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How Advani’s secret meeting paved way for Agra summit:

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Karan Thapar

I have no doubt that the BJP politician I’ve got to know best–– and through him his family as well –– is Lal Krishna Advani…
Our relationship began –– and matured into friendship –– because of the many interviews I did with him.
…My first interview with Advani was in 1990, when he was leader of the opposition and I an unknown journalist recently returned to India. It was intended for the inaugural episode of Eyewitness. In those days, Doordarshan did not accept programmes from independent producers and there were no privately owned satellite-linked television news channels. But at the time Eyewitness was an unknown entity and I wasn’t sure if Advani would accept. Fortunately, he did.
The interview took place on a pleasant December afternoon at his Pandara Park residence. It wasn’t very long, probably ten or twelve minutes. It appeared in March 1991 when the first episode of Eyewitness was launched.
A short time later, when I next met him, I asked him what he’d thought of the interview. He tersely replied that he had been told it was a travesty. Then he abruptly turned and walked away.
Stunned by this behaviour, I sent him a VHS of the interview and asked him to see it for himself. ..
Weeks, actually months, went by without any response. In fact, I gave up expecting one. Then suddenly, late one summer evening, the phone rang. It was L.K. Advani.
‘Karan, I’ve just seen the interview and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I was clearly misinformed. However, I’m too old to make that excuse and I’m afraid I behaved badly when we last met. I’m ringing to apologize.’
This unhesitating willingness to accept a mistake is perhaps his greatest quality and immediately attracted me to him. Over the years that followed, I’ve seen it on many occasions. The one that stands out was February 1998, when, as president of the BJP, he was campaigning for the elections. During one of his halts in Delhi he agreed to an interview with me.
On that occasion, my intention was to question the sincerity of the new, genial and appealing image the BJP was projecting. Was this the true character of the party or just a facade to dupe the electorate?
Halfway into the interview and just before we paused for the commercial break, I said to Advani: ‘Aapnerakshaskeseenghukhaadkemunhpemuskarahat dal di hai. Lekin ye dikhavahaiyaasliyat? (You have changed your image from demonic to genial. Is this an act or for real?)’ I’m not sure why I asked this question in Hindi – the interview was, of course, in English. It just came out that way.
At the time Advani did not react adversely. However, a few minutes later when we took the break, he got up, saying that he didn’t want to continue. The crew and I were stunned. When I asked what the problem was, he replied with a question of his own: ‘Why do you want to interview a man you consider a rakshas?’ I realized I had hurt him, which was not my intention.
Moments later, Advani left the room. But then, within a flash, he walked back in. He had barely been out for a minute. Resuming his seat and looking at the crew, he apologized for what he had just done. ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. You have come all the way to interview me and the least I can do is finish the interview. Let’s continue.’
‘The Pakistani high commissioner in India, Ashraf JehangirQazi (above) was… determined to make a serious effort to alter the fraught relationship between our two countries…Advani’s attitude to Pakistan started to change after meeting him,’ writes Thapar. (HT Photo)
…It was, however, a strange turn of events that took our relationship from politician and journalist to something approaching friendship, which also included his family. It had nothing to do with journalism and everything to do with the fact that the Pakistani high commissioner in India, Ashraf JehangirQazi, was a dear friend of mine and determined to make a serious effort to alter the fraught relationship between our two countries.
Eager to establish a personal rapport with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Ashraf asked if I could help. George Fernandes was my initial choice and I set up a few meetings for them, usually over quiet dinners at my home. That worked magnificently. Fernandes and Ashraf became friends and learnt to trust each other. But Fernandes, Ashraf quickly realized, could not influence the government on the tricky issue of Pakistan. That could only be done by a BJP leader who, additionally, was trusted by Prime Minister Vajpayee.
‘I’d like to meet Mr Advani,’ Ashraf announced one day in early 2000. George Fernandes, who recognized and accepted the need, arranged the meeting and I was asked to drive Ashraf to Advani’sPandara Park residence. It was fixed for 10 p.m. No one else was informed.
Ashraf had no idea how long the meeting would last. ‘Don’t go far,’ he warned me. ‘I’ll ring your mobile as soon as it’s over.’ I sat outside in the car, expecting him in half an hour. He stayed for ninety minutes.
Over the next eighteen months, there were perhaps twenty or thirty such clandestine meetings. The vast majority took place at night. I would be the chauffeur and the guards at Pandara Park were only given my name. The whole thing felt like a cloak-and-dagger game in a B-grade Bollywood film.
The only person who stumbled upon this –– but I don’t think he worked out what exactly was happening ––was Sudheendra Kulkarni. In those days, he was Vajpayee’s speech writer. His association with Advani was yet to begin. At the first meeting between Ashraf and Advani, he walked in unannounced to deliver papers and caught all of us having a chat after the formal meeting was over. Fortunately, Sudheendra didn’t linger. Nor did he suspect anything.
Two weeks later, when the second meeting was underway and I’d parked under a street light in Khan Market, Sudheendra, emerging from a Chinese restaurant, saw me and walked up to ask what I was doing.
‘I’m a little early to collect a friend who’s dining at the Ambassador Hotel,’ I lied. ‘So I thought I’d wait here.’ Amazingly, Sudheendra believed this but it was a close thing.
I had been lucky on two consecutive occasions, but everyone involved knew I couldn’t risk a third. Pratibha and Mrs Advani insisted that, hereafter, I wait with them while Advani and Ashraf talked in the former’s study.
Soon a routine was established. The two As would disappear into Advani’s study. I would sit with Mrs Advani and Pratibha. When the meeting was over the other two would join us for a cup of tea.
Late in May 2001, India announced that it had invited General Pervez Musharraf for a summit in Agra. At 6.30 the next morning Advani rang. I was asleep. ‘I’m sorry for calling so early but I want you to tell our common friend that he shares the credit for this development. Our meetings were a big help.’
