than someone who treats others justly but is weak in prayers.
Tariq
Apr 30, 2009 02:47pm
We must think with reason? What exactly does that mean? What could it possibly mean? Is it some kind of a new discovery by a Pakistani doctor? How can we all have the same (rational) reasoning doc? My line of reasoning can be different from yours or someone else's. So how are we going to decide whose reasoning is right? Mine or yours? But then again, I don't think they teach that kind of stuff in Pakistani schools.
Taha Rafiq
Apr 30, 2009 03:20pm
i would like to agree with Mr. Paracha that there is an urgent need to study Islam from it's base sources, and look to understand the intellectual message behind it. It is not hard to understand why so many people are alienated and averse to the concepts of Islam, considering that many of our scholars prefer to limit themselves to talking about performance of rituals and rites without mentioning the intellectual reasons behind them, and Islam in general. However, I disagree with Mr. Paracha too on a few accounts. I believe Islam is also about giving respect to everyone- and that includes people whose opinions you don't agree with. We talk about Western societies, and what we need to learn from them- this is definitely one of those things that I've seen in western societies and not in the Pakistani societies, sadly. Secondly, the need for "establishing" prayer is an important pillar of Islam, a point that is indisputably accepted by all scholars, new or old, and belonging to any sect. God definitely does not need you to pray to him- but you definitely need him to guide you in this life. And prayers are simply an expression of that human need. A person who 'truly' prays and submits himself to God, would never be involved in the crime and violence that's disrupted life in Pakistan so intensely.
Afzal
Apr 30, 2009 03:00pm
Brilliant and more logical argument by Nadeem Paracha. His arguments apply not only to Islam but to radicalism in all religions. I am surprise to see this article was able to make it on Pakistani news website. Good work, keep it up. Reply to Zafar Akhtar: "People like Mr Paracha are in minority in the country." People who dare to change the world were always in minority. There was only one Prophet (pbh), one Mahatma Gandhi, one Mother Teresa. All these great people where in minorities when they confronted the world. And they were able change world, indeed.
Bira
Apr 30, 2009 03:03pm
Superb! What a wonderful way to present an argument. This is what is needed among people who follow a religion without any intellect. God has given us a brain and the capacity to rationally analyze a given point of view. Our Jannat and Dozakh are right here where we live and die. Why not make efforts in making it a Jannat. This we can surely achieve through an education that helps us strive to keep our eyes open and see the universe that Khuda created for everyone to enjoy and admire.
Bhaskar H
Apr 30, 2009 03:04pm
Wonderful article.
Moby
Apr 30, 2009 03:05pm
Absolutely wonderful Nadeem.
Haider
Apr 30, 2009 03:07pm
I think we are missing the point here. What constitutes as rituals to many are indeed the prescribed way of life. Unfortunately we have embraced Western liberalism to the extent that we don't recognize what constituted our beginnings. I wholeheartedly reject the Taliban style of Islam, but not following the rituals of Islam leaves you where? In fact as our history has proven, when we were steadfast to the faith, we prospered.
Thaer Khan
Apr 30, 2009 03:08pm
I believe in the difference of opinions. I think in the conversation both were pure at heart and I consider this difference healthy for the society to strike a balance. As there is no shortage of Ashfaqs in our society we definitely need more NFPs.
Haider
Apr 30, 2009 03:14pm
I find when it comes to religious rituals, we tend to relegate them as mere rituals. But does one say abiding by the law is a mere ritual? Or wearing gloves when operating on a patient a mere ritual? These rituals are here for a reason. The more I have researched into these mere rituals, the more I have found myself convinced of the necessity to adopt them. However I do so with the conviction of realizing via researching of what benefits they accrue to me. I think this is what is important. I hope I have the chance to write a counter argument to this article very soon.
Chandra
Apr 30, 2009 03:33pm
I read about the imposition of jazziya tax on Sikhs ,, and am saddened ...is this debate on an intellectual plane..too far removed from reality in the muslim world... chandra
Haider
Apr 30, 2009 03:25pm
For an intellectual, I would invite Mr. Paracha to maybe start pondering on the role of rituals, and what benefits if any they accrue. I would find that stepping outside the comfort zone might make him research a bit.
Tom
Apr 30, 2009 03:29pm
I also applaud Nadeem, but doesn't anyone else come away with a sinking feeling of hopelessness? Doesn't this exchange show how the worldviews of moderate Muslims and more-conservative Muslims are largely irreconcilable?
Haider
Apr 30, 2009 03:41pm
I think the imposition of Jizya is justified on two accounts. This is why I believe we do not explore the issues. First, Jizya is a tax on property for the Non-Muslims, while Zakat is for the Muslims. Jizya is actually of a lower value then Zakat and secondly it then absolves the non-Muslims of any duty towards active participation in guarding the boundaries of the state. In effect if the Muslims are not able to defend the boundaries of the state, they must pay back the Jizya. On the other hand, Muslims are not only required to pay Zakat, of a higher value, but also obligated to defend the boundaries of the state. Might I add that Zakat and Jizya are roughly 2.5% of property. What is the comparable rate in the west? Their is no personal tax in Islam apart from Zakat. I don't see how that is a problem.
Sukhwinder
Apr 30, 2009 04:25pm
Nice and well written article. Today, not only Islam but other religions are also full with rituals and some self appointed savers of religion are exploiting the common people for their own greed for power and money. No one seems to follow their religion in true sense. It has all become mine is better than yours.
cafeclifton
Apr 30, 2009 04:38pm
Haider Sahib - The right question to ask is not what the tax code is in the west, but why are two citizens of the same nation begin treated differently due to their belief systems. The western ideal of "equality under law" is not a western ideal, its a human ideal. We all must strive for it. Religon is a personal matter between an indvidual and his/her beliefs. Leave them alone to worship as he or she chooses to or chooses not to. Enough justification of discriminatory pratices have made us all morally bankrupt. None of these great religons even talked about ending slavery...but people themselves did because they thought outside their religous dogmas and thought as humans. That is the key to a good civilized society. Not the fundamentals of any dogma, be it prayer of zakat, those are the issues one must decide individually.
Ejaz
Apr 30, 2009 04:38pm
I think Nadeem is right here. We need to practice the relegion in its spirit more than its form. Being in the mosque 24/7 doesn't make us a good muslim. Ou intellegentia have to sit and find a way out of the mess we are in these days.
jay
Apr 30, 2009 04:44pm
Haider, to answer your question directly. The taxes in the west is based not on color, creed or religion . Nor does anyone have to be taxed on basis of military service expected. It does not distinguish a patriot simply based on what religion he subscribes to. imagine if Christianity was the only religion permitted as a litmus test of how much one loves one's country. I can't figure why any non muslim would want to live in Pakistan , when from childbirth he is being told he is not a 'real' citizen ( in terms of what citizen means in democratic countries ). Shameful that you would think a non - muslim does not love his country of pakistan similar to that of a muslim. Irony is is that many of these terrorist are home grown muslims destroying pakistan.
Vineet
Apr 30, 2009 04:47pm
Excellent Article Nadeem. People like you are the light at the end of the tunnel, A silver lining to the dark cloud! Keep it up! Thanks.
Neerja
Apr 30, 2009 06:06pm
Thanks Mr.Nadeem Farooq Paracha! Nicely presented! I'm happy to see that you have a very idealistic vision and approach about the religion! We don't need to go to temple or Masjid to pray the God, God is in you!
Haider
Apr 30, 2009 06:10pm
And we have to realize as I said before that we must hold religion separate from the people who practice it. And I do find that discrimination is present in everything - it is hard-wired into our brain, and we can not escape it. How is two different laws in two different states not discrimination? Or how is providing food to your family while there are homeless people outside not discrimination. The fact is that discrimination is legitimate, but the intellectual point of curiosity is which forms of discrimination are actually harmful to society as a whole.
Beenish
Apr 30, 2009 06:20pm
A wonderful article. I am currently in U.S on fulbright scholarship. It is very painful to see where Pakistan is going. We have struggled since 1947 and we ahve manged to atleast try to find paths of techonological advancments that would help Pakistan. Many Pakistani's have improved their economic positions. IT is high time that we stop criticizing women who dont cover themselves properly, and we stop crticizing people being influenced by west. In this era of globalization we cannot stop this!!! Who ever wants to practice religion should do it and who doesnt not want to practice has equal right to live freely in this ISLAMIC State. I firmly believe if we want Pakistan to grow and if we want to get rid of problems such as of TALIBAN we need to clearly seperate government and the religion. Religion should be private. The government should not involve religion in to anything. Pakistan can run much better if we stop using the religion for personl gains.
Nandakishore Banerjee
Apr 30, 2009 06:25pm
I think there are plenty of 'Rams' and 'Lakshmans' in India who would also, like Ashfaq, not bother to pray for non-hindus who lost their lives in some acts of terrorism or some other kind of butchery. I think the only reason why India has not been Hindu-Talibanized is its democratic system, well established in 60 years of practice, however imperfect it may still be. I am very confident that Pakistan will find, despite whatever is happening now, its own version of democracy accepting unity in diversity.
