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 Journey to Kashmir

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Join date : 2011-06-29

PostSubject: Journey to Kashmir   Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:16 pm

Journey to Kashmir
By Yoginder Sikand

As I write now, sitting by a little mountain stream in Sonamarg in north Kashmir, it strikes me most forcefully that in my many travels that have taken me all over India and beyond, as well, I have yet to meet a more friendly and hospitable people than the Kashmiris. This is my fifteenth day in what is now my eighth visit to Jammu and Kashmir, and so what I write comes out as a result of a long interaction with the people of this hapless, war-ravaged, yet God-blessed, land.

Ten years of bloody strife have struck untold tragedy for the people of Kashmir and have reduced their land to a complete shambles. This land, that the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan, a true connoisseur of beauty if ever there was one described as the veritable 'heaven on earth' has today been devastated beyond recognition, its people leading lives of dark, stark despair.

Emerging from the three kilometre-long Jawahar tunnel over the Banihal pass that divides Jammu from Kashmir, a vast valley of lush green rice fields, dotted with stern-looking chinar trees, unfolds before the eye. The splendid natural beauty, however, can barely conceal the obvious human misery that seems to hang like thick, impenetrable fog all around. Burnt- down houses and school buildings, desolate market places and roads in a state of complete disrepair are cruel reminders of ten years of unprecedented strife in the Kashmir valley. The general impression one gets is of abject poverty and backwardness, a result of long years of complete absence of any development work.

Once, one of the prettiest cities in India, Srinagar today is only a very pale reflection of its former self. Empty, forlorn bombed-out buildings at the historic Lal Chowk at the heart of the city tell a tale of gruesome destruction. Srinagar's famous Dal lake, once famous for its stunning beauty with its delicately decorated houseboats gracefully floating over its waters, is now almost a swamp. The river Jhelum on whose banks the old quarters of the town stand, is, in large stretches, now a heavily clogged canal, with vast slums having sprouted on its banks. Most parts of Srinagar bear a gloomy, sombre look, with army pickets and bunkers at every corner. The streets overflow with garbage and most houses look completely rundown. Local manufacture is at an almost complete stand-still. Ten years of violence have played havoc with the educational system in Kashmir. Schools all over the valley were either closed or else burnt down in firing between militants and the Indian army. Families who could afford it sent their children to other parts of India to study. Children from poor families, of course, suffered the most.

Thanks to Hindutva propaganda it is widely believed that all non-Muslims in the Kashmir valley have either run away, been expelled or killed. That, however, is far from true. Almost every second truck that trudges across that Banihal pass from Jammu into Kashmir is Sikh-driven. Sikhs are to be found in considerable numbers all over Kashmir. Some are rich businessmen and others occupy high posts in the administration. Besides Sikhs, significant numbers of poor Hindus and tribals from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar can be seen in almost every Kashmiri town and village, where they work as farm labourers, masons, shoeshine boys, porters and petty retailers. True, the Kashmiri Pandits are yet to return, but Kashmiri Muslims insist that it was the then governor of the state, Mr. Jagmohan, notorious for his Hindutva connections, who had actually engineered the exodus of the Pandits in order to communalize the issue and to give a free reign to the army to unleash a reign of terror. While the people I met agreed that in general there had earlier been considerable resentment against the Pandits, they insisted that this had nothing to do with religion but with the fact that the Pandits, despite being less than 2 per cent of the population, had an overwhelming control over the administration. This resentment against hegemony, incidentally, was limited not just to the Muslims of Kashmir but was also widely felt by the Hindu Dogras of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh.

Clearly, the Kashmiri Muslims seem to be tired of ten long years of war that have led to more than 60,000 deaths and have resulted in massive destruction on all fronts. Rather than positively responding to this changing perception of the masses, the government appears to have made no serious effort at initiating the developmental process in the valley. The total debt of the state, mainly on account of expenditure on 'security', is now more than Rs.500 crores. Mass poverty and unemployment, despair and resentment, continue unabated as Dr. Farooq Abdullah, brought to power in what is believed to be a massively rigged election, honeymoons with the BJP. Incidents of atrocities committed by the 'security' forces on innocent civilians continue. Adding fuel to the fire, in volatile regions such as Doda, the government has set up 'village defence committees', arming members of only one community, and that too for the most part staunch BJP supporters, while leaving the other defenceless. Muslims in Doda, where I spent a week on this trip, were naturally greatly resentful. A volatile situation indeed.
Urdu's Lone Crusader
By Javed Gaihlot

Mr. Khalander Rizvi Nalband, primary school teacher in Gardenpet Urdu Primary School, Hubli, is crusading for promotion of Urdu through innovative methods. His single-handed efforts have yielded fruits for the Urdu-speaking community at large. His decade old struggle was reflected in the appointment of various Urdu hands in different banks, institutions and departments like the revenue, banking, postal and the electricity board. It was in 1986 that Mr. Rizvi suffered humiliation at the hands of the manager of Corporation Bank, Hubli, when he had submitted a cheque that was written in Urdu. "That was the start of my struggle", says Rizvi. Not getting much disheartened by the rejection, he wrote to the President of India and to the Linguistics Minorities Commission, Allahabad, protesting against the non-recognition of Urdu language. Article 350, Schedule of the Constitution has recognised 19 languages, out of which Urdu is one. His appeal was considered by the commission, as a result of which the commission directed the Deputy Commissioner, Linguistics Minorities Commission, Belgaum, to look into the matter. The Deputy Commissioner then summoned the chairman of Corporation Bank whose head office is located in Mangalore. Consequently, the Zonal office manager, Mr. Kamat and branch manager, Durgadbail, Hubli, Mr. S.D.Pai, visited Rizvi's house and apologised. The same cheque was then accepted and an Urdu hand was appointed by the corporation Bank management. He has not looked behind since then and devised Urdu phrases for terms like "self" (Khud ke liye) and "account payee" (banam khata adaigi).

In addition to this, his other achievements comprise of the appointment of five Urdu sorters in the head post office, Hubli. The Revenue Department, the Karnataka Electricity Board, the Telecom Department, the Hubli Dharward Municipal Corporation (HDMC), etc. were not spared either. He now comfortably walks in with all the bills and other formal letters in all these offices and his applications are forwarded without any hassles. Rizvi feels that only through these measures the unemployment problem could be solved for Urdu-speaking community. Only after finding the language relevant and in use, the concerned banks and departments advertise vacancies for Urdu-knowing staff.

