It is matter of grave concern that 40 lakh Muslims in Assam have been de-registered, mostly Bengali Muslims, who have become foreigners in their own land. This is a well-thought and deliberate but confounding move to polarize the Indian society on religious lines ahead of next year’s general elections. It can be said with great authenticity that the move, which is to identify so-called illegal migrants, is an attempt to create a vote bank for the ruling BJP. One does not know what to make of the statement of the Assam CM that nobody will be treated as a foreigner if his/her name is not in the list. Home minister Rajnath Singh too has almost expressed the similar views. If that be so, what is the purpose of such a list in the first place? Centre has compounded the issue further by proposing a bill to modify the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant citizenship to religious minorities – specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who have been residing in India for at least six years and entered the country before December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution. This is in contravention to the NRC exercise. It goes without saying that the life is becoming tougher for the Muslims in India. They are being targeted by extremist Hindus in and outside the government by every available means almost in every state. The move to divest 40 lakh Muslims of citizenship rights is, by so far, the most fearful and panic stricken exercise that has come in the way of Muslims. Assam has 35 percent population of Muslims and its Muslim population plays a significant role in shaping up the political landscape of the state. The extremist Hindus are worried that their political say gets influenced by the Muslim population. There have been attempts for the last several decades to declare a section of Assami Muslims as Bangladeshis who have settled in India illegally. There had been a violent armed campaign against Assami Muslims in the past by BODO Hindu terrorists. The rise of BJP to power in the state, last year, has armed the local Hindu extremists with the state power to go against the Muslims. Leaving out 40 lakh Muslims from the National Register of Citizens is an attempt to out-balance the Muslim influence in the region. The bias against Muslims, while doing the exercise, could be understood from the fact that the relatives of former President of India (late) Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad too have been de-registered. If the residents with such a high profile background are not spared what about the non-descriptive common Muslim. The move is likely to have international ramifications as those de-registered are being termed as Bangladeshi Muslims. That, in all probabilities, would invite the attention of Bangladesh government towards the issue. Some voices of protest, through media, have already come from Bangladesh with which government of India boats of having good friendly relations. Some saner voices in India too have talked loud and clear that the move is likely to plunge the country into serious chaos. West Bengal chief minister Mumta Bannerji has warned of civil war as a consequences to leaving out Muslims from National Register of Citizens. Her party’s seven parliament members were barred from entering Assam on Thursday. There were stopped at the airport and not allowed to enter the city. They had gone there to take stock of the situation following the de-registration of four million Muslims. The Hindu extremists are now calling for similar exercise in other states to marginalize Muslims further. That makes things quite edgy and it could burst into serious trouble for the entire country. It is time that the saner political elements and civil society take a stand on the issue and force the government to stop this divisive exercise. It may help BJP in the elections but it is quite dangerous for the country and the nation.
The Feast of Sacrifice
`Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, is one of the most beautiful times in the whole year. No glitz and glamour, there is just Allah once more at the centre of our lives and the centre of our thoughts. We celebrate the feast at His command, and in it we try to draw closer to Him.
Eid Al-Adha, of course, is bound up with the Hajj – that once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah which all Muslims make at the command of Allah, if they are able to – and it comes at the end of it. Muslims throughout the world who are not physically present on the plain of `Arafat or at the sacred Ka`bah during those holy days of Hajj, can nonetheless take part through their celebration of the feast and their preparation for it. So how can we prepare for the feast, if we are not going to be present in the pilgrimage?
Our beloved Prophet said of the first ten days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah – the month in which the pilgrimage takes place – that “there are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days.” (Al-Bukhari) As Muslims, then, we should seize the chance that these special days offer us. How blessed we are that we are continually being offered chances, time and again, for our sins to be forgiven and for us to draw closer to Allah. How slow we are, though, to respond.