Educated Muslim
Apr 30, 2009 06:26pm
For those who think Nadeem is only one of his kind amongst the followers of Islam, think again. There are many like him and I am one of them who believe that Islam has to evolve and get itself out of the clutches of those who refuse to see beyond the middle ages. As a patriotic Indian Muslim my country comes first and there are many like me in this great nation. I am strongly against any perception that feels that the scriptures of a religion do not require modern interpretation. A religion has to evolve and be of purpose to the society of the times. A society cannot remain static. It is against the laws of evolution. How can religion then remain static. What is education if a man cannot rationalise and interpret religion as per the needs of society of his time. Ashfaq quite obviously believes in the Wahabi principle of the return of Islam to the original times. That is what this fight is all about; between those who want to take Islam forward and those who wish to see it in the same light when it functioned for the needs of the tribal society of Arabia. Thank God, there still are people of the Nadeem hue but they have to resist this onslaught of the uneducated, tribalistic form of Islam.
Pradip
Apr 30, 2009 06:27pm
Great article! Couple of quick points and then a question: 1) It was scarier to hear of someone with a Manchester accent saying what he is saying here. I would at least find it understandable if the person were from a village in remote Pakistan. What have these young people learning in the U.K, why is life so hopeless for them? 2) Some great comments here, especially on the validity of rituals etc ( did you notice that Islam, Christianity and Hinduism all use subha, japmala, rosary)and good blend of sanity interspersed with some wacky comments. THE BIG QUESTION: I do not know how many of the commentators here actually live in Pakistan. It is easy to talk about renaissance in Islam but talk is cheap. My basic problem is that, I do not see anyone that has the courage to take action in the civil society and the government. Who then?
Asad
Apr 30, 2009 06:28pm
Paracha makes self-righteous arguments. This is the problem with the superficial sensibilities of the Pakistan Middle Class.
dharam
Apr 30, 2009 06:40pm
god has made no difference between human. Same category of blood groups, common physique, same thinking capacity. We diffrentiate ourselves in relation to diffrent religion and faith. my view may be deviating with current topic. so excuse me!!
Durai
Apr 30, 2009 06:54pm
A commendable blog and a decent reminder to look beyond blind faith. Even if this may not be the right medium, a few suggestions/questions come to mind. 1. It is quite difficult to call a religion a religion of peace especially when a significant number of medieval minds engage in perpetrating hatred and violence. After all, religion does not stand independently; it requires religious practitioners. A blood-dripping sword in one hand and a pamphlet announcing the peacefulness of his religion smacks everyone. 2. There are far too many cases of messengers getting killed while the message itself is simply forgotten or ignored. Even critical examination of certain issues within Islam places individuals in serious jeopardy throughout this world. There are too many fatwa-wielding mullahs out there. Many moderate Muslims muffle their mouths than become victims, let alone non-Muslims. 3. Even the very one who espouses Islam to be THE best religion seems to preach it without having studied, compared, and contrasted it with other religions or experienced the natures of other faiths. The finality with which one is forced to accept Islam as the ultimate religion for humankind shows only the limitation in the thinking of those preachers. 4. The very Muslims who bring down the fort for posting a disliked cartoon don't mind calling non-Muslims INFIDELs. The stupidity of continuing to call others kafirs and infidels while protesting even mild rebukes of Islam is certainly bigoted. 5. Indoctrination of young minds seems more preferred than teaching them to think and rationalize. The impacts to those societies have been nothing short of disastrous but no such country is eager to disembark from such practices. 6. Monuments to science, arts, and progress were part of Islam but they have been reduced to sand heaps. Even the kalashnikov-wielding fundamentalist whose Toyota pick-up truck is fitted with a rocket launcher doesn't wish to give up any of those modern tools but he wants his neighbor to shoot the nightingale sitting and singing on his fence since the former believes the song of that bird is non-Islamic. God help him and God help those lands where he is allowed to preach and shoot the neighbor for not first shooting that poor nightingale. This is not written to find faults or to receive wraths from disgruntled readers but written with great sadness. After all, we humans have been more despicable to each other, all in the name of God. Thanks.
Amit
Apr 30, 2009 06:59pm
Loved it - Intelligent observation that applies to all people/religions.
Anil
Apr 30, 2009 07:06pm
Excellent article !
Hassan Talal
Apr 30, 2009 07:07pm
Although it is pertinent that Muslims should indulge in intellectual activities and have a progressive and flexible approach, but Paracha erroneously indicated that prayer is a mere ritual and not offering it would make Muslims progressive. Prayer soothes and refreshes me when I am tired and reminds me that when I work hard, the Deity whom I worship will always reward me, as they say 'Man proposes, God disposes'.And I also understand that We cant do what God does, and God shall not do what we can do. Therefore prayer rather than being a hinderance to progress, should be complemented by deep reasoning and thought, understanding the world around us, and making life easier for fellow human beings.
Madhu Shanmughan
Apr 30, 2009 07:08pm
Thanks Nadeem. Your article has a universal appeal. What you discuss here about Muslims is true about all other religions. There are plenty of 'Ashfaq's in all religions... 'Nadeem's are a minority everywhere. I hope every reader of this article would look into themselves and check who they want to be... Unfortunately, people are moving away from the real spirit of their religion. I am a Hindu, from India. I see this happening around me
Ajith Benede Krishna
Apr 30, 2009 07:46pm
Brilliant conversation and a wonderful try by nadeem. I would advise nadeem to go pray with people like ashfaq after the conversations coz to bring a change you need to change yourself a little bit just to earn their confidence. all the best nadeem like people.
Madhav
Apr 30, 2009 07:50pm
I would like to remind our friends back in India sending in words of appreciation to Nadeem that such dogmatism is as much prevalent among the Hindu right as well - one way or other. Before we see the flaws in others we need to accept that there's no such rational interpretation of the Hindu religion as well by and large; and since majority in India are religious they are prone to fall prey to similar simplistic interpretations and opinions.
Asad
Apr 30, 2009 07:59pm
I don't know why he jumped to the reinterpretation of Quran all of a sudden. Is there any concrete example from Quran, where older interpretations have become obsolete?
Aftab
Apr 30, 2009 08:05pm
I had many questions about the way Islam is being preached and propagated and was stunned by the hostility with which the so called learned men of Islam reacted to me. Let alone replying they almost became violent. That was it. I became a Buddhist for I believe in the positive influence of religion in life as much peaceful existence with respect towards all beings. I refuse to accept any religion that flows from the barrel of an AK47. Islam is ill-served by it followers.
Hamzah Saif
Apr 30, 2009 08:10pm
Dawn, please print something more substantive than this. Really, it added nothing to my day; it engages with our current situation the way I would expect a college freshman to. -Disappointed
SP
Apr 30, 2009 08:12pm
I think people like this author should preach in those Mosques. Very good, such education is required. time paryer is not important that much compare to what you gain from preaching and following. Best, hope like this author there will be more in pakistan and in other muslim countries who can direct the pople and its country in right, prosporous way.
Hamzah Saif
Apr 30, 2009 08:17pm
Sorry, this is really bothering me. Really, Nadeem, WHAT was the point of this article? Some people's world-view is informed by religion, we are all well aware of that. There is ample documentation, spanning several decades, on increasing "social conservatism" (agreed, a loaded term) in pakistani diaspora, we all know that. I am disappointed. I have read much better work from you. I mean, WHAT were you trying to say here?1 It just seems like you were trying to deride a particular group for their belief set. Nice work. That's really the way to make friends.
Peter J
Apr 30, 2009 08:35pm
I do not know if Nadeem is right or wrong. I am certain it pleases Allah that he is free to question and believe as he does.
Shafi
Apr 30, 2009 08:36pm
I would like to add the definition of Islam which is surrender to Allah but does not mean surrender to ignorants forcing their interprtation of Islam. There is no compulsion in religeon is the message of the holy Quran.
Asim Rashid
Apr 30, 2009 08:49pm
Agree with the author that we need to "Think" about what we do, have been doing and will do. As far the media hype of "Muslims and Violence" is concerned, it is a total propaganda of West.
Fayyaz Mahmood
Apr 30, 2009 09:32pm
Great article and very interesting discussion. One of the tragedy of our time is that Muslims have given up the task of learning about religion to a
Sania
Apr 30, 2009 09:33pm
Denying the basics of islam while defending oneself as being educated in the matter is not in anyway 'enlightenment' of any sort. I don't agree with Ashfaq either. Islam is not just about praying five times a day and forcing other people to do the same. To be a true muslim one has to fulfil many obligations and the most important ones are praying 5 times a day. Taking care of your neighbors, family, animals and the community as a whole.
Nadir
Apr 30, 2009 09:58pm
Why are people saying that Jazia is collected from non muslims in place of Zakat? When someone does not pay Zakat, do their homes get destroyed? What is the penalty for not paying Jazia vs not paying Zakat? If Jazia is protection money then it is protection from who? Outside invaders or the local "caretakers"? Sometimes its just better to say "I dont know whats the reasoning behind Jazia" BTW, great article Mr Nadeem.
Arshid Jamil
Apr 30, 2009 09:58pm
I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed with Nadeem's courage to have written this article. Ther are, I am sure quite a few who may feel the same way but lack the courage, initiative to do something about it and therein I believe lies the strength of the Ashfaqs. (I am one of the coward ones as well). I am also very impressed with Sahar Tariq's story, I would however, like to add that Swat issue is just a 'natural' and expected outcome of the basic problem of having incompetent leadership.... this also appears to be our own fault, out of a population of 170 million we couldn't find a few decent persons to lead us. We have to settle for the current lot. It is high time that people like Nadeem need to pluck enough courage and come out of the closet(drawing room) and claim our country back.