Unfortunately, his idea has few takers. "It is sad to see the cold response that I get from Urdu teachers of Urdu schools. Every one prefers Kannada or English and considers Urdu as an inferior language," he remarks. His only hope are his class III students on whom he is ceaselessly concentrating even after they pass out. He conducts various competitions for the children that involves Urdu and happily spends from his own pocket while rewarding them. He asks all his students to write letters to him which bear addresses in Urdu with the twin intention of evoking interest in students for Urdu and simultaneously making the postal department familiar with this rich language. He has 57 students in his class.

Mr. Rizvi is a tireless crusader. The task that he has undertaken might seem to be a formidable one. But only people like him can keep Urdu relevant amid the surging sea of English and local languages. For a greater part of the Muslims in India, Urdu is the main cultural vehicle. Extinction of the language would also result in their detachment with their past. Iqbal, Ghalib, Meer Taqi Meer, Zauq, Premchand, Firaq Gorkahpuri, Ram Lal, all of whom represented the ethos of the rich Muslim culture and mirrored the society of their days, would become strangers to Urdu speaking Muslims. And people severed from their past become rootless and lose their relevance to the soil, something of great significance in these days of nation-sates. Khalandar Rizvi has set a shining example as to how a language could be pulled from the verge of extinction. This crusader of Urdu is indeed more worthy of salutes for his indefatigable zeal and his practical wisdom than the city-based champions of Urdu who have nothing more to offer than holding mushairas and award ceremonies but send their children to English medium schools. Will some of us follow in the footsteps of Rizvi and show the hypocrites their real place in the city?
Noor Jahan Foundation - A Ray of hope for Minorities
By Md. Zaheeruddin

According to the 1991 census date 17.17% of India's population consists of the five minority communities of which the Muslim minority itself constitutes about 12%. In 25 States and Union Territories, the population of minorities is more than 10%. But no statistically measurable portion of this group has reached a level where it can exert discretionary powers concerning the governance of the country. It behoves the intelligentsia of the group to assess ongoing reasons for such minor progress of the Muslim entity as a whole.

Official institutions under the Ministry of Welfare namely, the Minorities' Commission, the Central Wakf Council, the Maulana Azad Educational Foundation and the Minorities' Finance and Development Corporation, continue to plod their weary way with half-hearted steps are did not able to make any significant contribution to the development and progress of the community at the national level.

It was a fact that ever since the establishment of the Minorities' Commission in 1977-78 and the announcement of the 15-point programme in 1983, the Parliament did not find time to ponder over the status of the minorities or the annual reports of the commissions, largely due to the very low priority accorded by successive governments and perhaps because of their apprehension of embarrassment if their inaction over half a century after Independence became widely known.

The Muslim minority has extremely low literacy and low income levels. Due to their less representation in the services both at the centre and states, have the minorities were not in a position to play their rightful role in national life. The percentage of Muslims in non-government organisations was very low. Then there was the responsibility upon non-Governmental Organisations to push forward the concept of excellence in formal education. Then only Muslims would excel, otherwise they would remain where they were at present.

At present the challenge was much more than before. Nevertheless, the need for social reformation was urgent and liberal Muslim intellectuals had to initiate it, emulating Sir Syed and his followers.

As leaders of the community they should assume the responsibility to push forward the state of formal education of the average Muslim rather than restrict it to the scriptures and in this sense one must accept that they have failed and are responsible for the backwardness of the community at large. But it does not mean that scriptural instructions should be abandoned. One must carry both "Deen and Duniya" together and acquaint oneself with the latest in modern education while learning religion. Muslims must expand their horizons.

The intellectuals among Muslims should work tirelessly for the economic betterment of their brethren. Poverty affecting the very constitution of minority community is sighted as the most important cause for its backwardness.

Poverty leads to poor education, which in turn causes backwardness and economic marginalisation. Most of these people are not even aware of the schemes available to them in government departments and nationalised banks. Economic betterment will crate a better environment for the acceptability of social reform.

In the year 1995 civil service examinations only 22 Muslims were selected out of a total of 638 candidates. It is only 3.44%. It has even come to less than three percent in the successive years. If we count the number of Muslim representation in other employments and in the armed forces, it is less than two per cent.

Now the first and foremost task was to sensitise the community to the need for modern education both for boys and girls. The Muslims has to open the doors and windows of their dark rooms and look at the shining vista and step out to join the marching millions-towards the future.

At this critical juncture a foundation called "Noorjahan Foundation" had come into existence in Hyderabad City with a ray of hope to the Muslim community. It was a charitable trust registered with the government of Andhra Pradesh.

The main object of the Noorjahan Foundation was "to provide quality education and better health care for poor and needy at affordable prices". It was promoted by Mr. Zakeer Hussain S/o Mr. G.A. Rahim. Its first and foremost priority was to provide coaching to the minority students for the I.A.S., I.P.S., Group-I, Banks and Railways examinations with free boarding and lodging facilities to the poor and deserving students. It was also decided to extend its sphere of activities to impart education through Junior College, Degree and Post-Graduation Colleges, technical and non-Technical education, typing, Short-hand and Computers.

Its other activities were giving Para-Medical Training to the youth to become self-employed, to carry on women's programme through the Noorjahan Centre for Empowerment of Muslim minority women, to identity the talented sports persons and encourage them by rendering all necessary assistance including finance through Noorjahan Sports and Fine Arts Academy. To education Telugu-speaking Muslims in Islamic teachings, help eligible candidates to secure suitable placement in and outside the country through Noorjahan Centre and Employment, identify and implement community welfare programmes, mass marriages, sanctions of scholarships to pursue religious matters etc., through the Noorjahan charities.

Its inaugural function was held on 8th August, 1998 at Mini Auditorium, Ravindra Bharati, Lakdi ka Pool, Hyderabad. Janab Mahmood bin Muhammed, I.P.S., (Retd)., Hyderabad, and former Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia, who was also the Chairman of that Trust, inaugurated the Noorjahan Foundation. In his inaugural address, he said that the Hyderabad Muslims were very much lagging behind in I.A.S and I.P.S., selections. He emphasised the role of voluntary organisations for imparting professional education. He pointed out that one of the reasons for their backwardness was their poverty. He said that Islam had recognised the role of education to make progress in life. "The need of the hour is for the voluntary organisations to play a greater role for the upliftment and development of Minorities" he said. He further emphasised during the course of his address that our youth had the potentiality of all qualities but they needed support and guidance from the voluntary organisations to face the new challenges and succeed in life. "Muslims must realise that without education their development is not possible," he declared.

