By: Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
How strange it is if you see a person wearing kurta pyjama with beard and skull cap you are afraid, you avoid to sit beside him in trains and buses, you look with an unfamiliar rather suspicious gaze at him. It is not so that the attire posed by the person is new to you and your eyes met it first time in life, but the fact is that this traditional dress and bearded man is a part of your society, your neighbourhood and your acquaintances. This fraction of society had been present among you for generations, but after all these ground realities you are afraid of his company.
Why is it so? Is there anything inside the dress or the beard? Surely not! Then what? Why go far, look at your own past few years if you can ponder upon the situation. How trusted, peaceful, sympathetic and harmless this creature was. You were quite comfortable and carefree in his company and neighbourhood, you gave your way open for him to pass out of respect and even stood up as a mark of honour if he happened to meet you.
But, thanks to media that plays with the public opinion and turns the hearsay into worldwide fact. The beard and kurta pyjama came in limelight first when Kabul fell to Taliban militia wearing this dress which is common and traditional dress of the people in Afghanistan. They again hit headlines in 2001, when Twin Towers in US were banged by hijacked planes, not because the hijackers were bearded and mullahs, but unfortunately because the so-called mastermind Bin Laden was believed to be harboured by Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban due to their association with madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan were recognized as people having beard and wearing kurta pyjama.
From that day onward beard and traditional Muslim dress was symbolized to be a logo of terrorism and it was so projected by media. As a result, radical Islam was blamed and those who follow Islam were labelled as extremists, fanatics, fascists and even terrorists. Thus madrasas in India and everywhere were targeted blindly as they teach radical Islam and house mullahs resembling to those in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yes, there may be people from madrasas who are involved in political and militant activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan as per the local conditions that may be justified by them, but the case is quite different with the madrasas in India.
In India, we are habitual of repeating what is said and published by electronic and print media. From a common man to Group of Ministers (in 2001) everyone is bent to think the madrasas a threat to national security. But why? None is able to furnish the proof of their involvement in anti-national activities. Nobody has time to reflect whether the blame he or she is putting on madrasas or molvis has some ground, whether has he or she been to any madrasa even for awhile to see their activities.
The Indian madrasas, from syllabus and teaching materials to field work and national contribution present a bright face of Indian Muslims. The madrasas impart the richest moral material ever known to educational or academic system in the world; especially today when the education is job-oriented around the globe they offer purely moral-oriented education system. The subjects taught at madrasas, good or bad, but have nothing to do with the politics of today’s world, they are either fourteen hundred year old Quran and Hadith or some medieval subjects dealing chiefly with Muslim faith, ethics, transactions, society, logic, Islamic philosophy, Arabic language etc.
As far as their daily routine and weekly schedule is concerned it is far from terrorism and fanaticism. To your utter surprise, madrasas even do not have any entertainment and physical exercise system then what about arm-training and so on.
Those who come out of these Muslim seminaries they either return to the same profession teaching at madrasas, or join a mosque fulfilling the social and religious needs of a Muslim community. Many even become part of society in business or ancestral profession of farming while a minor part them turns to college and university education. So, if the madrasas or people associated to them are terrorist and fascist so where the terror lies; in their syllabus, in their education system, in their social role, where? If you say it lies in their syllabus materials, let me tell you whatever they teach is fully ‘Islam’. If the fault lies there then you must admit that Islam is the root of the fault, but no sane person will dare to utter it.
On the other hand, if we see the history of Indian madrasas, they from their inception play a composite nationalist role. They were bearded mullahs of madrasas who were at the forefront of fist national war remembered as mutiny of 1857. It was the same madrasa product Obadiullah Sindhi who was Home Minister of Provisional Indian Government with a Hindu Raja Mahindar Pratap as its Head. It was the same radical molvi (Barkatullah Bhopali) who joined India Berlin Society and took part in constituting Provisional Indian Government in 1915. It was Head of molvis Shaikhul Hind Mahmoodul Hasan who was Commander in Chief of Muslim Salvation Army and mastermind of national freedom movement that was later know by Silk Letter Conspiracy. They were these molvis (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hussaind Ahmad Madani etc) who rejected the concept of Muslim homeland (of Pakistan) and endangered their lives for the Indian nationalistic cause.