Ibrahim Inayatali
Apr 30, 2009 09:59pm
Should we not be concerned that many in Pakistan have shifted faith from being exclusively in the personal domain (as the Quran itself requires it to be) into becoming a public display of rituals, beliefs and values? Did the Quaid not say that religion has no place in the business of running the state whose first and foremost responsibility is the safety and security of all its citizens, of which sadly we have none in Pakistan? Nadeem has nailed the issue and we need millions of more voices to join to say: "we want our country back" before its too late.
Adil Shafi Afzal
Apr 30, 2009 10:14pm
It ws interesting to read this article. Clearly Islam's true interpretation has been lost somewhere. The very essence of Islam is to think, reason and act logically. In order to be a true Muslim you need to strike a perfect balance between your dealings in this world and your religion according to Islamic teachings and principles. A Muslim's life with only the world in mind and aspirations to correct it but with no rituals is like a tree without roots. A Muslim's life with only rituals and no wish to live in this world and help make it a better place is like roots only with no tree to nourish. Clearly there is a need to learn a lesson from the glorious Islamic Golden Age
Rosie
Apr 30, 2009 10:24pm
Wow, All I can say is you are either a very principled and brave man or a fool with a death wish. It is clear to me you are a very intelligent and compassionate. I think there is hope for Pakistan because of people like you.
sadia
Apr 30, 2009 10:48pm
very interesting article i can relate to the author.am a muslim but i dont pray at all n honestly it doesnt matter we should try to be good humanbeings first that unfortunately we r not
amarjit kandola
Apr 30, 2009 10:49pm
A very nicely reasoned ,thus stimulating piece. Our religion is a result of 'an accident of our birth'.I'm a muslim/hindu/christian etc because I was born to such parents.I have no quarrel with any religion if it preaches love,tolerence,peace and happiness for all mankind and especially if it doesn't impose its teachings on anyone,makes things compulsory for others.You have your religion,practice it as you will,but don't tell me to live my life as you desire. Dear all,think for for yourself,don't follow blindly what others have written or spoken. I wish we have millions and billions of NADEEMS among us. Happiness to all mankind
Asim
Apr 30, 2009 11:51pm
AOA, Why making so many excuses not to pray??? If you are a Muslim then at least you have to acknowledge that prayer is the second pillar in Islam and its compulsory. Furthermore who is right, one calling to pray or one calling for cigarette?? You are mainly making your judgements about Islam based on present day Muslims but not on Islam based on Quran and Sunnah.
Ahmad
May 01, 2009 12:08am
While the points raised here are certainly true, we must look at why all the Ashfaq's out there have a certain view of religion. In Pakistan, I can't blame the people who attend madrassahs and exit with such a view. At the end of the day, it is the failure of our government on a very basic level that has led to such a situation. PPP, PML-N, the army, everybody is to blame. Zia was, after all, the one who encouraged such groups and madrassahs to consolidate his hold on power and the US were only too happy to help, once the USSR invaded Afghanistan. We can complain all we want about such people permeating our society, but we must realize that our society as a whole is shifting even more to the right. The only reason that there are 14,000 (and counting) madrassahs in Pakistan is because they satisfy the demand of the public; one which the government has failed to satisfy.
Sanjay
May 01, 2009 12:10am
Sarfarz - You say that Jaziya is for the protection of minorities. In a good Islamic society where everyone is pure, what protection would the minorities need? Protection from who? Minorities in most countries are protected, but not by a special tax on them. They're protected by the goodwill of man.
asad114
May 01, 2009 12:45am
It is highly impressive that most of the responses to your blog are not filled with mindless rants about the importance of rituals but are actually appreciating the theme of your article. Maybe our nation is finally growing out of its Wahabist fascination or maybe most readers of Dawn are liberals...In any case, nice job NFP! Keep um coming!
Asim
May 01, 2009 12:54am
AOA, Ok... one last addition :)... You were talking about new interpretation of scripture. This is the century when we had all new interpretation and it is a mess. We basically need to go back to original interpretation and take things back in context. Look at the Muslim history. Muslims were, inventors, scientist, doctors, explorers. We had big universities in Spain, timbuktu, Bagdad etc. We had hospitals, schools street lights when whole of Europe was in dark ages. Non-Muslims used to live under Muslim rules peacefully under protection by state. Most of the Jewish scholars that Jews study these days, used to live under protection of Muslim states. Hindus had religious freedom, under Muslim rule. Muslims were so dynamic, that they would develop good relations with China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, West Africa etc. and Islam spread because of their personality. And of course Jihad is part of our deen and mandatory, to protect Islamic civilization and establish peace & justice in the land and eliminate threats to Islamic rule. I agree there were some incidences when dirty politics used to set in government, however overall Islamic civilization is the best civilization seen so far in history. All Islamic history is there. Read and verify.
bps
May 01, 2009 01:18am
Thanks Nadeem for a brilliantly written article. There is a web site called "NewAgeIslam" where they debate & interpret Islam for 21st century. All other religions have gone through the reforms and the reformers always have been in minority. What is heartening to see is that such debate that would have been impossible, say ten years back, has started. It is an uphill task & a struggle, but it will succeed, if one goes by the history. There is a punishment for "non-believers" in all other religions, but that is " like burning in hell"; the followers of these religions do not take upon themselves to behead or stone to death or publicly flogging other human beings. This interpretation of Islam by the fundamentalists is disturbing for all sane Muslims & indeed for the world. If Muslims are following their religion and not disturbing others, there is no problem. but they want their style and authority established over others. There are many oppressed areas in the world, but for that people do not go on killing innocents all over the world. Muslim rulers themselves in the history of subcontinent & elsewhere have oppressed people, but for that these oppressed people have not gone killing innocents in the world. Pl. think brothers and help Nadeem, probably a "true believer".
Taha Rafiq
May 01, 2009 01:31am
I think it is very obvious that the western concept of freedom and equality of men has some serious flaws. And it is most definitely not a human ideal- sweeping generalizations like that should be avoided. If you haven't noticed, the western society is one of changing ideals and morals, when in fact morals and ideals of mankind don't change with time and place. The rules of the game don't change- only the tools change. I think many of the people here are missing the point that nationalism limits a person to remaining loyal to those who reside within the boundaries of his nation, while forming societies based on a common religion and belief set allows mankind to transcend those bounds. Agreed, there will always be difference of opinion, and difference of opinion is healthy for the intellectual development of any society, but a society based on a common belief system is a much less likely source of friction between men. If we can differentiate people based on which geographical location they are born and reside in, then there is definitely nothing wrong in differentiating them by what they believe in. And again, it is not like basic rights are denied to Non-Muslims in Islam- there are simply some different rulings that apply in certain cases, such as Jizyah. Freedom of (respectable) thought, equality under the law and other basic rights are not violated. Finally, at least in Islam, even though your beliefs are a 'personal matter', they have a social side as well. Hence the collective prayers in the mosque. Why is it that when it comes to defamation of religion, we look towards concepts of freedom of expression for justification, while we prefer to label a person who invites people to look at things from a different religious perspective as one intruding in private matters between man and God? These are not the standards in Islam. Incomplete research leads to inaccurate conclusions.
Arun
May 01, 2009 01:35am
kavitha from mumbai wrote: "It
Amin Muhammad
May 01, 2009 01:37am
A wonderful voice from silent sea has made some waves. A very focussed and timely discourse on "What have we forgotten in Islam"? Is Islam given to humanity for Namaz and four pillars only? The merit of Islam is its intellectual fruit. In Islam scholar's act is far more precious than a performacne of washing feets and face and hitting your head to ground in obligatory prayers. Look beyond your prayers if I can request brother, are you sincerely concerned then ask who is killing muslims, in muslim country? What kind muslims are these that are killing innocent civilians in peaceful communities? When you bring Islam's peace and knowledge to all without intimidation, I'll be right behind your prayer lead happily.
son of god
May 01, 2009 01:40am
Wow!! Is this really true! I don't believe this has been published on a pakistani newspaper website! Pakistani people are finally waking up to not be so fanatic about religion. Hope more people understand this!
Kundan
May 01, 2009 01:57am
Dear nadeem, quite a nice one. you are so right that why these ardent followers, be it be a muslim or Hindhu, just follow age old principles without reasoning. i think reasoning is the one of the most beautiful thing evolved out of human brain as a product of sheer thinking. when people belive their religion (set of age old doctrines) without reasoning, they find no difference between god and religion they follow. if u look at the history, arabs are so much known for their mathematical and archeological and artitectural inventions and great civilizations. the best example for this is one of the greatest universities was found in Saudi Arabi, number one was found by arabs and great pyramids. what went wrong with once you start following these doctrines so ardently? as Nadeem said, it is time for them to sit and think intellactually, rather then just take a walk back and forth to mosque.