He appreciated the founder of Noorjahan Foundation for taking steps for a good cause to prepare the students for civil service examinations and expressed the confidence that the Noorjahan foundation by its relentless efforts would achieve good results in future.

Mr. Jannath Hussain, Secretary and Commissioner, Agriculture Department, Andhra Pradesh, while inaugurating the Noorjahan I.A.S, Study Circle, called upon the Muslim youth to remove the word 'impossible' from their mind. He said that nothing was impossible but what was needed was hard work and dedication.

Mr. Zahed Ali Khan, Editor, 'The Siasat' Urdu Daily, released the brochure of Noorjahan Foundation. He expressed his grave concern for the meagre representation of Muslims in Government services, particularly in I.A.S., and I.P.S. He suggested that the Muslim community should give away their zakat to that institution which help to render educational services. He announced a donation of Rs. 10,000/- as his contribution to the Noorjahan Study Circle.

Prof. Shah Manzoor Alam, former Vice-Chancellor of University of Kashmir, in his valedictory address said that starting a coaching centre for I.A.S., and I.P.S., by the Noorjahan Foundation was a very good signal for the development of minorities.

Mr. G.A.Rahim, I.P.S. Inspector General of Police, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, explained the objectives of the Noorjahan Foundation. He said that it was really an appropriate time to open their eyes and come together for the welfare of minorities. "It was a shameful fact that Hyderabad which consists of the largest Muslim population did not produce a single I.A.S. officer in the past forty years. He said this was the right way to depict the backwardness of Muslims in India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh. He quoted that Rome was not built in one day, it needed a long time. In the same manner there must be a beginning in the right direction to train the Muslim youth to achieve the goal of getting selected to the I.A.S., I.P.S and other Group-I services.
Conspiracy to Deepen the Communal Divide
By Hassan Mansur

With the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in tow, the Sangh Parivar has unleashed the hounds of hatred against the minorities, the latest among the victims being Christians and even the Parsis. The horrendous rape of the four nuns in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh provoked an outrageous response from Prem of the VHP that it was the anger of the Hindu youth against the anti-national activities of the Christians. The frenzied efforts of the VHP to convert members of a tribe in Rajastan that claims to be Muslim but is given to syncretic practices that include Hindu rituals, and its bid to restore Christians in the North-East to Hinduism are some of the activities looked on benignly by the BJP at the centre. The latter, a minority with a ragtag band of disreputable political outfits, is brazenly communal. One could imagine the nightmare if it were to come to power with a thumping majority.

The ante is being raised by Advani who never lets a day pass without harping on the ubiquitous and omnipotent presence of Pakistan’s Inter-State Services (ISI) in almost all the states of India. He is ably assisted by V.N.Gadgil, senior congressman who alleged rising Islamic fundamentalism owing to influx of Bangladeshis; further he has declared that this is the greatest threat to Indian security. This is echoed by a fellow-Congressman, Harnahally Ramaswamy, who accused Muslims as anti-national who opposed installation of the statue of Sardar Patel in Gulbarga. This mindset is not absent even among certain leaders of the Janata Dal. No wonder many of these have been crossing over to the BJP.

Jayalalitha, perhaps the most discredited politician of the day in an attempt to out do the rabid Sang Parivar has concocted the story of Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi Arab “terrorist” holed up in Afghanistan, visiting Hyderabad and inspiring the bomb blasts in Coimbatore. The climax was when she accused Karunanidhi of being an ISI agent. No wonder, the latter is driven to the wall and in order to save his own skin, he is arresting scores of innocent Muslims to prove his credentials as a nationalist. But to the dismay of the saffron band, Chandrababu Naidu has disclaimed knowledge of the visit of Bin Laden to his city and the presence of ISI there.

The latest fillip to this lying campaign is the high-level meeting of Chief Ministers of 8 Northern states to set up a Special Task Force (STF) to tackle alleged terrorists and criminal activities; understandably Bihar and West Bengal were absent. Advani rode his hobby horse declaiming on the role of the ISI and its ‘surrogates’, insinuating that it had Indian Muslims on its payroll, and ‘revealed’ blood-curdling details of its activities in quantifiable parameters as the media reported. He promised a white paper on this, a routine bureaucratic exercise. The truth is the police and intelligence agencies all over the country, to cover up their own inadequacies and inefficiency have found an all-too-convenient option of blaming it all on the ISI.

Sudhanshu Ranade writing in The Hindu (13/10/98) under the title, “Hindu, Hindi and Hindustan” warns of the South dying of suffocation “by too closely embracing the northern version of Hindutva” and warns of Hindutva’s “sad and dangerous crusades against the Muslims and the Christians”, making them scapegoats for the collapse of saffron governance. He cautions that any attempt “to teach the minorities there place” could give rise to a conflagration as in Sri Lanka; he puts all this down to the prejudices and frightening ignorance of the Sangh Parivar. J.N.Dixit, former foreign secretary, at present apologist for the BJP policies, is driven to warn the VHP on its attempt to reconvert the Christians of the North-East and recounts the decision of the Baptist churches of the North-East in response to the threat of Hindutva. “There will be battle as we do not have any option. “Dixit pleads for separation of religion from politics. Of course, he pretends to be naive enough not to realise that there is no faith involved but religions is used to grab political power.”

In the past few years, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have been highlighting the role of the ISI and its impact on internal security. Curiously enough, the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) considered these allegations as lacking in evidence. The annual report of the MOD (1997-98) accused Pakistan for fomenting “communal tensions / disarray” in several parts of the country. The Union Home Ministry has spoken along the same lines. However what is striking is that the standing committee on Home affairs expressed unhappiness at the Ministry’s “inadequate replies” and said that they failed to give specific details as asked for. The committee expressed surprise that contrary to the allegations that Tamil Nadu had become an operational base for ISI, the Home Ministry had not even referred to that state. It was also displeased that while the Home Ministry alleged that ISI was funding various institutions, no specific name or information was provided. Indeed the members told the Ministry not to use the ISI as an “alibi” for every happening. In this context, it should be noted that the Director-General of Police, Tamil Nadu, claimed on 19/8/98 that “there is no evidence of foreign funding for fundamentalists or of direct involvement of ISI in various bomb blasts in the state” (The Hindu dated 20/8/98). Hysteria reached its peak when the “dropsy scandal” was attributed to the ISI.