And after Independence also the same nationalistic and patriotic role of molvis and madrasas continues. The madrasas are the largest network which is offering free education to a large number of students from downtrodden and backward community Muslim from one and a half century (a goal that could not be achieved by India even at primary level during 60 years of Independence). No madrasa and no student of a madrasa, not even the in terror-hit Jammu and Kashmir, was ever found guilty of anti-national and terrorist activities, while though there is no exact data available but surely the ratio of madrasa educated people in social and other crimes is nearly zero.
However, only media is not to be blamed. The madrasas are also partly responsible for the misconception spread against them since they are too reserved to represent even their true face to the community, to media and to the world at large.
In this background the proposed anti-terror meet at Darul Uloom Deoband on 25 Feb 2008 is a positive gesture that will help to solve many such problems and remove miscomputations. The meeting is to be attended by the representatives of thousands of madrasas, Islamic institutions and Muslim scholars from every nook and corner of the country. Hopefully, the meeting will help minimize the gap and pull down the wall of misunderstandings.
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
Suicide, or self-killing, is a global phenomenon and has been known in every culture and society. The taking of one’s own life is the most private of acts. Suicide is the extreme step that a human been decides to put an end to his life. It is not only the result of a mere negative thinking or shallow consideration, but one is compelled to take this ‘extreme step’ only when he finds all the roads blocked and no way out.
The recent years have witnessed an alarming rise in the ratio of suicides across the world. Unlike the previous records, young people are now at the highest risk in both developed and developing countries. Globally, nearly 60% of suicide deaths are among young adults in their productive years of life. This is a distinct change, while earlier more suicides were recorded among the elderly.
Suicide is a heinous act that causes devastating effects, not only for the family members of the person but also for others associated to him in any way.
According to WHO, in the year 2000, approximately one million people died from suicide: a "global" mortality rate of 16 per 100,000. There is an average of one death every 40 seconds and an attempt every three seconds. Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death across the world, especially in the 15-35 year age group.
The global rate of occurrence of suicide rose from 10 per 100 000 population in the 1950s to 18 per 100 000 during 1995. While it has declined in some countries, there has been a significant increase in some developing countries. Collectively, an upward trend is noticeable across the world.
Deaths recorded due to suicide across the world indicate only the tip of the iceberg. The actual number is significantly higher, because many suicides are recorded as accidents. These figures do not include suicide attempts that are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide. World Health Organisation records show that for every successful suicide there are about 20 cases of attempt to suicide.
Increasing Suicide Trends in India
India and Sri Lanka record the highest number of suicide rates among the South East Asia Region Member Countries and occupy the 45th positions globally. With a rate of 11 per 100000 suicides per year, an increase from 6 per 100 000 during the 1980s, India occupies the second highest rate of suicides in the Region. When corrected for underreporting, these rates are likely to be much higher. While 89000 persons committed suicide in 1995, the number increased to 96 000 in 1997 and to 104 000 in 1998, an increase of 25% compared to the previous year. This statistic becomes even more alarming when you consider that the total number of suicide cases recorded in the whole of India in 2002 was 154,000.
Kerala (29 per 100 000), Karnataka (21 per 100 000) and Tripura as well as West Bengal (19 per 100 000) had the highest rates of suicide. Among the cities, Bangalore (17%), Mumbai (14%), Chennai (11%) and Delhi (7.5%) accounted for nearly 50% of the total suicides in the country. In the Union Territory of Pondicherry, every month at least 15 youths between the ages of 15 and 25 commit suicide. In 2002, there were 10,982 suicides in Tamil Nadu, 11,300 in Kerala, 10,934 in Karnataka, and 9,433 in Andhra Pradesh. In 2003, the largest number of farmers (nearly 175) committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh. Kerala, the country's only fully literate state, has the highest number of suicides. Some 32 people commit suicide in Kerala every day. As a whole, some 50,000 people in the four states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the Union Territory of Pondicherry kill themselves every year.