Amin Muhammad
May 01, 2009 02:07am
A wonderful voice from silent sea has made some intelligent waves. A very focused and timely discourse on "What have we forgotten in Islam"? Is Islam given to humanity for Namaz and four pillars only? The merit of Islam is its intellectual fruit. In Islam scholar's act is far more precious than a performance of washing feet and face and hitting your head to ground in obligatory prayers. Look beyond your prayers if I can request brother, Ashfaq. Are you sincerely concerned then ask who is killing Muslims, in Muslim country? What kind Muslims are these that are killing innocent civilians in peaceful communities? When you bring Islam's peace and knowledge to all without intimidation, I'll be right behind your prayer lead happily.
g.a.slam
May 01, 2009 02:08am
Does this maulana not see, that despite being a secular state, British society is far more just than any Muslim country; where the system functions; where word of mouth still carries weight; where honesty and punctuality are respected; where Muslims run to seek refuge from their fellow Muslims? Is his mind really that sealed shut?
shrinkhala
May 01, 2009 02:09am
hi, i reside in the united states after having lived in liverpool and i too have come across many ashfaq's and not just islamic ashfaq's but buddhist, hindu, christian, and jewish ones too. i completely understand and agree with what is written here...the true essence of any religion should be to live and let live above anything else.
grandizar
May 01, 2009 02:28am
Good read. Nobody is asking Muslims to change themselves rather shed the "holier than thou" attitude and pay more attention to responsibilities towards humanity as much as responsibilities towards Allah. Remember "Mohammad PBUH" always preached the middle path and shunned extremism. Today it is impossible to even see a smile on these so called mullas who have become self guardians of the religion. So extreme is their approach towards life that Muslim Lifestyle is a dangerous set of practices that all it does is take one away from humanity.
Farooq
May 01, 2009 02:34am
The question about jizya is not the percentage but the attitudes that it embodies. The spirit behind it has always been that it is meant to humiliate non muslims so that they convert to Islam. On a different topic, how do you justify the ruling in fiqh that a muslim who changes his religion must be killed. Isnt that a violation of the most basic human right-the right to hold whatever belief you want. On top of that, since every muslim country pretends to subscribe to the UN charter, it is a violation of an oath that they committed themselves. Since breaking your word is a major sin in Islam, doesnt it make all of us the worst kind of munafiq imaginable.
Naseer
May 01, 2009 02:55am
Hmm... I think I have read this article before somewhere or something very similar to this and yeah the author was NFP
Abhishek
May 01, 2009 03:12am
An excellent narrative. Glad to see the lighter side of a conversation on the interpretation of Islam.
Salahudin al-Rawandi
May 01, 2009 03:35am
Weaning articles at the expense of intellectually bereft souls, is like debating philosophy with children. Your supporters were always as they are... your detractors will remain as well. What's the point, then?
KV
May 01, 2009 03:48am
For author:-Would like to see an article on imposition of jazziya tax on Sikhs? and it will be very interesting to see how Pakkistani respond to it. Can any pakisitani answer this that do you believe non-muslim are citizon of your country.?
hyder
May 01, 2009 03:52am
A fundamentalist is one whose fundamentals are incorrect. Organized religion is organized madness. It is the political corruption of religion. Religion looses its meaning. It becomes a matter of numbers rather than that of Human Character and Human Values. Religion Is One. It should be that of "Meaningful Action & Purposeful Minds". Get some computers and start working, and stop hallucinating and talking too much about unreal things and thousands of "isms". This has been going on for centuries and gave us nothing but misery and darkness. Any human who is intelligent, rational, logical & humanistic person knows the meaning of life and money -- education and economics.
Amir
May 01, 2009 04:09am
Very well written article Nadeem. good to see intelligence coming out of Pakistan. While it was nice to read all the optimism expressed here, I for one am more pessimistic. I'm from the UK too and yet am so different that the person nadeem met. i used to be like many of you here but then went to the Quran sharif and Hadees. Most of us either dont know the real meanings of what we've read or are willing to ignore/take meanings metaphorically. There is no end to doing so and everyone will disagree on how much re-interpretation is right.
Nadir
May 01, 2009 03:15pm
Folks, The reason for the behaivior of people like "Brother" Ashfaq can be summarized in one word: "SAWAAB" There are lots of "Brother Ashfaqs" in the Muslim "Umma". This may not be a real conversation but it certainly sounds very familiar to me.
Ali Khayam
May 01, 2009 04:19am
Well debates like this are taking place everywhere in this country, on different intellectual levels ofcourse. And now it seems like the fundamental rightist elements are winning not because of logical reasoning but with the use of force, violence and by commiting crimes against humanity.....If it continues i am afraid there is any hope for future as Dr Ayesha Siddiqa put in one of her recent article that ''the radicals and liberals of this society might be better of packing their bags.''
Rija Zaidi
May 01, 2009 04:27am
Nadeem is 101% right. People like Ashfaq are in fact destroying religion and bringing bad name to our country because they believe by offering 5 prayers a day they become good Muslim. I wonder why people in Pakistan are so obsessed by the religion. When I visit Pakistan every year I find more men with beard and more women with burka, yet law and order situation is getting more problematic. Robbery, snatching at gun point and every other type of criminal activities are on the rise. In order to become a good Muslim, the pre-requisite is to be a good human being. You simply can
Dr Sadia Ahsan
May 01, 2009 04:32am
I declare Nadeem Paracha a true "Muslim" for he speaks the truth, as prescibed in Islam. Which also preaches cleanliness, and human rights, conveniently ignored by the so called custodians of the faith. Why should educated people be guided in prayers in a mosque led by an uneducated maulvi who spits venom and hatred, instead of talking about love and peace and bringing people together ??? I consider the Nadeem Parachas of this world better custodians of the faith. I suggest all the purists should abandon the countries (including Pakistan) they reside in and emigrate to Saudi Arabia to enjoy their faith in in its pure "free form" . They should leave us Pakistanis alone. Why should anyone be identified by their religion ?? This is entirely a personal matter. Nadeem Parachas articles reflect what is going on in Pakistani society.He and I live here. I have also encountered such (Ashfaq-like) people in my student years and increasingly during my medical practice in Karachi. I happen to have some background knowledge as well, and as it comes across in this article, there is no rational outcome of these discussions, becuse basically you are speaking to a closed mind. All strength to Nadeem ... PS : he is not a minority
Saad Salman Zia
May 01, 2009 04:35am
Well written! Bravo! I hope people actually dare to think for a change.
Atif Q
May 01, 2009 04:41am
For Pakistan to rid itself of extremism, us moderates need to play a bigger role and stand up to the waderas that prevent education (and industry) from entering our rural areas. If you are working 8-10 hours a day and are dead tired when you get home, you have no time to think of anything except your family and sleep. Also how many of us have read the Holy Quran 3 times, but never read the translation. So we bow down in actions but have no idea why.
A K Khan
May 01, 2009 04:51am
As one of the reader has rightly commented,the so called "Taliban" "Alquaida" should be banned as enemy of the Nation,while carrying on our religious belief without sectarianism.
Shabbar
May 01, 2009 04:58am
Very good Mr.Nadeem, I myself have experienced such "Ashfaqs" here in USA. Most tragic thing is that even if they are doing PhD, they are not ready to think about religious reforms. They are just bling folowers.
Arpana
May 01, 2009 05:10am
This article is so relevant to the current times and not just for Islam but for all other religions. Racism and Casteism have all outlived themselves. Humans have always found a way to divide themselves so one can establish they are better than the other. Going one step ahead even the national boundaries drawn are a way to divide humans. Only if we can endeavour to be a little more human and a little less everything else, perhaps the earth will finally be a more peaceful planet. It is upto all of us to give a better earth to our children.
Hamid R.
May 01, 2009 05:23am
While I certainly appreciate Mr Paracha's penchant for being deliberatively provocative, I do not find this reported conversation particularly plausible. First, it seems too well scripted to be a spontaneous talk between two strangers. Second, it is a not so subtle nod to the stereotype of British Pakistanis as radical lunatics. I mean I have to marvel at the the coincidence that of all the people you could meet on street, you will bump into this British Pakistani with 'accent' who is the embodiment of all the evils rightly or wrongly associated with him. Also, this tete- a- tete obviously did not take place very 'recently' ,as claimed by Mr.Paracha. I read the same very article by him in print a few months ago in Dawn. I can understand that with the creeping threat of Talibanization in the country as well as that of Pakistan-linked fundamentalism in Britain in limelight, this article might appear more pertinent now than then. I also agree with the point Mr. Paracha is trying to make but there are new and other ways of expressing it. Any journalist worth his salt should know better. Why cling to the same old story especially when it seems too good to be true?