Students of history can see the parallel between the belligerent lying campaign of the Sangh Parivar and the bellicose propaganda of the Nazis in Germany directed at Jews, Communists and a host of others. Just as the Fascist monster began devouring the various communities and groups, the Sangh Parivar will advance from the minorities to the Dalits, tribal and the backward classes and strive to re-establish the hegemony of the upper castes that symbolises the theology of Manu. This calls for a broad front of all the poor of all communities, liberals and democrats of all hues to resist this Fascist onslaught. All these potential victims of this Fascist upsurge must close ranks and take on this menace and this sinister conspiracy of the Manuvadis must be decisively defeated.
The Shar'ee Role of Taqlid

The essence of guidance is derived from the Holy Qur’an - “Hudan li al-Nas” (“A Guidance for Mankind). But this guidance and its laws are based on fundamental principles, the details of which have been entrusted to and consigned by the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) in order to explain them to mankind. For example, the Holy Qur’an says: “Aqimus-Salaat” (“establish prayer”). It does not define the method as to how the prayer should be established; how the various postures should be performed; the mode of recitation of Surah, etc. The complete method of prayer i.e. “Salaat” is explained by the Holy Prophet (Pbuh).

“Wa ‘Atuz-Zakat” (“And give charity”). Now the Zakat amounts payable on gold, silver, cattle, land, produce, etc. are only known through the Ahadith and there is no mention of it in the Holy Qur’an. “Wa Lillahi `ala an-Nas Haj Al-baiti” (“It is obligatory on people to perform the Hajj of the House of Allah.) Here again, the method of Tawaf, the number of circumambulations, the details regarding Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifah, the stoning at the Jimar, etc. have all been explained by the Holy Prophet (Pbuh).

Thus it becomes imperative to understand the Holy Qur’an in the light of the Ahadith even for major obligatory acts like Salaat, Zakat and Hajj without which it is impossible to act and understand the commands of the Holy Qur’an. The believers are commanded to attain guidance from the Holy Qur’an in accordance with the details explained by the Holy Prophet (Pbuh).

Therefore Allah specifies: “Whosoever obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah.” This obedience to the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) would in reality be obedience to Allah Himself. A direction from the Hadith informs us:

“Also perform your prayer just as you see me perform my prayer.” (Bukhari Vol. 1, p. 1076)

It is not said: “Perform your prayer in the manner you may infer from the Holy Qur’an.” Hadith is divided into different categories:-The sayings of the Holy prophet (Pbuh). The acts and doings of the Holy prophet (Pbuh) The sayings, acts and doings of others, approved by the Holy Prophet (Pbuh).

All these categories of Ahadith give guidance to the Umma.

When the Prophet (Pbuh) was asked a question he answered and also counter-questioned the questioner, on a similar (analogical) matter, the answer of which was known to him. On the correct reply being given by the questioner, the Prophet (Pbuh) would say: “The question you had asked is in the same category as this answer of yours.”

EXAMPLE: A lady once asked: “Hajj was obligatory on my mother but she passed away. Can I perform it on her behalf?” The Prophet (Pbuh) replied: “Yes, it would be accepted on her behalf. Tell me, if your mother had a debt would you pay it?” She replied in the affirmative. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) said: “Fulfill what is on her behalf. Certainly, the duty and right of Allah would be more acceptable.” This kind of reasoning is called Qiyas,
Ijtihaad, or Istimbat in Shari‘ah

These are only used in Shari‘a when the Qur’anic or Traditional directives are not specifically spelt out. The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) sent Hadrat Mu‘adh ibn Jabal (Radhiyallaahu anhu) as a Governor and Qaadhi to Yemen.

The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) gave to Hadrat Mu‘adh many instructions and advices even while he held the reins and led the horse with Hadrat Mu‘adh mounted on it. The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) also asked: “By which law would you dispense justice.” He replied: “By the Law of the Holy Qur’an.” “And if you do not find it (i.e. what you seek) in the Holy Qur’an?” He replied: “By the Prophetic Traditions.” “And if you do not find it there also, then?” He replied: “Then I would make Ijtihad.” The Holy Prophet, (Pbuh) expressed his happiness with his reply and fully endorsed and supported his stand and thanked Allah for it. (Abu Daawud Vol 2. p. 149)

When after such an Ijtihad all the scholars agree to its conclusion, it is termed “Ijma”, for it must be understood that Qiyas or Ijtihad does not prove an order or command; it only makes it evident and known. It was hidden in the Holy Qur'an or the Ahadith; the Mujtahid, by Dalalatan, 'Isharatan or Iqtdha'an, brought it in the open for the generality of people. The person who does not have the power of Ijtihad is bound and compelled to follow a Mujtahid and this act of following a Mujtahid is termed Taqlid. The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) sent Hadrat Mu`adh ibn Jabal as Qadi so that people could act upon his instructions and guidance derived from the Holy Qur'an, the Ahadith and his Ijtihad. To accept all three would in reality be obedience to Rasulullah (Sallallaahu layhi Wasallam) as mentioned in Mishkat Sharif (p. 310). Hadhrat Abu Hurayrah (Radhiyallaahu anhu) reported that the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) said, "Who has obeyed me, has obeyed Allah and who was disobedient to me has been disobedient to Allah and who obeyed the Amir was obedient to me and who was disobedient to the Amir has been disobedient to me."
Precepts, Propositions and their Kinds

Masa'il or precepts are of four kinds:- Clear instructions from the Holy Qur'an and Ahadith. No Qiyas is allowed nor Taqlid permissible. The order is to practise on the clear injunction. In such propositions where there are two injunctions, one earlier, and one later, and through historical evidence both renowned, then the earlier proposition is abrogated (Mansukh), whilst the latter command is ordered. Here too Qiyas and Taqlid are not permitted.

Those propositions that have two clear injunctions but it is not known which is earlier and which later, i.e. no historical evidence. Those propositions of which there exist no clear injunctions. Propositions 1 (and 2) are clear. The last two (Propositions 3 and 4) need explanations. Since 3 and 4 are not clear, what must a person do? If he does not practise upon them, he is yet not allowed to go free. The Qur'anic verses state: "Is man under the notion that he will be left free?"' "Do you think that you have been created in vain?" It is not so, you have to obey Allah's command every second. Now how are we going to obey when it is not known, which is abrogated and which is not? In the fourth kind of proposition when one has no knowledge what is he going to practise on? Allah says: "Do not practise on anything without knowledge:"

Thus the need of Qiyas and Ijtihad. In the third kind of proposition the need is to verify the clear injunction and in the fourth kind it is to find a clear order and command. This is a known fact that everybody does not have the ability or power to make Ijtihad and this verse also makes it clear.