India has officially admitted to the death of about 3,600 farmers over the last five years, most of whom were unable to repay their loans and huge interest payments. Higher rates of suicides have been noticed in the age group of 15-34 years. Out of every three cases of suicide reported every 15 minutes in India, one is committed by a youth in the age group of 15 to 29.
Why people are driven towards killing themselves?
The psychological dislocation that causes one to kill oneself has deep social roots. Suicide results from many complex socio-cultural factors. Many tend to commit suicide when they do not see their dreams materialized. The faster pace of life and the wide gap between people's aspirations and actual capabilities have led many to end their lives. Therefore, the industrialized countries have a higher suicide rate than poor, developing countries.
Financial instability, unemployment, burdensome debts are also some factors that drive one to an end to his life. Family conflicts, domestic violence, academic failures and unfulfilled ambitions share a great deal of suicide related causes. Addiction to alcohol and drug usage is also significant factor in youth suicide.
Islam has the best solution of suicide
It is a fact that Muslim countries show the lowest rates of suicide. Generally, the Muslims worldwide have lower rates compared to non-Muslims. Similarly, the Muslims who live in the West continue to have very low suicide rates compared to other communities. It is not a sheer coincidence but in fact it is the result of Islamic teachings that envelop a Muslim society and individual.
First of all, it is a part of Muslim faith that they believe in destiny; good or bad whatever is from Almighty Allah. Secondly, every Muslim believes that one day he has to die and after death he has to receive rewards of his actions; wrong or right, good or bad. On the Final Day of Judgement, Allah Almighty will make every human being alive and will ask him to present the accounts of his entire life. The concept of Final Day of Judgement is a key factor in Muslims’ life that controls their actions. Before taking a step, a Muslim first deliberates, consciously or unconsciously, that he has to reap the severe consequences of his action not only in this brief period of worldly life but also in the world hereafter. Thus, secretly, he develops a habit of fearing Almighty Allah in each and every matter that continuously keeps him guided to the straight path.
One is not sent to this world forever. According to Islamic beliefs, this World is a short stoppage of a very long journey; it is a journey far beyond death. The end of this journey is either the destination of Paradise or Hell. The life of the world hereafter is eternal and unlimited. If one has a record of good deeds he will enjoy forever and if one is cursed to have a bad record, he has to suffer either forever or for a very long period as per the seriousness of his deeds.
This worldly life has been bestowed to us to prepare for the eternal life of the world hereafter. Therefore, limiting ones desires and ambitions to one’s capabilities is utterly encouraged but required in Islam. Life is a test from Allah, He tests people in various ways and times. He tests some by blessing him with countless bounties to see if he appreciates and shows gratitude towards Allah or forgets Him. At times Allah in his infinite wisdom puts a person in intense grief, to see if the servant turns to Him and seeks guidance and help. Each and every one of us is tested by Allah in someway or another. Some turn to Allah and seek help, while some turn completely to the opposite side. Those upon whom many grieve and mourn are the people who have turned to suicide. In the time of grief and sufferings one should keep this thing in mind and keep patience and show forbearance. Patience and forbearance is highly appreciated in Islam.
Out of all the bounties, life is the most precious gift bestowed by Allah upon human beings. It is not our personal possession or property, but it is a trust from Allah to us; we can only utilize it in the ways that are have been ordained and described by Allah. We have no right to end it or damage it by our own hands.
