Khush Amdeed (Welcome)

Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Food for Thought

Gumrahi vich ae ee hidayat
Nuur sufaid siyahi vich

- - - Sachal Sarmast - - -

Something to brighten up our day - every day


What would it be like if you lived each day, each breath,

as a work of art in progress? Imagine that you are

a Masterpiece unfolding, every second of every day,

a work of art taking form with every breath.

(Thomas Crum)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Ramadan - From Karachi to California and back

This article compares Ramadan between college in California and home in Karachi and aims to bring out the universal essence of Ramadan. I wrote this for Ohmynews but it was later also published in Dawn newspaper.

Time to Think

This article of mine was first published on Ohmynews and later picked up by Amateur Computerist - a renowned Columbia University magazine. This was my first citizen journalism article, and was fortunate enough to stay on the homepage for 2 months.

"Islamophobia" and the media

Exaggerated stereotypes of the 'other' on TV and in print only propagate fear and hatred. Read further an article of mine that was published on Ohmynews Citizen Journalism site.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who am I? - - - The Search for My Identity - - -

I wake up every morning to the realization that I am a captive in mind, and body. Every single day I struggle to unleash myself of the shackles that bound me, only to realize that the chains are stronger than I might think. I end up making compromises so that at night I can dote in the assurance that I do have an identity of my own, only to give way to the next day which reminds me that yesterday I had just settled the confrontation my mind and soul were in, and that I have not solved the problem yet.

I march in peace protests singing slogans against hatred, but am still unable to look at my own countrymen with an equal eye. I voice the truth that we are all the same people, from the same roots, the same beginnings and that we are all sailing towards the same end; yet I do only but worry about my security when I read about the butchery based on sectarianism, ethnic differences, ideological differences, and misconceptions. I walk the streets of my city, with that swing in my steps that echoes back at me saying, “Yes, I am among the privileged, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the world.”

I listen to Bob Marley, and I tell people that my favorite genre is reggae. Yet I hardly understand what he means when he says ‘if you know your history then you will know where you are coming from.’ Perhaps I listen to the music thinking it is the cool thing to do but hardly understand what the right thing to do is. I close my eyes to my history, for I hear all around me “well this is not the 14th century, it’s time to move on!” Only had I known that I was still repeating the mistakes of my past, would I really understand the importance of my history. Only had I comprehended, that my identity crisis could be solved if I were to delve into my history and reach my roots. But I was uncivilized in my past. Why would I want to be that? I was barbaric and uneducated. I was in the darkest holes of darkness until I was saved by my saviors. And my savior has told me to move on, to not look back, and to walk with the rest of the world; so that is exactly what I am meant to do.

And then again, what is there to look at history for to begin with? It is, after all, full of invaders, and colonialists; those who wanted to leave me inept of my imagination, carnage my mind, steal my soul. Any way, they are gone now. So let me deal with what I have today. Let me try to rebuild myself. But what do we have today? Am I not still invaded? My body still mutilated? My mind still leashed? My soul and heart still divided? Am I still not living in the fear of “colonialists” so that I cannot even speak my mind, practice my ideology, live my own way, and the minute I attempt to do so, am I not still made to suffer? My home is bombed, my children killed, and when not so, then I am only living to be an agent of the “civilized” ? there to lead my folks towards the “light” I have been shown. I call myself the democratic leader, the educated of the lot, the enlightened of the group, the one committed to bringing success to my people; yet I fail to understand that I am not who I was meant to be anymore. I speak the colonizer’s tongue more fluently than my own, eat the imperialist’s burger, wash my face with a foreign soap, rinse my hair with a foreign shampoo, dress myself in foreign brands, and yet what I get in return is the treatment of an “other.” I am merely lost, leashed, confused, unidentified with absolutely no direction.

But no! I keep telling myself I ame not to lose hope like this. If I do not have a direction, I will be among those who give who will struggle to find a direction, to clear the path for others to follow. I will study and come back to where I know people need me, and I will devote my life to the truth and its promotion. And that’s when I am shattered once again. I think about me, myself and I, and I say what is there for me now in that land that calls me. I will earn some money, some “recognition” (remember by those who can recognize me) and come and work from the “top.” I forget whose money it is that I will be living on. It is the money that is being used to captivate my mind and capture my soul. And yet if I am bold enough to come back to my home, I am tempted towards the pool of money with the same source as before, and yet again I forget where my soul was leading me in the days of my idealism, when my heart was larger and the blood it pumped even purer.

Let's defeat the purpose

They say you (ideally usually) only get married once so enjoy the moment - and celebrate! Women are the most pro-active believers and followers of this theory. But when celebrations are talked about, us Pakistanis, the ones who also consider ourselves to be very-practicing Muslims, often indulge in questions like this celebration haraam or halaal. Women are the most pro-active at discussing this topic too...because who really cares about going in the slums and trying to sit with families, figuring out n trying to solve their problems (when we pay our servants generously any ways), or who really cares about where a sister-in-Islam is being raped and killed by a foreign soldier, or who really cares how many Muslims are being bombarded in the name of war-on-terror in your own country leave alone any other, or which leader is being unjust, or which 10 year old has a dying father or an abused mother, 8 younger siblings with no clothes and no food, and you know other such menial questions. What matters more really is that we can keep a "somber" face, "appear" very humble and prove that we are the true, caring, practicing Muslims.