Everybody makes claims of giving opinions but only that ruling is accepted which is in accordance with Shar'iah and of a Mujtahid. The verdict of a Muqallid will not be accepted. The Mujtahid makes Ijtihad while the Muqallid makes Taqlid. Even if the Mujtahid makes a mistake he is rewarded as mentioned in Bukhari, (Vol. 1 p. I1092).

Here exists a doubt that there were many Mujtahids among the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu anhum), the Tabi'in and Tabi' Tibi'n; But only the aI'ima 'Arba' i.e. Imaam Abu Hanifah, Imam Maalik, Imam Shaafi'i and Imam Ahmad (Rahmatullaahi alayhim) are followed and Taqlid made of them. What Is wrong in following the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu anhum) whose virtues have been abundantly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an and the Ahadith?

There is no doubt that the Sahaaba (Radhiyallaahu anhum) have a far greater status and position than the I'ima Arba'a. Do not make Taqlid of any one of the I'ima Arba' ever thinking them to be greater than the Sahaaba but its simple reason is that for Taqlid it is necessary to know those injunctions in which Taqlid has to be made. The detailed knowledge which can be found in every section and chapter from Kitaab- at-Taharat to Kitab al-Fara'idh, whether it concerns acts of worship, or social and cultural aspects, in every department of knowledge, these were the first and only 'I'ima that gathered them all in every detail. They were schools of knowledge in their own right that codified knowledge in every field. We do not find such codification either of the Sahaaba or other Tabi'in. The only choice we have is to follow them. It must also be borne in mind that Allah had bestowed on them the perfection of knowledge of the Holy Qur'an and the Ahadith. It is said by Shah Waliullah (Rahmatullaahu alayhi) in the commentary of Muwatta' Imaam Malik (p.6) that these four Imaams together

have encompassed the entire knowledge of the Holy Qur'an and Ahaadith to such a degree that not a single Hadith which was reported by the Sahaaba was omitted by them.

Clarification is further required regarding another doubt in most minds: What is the necessity of making Taqlid of only one Imaam? One should be allowed to follow any of the four Imaams in the different Masa'il as was the method in the time of the Sahaaba and Tabi'in. Mazhab was not confined to a single Imam. Why must such concessions not be allowed in our times?

In the time of the Sahaaba, which was the best of times, there was no ulterior motive regarding religious questions. A question was asked to know the correct method and to practise on it. It was not asked for one's convenience as in later times. For example, a person with Wudhu touches his wife which according to the Shafi Mazhab nullifies Wudhu: Now when he is told to make Wudhu, he replies: "I make Taqlid of Imaam Abu Hanifah and I am not a breaker of Wudhu according to his Mazhab, therefore my Salaat will be valid."

Now this person vomits, which according to Hanafi Mazhab, breaks Wudhu. He is now told to make Wudhu. He replies: "I make Taqlid of Imam Shafi`i; it is not a nullifier of Wudhu, therefore my Salaat is valid". If this person (who has on the one hand, touches his spouse, and on the other hand, vomits) has to perform his Salaat with such a Wudhu, it would neither be correct according to Imaam Abu Hanifah nor according to Imam Shafi'i. In terminology this is known as Talfiq which is agreed upon unanimously to be void and not permitted. This is not Taqlid but following one's passions and desires for one's personal convenience which lead one go astray. The necessity of following a Mazhab, Imam or Mujtahid is that one would not fall into the temptations of following one's own desires. The Holy Qur'an states: "And do not follow desires. You would be led astray from the path of Allah." Thus the need of following only one Imam. For centuries we have heard of great scholars, jurists, Ulema and Auliya who had the treasures of knowledge, who were in their personal capacities libraries with encyclopedic knowledge. Their piety constituted perfect examples in emulation of the Sahaaba. Their entire lives were spent in accordance with the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu alayhi Wasallam). They also followed the 'I'ima Arbai' and it would not be incorrect to say that it was because of this Taqlid that they attained the heights of perfection.

Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) is confined to the four schools. Those that do not confirm to any one of them are called Ahle Hadith or Ghair Muqallid. (Al-Jamiat,
What is a Madhhab? Why is it necessary to follow one?
By Nuh Ha Mim Keller

The word madhhab is derived from an Arabic word meaning “to go” or “ to take as a way”, and refers to a mujtahid’s choice in regard to a number of interpretive possibilities in deriving the rule of Allah from the primary texts of the Qur’an and hadith on a particular question. In a larger sense, a madhhab represents the entire school of thought of a particular mujtahid Imam, such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, or Ahmad—together with many first-rank scholars that came after each of these in their respective schools, who checked their evidences and refined and up graded their work.

The mujtahid Imams were thus explainers, who operationalized the Qur’an and sunnah in the specific shari’ah rulings in our lives that are collectively known as fiqh or “jurisprudence”. In relation to our din or “religion”, this fiqh is only part of it, for the religious knowledge each of us possesses is of three types. The first type is the general knowledge of tenets of Islamic belief in the oneness of Allah, in His angels, Books, messengers, the prophethood of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and so on. All of us may derive this knowledge directly from the Qur’an and hadith, as is also the case with a second type of knowledge, that of general Islamic ethical principles to do good, avoid evil, cooperate with others in good works, and so forth.

Every Muslim can take these general principles, which form the largest and most important part of his religion, from the Qur’an and hadith.

The third type of knowledge is that of the specific understanding of particular divine commands and prohibitions that make up the shari’a. Here, because of both the nature and the sheer number of the Qur’an and hadith texts involved, people differ in their scholarly capacity to understand and deduce rulings from them. But all of us have been commanded to

live them in our lives, in obedience to Allah, and so Muslims are of two types, those who can do this by themselves, and they are the mujtahid Imams; and those who must do so by means of another, that is, by following a mujtahid Imam, in accordance with Allah’s word in Surat al-Nahl, “Ask those who recall, if you know not” (Qur’an 16:43) and in Surat al-Nisa,

“If they had referred it to the Messenger and to those

of authority among them, then those of them whose task it is to find it out would have known the matter” (Qur’an 4:83),

in which the phrase those of them whose task it is to find it out, expresses the words “alladhina yastanbitunahu minhum”, referring to those possessing the capacity to draw inferences directly from the evidence, which is called in Arabic istinbat.

