Religion / 03.09.2010

From A’daab → Khuda Hafiz → Allah Hafiz – How cultural expressions are transformed? By Ahmed Kamran In Part-1 of this discussion we briefly traced how a highly tolerant Indo-Persian culture, a Ganga-Jamni Tehzib, emerged in India over many centuries of interaction between a Muslim Persian empire and a rich Indian civilization before the advent of European powers in India and the spread of their influence in our intellectual and cultural life. Let’s now see how particularly the Muslim thought process in this Ganga-Jamni culture responded to the disrupting influences of the English ascendency. None of the Muslim invaders or rulers of India, starting from Mehmud Ghaznavi and Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori and the first permanent Muslim kingdom of Qutubuddin Aibak in Delhi down to Aurnagzeb Alamgir and his weak and inept successors, was in fact really interested in establishing an Islamic state as it had been conceptualized by...

Religion / 29.08.2010

From A’daab → Khuda Hafiz → Allah Hafiz – How cultural expressions are transformed? By Ahmed Kamran Recent discussions on this blog regarding the version of Islam that has been adopted in Pakistan since its founding in 1947 have raised some questions that warrant a little more detailed study of the related issues surrounding  the cultural history of this part of the world. This series is an attempt to examine how cultures are transformed and put on a track diverging from its past. In modern times when motorways and bypasses are built they are usually laid passing through isolated and uninhabited lands, away from our old familiar pathways and bustling towns. Travelling on these new roads, we move fast and reach our destination mostly in isolation from stations of our human history. In a short while, we get used to these new routes, and soon forget about our...

Religion / 15.07.2010

By Anjum Altaf   A Gash in the World, a novel by Prashant Parikh, iUniverse, 2009 When I read A Gash in the World, I was immediately reminded of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco because of the thematic similarity. But I also thought of Ectopia by Ernest Callenbach for entirely different reasons. Ectopia was written in 1974 and rejected by every significant publisher. As the author describes it: ‘Some said it didn’t have enough sex and violence, or that they couldn’t tell if it were a novel or a tract. Somebody said the ecology trend was over… I was on the point of burning it.’
Religion / 19.07.2009

By Anjum Altaf Religion is so central to life that its impact on society needs to be studied quite independently of the beliefs of the analyst. Religion has both individual and collective dimensions. At the individual level, it can provide a sense of meaning and predictability and be a source of comfort and solace. The individual dimension can cast its shadow on the collective depending on selective emphasis by those who interpret God’s will on the religious tendencies of resignation or revolt (qana’at versus jihad, for example). At the collective level, religion inevitably gets intertwined with politics and more often than not ends up as a tool subservient to larger political objectives. Any objective analysis of the history of religion has to record the terrible costs inflicted upon society by this combination. It was a realization of these costs that spurred the European movement to separate Church and State...

Religion / 09.07.2009

I do not know God’s will but I can (hopefully) spot the logic of an argument about God’s will. That is what I wish to do today. I have been intrigued by a comment from reader Tahir on a post about Imran Khan. Tahir says: “It is beyond my understanding how Imran is dividing people. As far as religion is concerned, this division has been done by God.” Where do you go from there if you accept that as a valid starting point? It seems to me that if God has made the divisions (among and within religions), there must have been some purpose in doing so unless we assume that divine actions were without purpose – which is something we do not want to do.
Religion / 05.06.2009

I did not watch President Obama’s address in Cairo because I did not wish to be influenced by his obvious oratorical skills. But I have the speech in cold print and would like to highlight ten weak points from the perspective of a non-Western audience in order to start a discussion on its wider implications. The reason for this approach is that every audience brings with it a different baggage of history, a different template for interpretation, a different metric of credibility, and a different set of expectations. Thus the reaction of an American audience is likely to be quite different from that of a non-Western audience especially one that has been at the receiving end of America’s pursuits of its national interests.
Religion / 05.05.2009

The confusions of Imran Khan provide us the opportunity to bring together two themes we have covered recently – the functions of religion and the coherence of analysis. You would enjoy this post more if you took out a little bit of time and read what Imran Khan has to say in his article Why the West Craves Materialism and Why the East Sticks to Religion. But even if you don’t, you will get a sense of the issues and the problems. Imran Khan starts by saying that his generation “grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak.” Islamic studies were not taken seriously and our role models were from the West. When he arrived at Oxford he discovered that not just Islam, all religions were considered an anachronism. Science had replaced religion and the terrible experiences of religious bigotry and conflict had turned the Western mind away from theology. 
Religion / 04.05.2009

By Arun Pillai The South Asian Idea had provided a link to a lecture by Professor Jared Diamond on the functions of religion. One of our readers responds with an extension to Professor Diamond’s argument. We would welcome a discussion on this topic. Professor Jared Diamond lectured on the functions of religion in a number of societies from ancient to modern times. Some of these functions were the providing of explanations of the world around us, the maintenance of political obedience and stability, the teaching of moral precepts, and the justification of wars. For more on each of these functions, I recommend listening to his lecture. In this short piece, I want to comment on some things Diamond leaves out. Notice that all of the functions listed above are social functions: they pertain to all of society. While these are no doubt important, there are individual functions that...

Religion / 28.02.2009

By Anil Kala [A curious man standing on a beach, blissfully unaware that earth is round, wondered what lies beyond the horizon! He embarked on a long journey in a dead straight line to explore the end of earth. Nature was kind; his journey progressed uneventfully but sluggishly. He crossed the ocean, walked across the desert and overcame mountains and as was inevitable passed through the same spot from where he had begun his journey. It was a long time ago; things had changed during his sojourn. He could not recognize the place and said, "Deja Vu". We are like this man unaware, always asking, "What beyond that? What after then"? ad nauseum. Like Neti Neti*, these questions are absurd. There are no straight lines only warped space and warped time. The ends are seamlessly joined with the beginning like in a loop. We pass through same...

Education, Religion / 23.02.2009

By FT and FoF This is an almost unedited record of an email exchange between a Fresh Teen (FT) and a Friend of the Family (FoF) spread over ten days (February 13-23, 2009). FT is educated in the leading convent school in Pakistan (established 1876). Her parents are both physicians with doctorates from England.  Friday, February 13, 2009 FoF: All the very best for the birthday tomorrow. Are you 14?  Saturday, February 14, 2009 FT:  Thanks!!! No, im 13. a fresh teen. FoF:  I read it first as frash been! Congratulations anyway for crossing the milestone. Now the hard slog begins. FT:  frash been!!!!!!??????? Why is it a hard slog??? FoF:  French beans in local language became distorted into frash been. Hard slog, because it is a long ways to go and your hair will turn white and your teeth will fall out by the time you are through!! FT:   well thats good to know!!!!! FoF: ...