I actually might be misinterpreting the entire matter, misunderstanding fellow sisters-in-faith but I recently have been intrigued by an interesting topic of discussion and have been spending my time thinking and semi-researching over it. Surrounded by a gazillion engaged girls (figuratively speaking) our shallow minds have not been able to think beyond wedding shopping and preparations...and ofcourse the islamic way of doing things - and ofcourse who can be more islamic than the other. Topics like segregation or no segregations, girls dancing or not dancing, Rs. 3 lakh worth bridal clothes or 50K worth, lots of gold jewelry for the locker or wearable jewelry are all ancient topics - we have entered the realms of more interesting whether the bridal dress should be brand new or second hand?!?

I was recently told by a friend that her cousin in Lahore believes that it is the sunnah to wear second-hand clothes, in urdu what you say an "utran" - this is a tradition of Hazrat Ayesha radi Allah taala anha. In order to pay respects to that tradition, she was honored to wear a 12 lakh dress made by a top designer Omer Saeed that was first worn by a close friend's of the bride (at her own wedding). May I only add that the dress was sleeveless and not your most traditionally, islamically appropriately designed one. It has only raised a number of questions in my mind, like where do we tell ourselves to stop when following traditions - what were things that we need to understand had socio-economic factors leading to them and whether God has really asked us to follow each and every tradition of the ummahatul mumineen. Forget that too, let's suppose we are to follow every thing, then does wearing a top designers 10 lakh jora justify the purpose. Is the message of beauty in simplicity more important, or the fact that i can tell my servant watching me walk in as a bride question "wow rich people have rich friends with a 12 lakh jora" where every mother sitting in that wedding would wonder if she could be wealthy enough to socialize with people wearing such expensive dresses too. I wonder what our message is and are we trying to understand the true spirit of why the ummahat ul mumineen behaved the way they did, what was the message the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was trying to get across and what point are we trying to make?

Intrigued my brother and I began researching the authenticity of this tradition - we still do not know so can't bring a conclusion to the table...funny thing is the person propagating this sunnah has only "heard" it from someone else and does not know the authenticity either. Authentic or not, whether we really need to follow the tradition of a second-hand bridal dress or not, the person I know has sent a number of brides-to-be and brides-from-the-past into a complete guilt trip...such is what Allah taala wants really too:)

What we have been able to muster though so far is, an Ibn-e-Katheer tradition that says that Ayesha ra's bridal dress came from Bahrain and it was a red-striped dress. In this era, Islam was still not brought to Bahrain, however the dress travelled long distance. It could be that Bahraini traders brought clothes as part of their trade which was enjoyed popularly then - the Ibn-e-Katheer tradition did not elaborate whether the dress was second-hand or not (the possibility still lies open). The Holy Prophet loved wearing Yemeni teh-bund (excuse my limited English vocabulary).

Another tradition says that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) made a new bridal dress for his daughter Fatima ra. Her new dress was in the house, when a fakir came to their house. When she went in to get an old dress, the Holy Prophet reminded her of the ayah which says that part with that which you love the most. Hazrat Fatima ra then gave her new bridal dress to the fakir instead. What is the message here that is worth more notice - whether we should be generous in charity or is it that we make a new bridal dress? Yet again, or is the message that we wear a second hand dress like Hazrat Ayesha's or is the message that if we cannot afford a new dress should we kill our lives over buying that new dress. Is the message that wearing what you can afford is a sin, or is the message that we give in charity what we can wear ourselves an act worth sawaab.

Imam Abu Hanifa was a wealthy man who enjoyed wearing expensive clothes. He would wear clothes worth 40K dirhams in every jamaat that he led ( not sure if it means every jamaat 5 times a day, or once a day, or just the jumaa jamaat so i apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge here). However, after each jamaat he would give his clothes in charity to someone else. He emphasized on the ayah that says that look beautiful because Allah loves beauty. Once a person came to the Holy Prophet wearing tattered clothes, and appearing unkempt overall - when the Holy Prophet inquired the reason behind it, the person replied back saying something along the lines that it was his expression of taqwa. The Holy Prophet reiterated Allah's love for beauty and asked him to change. Whether he changed into second-hand clothes but clean and appearing well, or brand new clothes would understandably be his choice, depending on his socio-economic reasons. At least that is my understanding of it.

The only purpose of writing this blog is to get across the fact that as a nation we have started assuming piety by going into the nitty gritties of Islamic tradition, and have lost track of the bigger picture...I wish we were as attentive and passionate about the bigger picture and perhaps the state of the Muslim ummah would not be where it is today.