Saturday, October 12, 2013

From ‘a living faith. My quest for peace, harmony and social change. An autobiography of Asghar Ali Engineer’ by Asghar Ali Engineer

Likhte rahe junoon ki hikayat-i khoonchakaan
har chand is mein haath hamare qalam hue
-          Mirza Ghalib

Endlessly writing passion’s blood-drenched tales
My hands, my self became the instruments of the story’s telling.

Ye charagh jaise lamhein kahin raigaan na jaayein
Koi khwaab dekh dalo, koi inqilab lao
-          Rahi Masooom Raza

May these flame-like moments not go waste
Witness a dream, usher in a revolution!

Investigation of the Bombay Riots
I undertook an investigation of the Bombay riots of 1992-93…… It was simply horrible to visit the sites of rioting and massacre. The general complaint from the people I met was about the role of the police. In some cases it was blatantly partial. It was in the Deonar area that an inspector pulled out some young Muslims from their houses and asked them to run and then shot them dead. He was later suspended though he pretended to be mentally deranged……
In Maharashtra, the police have been highly communalized (with honourable exceptions) thanks to Shiv Sena propaganda. Its mouthpiece Samna (which means confrontation) uses very strong communal and abusive language and most of the lower level policemen read it regularly and are deeply influenced by its communal propaganda …..

In the world, every nation preserves and protects its heritage but in Saudi Arabia what exists is also destroyed for fear that it would be worshipped.Even graves of all except that of the Propht and his three companions, have been destroyed. And as for the Prophet’s grave, no one can kiss it or even pray facing it. When I stood in front of the Prophet’s grave and recited verses from the Qur’an, the police came and caught my neck and turned my face to the other side!
What is more surprising is that while the entire Islamic heritage has been destroyed, just opposite the Prophet’s Mosque a shopping centre has been constructed and ironically it has been named after Abu Dharr, one of the Prophet’s companions who was strongly against accumulation of riches and was an advocate of simple life like that of the Prophet himself. Legend has it that Abu Dharr never shook hands with those who were wealthy. Now, one can also see gold and jewellery shops all around the Prophet’s mosque. Is this not sheer hypocrisy in the name of Islam! One wonders.

If followers of the two different religions speak the same language, differences are bound to get minimized. Darashikoh, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s son, also makes the same point in his book Majma’ul Bahrayn (Comingling of Two Oceans – Islam and Hinduism)

…..there were prominent people from Tehran, including some Ayatollahs …..Another Ayatollah …..said, ‘we do co-exist with other faiths but we cannot accept pluralism as it implies validity of other faiths.’ ….I then said that it is an un-Qur’anic statement that except Islam all other faiths have no validity. The Qur’an clearly says that all Prophets have been sent by Allah and they all bring Truth from Him. How then could we say that other religions are invalid and pluralism is not acceptable? ….the Ayatollah….said that although all Prophets come from Allah, their followers had distorted the original teachings and hence these religions ceased to be the original Message from Allah. To this I retorted that it was not for human beings, but only for Allah to decide what has been distorted and what has not. The Qur’an clearly says that although we may differ, we should not condemn others but only exceed each other in good deeds and leave it to Allah to decide as to who is right and who is wrong.

He also told me that until the Second World War no one in Holland (perhaps also in other European countries) would take bath every day. For months they did not take a bath. It was only after 1945 that the tradition of daily baths started

….there is a saying in Russian that one must have his breakfast to his heart’s content, share the lunch with his friend and give dinner away to his enemy!

……Sarmad who was a contemporary of Aurangzeb …He had supported Dara Shikoh who was inclined towards Sufism, and hence Aurangzeb wanted to kill him. He obtained a fatwah from the ‘ulama on the grounds that he did not recite the kalimah (profession of Islamic faith) fully. Instead of saying ‘la ilaha illallah’ (there is no God, except one God), he would only say ‘la ilaha’ (there is no God).
………one of Sarmad’s disciples …..said, ‘is it a lie to say illallah?’ ‘No,’ said Sarmad, ‘it is the highest truth. But for me it would be a lie.’ ‘Why is that?’ the disciple had questioned. ‘Because, I have not been able to really deny the many gods of desire still sitting in my heart. How can I then say illallah? I am still worshipping so many idols of desire and not free of them,’ was Sarmad’s answer. He was then beheaded.

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