There are basically several ways in which we can prepare. The first is by fasting. How many of the days we fast, if we choose to do so, is quite up to us, but on the ninth day, it is Sunnah to do so. In other words, the Prophet of Allah used to fast on this day and encouraged others to do so, in solidarity with those who are taking part in the pilgrimage. On that ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims stand on the Plain of `Arafat, close to Makkah, begging for their sins to be forgiven. In the blistering heat, they beg for mercy and forgiveness. It was on the Plain of `Arafat that Almighty Allah once gathered all the souls of everyone who would ever live and told them that there is no God but He. It was here that Adam and Eve were forgiven. It will be on this same spot, at the end of time that all souls will gather for the Final Judgment. In our mosques, in our homes, and in our workplaces, then, throughout the world, we can fast on this blessed day and pray for forgiveness in our own lives.
The second way we can prepare for the feast is by repeating certain words and phrases during these days, which will keep us in mind of Allah. The Hajj pilgrims will constantly be calling out AllahuAkhbar and La ilahailla Allah, as they perform the Hajj rituals. We too, then, can do the same. On our way to work or to school, what more beautiful words could we utter?
Another way to prepare for the feast during these ten days of Dhul-Hijjah is to do what the pilgrims on Hajj will have done. They will have asked forgiveness of all those they offended, before setting off. They will have repaid debts. In fact, they will have done everything they can to set their lives straight before journeying to place themselves in the presence of Allah. Think about all the people we have offended by careless words and actions. These days are a chance to wipe those offences out and to re-kindle friendships and relationships. Muslims, after all, are at peace with all people. To find some real peace in our lives, we need to be at peace with others. Use the blessed days of Dhul-Hijjah to make up.
Another step to perform in preparation for the feast is one of the central acts of the Hajj, and one which causes such misunderstanding in those who are not Muslim. It is to sacrifice a sheep, in imitation of Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of a ram in place of his son Isma`il. We do this, of course, with our families, who will share in the food with us. So much nonsense has been written about the sacrifice of these animals each year, as though Muslims were slaughtering animals just for the sake of it.
Vajpayee: End of an era
Former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away on Thursday at the age of 93. His death has been condoled across the country. Vajpayee had a series of titles to his litany. He has been described as a politician, poet, statesman and a fiery orator with great wit and control over words. He was also described as a great unifier who got together a fickle coalition and gave a strong government. Vajpayee was the first non-Congress politician to last a full term as the Prime Minister between 1999 and 2004. He also led two short-lived governments for 13 days in 1996 and 13 months in 1999. But what many people missed to say about him is that he was a core BJP man who, for the first time, led the right-wing party to power in India. Many people would call him as ‘right man in wrong party’ or a ‘secular among communalists’. With his mantra of ‘Insaniyat, ‘Jamhooriyat’ and ‘Kashmiriyat’, Vajpayee endeared himself to the people of Kashmir who finally saw a leader willing to look beyond political calculations in his attempt to solve the vexed problems of the strife-torn valley. Kashmiris vividly remembers Vajpayee as the man, who despite his Jan Sangh past, extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan and offered dialogue to the separatists in a historic speech here in April 2003. “We are again extending the hand of friendship, but hands should be extended by both sides,” Vajpayee said, the first such initiative by a prime minister of the country in many many years following the eruption of militancy in the state. The ‘hand of friendship’ to Pakistan was a complete reversal to the earlier stand of his government of not engaging with Islamabad till cross-border militancy continued.
At the same rally, Vajpayee extended an olive branch to the separatists saying dialogue was the only way to resolve issues. The sincerity of the effort immediately elevated Vajpayee’s stature in the eyes of the common Kashmiri, who bore the brunt of decades of violence in the state. Days later, Vajpayee elaborated on his Srinagar speech in the Lok Sabha. “Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of Insaniyat (Humanity), Jamhooriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmiri values),” he said. The peace overture was all the more a surprise as it came just over two years after the Parliament was attacked by Jaish-e-Mohammad militants. Vajpayee had, however, made efforts to foster friendly relations with Pakistan, earlier as well. He travelled to the neighbouring country in the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus in 1999, the efforts of which were negated by the Kargil intrusion later that year.