Their last meeting took place during the Musharraf visit. It happened after the RashtrapatiBhavan banquet, close to 11 p.m. Ashraf rapidly changed from his achkan into casual clothes so that no one would recognize him. Advani still had on the grey trousers of his bandgala suit. The Agra summit was due the next morning. There was hope in the air.
In the end, the summit failed. Ashraf’s and Advani’s best efforts were in vain but the bond they formed did not snap. It lasted through the difficult months of the attack on Parliament in December 2001 and the Kaluchak terror attack in 2002, which led to Ashraf being asked to leave. Though no longer a go-between, I continued to witness the amazing relationship between Advani and Ashraf that few, if any, knew about.
…The last time they would meet while the former was the country’s high commissioner… happened… just days after the terrible terrorist attack at Kaluchak in Jammu in May 2002. Leaving thirty-one dead and forty-seven wounded, this was one attack too many for the Indian government. The Indian high commissioner had been withdrawn from Pakistan several months earlier, but the Pakistanis had not asked Ashraf to return and the Indians had not pressed for his departure. But now the Vajpayee government asked for Ashraf to be withdrawn and gave him a week to leave the country.
Long before the Kaluchak attack, Ashraf had sensed that his time in Delhi was coming to an end. He had wanted to make a difference and, at first, his relationship with Advani suggested that that might just happen. But after the failure of the Agra summit and the attack on Parliament he knew that wasn’t going to be the case.
As the seven days given to him ticked by, I got a call from Mrs Advani asking if I would bring Ashraf and his wife, Abidah, for tea on their penultimate evening. The Advanis wanted to meet the Qazis and personally bid farewell. This was an amazing gesture by the deputy prime minister of a government that had just chosen to declare Ashraf persona non grata. Of course, this wasn’t publicized. That would have embarrassed the Advanis. But they went ahead, knowing the story could leak out.
This was also one of my last duties as Ashraf’s chauffeur. I drove the Qazis to the new Advani home –– they had recently moved from Pandara Park to Prithviraj Road. We had tea in the study. It was just the Advanis and Pratibha and, of course, Ashraf, Abidah and me.
I can’t remember the conversation but there was, no doubt, a strain in the air. After all, both parties were aware of the circumstances that were bringing their relationship to an end. After half an hour, the Qazis got up to leave but unbeknownst to them there was one touching surprise still in store. It happened when Ashraf approached Advani to shake hands.
‘Galey lago,’ Mrs Advani intervened. Both men were taken aback. They stared at her. ‘Galey lago,’ she repeated. And then, almost as if this was what they both wanted, Advani and Ashraf embraced.
I was standing behind Ashraf, so I could clearly see Advani’s face. Tears had welled up in his eyes.
…It’s hard to say how much of the credit goes to Ashraf –– though some certainly does –– but Advani’s attitude to Pakistan started to change after meeting him…
However, the first concrete proof that Advani’s outlook on Pakistan had changed came when the Pakistani foreign minister of the time, KhurshidKasuri, visited Delhi in 2005. Advani was leader of the opposition and also president of the BJP. It was in that capacity that Kasuri called on him. During their conversation the Pakistani minister extended an invitation to the Advani family to visit his country.
Coincidentally, I had scheduled an interview with Kasuri for 10 p.m. the same night he called on Advani. Around 4 or 5 that afternoon, I received a call asking if I could meet Advani in the early part of the evening. I wasn’t told what he had to say and I had no idea what to expect.
When I met him, Advani told me about the meeting and the invitation to visit Pakistan. He wanted me to convey his answer. I’m not sure why he chose me and didn’t respond more formally. He did not explain and I didn’t ask.
Advani said that he would be delighted to visit Pakistan and would like to do so with his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law. I passed on the message when I met Kasuri that night. I’m not sure if he had expected such a swift reply, but he immediately called for paper and asked me to write down the names of Advani’s children. I did so.
The foreign minister seemed pleased. His intention was to take one of the most hard-line BJP leaders to Pakistan in the hope that exposure to the country and its legendary hospitality would change Advani’s attitude and soften his politics. He could not have known that, in fact, this had already been happening.
Things moved pretty swiftly hereafter. A formal invitation was issued to the Advani family, which they accepted, and the visit happened a few weeks later.
On the day of his departure, I sent Advani a short personal letter to wish him good luck. I ended by pointing out that I’ve always believed there is a little bit of India in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistan in every Indian. This sentiment clearly struck a chord because the Pakistani papers reported that Advani said something very similar during his visit to the Katas Raj Temple complex outside Lahore.
Unfortunately, Advani’s Pakistan visit led directly to the loss of his BJP presidency. It happened because of what he wrote in the visitors’ book at the Jinnah mausoleum in Karachi.
‘There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history,’ he wrote in the register. ‘But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.’
In his early years, Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described Mr Jinnah as an ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state in which, while every citizen would be free to practice his own religion, the state shall make no distinction between one citizen and another on grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man.
His words were unexceptional but the BJP and, more importantly, the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS) could not accept his calling Jinnah secular. It went against their grain. I’m not sure if they were anyway looking for an opportunity to move him out but this certainly gave them the excuse to do so.
However, Advani’s inscription reminded me of my own view of him. I’ve always believed that he’s a liberal and secular man who uses religion for political or strategic purposes. Ironically, Jinnah was similar. Neither man was prejudiced against people of other faiths. Indeed, Jinnah wasn’t particularly religious and I’m not sure if Advani is either. No doubt he’s a believer, but the rituals and practices of Hinduism play little part in his behaviour and outlook.
Although losing the BJP presidency may have hurt, it didn’t change Advani’s attitude towards Pakistan. The gentler, softer outlook continued. He also never recanted or withdrew the words he wrote in the visitors’ book. Whenever we spoke about it, he always maintained he’d written the truth.
(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

