Tag Archive: Islam


Sufi Ways

by Navid Zaidi

Darwin’s theory of evolution explains how life progressed through stages leading to the development of humans.

But what about the future of individual human life?

Has life reached its climax in the humans or are we going to evolve further into some other kind of species?

If the present is the climax, then it makes us wonder if this is the end of our individuality.

If it is the end, why would life take so much time and struggle to develop something and then discard it like a waste product?

Moreover, if life is going to evolve further in the future, how does that help me as an individual. My personality will be gone when I die and turn into dust? A total waste?

The Qur’anic view of evolution is dynamic. It presents an individual view of personality that has a definite beginning but a continuous career…

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The courage of love

Photo: Vipin Chandran

The courage of love – The Hindu.

Social reformer and scholar Asghar Ali Engineer devoted most of his adult life heroically fighting not one but three battles. The first was against religious hatred and violence, for promoting peace and harmony among people of diverse faiths. The second was a painfully lonely lifelong struggle against the oppression of the leader of the Bohra sect into which he was born. And a third was to reclaim ideas of a humane, peaceful, tolerant, and gender-just Islam.

Over many decades, in times of strife and mass violence, his voice steadied us with its compassion and reason. For his beliefs, Engineer routinely suffered death threats, deathly attacks and social boycott. Yet he never wavered. In the years I was privileged to know him, I never heard a word of personal rancour or bitterness. With the passing of this man of extraordinary humanity, dignity, learning and courage of convictions, the country is much poorer.

Engineer inherited a long tradition of social reformers in India — which latterly includes also Gandhi and Maulana Azad — who were simultaneously deeply religious and deeply secular, and saw no contradiction between these two. Instead, Engineer believed that true religion could never teach you hatred, prejudice or violence against people of other faiths.

……………..Another influence was his encounter with Marxist writings, which moved him profoundly. He struggled to reconcile his new Marxist convictions with his religious faith, and found solace in poet Iqbal’s words that socialism along with God makes Islam. He concluded that it was not necessary to be an atheist to be a Marxist, and both Marx and his religious beliefs nourished his values of justice, equality and compassion for the suffering of others. Engineer’s interpretations of Islam, in over 70 books which he wrote, and his life-long practice, represent a creative construction of liberation theology in Indian Islam.

…………………………..The next major riots after Jabalpur were in Ahmedabad in 1969, from where he reported gruesome brutalities. The next year, Bhiwandi burned. Engineer took leave from the Bombay Municipal Corporation, and his friend, actor Balraj Sahni, from films, to spend 15 days in the May heat together touring Bhiwandi town and the countryside appealing for peace. They were devastated by the violence they saw in many villages, in which isolated Muslim families were killed and their bodies thrown into wells. Back in Bombay, actors and poets joined him in appeals for peace. This remained a recurring motif of Engineer’s life right until his death. I doubt if there is another like him, who tirelessly visited every site of communal violence in free India, to tell its story and to appeal for peace.

The second battle which consumed him was against the despotic tyranny of the high priest of the Bohras, the Syedna, who exercises absolute authority over all Bohras in religious as well as secular matters. The Syedna retaliated against Engineer’s calls for reform by declaring him a social pariah, commanding all Bohras to socially boycott him. He was barred even from attending the weddings or funerals of his closest friends or relatives. Even his mother, who could not bear to be cut off from her siblings, relatives and friends, finally moved into a separate house he bought for her and met him only in secret.

He was also assaulted half a dozen times; his face was once slashed, and his house looted and ransacked, including his beloved books. Even in his death, he was an exile: denied a resting place in the Bohra burial grounds. He was buried in a Sunni graveyard.

He spoke to me once about the loneliness of this cruel, lifelong boycott by his extended family and community. He regretted also that none of the country’s political leaders openly sided with his battle for fear of alienating the powerful Syedna. This could well have felled a lesser man. But not Engineer.

In his autobiography, Engineer quoted poet Rumi: “A heart without love is nothing but a handful of dust.” Engineer’s life was one devoted above all to the pursuit of love. Like the Sufis, he derived from his love for God the brave love of all humanity.