Uday Kulkarni
May 01, 2009 05:24am
The bottom line of all religions is insecurity. Religion thrives because of fear and insecurity. I am no aetheist but a Hindu, though respect all religions and consider it purely a personal matter. Neither Nadeem nor anyone can comment or not comment on someone else other than himself or herself; though I appreciate the article since Nadeem has made a serious attempt to make people think and question logically. Coming back to my point of religion and security; Humans are by nature selfish and greedy which makes them fearful by nature and thus need to rely or depend on GOD or supernatural power that can help them or rescue them in the times of difficulty or in times or situations beyond their reach. You will notice that as humans generally tend to acquire wealth, knowledge and power, they begin to start questioning everything which is not logical or scientific with less fear of anyone and as they start feeling more and more secure; they tend to move away from God; The point is proved from the fact that most aethists in this world are relatively wealtheir or come from educated strata. MORAL OF THE STORY : IF YOU BELIEVE IN ANY GOD/ALLAH- BHAGWAN- whatever you call him; pray to him with pure mind and help humanity. Helping humanity is praying to God, since survival of humanity is important than any religion as no religion is superior or inferior. The rationalisation of Jizia has thus absolutely no meaning but on the contararily creates insecurity among minorities due to its inherent nature of discrimination. No religion teaches you to discriminate others or minorities; despite this we have rampant discrimination in every country in this world including the West- An Unfortunate reality. I was talking about discrimination many years ago to my neighbour in Mumbai when similar discussions took place between a group of us and one of my friends commented that we are all racial and discriminatory. Initially we all protested but this learned friend asked us simple question that if anyone of us bought a new Flat in Mumbai where a Nepalese, local Marathi and a North Indian are our three new neighbours; whom would we try to strike initial friendship with in order of preference? There was the answer. Human beings tend to be moving in ghetos since centuries and are insecure by nature and thus strive to remain in groups and are happy even in poverty and do not like moving out of their comfort zone. But as humans started moving out of their ghettos to cities; immigrate to new countries; they needed security and religion is the best recourse or hope for humanity. Hope my ideas are not to offend anyone but are thought provoking. The only appeal to everyone is do not discriminate as far as possible; be it Jizia or whatever you call it. The more you will try to rationalise any indiscriminate policy; the more fragmented your society will become and lesser and lesser will be the development of that community. Uday Kulkarni, Toronto
Chodhry Amir Ali Sandhu
May 01, 2009 05:25am
Let me make something clear here. I was reading Nadeem
Faraz
May 01, 2009 05:50am
yes! the size of bread and the clothes we wear actully shows how much we love allah and prophet muhammad (pbuh).brother nadeem proudly boasts about not going to a masjid for a very long time ,this is like rejecting oe of the five pillers of islam.theres no simply compensation for missing out on compulsary prayers.
Aamir Ali
May 01, 2009 06:00am
Jizya has no place in the modern world and there is no justification for the Taliban imposing jizya on Sikhs in Orakzai agency, then burning their homes when the Sikhs did not pay. Religious supremism needs to be ended.
ASAD
May 01, 2009 06:45am
Sarfraz Bhai not to offend u. U have to cream out the positivities of the article and we are talking of pakistan not of the united states.We as Muslims need to be liberal in our thinking not as the jingoists as these religious leaders are. And u can think why are we in deplorable state these days. There are various issues which are to be addressed quickly as possible or we are out cold.
Mahmudul Haque
May 01, 2009 06:55am
well, easy absorbing and learning article. Thanks Dawn to commence such type of session. Allah Bless we all.
Mayur Shah
May 01, 2009 07:20am
Brilliant article!
Naina
May 01, 2009 07:28am
While it is fine to rationalize and investigate about this madness thats happening around us, it is not fine to give the impression that one has forgotten one's duty as a Muslim. Whether u pray in a mosque or not, is not the issue. But to give the impression that you don't pray (thats the impression I get) is certainly not right. Otherwise, all your arguments about other things are superb. More people should stop and ponder about these issues you have raised. Perhaps then they will realize that Islam does not teach violence and they will do something to stop the violence going on here. It takes a spark to start a fire...
Farooq
May 01, 2009 07:34am
Disclaimer: I am neither a fundamentalist nor a sectarianism supporter I am amazed at the amount of praise being showered on Mr NFP for this piece. In all honesty the vast majority of 170 million Pakistanis( who don't read these fancy blogs, don't have access to Internet and don't even comprehend this language)don't even care. You can always call for a better interpretation of Quran according to the changing times but who gives you a right to declare Prayers and other pillars of Islam as mere rituals... Secondly the attempt by Mr NFP to mock every thing having a shade of Islamic touch ( prayers, Hijab and Beard) is actually a very poor attempt of creating humor... You will antagonize rather than let other people listen to your arguments by making fun of Islam.
Faraz
May 01, 2009 07:43am
this is like making fun of our religion.how is it okay not to pray.Salat is one of the 5 pillers of islam. Brother nadeem there is no subsitute for praying 5 times a day ..
Prachi
May 01, 2009 07:45am
I think not only Islaam but in Hinduism also there are chants and pujas ofered to the diety.Half of us dont understand the mantras that we meaninglessly recite nor do we understand why we keep vrat. Is remaining hungry going to appease the GOD's? Why do we adhere to the practice so blindly without any intellectual reasoning?
goodgenie4u
May 01, 2009 07:59am
Much of the dialogue is about the role of devotion (prayer) to ritual against the more thought provoking application; living as a Muslim among non Muslims in the world. Neither of these are mutually exclusive. Where they both fail is when they demonize each other's right to co-exist. Prayer is a devotional ritual. It demands a disposition of humility. That's got to be a good thing. The second notion of an Islamic state, as a pre-requisite to the ultimate Muslim life? borders on denying the diversity of mankind. A good Muslim can live and die and go to heaven even if he belongs to an insignificant minority that cannot afford to build a mosque or live in a huge Islamic state. The English kid from Manchester, a foreigner, scolded the son of the soil. Is'nt that the struggle against the Taliban? It's their way or the highway! What's prayers, intellectual musings or religion got to do with it? It's the Taliban's austere unforgiving way of living that people hope will not become their ritual.
vijay
May 01, 2009 08:07am
To Ismail Latif I wonder why people worry so much about muslims and not humans? If at all one has to worry about muslims, why do they forget Darfur,Somalia, Chad, Neigeria? I fail to understand the obsession with Kashmir and Palestine. It's difficult to digest that frustrated muslims kill fellow muslims in Pakistan or they join Taliban. I cant comment on Palestine, but in J & K ppl have seen lot of develompment (schools, colleges, vocational institutions and not to forget the rail link up to Srinagar) I wonder wat development people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have seen?
Pramod kumar
May 01, 2009 08:09am
@sarfaraz/Haider why there should be any distinction about between Muslims and non-muslims. music might not be permitted in Islam but in other religion it is.then they should be allowed to do their rituals.Just because muslims are in majority so you can force your wishes on other sects bit if it is happening somewhere else with muslims then you have strong objections.what double standard it is.
Shehzad Shah
May 01, 2009 09:00am
The problem with NFP's writing is that he seems to get carried away in the rhythm of his own intellectualism, ignoring the need for making his interlocutor actually understand what he is saying. It is a common problem amongst us Pakistani liberals.We need to accept that we are an inconsequential minority; it is pointless to argue for debate & introspection with a majority who believe that only clergy,bearded & turbaned, are worthy of handling questions of religion. There is no hope in espousing ideals of secularism when 'secular' itself is a pejorative. The hope, if there is any, lies instead in promoting an understanding of the faith that is not in symbiosis with violence and reaction, namely the Sufi/Barelvi variety, and which still has roots amongst the populace. There we might actually have a chance against the Taliban & their Wahabi/Deobandi ethos, as opposed to the secular liberalism of NFP which has no traction outside the drawing rooms of Defence (and not even all of those).
Paladin
May 01, 2009 10:23am
it was because of views such as yours that today Churches in all mighty England are converted into cafe's and luxury apartments. Look at the number of our neighbours paying your posts homage. Just exactly which audience are you writing for? Like Sarfraz Khan said, it is you that needs to be investigated. Self Reflection is the finest forms of discovery. Islam is not about the mosque alone, but is not about "fresh interpretation of the Quran either". Islam is a modern religion, it is one of the youngest religions and does not need any fresh interpretation. How can you "freshly" interpret the words of all mighty GOD.
Naeem
May 01, 2009 09:50am
I am glad some people have started thinking outside the box and questioning fundamentalism in religon. It is about time that Muslims re evaluate the corrrect interpretaion of Islam. Love for all and hatred for none should become the Islamic philosophy. Otherwise the "world" will not tolerate us as a society and nor will Allah.
WORLD CITIZEN
May 01, 2009 11:09am
Hi Nadeem, You have hit the nail on the head. The purpose of any education is to create thinking human being and not well read parrots. Many of the Holy Books have immortal thoughts in them because of which they have survived the test of time. But many of the thoughts are in the forms of aphorisms which need to be interpreted according to prevailing time, this requires rational investigation. Hence interpretation of religion must be left to the individual and a dogmatic approach will lead to disaster and misery.
Adil Khan
May 01, 2009 03:47pm
Well it is a good read but Pakistan should not forget its great past and the glorious future that it has. The Taliban may have a fierce reputation (much of it is media's making) but they are the soldier of Allah and they shall rekindle the true Pak spirit in Pakistan. We should encourage them to be here. Islamic education is the real education and we should embrace it. Modern science is godless and self defeating in the long run. We should ban modern western education from our society and only madarssa education should be there. This way we will set up a glorious PAKISTAN.
Tippu
May 01, 2009 03:53pm
Hi Naddem, Hats off for your Rational Thinking. If only all the Muslims think liked you. The world would be one great place to live.