These and other verses and hadiths oblige the believer who is not at the level of istinbat or directly deriving rulings from the Qur’an and hadith to ask and follow someone in such rulings who is at this level. It is not difficult to see why Allah has obliged us to ask experts, for if each of us were personally responsible for evaluating all the primary texts relating to each question, a lifetime of study would hardly be enough for it, and one would either have to give up earning a living or give up ones deen, which is why Allah says in surat al-Tawba, in the context of jihad: “Not all of the believers should go to fight. Of every section of them, why does not one part alone go forth, that the rest may gain knowledge of the religion and admonish their people when they return, that perhaps they may take warning” (Qur’an 9:122).

The slogans we hear today about “following the Qur’an and sunnah instead of following the madhhabs” are wide of the mark, for everyone agrees that we must follow the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The point is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is no longer alive to personally teach us, and everything we have from him, whether the hadith or the Qur’an, has been conveyed to us through Islamic scholars. So it is not a question of whether or not to take our deen from scholars, but rather, from which scholars. And this is the reason we have madhhabs in Islam: because the excellence and superiority of the scholarship of the mujtahid Imams—together with the traditional scholars who followed in each of their schools and evaluated and upgraded their work after them—have met the test of scholarly investigation and won the confidence of thinking and practising Muslims for all the centuries of Islamic greatness. The reason why madhhabs exist, the benefit of them, past, present, and future, is that they furnish thousands of sound, knowledge-based answers to Muslims’ questions on how to obey Allah. Muslims have realized that to follow a madhhab means to follow a super scholar who not only had a comprehensive knowledge of the Qur’an and hadith texts relating to each issue he gave judgements on, but also lived in an age a millennium closer to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions, when taqwa or “Godfearingness” was the norm—both of which conditions are in striking contrast to the scholarship available today.

While the call for a return to the Qur’an and sunnah is an attractive slogan, in reality it is a great leap backward, a call to abandon centuries of detailed, case-by-case Islamic scholarship in finding and spelling out the commands of the Qur’an and sunnah, a highly sophisticated, interdisciplinary effort by mujtahids, hadith specialists, Qur’anic exegetes, lexicographers, and other masters of the Islamic legal sciences. To abandon the fruits of this research, the Islamic shari’ah, for the following of contemporary sheikhs who, despite the claims, are not at the level of their predecessors, is a replacement of something tried and proven for something at best tentative.

The rhetoric of following the shari’ah without following a particular madhhab is like a person going down to a car dealer to buy a car, but insisting it not be any known make—neither a Volkswagen nor Rolls- Royce nor Chevrolet—but rather “a car, pure and simple”. Such a person does not really know what he wants; the cars on the lot do not come like that, but only in kinds. The salesman may be forgiven a slight smile, and can only point out that sophisticated products come from sophisticated means of production, from factories with a division of labour among those who test, produce, and assemble the many parts of the finished product. It is the nature of such collective human efforts to produce something far better than any of us alone could produce from scratch, even if given a forge and tools, and fifty years, or even a thousand. And so it is with the shari’ah, which is more complex than any car because it deals with the universe of human actions and a wide

interpretive range of sacred texts. This is why discarding the monumental scholarship of the madhhabs in operationalizing the Qur’an and sunnah in order to adopt the understanding of a contemporary sheikh is not just a mistaken opinion. It is scrapping a Mercedes for a go-cart.
Christian Community in Danger in India
By Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan

The Constitution of India has provided certain guarantees to the minorities so that at no point of time they should feel or face discrimination and harassment. Some of these guarantees are:

1) There is total religious freedom. The minorities can profess, practise and also propagate their religion. They can also effect conversions without force or fraud.

2) They can establish and manage their own educational institutions.

3) The state shall not make any discrimination in financial matters so as to affect the interest of minority institutions;

4) The state shall not interfere in religious matters and it would maintain distance from all religions and religious considerations.

These and some other characteristics of the Indian Constitution make India a secular state. People of this great nation, particularly a vast majority of Hindus, have abundant faith in the concept of secularism and have demonstrated to the world that India practises what it believes in. For the last 50 years, India’s secular fabric has never been in peril, though there are some elements who believe in making India a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation).

While Hindus constitute 80% of India’s population, Muslims account for 12% and Christians 4%. Though numerically Christians are insignificant, their contribution to India’s all-round development, particularly in the fields of education and medicine is most significant and commendable. People of all faiths stand in queue and bring tremendous pressure on the management of the top Christian schools and colleges, both professional and non-professional. The hospitals maintained by them are par-excellent. The doctors and nurses are devoted and committed.

The Holy fathers and nuns are highly respected in the society. They have no enemies and for that matter, they cannot have. But then the major question that surfaces is, why the Christian religious leaders, nuns, convents and schools are targeted today in some parts of our country. Horrible and also unbelievable news is spread. Some of them are physically brutalized and mentally battered. In a spate of a short period, dreaded criminal activities took place. In a village in Madhya Pradesh religious and human values were put to shame when four Christian nuns were raped in a convent. This is such a crime that the criminals have proved by their action that lust for sex has no other considerations at all. Nuns play a definite and sterling role in mitigating the sufferings of human beings. They are Christians, of course. But their services are not confined to the poor among Christians only. Their services encompass all religious groups.

But it is an irony of fate that these nuns were treated as ordinary women, totally deprived of respect and regard. Basically they are women and as such they deserve to be respected. Secondly, they are nuns and therefore, need special treatment. But the wicked men had jaundiced eyes and couldn’t see anything in these nuns except that they were bundle of flesh. The whole nation puts its head down in shame. There have been protests. Many women’s organizations have demanded stern action. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani have not only condemned the attack but have also suggested that the rapists should be hanged.

But the extremists among the supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad have a different tale to tell. The Central Secretary of VHP, Mr. B.L. Sharma, has shocked the whole nation by lending support to the rapists. He justifies their action by these words. “The anger of patriotic Hindu youths against the anti-national forces” (meaning the Christian missionaries).” The main grope of the extremists is that the Christian missionaries are tempting Hindus to get converted to

Christianity and therefore they shall pack up and leave the country. They seem to believe that India belongs to them only and they have to decide who shall stay in the country and who shall not.

The organized ways of attacking the Christians are very deeply planned and are extensive in coverage. The extremists attacked a convent in Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, several Christian institutions were attacked in Gujarat. Two priests were murdered in Bihar. Copies of the Holy Bible were confiscated and burnt. Thus, the virus of attack in different forms against the Christians is wide-spread.