 

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Opinion

WHAT RAMADAN TEACHES US EVERY YEAR!

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By Moin Qazi

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain Taqwa [God-consciousness]


– (The Qur’an, Al-Baqarah: 183)

 

Religious fasting traditions- from Ramadan to Ekadasi to Yom Kippur and Lent -are meant to unburden believers from day-to-day compulsions, helping them replenish their spirituality, remember the poor, give up bad habits, make amends for moral deficiencies and get closer to their conscience. The most prominent among these spiritual fasting customs is Ramadan. Islam does not have a tradition of monasticism. Instead, observant Muslims become ascetics by seeking sacred abstemiousness during Ramadan every year.

Fasting(“Sumoo”, derived from the Arabic root of “Saama” and Syriac, “Sawma.”) means “to refrain” – and not only is it abstaining from eating, drinking , smoking and sex , but all forms of immoral actions including talking about others behind their backs, or indulging in impure or unkind thoughts. Fasting, like prayers, is an essentially solitary act; it represents a personal relationship each one of us has with God. When fasting, Muslims have one meal before sunrise, called sahur-the pre-dawn meal -together, and share another meal with friends and family after sunset, called iftar-the fast- breaking meal. The fast is actually much longer than what everyone normally perceives .It commences at the first ray of dawn, or, as it is said in the Qur’an, “when the white thread of day becomes distinct from the blackness of night.”