Freethoughts
May 01, 2009 05:48pm
A few liberal Pakistanis are getting carried away by this article. In a land of Blind, the half eyed has seen heaven! What Mr Nadeem has written is not even 10% of what other religions are subjected to in every other country except the Islamic ones! If a mild rebuke of "one" brand of Islam can bring about such adulation and an equal condemnation, it only shows that this Pakistani / Islamic society has not even tasted a teaspoon full of liberal thoughts and actions! One has to be a good person, non violent, honest and humane not because a man in a white robe or in spirit is watching you all the time. This obedience is slavery and outright unethical, if not dishonest! Being good without a supervisor is the most ethical stance one could take. Paksitan needs atleast 100 Nadeem's writing day in and day out for the next 10 years if at all Pakistani society seriously wants to reform.
shrinkhala
May 01, 2009 06:10pm
To mr. adil khan: frankly, i am shocked on reading your views. how can you justify so many innocent deaths in the country...are you really serious when you say that pakistan can survive and flourish only under the taliban rule or that taliban must stay in the country? and the almighty is the strongest, he does not require mortal soldiers, especially those who speak the language of bloodshed and who are determined to take us back to the primitive ages. the world is moving ahead. it is time we did too.
saeed
May 01, 2009 06:27pm
Excellent article. I would love if Mr. Nadeem had gone with him to masjid and then have this conversation. A fresh interpretation is indeed needed, but going to masjid is important too. Not because of 'swab' but because islam has already provided a method for social interaction and communication. It would be better if we could go to a nearest masjid without asking which sect it belongs to.
Khalid
May 01, 2009 06:34pm
Nice one. I really hope the young men and women of Pakistani origin in the UK learn something out of this nice story. I get frustrated by the attitudes of Pakistanis (by the way, no other Muslim community in the UK behaves this way - only Pakistanis have taken upon themselves to become the most notorious community because of their religious beliefs) is nothing but an embarrassment for Pakistanis not just in the UK but for muslims everywhere.
Sandeep
May 01, 2009 07:15pm
Interesting article but I feel slightly mis-interpreted! Today all over the world being religious is being equated to praying or visiting place of worship! While praying is probably essential for some but what is more important is to implement the teachings of the religion one is practicing. All religion emphasize on being a good human. If you are not a good human but you pray then I am sure you are not a true believer! Faith is personal! Both Ashfaq as well as Nadeem are right and they both do not have a right to judge other! Let's start a debate on how to be a good and compassionate human being - prescribed by all religion and get off the debate on whether one should pray or not!
Larry Stout
May 01, 2009 07:25pm
"We should ban modern western education from our society and only madrassa education should be there. This way we will set up a glorious PAKISTAN." So says Khan. I have to ask, why do you insist on calling modern education "western"? Indoctrination, which bodes only to bring Pakistan to a very inglorious finish, does not qualify as "education".
Ashah
May 01, 2009 07:58pm
That was a hilarious articles, I'm had a few like that. It's like talking to a wall. And the funny things, I was like that once. I embraced a literal interpretation of Islam with zeal in my teens. I was open to no one and nothing and judged everyone and everything around me. It's tunnel vision, it is hard to look outside because you're not supposed to question. I think people also feel comfortable with a specific formula on what to do - how to dress, how to hold your finger up in shahada in prayer are specific things you do to ensure your "place in heaven". Questioning yourself deeper, determining your motives, showing kindness to all, accepting and respecting different choices from yours are difficult to manage. It's easier wasting time obsessing how long your beard is or how high your pants are.
Insaan.
May 01, 2009 09:18pm
You, My Dear Sir, deserve a voracious ovation for such an oration! Beautiful. If only the Man above would make more like you, in all faiths and beliefs we'd have a better world to give our children and ourselves! Godspeed to you.
Adil Shafi Afzal
May 02, 2009 12:55am
The concept of Jizya is highly minunderstood and irrationally spoken about without clear research first. I read earlier that why would minorities need protection in a pure society which the Muslims claim to provide. By protection it does not necessarily mean protection from violent mobs attacking them all the time. It means providing them basic facilities as members of the state. Please keep in mind Muslims have to pay a tax as well which is called Zakat. Non-muslims donot pay that tax. I hope we all know that every law abiding responsible citizen is required to pay a tax in his/her country.
aini
May 02, 2009 01:27am
I actually find it amusing that in trying to prove Ashfaq wrong, NFP himself ends up sounding self-righteous. It would have been better had he tried engaging the guy in a productive conversation instead of innuemdos--all he ends up doing is trying to embarrass the guy---does not work for me.
aini
May 02, 2009 01:40am
I actually find it amusing that in trying to prove Ashfaq wrong, NFP himself ends up sounding self-righteous. It would have been better had he tried engaging the guy in a productive conversation instead of innuendos--all he ends up doing is trying to embarrass the guy---does not work for me.
ambrish
May 02, 2009 03:06am
nadeemji, the rational thinking people like u sir is in minority in any religion. the need of hour is that, pak. should have rational modern education minus jehadi culture will be only remedy tosurvive as one nation. i hope u will take this flame to the masses of pak..
Mayet
May 02, 2009 03:50am
Hi Nadeem, The world is a better place thanks to good people like you. You speak for good people of all religions, and also for good people of no religion. How simple folks like Ashfaq easily get dangerously lost in little ritualistic details (brain-washed) and miss seeing the bigger picture is all too familiar. You piece is very well written. Hats off to you, mate! Cheers!
manz
May 02, 2009 03:59am
What good is such intellectualism if we leave a basic pillar of our religion? The advantage of this type of writing is that you do not have to present any compelling argument from the other side, and can always show yourself to be more rational. Can any fair reading of Qur'an or Hadith give us an impression that the fundamental religious practices -- the five pillars -- are a thing of the past? If one can conclude that then he can quite rationally conclude that Islam itself is a religion of the past. What then will be the point of this proposed phillosophical and rational investigation of the Qur'an?
Adil
May 02, 2009 09:02am
It hurts cause its true. I went to a prominent business school in Pakistan. When teaching us business ethics they taught us the philosophy of Islam - except learning about prayers and the 'superiority of Islam' vs. other religions, it had nothing to do with the subject at hand. There was no rational discussion on corporate relations, soundness of financial instruments, thoughts on understanding modern financing or anything remotely connected to the real world. Why? Cause its too hard think beyond that.
Larry Stout
May 02, 2009 11:50am
If Allah is truly merciful, Ashfaq, why do you not follow the example, instead of relishing the thought of Nadeem burning eternally? Are you sadistic, Ashfaq? Suffering from delusions of grandeur? Something tells me you are, among other things, a gun enthusiast. Which is greater, Allah or the home-made Kalashnikov?
Jawaid
May 02, 2009 12:38pm
You mentioned some good points, but don't forget that Pakistan has many fanatic elements. From religious bigotry to race discrimination, we are full of everything. There are only few or I would say a handful of people out there, with open mind and liberal thought. Keep up the good work.
Larry Stout
May 02, 2009 12:54pm
The USA has had, and still has, its own version of the unregenerate Taliban, the Ku Klux Klan. They too covered their faces and murdered wantonly and self-righteously, consecrating their hideous deeds by burning a Christian cross. At today's kkk.com, we find this: '"There is a race war against whites. But our people - my white brothers and sisters - will stay committed to a non-violent resolution. That resolution must consist of solidarity in white communities around the world. The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keep loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way - law and order - love of family - love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America! Be faithful my fellow believers." -- Pastor Thomas Robb, National Director of The Knights' Although forced to renounce violence in this published text, they share a seething hatred that is as vast as their minds are small. Notice that patriotism (i.e., American jingoism), Christianity, and the simpleton KKK racist ethos are conflated. And notice that they think of themselves as "knights" (= crusaders, jihadis). If Allah is merciful, "He" will round up all the crusaders and jihadis and deposit them together on another planet.
Prayers should be offered
May 02, 2009 02:13pm
I believe Mr Nadeem does not understand the philosophy behind offering prayers much less Islamic Philosophy. A muslim offers his prayers to glorify Allah Almighty and to thank him for his blessings, this philosophy will never change. Hence no need for a "fresh perspective" on it. Furthermore just because our mosques are not filled with intellectually superior beings is no reason why one should not pray. I agree with him that our religion should not be reduced to mere practising of rituals but should also be pondered over. Therefore I request him to please explore and analyze the Quran.