Vajpayee was a great orator and a master of language. He would, on occasions, use his word power to project himself as a ‘soft and secular’. It was just because he, in Advani, had a loud-mouthed colleague by his side. In September 2000, Vajpayee shared stage with VHP in Staten Island, and declared himself a swayamsevak first.
Journey towards God
Hajj is one of the basic pillars of Islam. Like other forms of worship in Islam, Hajj is based on God-consciousness. At the same time, it has a unique feature—it is linked to the life of Prophet Abraham.Every Muslim capable of doing so, must perform Hajj at least once in his lifetime. By engaging in various actions during Hajj, he expresses his complete servitude to God. He symbolically performs actions that were performed by Prophet Abraham, kindling the zeal in man to mould himself on the pattern of this prophet of God.After building the Kabah, in Makkah, Prophet Abraham called on people to perform Hajj for the sake of God. The journey of Hajj is an affirmative response to this call. During the Hajj, pilgrims call out, ‘LabbaikAllahummaLabbaik’, which means, “Here I am at Your service O Allah, here I am.” The air resounds with this cry as if in answer to the call issued by Prophet Abraham; the pilgrims appear before God, wholeheartedly willing to fulfill any command.
The literal meaning of ‘Hajj’ is ‘to go on pilgrimage’. According to the Islamic Shariah, Hajj happens once every year when people circumambulate the Kabah, halt on the Plain of Arafat, and perform the other actions that are part of Hajj.Hajj is a comprehensive form of worship. It entails spending one’s wealth, and physical exertion, too. It involves remembrance of God, and sacrifice for God as well. Hajj is a form of worship in which the spirit of other forms of worship are also present. Central to Hajj, is the ‘House of God’, the Kabah, located in Makkah. The Kabah is a reminder of the truly devout life of an exalted servant of God, Prophet Abraham. It is a reminder of how a devoted servant of God gave up everything for God, patterned his whole life in accordance with God’s will and devoted himself completely to God’s mission till his last breath.
Hajj is a journey towards God, the ultimate form of closeness to God in one’s life. When the pilgrim stands in front of the Kabah, it reminds him that man has to stand before God. The circumambulation of the Kabah symbolizes the pilgrim’s focus around God on finding Him. A special feature of Hajj is the location—Makkah and its surrounding areas. It is a place selected by God as it was the center of the religious mission of the great missionary, Prophet Abraham. The early history on the basis of which Islam unfolded emerged here. All around are reminders of the great spiritual revolution ushered in under the guidance of Prophet Muhammad some 1400 years ago. These traditions and special features have given Makkah particular significance. A special spiritual and historical atmosphere pervades the place. None who goes there can remain unaffected. One who returns after completing the Hajj is like someone who was earlier covered with dirt and dust and then emerges out from a stream, bathed pure and clean.
This special importance of the Hajj is its spirit, and not so much its external form, or rituals. Just going to Makkah and returning is not Hajj. It is to acquire those special spiritual qualities, for which Hajj has been made obligatory. Hajj is meeting with the Lord. When a pilgrim travels and arrives at places associated with the Hajj, he feels especially inspired. He feels that he has left ‘his world’ and arrived in ‘God’s world’, that he is running towards his Master, and that he is journeying for His sake; that he is ‘throwing stones’ at Satan his enemy in the way of the Lord, that he is asking God for all his wants, and receiving from God all that he needs.The Kabah is among the signs of God on earth. In Makkah, where the Kabah is located, the Prophet received revelations from God, which provide guidance for humanity. But only those who are willing and keen on acquiring it receive guidance. For other people, Hajj is just a sort of tour. They go on Hajj and return no different from what they were before they went.
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