During Ramadan, the Muslim communities across the far corners of the world are unified by one food: the date, one of the earliest cultivated crops and an ancient icon of the Arabia, where the thick-trunked date palm is a symbol of hospitality, rest and peace.it is recorded that Prophet Muhammad always broke the fast with dates and water.

Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for all able-bodied Muslims from when they reach the age of religious observance. Those who are exempt from fasting are those who are sick, the elderly, those suffering from a mental illness, and those who are travelling long distance .Menstruating and pregnant women are also exempt. So are breastfeeding mothers. However, the exemption has a caveat that those who skip the fast have to make up for the lost days after Ramadan. But if a person is not able to fast at all – particularly if that is for health reasons – he can compensate and partake of the holy month’s blessings by feeding a needy person for each day he does not fast (fidiya, or “expiation”).

Ramadan is a commemoration of the descent of the word of God, the Qur’an, from heaven to the earth. Just as the word of God has come down, the word of supplicants goes up to God more vigorously and efficaciously in Ramadan than at any other time.

The most significant hallmark of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Destiny, Night of Value or Night of Measure: Lailat al Qadr, in Arabic. According to the Qur’an, angels descend from heaven on this special night -most important, the archangel Gabriel — bringing peace and divine presence into the world. Prophet Muhammad did not mention exactly when the Night of Power would be, although most scholars believe it falls on one of the odd-numbered nights of the final ten days of Ramadan.
The Qur’an says:

“The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.

Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah’s permission, on every errand:

Peace… This until the rise of morn! “(Q97)

Better than thousand months. A thousand months are equivalent to 83 years and 4 months. The importance of this night is also mentioned in hadith, which are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad as remembered by his companions:

“Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgiven.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2:34).

Ramadan is always a very amazing month .We undertake a month long spiritual odyssey that is meant to rejuvenate us, both physically and morally. It enables us to detach from worldly pleasures to invest our time in intense prayer, charity and spiritual discipline and focus on our deeds, thoughts and actions. Every Ramadan, we undergo illuminating and enriching experiences that provide valuable lessons in understanding life and ourselves better. The extremity of the test reminds us of the fragility of human life and is meant to foster a closer relationship with God.

Over the years, the experience has been life-changing for me. I learnt to be disciplined; started feeling empathetic towards the poor, as Ramadan taught me how it feels to be less fortunate. Every year, we gain something substantial, as the entire spiritual gymnastic nurtures our soul, leaving us like a computer reformatted or an engine overhauled.

I remember the early years of fasting when my mother would recount her childhood stories about Ramadan –how the table at sunset would be full of delicacies; how she and her siblings would hold handfuls of food in front of their mouths, waiting for the cue from my grandfather to eat. At the end of the month of fasting, he would sacrifice a lamb, in the name of God, and feed it to the poor.

The first time I fasted was when I was attending school away from home. Marching up to the man in charge of the cafeteria, I fully expected to be rebuffed when I asked for food to take back to my dorm for a predawn breakfast. But he just looked me in the eyes and asked what I would like to eat. Had I not been so stunned by his acceptance, I might have asked for a table full of treats. I fortified myself by hearty food and sealed the fast with a full glass of fruit juice. The fast seemed interminable and intolerable because, as every Muslim would confess, no matter how much food or water or juice you pour into yourself at dawn, it is never enough to drown the body’s yearnings until sunset.

Later that night, nibbling on the meat sandwich, I realized, ”I’m fasting for Ramadan!” For the first time, I was doing something that wasn’t primarily for myself or for parents or for good grades. By fasting, I was doing something for God- that which would bring me closer to the creator and sustainer of all existence .it is said that it’s the only Islamic practice that’s invisible to an observer.

Later in college, on Saturday nights, other Muslim students and I would take the college van to a pancake house at 4 a.m. I told my non-Muslim friends, who always accompanied me to dinner in the dining hall at sunset, how the entire holy month of Ramadan was about feeling spiritually charged and elevated despite the hunger and deprivation.
The fasting ritual is an eagerly awaited interlude for utilizing the abstinence from food, drink and other indulgences to concentrate on prayer, meditation and worship. This, in turn, encourages greater reflection on one’s life and appreciation for resources we sometimes take for granted. It teaches us about patience, self restraint, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God.