Suicide is a major sin in Islam. The Quran has clearly prohibited from committing suicide and the Prophet of Islam assigns suicide to the lower levels of Hell. The Quran says: "And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you". (4:29) "And do not throw yourselves in destruction". (2:195)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “…And whoever commits suicide with a piece of iron, he will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell-fire." (Bukhari, Hadith No. 1297)
"He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell-fire (forever), and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself, he shall keep stabbing himself in the Hell-fire (forever)." (Bukhari, Hadith No. 1299)
"A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him." (Bukhari, Hadith No. 1298)
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi can be accessed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi
"To our information, in no other civilized country similar problem of this magnitude exists. This is indeed a slur on our great heritage, ancient culture and civilization." The division Bench comprising Justice S B Sinha and Justice Dalveer Bhandari in their judgment dated August 21 2006 commented and voiced their concern over the alarming rise of dowry-related deaths, upholding a Patna High Court judgment of convicting a victim’s husband and father-in-law for poisoning her to death.
The evil of dowry is existent in India since ancient times. The custom first originated in Vaishya Hindu community that later crept in to other Hindu communities. Subsequently, with passage of time when Muslims and other communities grew in India this social curse kept on spreading almost in all considerable communities. Now, this practice has affected the entire fabric of our society, especially the poor, backward and middle class families whose economic and financial resources are limited.
There is a whole mindset behind the dowry system. Since the Hindu religion regards boys superior to girls and grants them more rights than the poor girls. The tradition of sati in past and dowry custom in present take their root in this history of discrimination and prejudice. The widows were denied social status and remarrying right; therefore they were forced to torch themselves with the corpse of their husbands so that they no more are alive to feel the bitter taste of discrimination, hatred and seclusion.
Also, the girls were denied any share in the property and wealth of their deceased father and other family members. The girls were considered a burden to be disposed off in marriage with dowry. All the things that they were had right to receive from their father’s property was only dowry, as if this was their part of inheritance that they may get. After marriage, the parents and brothers had less relations with them, even today a custom prevails that the parents do not take even a drop of water or a bite of bread from their daughters’ houses. The custom of marrying away a daughter in Hindu communities is called ‘Kanyadaan’; ‘kanya’ daughter and ‘daan’ means gift or donation.
In the modern India of the New Millennium, the dowry custom is outlawed and demanding dowry has been labelled a heinous crime, even though the menace of dowry is growing. Across the country nearly in every community the dowry custom is prevalent, practiced and even there are cases of prospective bridegrooms' families demanding a dowry from the bride’s family. In most of the cases, the parents, desperate to get their daughters married, are compelled to meet the dowry custom or demand even though they are not able to lift such a huge burden. Usually, people are apt to accept dowry as a custom and have no courage to object or reject it outright. In some areas the dowry demand takes place as bargaining and bridegrooms are valued and auctioned as they are saleable commodity.
The dowry custom is one of the biggest social evils in India. It has eaten into the moral fabric of our society. It is believed that the practice of dowry has spread far more widely among communities and regions where it was virtually non-existent until four decades ago. The committee on the Status of Women in India and the Women's Movement, in the mid-1970s, had noted that dowry had spread much beyond the Hindu upper castes, among whom it had traditionally been practised, it deepened its tentacles and spread to more groups of middle and lower castes among Hindus Muslims Christians and tribals.
The Havoc of Dowry
The dowry system involves many unholy and dreadful results. Because of the dowry even today the birth of a female child is viewed as a curse and the girls are considered as burden. The dowry custom prompts many parents to go for female foeticide. Thousands of girls do not get a chance to live and are silenced in the wombs of their mothers. With the used of widespread gender tests some parents choose an abortion to avoid the burden of an unwanted female child. A study has revealed that an estimated one million (1,000,000) female foetuses are being destroyed every year in India alone. A century ago, the female population ratio in India stood at 972 for 1,000 men. Now, it is steadily declining and in some states it has dropped to less than 750 to 1,000.
"If I don’t kill her today; tomorrow she will kill me financially or some one else will burn her for the sake of dowry," This is the rationalization of a would-be-father of an unborn female child, at the time of deciding a premature end for her. Such is the evil of dowry, rampantly prevailing in Indian society.