The National Commission for Minorities has done some spade work and come to the conclusion that raping of nuns amounted to violation of human rights of women, rather than of minority rights. What is required is that all the minority communities shall get organized and show their solidarity in favour of the Christians. What happened to the Christians may happen to Muslims and others too. The Government of India should not allow social integrative forces to be weakened, threatened and destroyed. Just because Bharatiya Janata Party is ruling at the centre, members of the Sang Parivar should not take the law into their hands. Vishwa Hindu Parishad members should not indulge in creating communal problems and destroy the rich cultural heritage of this great nation. Let them not send wrong signals among the non-Hindus that Hinduism reflects intolerance, hatred and persecution. They cannot prevent the minorities from enforcing constitutional guarantees. They should also remember that the vast majority of the framers of India’s constitution were Hindus. As long as national interest is not damaged, public morale is not at stake, the VHP cannot and should not create fear among the minorities. What is gratifying to note is that a vast majority of the Hindus are peace-loving, broad-minded, secular, liberal and well-wishers of the minorities.

Muslims who are numerically a dominant minority group have to play a vital role in supporting the cause of the Christians. Moral support is the need of the hour. Liberal Hindus should take the lead in organizing all the minorities to fight for their constitutional rights. India has to grow and prosper, harmony and understanding are the two essential elements which will help to build a strong India.
Muslim Intellectual Stagnation
By Hanif Lakadawala

In today’s India lives the second largest Muslim community in the World. Having 150 million adherent of Islam in their midst, still Islam is perceived as an antiquated religion by the vast majority of non-Muslims. Inspite of the slew of Islamic literature the misunderstanding regarding Islam in Utiguitous.

The universal appeal of the Islam has been eclipsed by the clannish and pedantic approach of the Ulema. The learned Ulema’s concentration on putative and a priority issues instead of confronting the problems arising due to the altered conditions of modern life, had made Islam less appealing to the non-Muslims of our country. Allama Iqbal has been quoted in S.A. Wahid’s, Iqbal Islam as a moral and political ideal’, on this state of affairs. Iqbal says, “The superb idealism of your faith, however, needs emancipation from the medieval fancies of theologians and legists. Spiritually we are living in a prison house of thoughts and emotions which, during the course of countries, we have woven round ourselves. And be it further said, to the shame of as men of older generation that we have failed to equip the younger generation for the economic, political and even religious crises that the present age is likely to bring. The whole community needs a complete overhauling of its present mentality in order that it may again become capable of feeling the urge of fresh desires and ideals”.

Ensnared in a web of internal and external issues, the Muslim community had neglected their most fundamental duty of presenting the message of Islam to their fellow countrymen.

The position of Muslims in India is unique in the entire world. In no other country the 700 million non-Muslims lives in harmony with the 150 million Muslims. Fortunately Indian Muslims enjoy an enviable larger measure of freedom of expression that their counterparts elsewhere, making them the most important exponents for propagating the message of Islam.

Ironically, the intellectual stagnation and blind imitation has led the entire community in a state of snafu. This intellectual statics had a series of domino effects. The Muslim society instead of becoming an ideal example before the non-Muslims, has became the subject of ridicule, suspicion and hatred. Islam has lost its universal appeal and Muslims became the soft target for communal forces.

Syed Abdul A’la Maududi, the great Islamic scholar has remarked on this fact. In his book, Huquq al Zawjan, he has commented, “Undoubtedly, Muslims in India are the owners of a superb law, written in the books of Islamic jurisprudence, which is in complete consonance with true Islamic teachings, culture and civilisation. Unfortunately, however, such a law is not in practice and has been replaced with a different legal fabric which in most of its aspects is wholly Un-Islamic.... The loopholes of this distorted law have badly affected, the social life of Muslims and caused grave damage to the reputation of Muslims”.

The fountain head of Islam, that is Qur’an, exist in its original form. But the tragedy is that, the Muslims of India have reduced it to just a totemic value. The need is to approach Qur’an with unbiased mind and delve in it for the solutions to our social and political problems.

Eminent Islamic scholar and Chairman Idara Dawatul Qur’an, Maulana Shams Peerzada had initiated the efforts in these directions. He has translated Qur’an with commentary, keeping in mind the needs of the Indian society, especially the doubts which exits in the mind of non-Muslims vis-a-vis Islam.

Many such efforts are required to cater to the needs of the Indian society. Fifty years after independence, confusion prevails amongst the Muslim, intelligentsia as well as the masses with respect to their relationship with non-Muslim brethren and their role in the State.

In the plural society like ours the Islamic message of peace and salvation in this world and hereafter has universal appeal and great scope to alleviate the suffering of the masses, who are exploited by pseudo religious organisations and self seeking politicians.

But the greatest hurdle in the acceptance of Islam is not non-Muslims but Muslim society itself. The internal hurdles are :
i) Closed door of Ijtehad

The closed door of Ijtehad has reduced the entire community in a state of languid and ensiled it from the national mainstream. Instead of leading from front the community is been forced to dragged along. Stagnation and blind imitation has even reduced Muslim intelligentsia and Islamic organisations in an ideological confusion. Fifty years after independence, the debate between Ikamat-e-deen, Dawat-e-deen and Islahe Masshira keep’s on festering.

Ijtihad (interpretation) in its literal sense is making an effort and technically it is an effort to discover the law from it sources. It is just the opposite of taqlid or imitation.

Dr. Muhammad Muslehuddin explaining the meaning of Ijtihad in “Philosophy of Islamic law and the Orientalists,” writes, “Legislation, in Islam, is not law making in the modern sense of the term, for law is already contained in the text (Qur’an and the Sunnah) and, as such, only to be enforced and extended by means of Ijtihad or interpretation of the text”.

Sir Mohammad Iqbal writes in ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, that, “The closing of the door of Ijtihad is pure fiction suggested partly by the crystallization of legal thought in Islam, and partly by that intellectual laziness which, especially in the period of spiritual decay, turns great thinkers into idols. If some of the later doctors have upheld this fiction, modern Islam is not bound by this voluntary surrender of intellectual independence sarkashi writing in the tenth century of the Hijra observes; If the upholders of this fiction mean that the previous writers had more difficulties in their way, it is nonsense; for it does not require much understanding to see that Ijtihad for later doctors is easier than for the earlier doctors. Indeed the commentaries on the Qur’an and Sunnah have been compiled and multiplied to such an extent that the Mujtahid of to-day has more material for interpretation than he needs.”
ii) Failure to project Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as the benefactor of entire humanity

The Literature available in Indian language on the life of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has failed to project him as a messenger of Almighty and benefactor for entire humanity. The non-Muslims amongst us, believe that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is the Prophet of Muslims only. The need is to clear this conception.