The act of fasting for spiritual prowess makes us more conscious, not just of food habits but of how we think, behave and interact throughout the day. Fasting does not mean Muslims retreat from their daily chores; rather they are encouraged to continue their normal routine. This is the real challenge, and fasting helps us hone our patience and endurance because, by refraining from consumption throughout the day, we learn the benefit of refraining from gratifying each of our desires in the moment.

Each fasting day during Ramadan is a trial on the body and our spiritual resolve. Removing the regular comforts from daily routine is intended to focus the mind on spirituality, prayer and charity. By fasting, we cut ourselves off from the temptations and distractions of our busy, hectic, materialistic lives and try attaining “taqwa”, or “piety” or “God-consciousness”. With a decaffeinated, empty stomach, and a thirst that is difficult to tolerate, this act of fasting connects us to someone else.

Our fasting draws us to the story of a woman in Somalia who has been walking for miles in brutal temperature, with hot and dust-filled wind blowing in her face, to fetch firewood and water; successive droughts have scorched and ravaged her land, her body, and her children. She’ll thank God, if they all make it alive to the feeding centre. The baby she is carrying no longer gets milk from her breast; she feels him shrinking in her arms as she walks. Her other children, languorous and emaciated, are trailing her. The mother keeps repeatedly telling them that they must put their trust in God and keep moving. One can understand her thirst as she utters the words of prayer with every precious drop of water she goes without to give to her children for their survival.

Our act of fasting brings empathy for her that is greater than any ordinary day. We remember her when our head would go dizzy with thirst after running out on a simple errand in triple-digit heat. We can step back into our air-conditioned refuge; she can’t. We won’t complain of our exhaustion from too little sleep because we know she won’t find a sheltering place to rest in the harsh landscape. We’re hungry, but I can break my fast in a celebratory mood when the day is finished; we’ll take a cooling sip of clean, filtered water and literally feel it splash down in my empty gut at sundown. As we feel our body reviving, we are reminded that the Somali woman’s fast has been going on since well before Ramadan, and it will continue past. It is her way of life for years on end .For her “fasting” is not a choice, for her hunger is part of daily life.

As we slice up exotic fruits to refresh our families after fasting, we keep seeing this poor woman. How can we set a table with melons, dates, rice, other lavish goodies and dollops of dainty creams when she has none? How can we keep stocking up on provisions featuring a variety of so many alluring and exquisite foods, such as sweetmeats, spices, savouries and sugary drinks, with which to break our daily fasts, without thinking of the woman’s broken heart when she has to tell her children she has nothing for them; the crops failed, the livestock died, and food prices have shot so high that they are a luxury she can hardly afford. .She has no way to feed them. The suffering of these unlucky ones reminds us to be grateful for our fortunes.

At times we don’t realize how hard and coarse our hearts have become. The absence of regular and consistent times for contemplation and self-reflection has made us insensitive to the suffering around us. The pursuit of complacency has become our goal rather than the pursuit of contentment and we sacrifice things that would bring us everlasting comfort in pursuit of those things that simply give us the facade of comfort. The empathy for the suffering of those less fortunate people around us, created by the act of fasting, is only worth something to them — and to us — if we do something about it.

The emphasis on enduring the fast stimulates us to move beyond simply the physical aspects of it and reach out in the direction of a spiritual fast. It’s not just about mortification of the flesh. It’s about refraining from complaining, a fast from thinking ill of others, a fast from coarse language and harsh speech, a fast that’s focus is not on food or drink, but how the absence of those things leads towards the development of a strong heart and soul. That’s the fast that we should strive for – one that moves beyond not feeding our bodies but feeding our souls. The essence of Ramadan is to become humble, simple and free from ill-will, anger, meanness and hate. It is a one-month refresher course from which we can emerge as the greatest version of ourselves. It is a month of penance, peace, forgiveness, atonement and reconciliation.

I pray that Ramadan gets into our hearts and minds and makes us embrace all shades of mankind with dignity, respect and care acknowledging the diverse swath of traditions and cultures.