Due to the curse of this dowry system many girls remain unmarried because of the financial problems of their parents. Some of such girls take recourse to suicide while few of them enter flesh trade. The evil practice of dowry has turned the sacred relationship of husband and wife into a commercial relation making the life of girls and their parents a hell. It has given rise to suicide, corruption and moral degradation.
The dowry custom motivates many inlaws to commit horrendous crimes of burning, poisoning or murdering the brides. Even in cities such as the capital, New Delhi, "bride-burnings" are reported every day. A report from the federal Department of Women and Child Development—published as Violence Against Women—stated that registered dowry deaths rose from a total of 1,912 cases in 1987 to 5,157 in 1991. But women activists claim that at least 10 times as many cases are never registered. And, not to speak of the physical and mental torture by inlaws that often go unreported and unregistered. Some brides commit suicide because of the constant pressure of fetching demanded money, car TV etc from their fathers’ house whereas they have already supplied abundant dowry beyond their means.
In many cases, the poor parents get loan on interest for getting their daughters married away. Later, this loan proves such a load that multiplies and holds the entire family into its cruel grip.
Social Awareness: Start it with yourself
The Supreme Court, in its verdict on Aug 21, 2006, said that for eradication of social evil of dowry, effective steps can be taken by the society itself. A vigorous national campaign is needed to create social awareness and social consensus to abolish the dowry system. Our younger generation should come forward to rectify this trend. They should set an example by neither demanding nor offering dowry. Those who demand dowry should be socially boycotted. Unless the younger generations volunteer for such noble tasks, no such reformatory projects can succeed.
At some place or the other, we have to put an end to the cycle of taking and giving dowry. Sometimes, it is seen that even people who have undergone the traumatic experience of having to pay dowry on the marriages of their daughters, are keen on getting dowry on their sons’ marriage. The abolishment of such social curse requires sacrifice and determination.
Moreover, an effective implementation of the law is needed to tackle the problem. According to the apex court more severe legislative measures are urgently required to curb dowry-related deaths. Also, dowry will have to be tackled through the united efforts of NGOs, and religious bodies. Media may play a vital role to mobilise public opinion against this social evil.
Islam and Muslims
As soon as a daughter is born, Muslim father are given glad tiding by the Prophet (peace be upon him) that one who is bestowed daughters or sisters, and he brings them up, educates them and marries them away, he will enter paradise. (Tirmizi, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah)
Islam made Nikah (marriage) so easy and simple. Islam does not put any financial burden on the father of the girl. A Muslim father is told to get her daughter married away in a most simple ‘Nikah’ ceremony solemnized by a ‘Qazi’ (priest) in a mosque with two witnesses. He is not even required to give any feast to the handful of invitees assembled for this occasion. In fact it is desirable on the part of the groom that he offers a Waleema to his relatives and friends. Later, it is husband who is responsible to arrange accommodation, furniture, food and all expenses for his wife.
The example of such a simple marriage was set up by the Prophet (pbuh) himself. He got his daughters married in the simplest possible manner. The Prophet (pbuh) said: "The best of the marriages is one which is least burdensome in the financial sense.” (Musnad Ahamd, Abu Dawood)
A Muslim father does not have to bother for dowry for his daughter. On the contrary, Islam enjoins the groom to give a ‘bridal-gift’ or ‘Dower’ as a token of love and assurance to his would be wife at the time of marriage. In fact without payment of this sum, the marriage cannot be completed. The Holy Qur’an instructs the Muslims: "And give the women (whom you marry) their dower (obligatory bridal gift) happily" (Al-Quran, 4:4)
It is regretful that Muslims who were given such a noble and simple way of life have gone blind and are following the evil practices of dowry. Instead of having an influence of the countrymen and tailing their footsteps, it must have been their duty to strive hard to eradicate this bane of Indian society.
(Published in monthly Eastern Crescent, Mumbai, Nov 2006)
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi can be reached at: email@example.com