Larry Stout
May 02, 2009 01:22pm
Vijay has said, "I fail to understand the obsession with Kashmir and Palestine.... I can't comment on Palestine...." - - - - - I refer you, Vijay, to this official Indian info (from www.indianembassy.org): "India has also been in the forefront of the world community in the struggle against colonialism. Indeed, the Independence of India itself played the role of a catalyst in removing the vestiges of colonialism in other parts of the developing world...." Perhaps, Vijay, you can explain to us how zionism differs from colonialism. (We're waiting.)
arshad hussain
May 02, 2009 01:34pm
hi, nadeem. you need not loss your heart and proceed by doing your work of spreading enlightenend and human version of islam. the man with whom u interacted also not be blamed because he has been brain washed and the like u and many others need to nab this trend. islam teaches peace for every one irrespective of his religion and sect . thanx your well wisher arshad hussain
Larry Stout
May 02, 2009 01:51pm
Mr. Taha Rafiq has thus informed us: "Finally, at least in Islam, even though your beliefs are a
Aamer Aziz
May 02, 2009 04:19pm
I think it is high time now to have a serious debate in Pakistan about going secular .. The religion and state has to be separated .. we have to go the Turkey model - there is no other way left And also - good governance and delivering to the people - be it political or military government
Aamer Aziz
May 02, 2009 04:24pm
and to Mr "prayer should be offered" - no one is saying that prayer should not be offered - of course if you want to pray 5 times a day plus the tahajjad - you are most welcome to do it .. may Allah give everyone the "taufeeq" to do so .. but you totally missed the point of Mr. Piracha - who is anyone to ask you if you pray or not .. why should you be concerned if anyone else is praying or not .. and why should Islam be limited to praying and making sure the mosques are filled Live and let live is THE ONLY way to go ahead in this world .. I live in a "christian" country but no one ever told me to go to church - and my office raise no objection at all if i spend 10 mins for my prayers - I compensate for the time lost by not going for lunch. No one has any right to impose their own ideas (be it religious or political or social) on the other. This is the reason I think Pakistan should go secular .. if you want to live life your way then sure you can - but dont disturb others
saleem khan
May 02, 2009 07:33pm
Excellent piece of words but unfortunately how many in the Pakistani society pay attention to all this. They believe only what they hear from the loud speakers of the mosque and the mullahs preaching in them. Education of masses is the only solution. Please continue the good work.
j.c.narasimhan
May 02, 2009 10:40pm
Oh well, there's at least one pakistani who can think sensibly and dare to say that in public ! Kudos to you NFP !
Pran Nath Jalali
May 02, 2009 11:07pm
Dear Mr.Nadeem, Your piece is a refreshing tonic to most rational thinking persons from all hues. I strongly recommend this article to our so called Hindutava sections in India. However having said that, I lost my home in Srinagar Kashmir to religious intolerance. Please do take care of your self & regards.
pk
May 03, 2009 03:03am
hi Nadeem & All There are some basic purpose of all religions and the people who propounded the principles [( but never created the religion themselves, buddihism was never created by Buddha himself, neither Mohammad ( PBH)created Islam ]. 1. Maximize the benefits of whatever resources the region had to maximum number of people 2. Establish a law for equitable distribution of resources, whether mental or physical In hindi/sanskrit the word Dharma comes from the word "Dhamma" meaning right path. Right path is not rigid, it changes and adapts itself with time, people and land. Nothing in this world is rigid. even time changes. I am an atheist born in a hindu family and have read Hadith. After going through all the religions in the world, I distinctly found out that any religion is a product of the geography, where it takes shape. If you notice many rituals in judaism, Islam and christianity are similar, given they were all born around Jerusalem ( Middle East of modern geography). In this context I support Nadeem's point of view.These days,practiconers of all the religions are more concerned about rituals, without knowing its values. They are even less concerned about the spirit of any religion, which preaches love of humanity as the foremost principle. Any debaters on this? Anyone in the world who can say, that their God or Prophets aksed their followers to kill other people? Friends religions were created for peace and love of humanity, we ( the modern , Intellectual human being with all comforts of modern age) have misused religions and Prophets/Gods words for our own ego, self preservation and selfish motives. Lets face this! We are actually not concerned about religion/s but about our own benefits. Hope people would think over it, not just react from their own dogmatic and rigid thoughts. Thinking is the only process , which distinguish human beings from other animals. cheers and peace pk
shah
May 03, 2009 07:25am
well said by Nadeem, we do need some fresh philosophical and intellectual interpretations of Quran and Hadith. But the whole point is we can never deny of saying prayers..every one have different level of intellectual ability. So Prayers are some thing that connect all the muslims of all intellectual levels. Secondly , regardless of whether we do fresh interpretations of islam or we dont...it has nothing to do with going to mosque, praying is "Farz" in all cases, never forget and fanaticism is some thing different than Islam . I realize that some people are trying to avoid prayers by arguing like this...
Afaque
May 03, 2009 09:24am
The article is cynical. It reflects a "mid-life crises" of a self proclaimed intellectual; the one who has lost his identity along his self respect in the maize of western ideas and no yield philosophical discourses. Now he has no clue what the all-overwhelming religion holds for him and what he has lost over the years while his undisciplined life has wandered him off from the essence of his own society, religion and culture. Ah! This reminds me of all-so-common Pakistani characters of the late seventies and early eighties who under their spiraling smoke of cigarettes used to talk about, Hegel, Marx, Engels, Tolstoy, Lenin and Mao but knew nothing about Islam besides their given names. It wasn
Gurjinder Singh Sahi, Canada
May 03, 2009 10:09am
Prayers should be offered, I have a view which I wish to share. God is seeking the love of its constituents and not rituals in the prayers of people. I wonder how can a man pray in due sincerity extolling the love of Allah with his eyes on the Kalashnikov and the malice in his heart towards Allah's own creations.To reach the other end of the bank of the river, you have to leave this side of the river. In my limited vision, I cannot see how would it be possible for a mortal human being to lend glory to the name of God. God is not to be glorified in words but he has to shine through in man's actions. Once again just because reciting scriptures is easy does not make it to be right as well.If God knows all, he can see through the fraility of our actions also.So whom are we trying to kid here.Consider for a second, religion to be pure milk and politics to be pure poison. How much of poison(a drop)do you think one needs to destroy religion?
Seema Javed
May 03, 2009 10:46pm
While I agree with most of your argument Nadeem, I would beg to differ on prayers. Prayers whether performed at a mosque or in the home are obligatory and I do not see any debate on that. It is also a very personal choice on whether we are or are not able to pray five times a day. The point of prayer is to be in a state of spirituality and if this particular pillar of Islam is ritualistic, then it is so to the extent of a 'ritual' that is performed five times a day. Maybe ritual is the wrong word to use here. Maybe 'habit' might be a better word. But a ritual or habit that cannot be imposed on others. Of course judging a person by whether he prays in a mosque or not, or if at all is making things too black and white. Having said that, I myself do not pray five times a day although I would like to be able to get into the 'habit' of doing so. Intellectual discourse/investigation into the Quran is a healthy thing but where do we draw the line? There are things which one has to accept 'blindly' in religion.. like the belief that there is a God..there is a heaven and there is a hell..there will be a day of judgement..I do not have time, space nor inclination to go on and on over such a vast subject but I hope you get my drift? Sometimes excessive analysis might stray us from the truly spiritual to the truly cynical? Make no mistake, no way do I condone what is being done 'in the name of Islam'. I feel distressed at the thought of Talibanisation overtaking Islam...sehar tariqs letter among the comments was close to my heart and I truly feel her disillusionment because my own daughter, such a patriot at heart with the energy to do all to give back to her country also feels helpless and hopeless given the current state of affairs. All we can hope for....and I would like to borrow Mr.Obamas phrase if I may.... is 'change'. Surely that is the only constant in life..or has nothing changed in the small history of Pakistan?
Prayers should be offered
May 04, 2009 12:09am
Mr Aamer Aziz the purpose of my post was only to highlight the significance of
Prayers should be offered
May 04, 2009 12:22am
As for Mr Gurjinder I would like to share with you the concept of praying in Islam. Praying in Islam is not at all about paying lip service to Allah (SWT). Instead Allah (SWT) wants us to understand the verses we repeat each time, to contemplate on them and then to confess our faith in Allah(SWT). Hence just as a mobile battery needs charging every now and then similarly our faith needs to be recharged intermittently. In your post you have stereotyped the practicing muslims as carrying a Kalashnikov and breeding hatred towards the disbelievers. But they can
jay
May 04, 2009 03:16am
Honestly, as humans of all religions, we have managed to collectively mess it up. We have chosen to use it as a crutch to justify the worst atrocities to the human race.
Anubha
May 04, 2009 05:13am
I read words like 'farz', 'duty' and 'responsibility' associated with 'Namaaz'. I have just one question, when a mother loves a child or a man loves his father, is she or he merely performing a 'duty'? Can love ever be made in to a 'duty'? 'Namaaz' or any other form of prayer is an expression of love. It is intimate. This is also why one can not really ever 'offer' a prayer, rather praying has to 'happen'. It is also not about 'discipline' or 'control', rather it is about letting go of every thing, the good and the bad, and surrendering yourself completely. This 'surrender' can not be 'done by you'. Again it has to happen on its own. Finally - 'Khuda hi detaa hai taufeeqe' aashiq'e warnaa, Kisi se dil ka lagaana koi mazaak nahin' Peace.
Anjum Eshrati
May 04, 2009 05:32am
Gujrinder Singh Jee: There are more than one billion Muslims, and hundreds of millions of them pray regularly and remember Allah. Without a doubt, 99% of them do not have a klashnikov. What are you talking about? Our Klashnilov holding Mullas are not Muslims, whether they pray or not, it does not matter.
Moiz
May 04, 2009 01:19pm
While I agree that the so-called 'terrorists' of today persist in wrong/blind interpretations of the Koran and of various vaguer instructions in it, the undeniable fact remains that to be a Muslim certain tenets HAVE to be followed, which include praying. What Mr. Paracha is writing here is an echo of the western dogma regarding 'updating' the religion. It DOES need to be better understood in light of the problems faced by Muslims today. That however does not mean that the basic tenets are ignorable. Being Muslim involves more than just calling ourselves so.