The greatest lesson every Ramadan teaches us is indeed the wisdom expressed in the Qur’an, Al-Hujurat:

“O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of God, is the best in conduct. God Knows and is Aware of everything you do.”(Q49:13)

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THE ROOT OF MANY EVILS

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By Zeeshan Rasool Khan

From time immemorial, Kashmir has been enjoying recognition all across the world as ‘Resh Waer’ – Abode of Sages because the sages, savants, and saints from different parts of the world have visited this place. Some of them stayed permanently here and some had a transient stay. Also, there is a significant number of native godly and spiritual personages who were born here and exercised their influence on the masses. Consequentially, the religious, moral, and ethical influence on every aspect of Kashmir has always been predominant and conspicuous. However, dismally, the unique status that Kashmir holds is eroding day by day. Unscrupulous incidents that do not suit particularly to this land are happening at regular intervals. The occurrence of such unethical, immoral, and shameful episodes has seen a huge jump. Recently, a three-year-old child fell victim to the debauchery of the beast in human form. And such incidents amply suggest that moral values are declining and moral degradation has permeated the major segment of the society. These awful happenings undoubtedly involve moral decadence. Thus, while we raise our voice against these crimes, which these offenses demand, we as a society also need to look for a permanent solution to this emerging problem. And, that is not possible without elimination of root cause of the problem i.e., moral decline.

To prevent moral degradation, it is important to reach at its roots to know where this moral decadence comes from. It is bitter truth that moral degradation starts from home and parents are mainly responsible for it. Parents have a key role in the life of a person. Home is the primary training institute for a child and parents are his/her first trainers. For the child’s physical, mental character, moral, and ethical development no outside influence is greater than that of parents.

 

However, the main problem that world including our Kashmir is facing is that; the parents are too busy to be parents. They are too much engaged that they do not have time for their wards. Entrusting wards to maids has become the new norm and in the absence of proper parental care, how one can expect ethically and morally sound child. As it is self-evident that the way a parent can foster his/her child is least anticipated from others.

In some cases, parental care has been reduced to the providence of luxury to the child. Furnishing the child, costly clothing, gadgets, gifts, toys, etc., and giving in to his/her demands is miscalculated as parental care. This misinterpretation of parental care has sharpened the moral decadence. In this way, immorality is purchased by parents into homes and into the hands of their children. Exposure to cultural and technological modernity in the absence of parental supervision is a contributive factor of moral corruptness. The child equipped with all modern facilities is bound to fall into the quagmire of vileness unless he/she would be under the observation of his elders. Similarly, some believe caring for the physical growth of a child is all that parental’ role is, but they are wrong. Parents have a great role in the moral and character development of the child. As a matter of fact, the way parents would guide their wards would be reflected in his/her ethics. In other words, the conduct that the child develops largely depends upon the mode of his/her upbringing by parents. Given the fact, the children imbibe everything rapidly, the approach of parents greatly influence them. Therefore, from the families with moral excellence, coming of morally declined children is near to impossible. Hence, if parents would discharge their responsibilities fairly, the problem of moral degradation is not invincible. It is also worth to mention that the impact parents have on their children is long-term and does not fade with time and circumstances. Whatever the child learns from parents’ remains with him forever and is least vulnerable to any sort of change.

There is no denying that there is huge contribution of teachers and friends in the moral development of a person. After parents, teachers have a significant role in the life of a child as the school-going child spends a big chunk of their day with teachers. It is the responsibility of the teachers at school to take care of a child’s overall development. Apart from imparting education, teachers must be keen about the character development of the child so that any lacuna, which may have remained during parenting, could be removed. Although teachers normally never evade their responsibilities in this regard, however; from several months videos are surfacing on social media, in which school students were seen immodestly, which indicates that the school administration is nonchalant about changing scenario.

Likewise, examples of moral degradation come into view in and around the tuition centers. Such flaws need to be removed so that the necessary ambiance is created that could boost the child positively.

Friends have a big influence over a person’s life and it can be positive as well as negative. Most often, a person coming from a noble family suffers due to his company he/she keeps and sometimes-good parenting fails to bring fruitful results because of the impact of bad friends over a person. Nevertheless, parents have a part to play here as well. They are authorized to know about the friends of their ward. They need to keep track of a child’s friend circle and their activities. This will help them to prevent their child from the effects of bad company.

To put it in a nutshell, by adhering to responsibilities and discharging duties justly; the chances of moral degradation will reduce per se. Resultantly, the valley that is going through a difficult phase on account of growing moral turpitude will be back on track and would be an actual representation of ‘Resh waer’ again.

(The author hailing from seer Hamdan, writes on diverse issues. He tweets @zeeshan_rk and can be mailed at: mohdzeeshan605@gmail.com)

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Understanding Zakat

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By Mohammad Aafaq

Zakat is one of the major religious duties in Islam. Literally, zakat means to “purify”. It refers to the purification of a believers’ wealth and soul. Wealth purification denotes the mobilization of assets for the purpose of financial growth and justified distribution. Purification of the soul implies freedom from hatred, jealousy, selfishness, uneasiness and greed. Other Quranic connotations also include the purification of sin.