The efforts must be directed to convey the message to non-Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is the last Prophet send by the Almighty to guide the entire humanity. Moreover the notion that Qur’an is for Muslims only has to be cleared. The Qur’an has not come with any new religion, but that it has come with the same teachings which were existing and had come with the revealed books which later got distorted.
iii) Muslims as the worst followers of Islam

George B. Shaw had once remarked, “Islam is the best religion but it followers are the worst.” Instead of propagating Islam by its deeds and actions, Muslim society has become the stumbling block in the acceptance of Islam by others. Maulana Shams Pirzada commentary in Dawatul Qur’an volume 2 writes, “In modern times the condition of Muslims is amazing. An amazingly large number of Muslims are interested in seeing cricket matches instead of establishing Salat.. They spend whole night in seeing useless films so much so that the time of Tahajjud prayers.. they waste in watching obscene films on video. Their hearts are attracted towards dargah (mausoleums) while as Muslims, their hearts should be attracted towards Masjid. They will make arrangements on a grand scale for innovative (bidat) rites, like Sherbet during Moharrum, Khichda, Niaz, Giarwheen, Maulood, Miladunnabi procession etc, but they will remain miles away from the sunnah of the Prophet (Pbuh). They indulged in wasteful spending and will fritter away their wealth in exhibitionist acts, but they avoid paying dues to the deserving and spending in the path of Allah. They will read umpteen books on worldly matters, but they will find no time to read the Book of Allah”.
iv) Vast Majority of Muslims consider’s Fiqh as Deen

Due to this misconception the issues of women right, economics, triple talaq, polygamy etc are festering and have become a source of repelling non-Muslims from the message of Islam. The fresh interpretation of Qur'an and Sunnah in the light of altered conditions of post modern times is needed to find clues to these problems.
v) Outdated System of Islamic Education

The syllabus and Methodology adopted in Madrasa's and Darul Ulooms are antiquated and out of tune with the society needs and reality. The talent attracted is mediocre. The emphasis given in these schools is Fiqh. The modern science, technical education and entrepreneur skills are neglected. Even the cognitive skills, academic and research work is not encouraged. The final products of these schools are fit only to become Imam of the Mosque or teacher in Madrasas hence it is no wonder that academic and research work in various fields in Islamic literature is in a stage of stagnation since last century.
vi) Islamic Organisation Concentration on Muslim Society only

Numerous Islamic Organisations are merely concentrating their human resources and budget to tackle or alleviate the problems faced by the Muslim society. The Dawah work amongst non-Muslims is in the state of Limbo with no major efforts.

vii) Insignificant contribution of Muslims in various N.G.O's and welfare projects ; In India there are about two lakh registered organisations working in sectors ranging from pubic health, education, human rights to women rights etc. In the present political set up voluntary agencies seem the best for the people for the solution of all their problem and their basic day to day necessities.

In future N.G.O's would become a potent power centre guiding the destiny of the nation. N.G.O's can become a platform for the masses to see the Muslims in action and get attract towards the Islam.

The crucial dilemma in terms of the world revolution of modernity that confronts the Indian Muslims today is whether they will adopt themselves to the changing values of the times, of their own volition or whether they will do so after suffering the pressure of ground realities.

The Indian Ulema has a onerous task. They have to rescue these issues from the overlay of otiose debate, on the one hand, and feeble apologetic, on the other. The intellectual inertia can only be overcome by increasing the momentum of the debate on such issues between the Ulema scholars from the various fields and Islamic organisations. Instead of having an ostrich approach the Muslim community must come face to face with changed ground realities.

What Qur'an and Prophet (Pbuh) Sunnah has to say about Ijtehad, how Fiqh was evolved, and its role in Islamic jurisprudence? Read it in the column next month in Islamic Voice.
Leaves From Life A Con Man's Dream
By D.A. Sait

Looking back on my life for the past three decades or so it occurs to me that if all the con men who have swindled me were placed end to end they would reach from here to Kanyakumari. I have always been a pushover for sob stories of all varieties. Ask any of my cronies. They have some delightful sobriquets for me such as 'The Con Man's Dream', 'The Ultimate Sucker' and so on. As exhibit A they would refer you to the case of the white-bearded old man with a bulging cloth-bag hanging from his shoulder to carry your contribution of rice for his only daughter's wedding feast. He collected both cash and a kilo of rice from me. By the time he came again the next year with the same story I had forgotten his first visit. It was not until his third visit that it struck me like a blow that here was a man whose sons-in-law were multiplying like rabbits. Then there was the case of the poor relation of an acquaintance of mine. This chap came one night with a small paper packet containing fragrant 'basmati' rice.

"Best biriyani basmati from Andhra!" He cried, like an auctioneer calling attention to a rare item on his list. "A few bags came in a lorry that is now parked in the adjoining street. Most of it sold. Only 50 kilos left. You can have it for two hundred rupees. Get me a sack, quick!" He sounded like a traitor passing on secret information to a foreign power. The sack and money changed hands. Needless to say the precious basmati rice never materialised. The fellow had simply vanished with my money and the sack. After this I was finally resolved that enough was enough. From now on anybody who had to choose between taking me for a ride and stirring up a hornet's nest with a short stick would be well advised to choose the latter form of entertainment, I decided. It was at this moment in my life that a chap in a khaki shirt and dhoti approached with the story that his wife had died that morning at the Jayanager hospital. He produced a small bundle of hospital prescriptions to lend credence to his tale of woe. He wanted just fifty rupees for her funeral expenses.

"Take my advice, you poor fish," I advised him. "Better bury yourself rather than your wife, who is no more dead than you or me. Better return the hospital prescriptions to whomsoever you borrowed them from."

The said Jayanagar hospital was on my way to the vegetable market. Out of the huge hospital gate on the eastern side issued a little procession carrying a dead body on a bier. I rocked back on my heels to see that man in khaki bringing up the rear. So his story was true after all!. I was filled with remorse. I caught hold of the man's arm and pressed a fifty-rupee note into his hands, feeling like a man on the scaffold saved at the eleventh hour by presidential pardon. As I turned away I ran into a straggler from the funeral procession, a mason I used to know. I pointed to the receding back of the man in khaki and asked, "How did his wife die?"

"What do you mean, his wife?" Said the man surprised. "He never had a wife. That was one of his neighbours, an old man ailing for some time now. And as for your man in khaki, he is a bum to end all bums and will head straight for the toddy shop with the money you probably you given him."
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