Nadir
May 04, 2009 06:34pm
This article is not about praying or not. Its about getting our priorities straight. But I dont think thats going to happen as long as we keep doing things merely for "sawaab". "Br" Ashfaq could have started cleaning the road just outside the Masjid, which I am very sure was littered with all sorts of filth. No, but he chose to go to the Mosque (note, more sawab for prayers in Jamaat than praying at home). There is more sawab in Bajamaat Namaz than in cleaning up the street. And dont tell me "safai is nisf imaan". Half the country probably does not even know what "nifs" means. Is it 1/2? Is it 1/3? Why couldn't they just translate it as "Aadha"?
Anjum Eshrati
May 04, 2009 06:57pm
God is the creator of all things. In the universe as we know it (which is very little), our planet is less significant than a single grain of sand in the Goby desert. God loves us many times more than a mother loves her children. Indeed, when I take one step towards Him, he comes two steps forward; and when I walk towards Him, he comes running to meet me halfway. How can I just wait for prayer to 'happen' to me? How can I not take prayer as a responsibility? We must work on our relationship with God more than we work on our relationship with my loved ones. God, who created me and gave me so much that I did not deserve, asks me to pray five times a day. His Prophet, His most beloved, prayed five times a day and more. Who am I to wait for prayer to 'happen' to me? God gave man the free will and then asked him to surrender to Him and to seek His pleasure. Prayer is the first sign of surrender. When I pray, I do so willingly and lovingly. It is a Farz, a duty, a responsibility that I love to perform. Remember: God is loving but He still is God. This life is a test and those who fail this test will fail God. Satan is clever to find many excuses to keep us away from God. Read this (Holy Quran, 36:60-64): "Did I not enjoin on you, O ye Children of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan; for that he was to you an enemy avowed?- "And that ye should worship Me, (for that) this was the Straight Way? "But he did lead astray a great multitude of you. Did ye not, then, understand? "This is the Hell of which ye were (repeatedly) warned! "Embrace ye the (fire) this Day, for that ye (persistently) rejected (Truth)."
Asim
May 04, 2009 07:44pm
Looking at the discussion, it proves that managing masjids is responsibility of the state. We have to regulate Masjids and Madrasas. Pakistan gave enough religious freedom to Masjids and Madrasas and look what happened.... Uneducated, ignorant, extremist people become imams and teachers of masjids and madrasas and government had/has no check and balances. I even heard of a case where an Indian RAW agent became Imam of a masjid and ignorant people did not know what he was teaching. Imams and religious leaders teach what they want and what they understand. Many also work for certain political and financial objectives. Similarly shrines are known for selling drugs and making money, and their teaching do not conform to Islamic teachings and people call it as teaching peace & harmony. We need to wake up. Here is my suggestion of what to do (Probably many people already suggested similar idea throughout history): All Masjids and Madrassas should register and report to central governing body. Selection process of Imams and religious teachers should be regularized under supervision of Islamic scholars from different parts of the world and proper structure should be established. Imams and madrassa teachers should have some minimum government recognized qualification in Islamic studies and should have grade above certain thresh hold. Qualification in other fields should be a plus point. There should be a thorough background check and furthermore records regarding their character should be clean in their careers. Furthermore it should be ensured that government does not manipulate the above structure & system, in order to control people to achieve any devious political or financial objectives. Strong provisions should be made where people are taught to think freely, logically and with proof as this is part of Islamic teachings.
Mohammed Hassanali
May 04, 2009 08:50pm
Hello everybody, I fully agree with the views of Nadeem Paracha. There are two very basic questions that have to be answered in my opinion in order for Muslims in general and us Pakistanis or let
Afaque
May 04, 2009 09:02pm
I am not defending Talibanization (should actually be read as Tribalization) or their interpretation of Islam but trying to correct some miss-representations here. Just because some hill-billies of Swat are trying to hijack the concept of Sharia to impose their tribal culture on others, let us not delude ourselves into abandoning Islam. I reading here that Namaz is a matter of choice for Muslim or prayer is to happen not performed. Well being a Muslim is a matter of choice of course, but once Muslim, practice of its tenets is not. One can declare him or herself a non-Muslim and do whatever he or she wants who care, however, owning Islam means practice of its tenets, and Namaz is one of it. Islam is different from many other dominant religions of the world such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, as it is not mystic religion; rather it is a religion of practice. It means the religion is a way of life. By practicing the tenets of Islam we improve our conduct with friends, neighbors, strangers and enemies. It provides beyond prejudice a kind of lifestyle that establishes harmony and peace starting from self discipline. To improve one
MH
May 04, 2009 09:40pm
I quickly browsed this article and in that limited time found at least one fallacy (equating the present unrest situation with mosques full of people as the unrest is not because of mosques being full) and acts of indecency (calling a visiting student "an idiot"). This is certainly not the etiquette that our religion Islam teaches us so I can't comment on its origins. I understand our contemporary readers are hard pressed for time so I propose that they familiarize themselves with the role model of all Muslims at: http://www.islam-guide.com/frm-ch1-6.htm before they starting criticizing one of the requirements of our religion. There will always be people who are going to be thankful to their creator (God) for the gift of life and will be have patience dealing with difficult situations in life. They will not get bogged down by spending 5 minutes in praying and thanking His majesty. And there will always be people who are going to be ungrateful to God and hasty in affairs (trying to grab as much as possible while they are alive).
Anjum Eshrati
May 06, 2009 03:39pm
Asim says: Looking at the discussion, it proves that managing masjids is responsibility of the state. We have to regulate Masjids and Madrasas. Pakistan gave enough religious freedom to Masjids and Madrasas and look what happened
iblees
May 07, 2009 04:46pm
The intellectual pill is hard to swallow for 'Ashfaqs' and skeptical one is utterly out of question. You did well though. :)
Dilip B
May 13, 2009 12:14pm
Mr. Nadeem, I think you are right in the perspective that Religion is upto indvidual who follows it. As far as prayers are concerned , if you chant allah's name from heart ,we even do not need to go mosque or church. This is all our saints in India told so far. If I am not intervening in someone's religious activities (e.g attire/food etc) , then i do have right that no one should intervene in my religious activities till the time those activities are privately done (not creating disturbance for others) and activities are not anti-national. People in pakistan should think about country first rather than muslims in other country. People in india will talk about religious rights about hindus in Pakistan/Malaysia/pakistan or Europe as they know thye are following their religion in every difficult situation they had to face.Religion is all about tolerance for your people either they are of same faith or another.
Dilip
May 12, 2009 07:38pm
Mr. Nadeem, Where were you so far? you have to make this big..seriously...all the best!!!..I wish you meet Zaid Hameed one day and put your discussion points here :)
zobal
May 11, 2009 12:22pm
NFP, you have a narrow view of prayers. i agree we should have a rational approach to religious issues but obeserving Namaz is ordered clearly not metaphorically. NFP you seem to take the whole of Quran for a metaphor. Now that's a very narrow approach too.
Ramiz Butt
May 11, 2009 07:32am
This article should help each Muslim to see the damage rigid dogmatism is causing to the social life of Muslims especially Pakistanis. The world looks at us with supect which Indians get plum jobs in IT and Software due to their openness towards democratic ideals. An average Indian is welcomed everywhere while Pakistanis are seen as a member of a failed state. I lament not being born in India. Indian Muslims are much better off since they dont have any baggages.
Ravi
May 21, 2009 04:18pm
Good one Nadeem. This is one good way to deal with people who take themselves and their ideals too seriously.
abdul
Jun 18, 2009 05:57pm
Religion was created for the well being of mankind. Religion should serve man and it must not be other way. so it has to change according to the time. Sadly, most of the muslims believe that what was said thousands of year ago, should still hold and people should be guided by them... too much importance of religion is the root cause of the backwardness of muslims.
abbas
Jul 11, 2009 03:35pm
How can you be a Muslim if you do not pray?
Iza La.
Jul 15, 2009 07:07pm
Do you think that that was the right way to get your point across? Didn't you ultimately contradict your ideals by your mere talk that made him miss him prayers? We all are beatified with Intellect and conscience, we have the capability to make sound judgments on our own. We all as Individuals are very different. And yet the same. I agree with what you were trying to say to that other Gentleman, but i think you could have said it in a more adequate way. Not just shoving it down his throat. It made you look like a bigot.
Parveiz
Nov 10, 2009 04:31pm
All the seeds that Zia-Ul-Haq and the Military Establishment and ISI have sown in the 1980s are coming back to haunt us. The Taliban is what we have brought out of the closet.
tabinda rehman
Nov 15, 2009 09:29am
Nice article, as we are Muslims it is our duty to offer prayers to glorify ALLAH and to thank HIM for everything he has given to us. We can never deny of saying prayers by wasting our time in arguments.
vinod
Dec 05, 2009 07:55am
It is a truth that Muslims and Hindus living in America or England have, some how, become more staunch and ritualistic. Some how we are missing the spirit and message of Prophet or the Hindu rishis and finally the Allah or God or Bhagwan and wasting our lives by performing rituals without even trying to understand the message. Sad we think and believe that following rituals blindly we will become a good Muslim or Hindu. Two world wars were fought by the church going good Christians?
Salman
Jan 05, 2010 08:25pm
NFP, if you are an atheist I don't have a problem with that, but please stay quite about the things you don't know. Please discuss anything but Islam.
Abhishek
Jan 23, 2010 07:12pm
Awesome! You are brilliant. I wish every Pakistani understands the rational of peaceful living and then we will see Pakistan grow too.