Zakat is a fixed proportion collected from the surplus wealth and earnings of a believer. It is then distributed to prescribed beneficiaries and for the welfare as well as the infrastructure of a society in general. This contribution is made payable by a Muslim once every year.

 

Zakat is paid on the net balance after a Muslim has spent on basic necessities, family expenses, due credits, donations and taxes. Every Muslim male or female who at the end of the Hijri year is in possession of the equivalent of 85 grams of gold or more in cash or articles of trade, must pay his or her zakat at the minimum rate of 2.5 percent.

Zakat has a deep humanitarian and social-political value. This religious act prevents the hoarding of wealth and advocates solidarity with humanity because excessive wealth is distributed among the poor. The paying of zakat also helps purify one’s soul and encourages a person to have gratitude towards God’s bounties.

Zakat is mentioned along with Salat (prayer) in 30 verses of the Quran. It was first revealed in Surah 73:20;

“…. and establish regular prayers and give regular charity; and loan to Goda beautiful loan. And whatever good ye send forth for your souls, ye shall find it in God’s presence, Yea, better and greater in reward and seek ye the grace of God: for Godis oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

In another verse, God declares that those who pay zakat, are included within the Muslim society

“But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand.” (9:11)

God says in the Quran:

“They were enjoined only to worship God, sincere in their faith in Him alone – and of upright religion – and to establish the Salat and the Zakat. Such is the upright religion, (98:5)

“Those who lay up treasures of gold and silver and spend them not in the way of God; give them the news of a painful punishment, on the Day when that (wealth) will be heated in hellfire, and their foreheads and their sides and their backs branded therewith: “This is the treasure which you laid up for yourselves! Taste, then, your hoarded treasure!” (9:34-35).

“Let not those who are miserly with what God has given them of His bounty think that this is good for them. Rather, it is bad for them. That which they withhold shall be hung around their necks on the Day of Arising. (3:180)

Bukhari and Muslim relate on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Messenger of God sent Mu’adh to the Yemen he told him, “You are going to a people who have a Scripture, so call them to testify that there is no deity but God, and that I am the Messenger of God. If they respond to this, then teach them that God has imposed five Salats upon them in every day. If they respond to this, then teach them that God has imposed upon them a charity to be taken from the wealthy amongst them and given to their poor. If they respond to this, then beware of taking any more of their wealth! Beware also of the prayer of the oppressed, for there is no veil between such a prayer and God.”

Then he recited the verse: “Let not those who are miserly with what God has given them of His bounty think that this is good for them. Rather, it is bad for them. That which they withhold shall be hung around their necks on the Day of Arising.” (3:180)

Several conditions must be fulfilled before zakat can be paid. These conditions are necessary as zakat can only be applied on those who are of legal age and who own enough assets. These conditions are categorized into two broad categories, namely performer and asset.

Every Muslim who is of a certain age and owns enough assets is required to pay zakat.

Zakat is payable only on those assets that are acquired for the purpose of creating or generating wealth. Some examples of this type of assets are livestock or crops that are traded or sold, inventory of goods used for trading, and investments such as gold or securities that have potential for appreciation in value. However, zakat is not payable in the case of fixed assets such as buildings, if they are not subjected to “capital circulation”.

Zakat need only be paid on those assets that exceed a minimum value. This minimum value is calculated based on the market price of 85 grams of gold or 595 grams of pure silver. This minimum value is termed Nisab. The Islamic Fiqh and Research Councils, as well as Jumhur (majority) of Ulama’ recommend that gold be used as the basis for the calculation of nisab.

Haul is defined as the completion period for a zakat asset. The length of time for haul is one Islamic or Hijri year (1 year Hijri = 354.5 days, 1 year Solar = 365.25 days). Zakat is only payable on assets that have been held for at least this period.

Zakat can only be distributed to any of the eight eligible beneficiaries (asnaf) that are mentioned in the Quran in Surah Taubah: 60. However, priority should be given to the poor and needy. Where there is no central authority to administer zakat, it can be paid directly to the needy.

Those without sufficient means of livelihood to meet their basic necessities. For instance, those who, although may have a job, a house and a car, but whose income is below the minimum requirement.

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