معمارِ حرم باز بہ تعمیرِ جہاں خیز
از خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خیز
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ادھر آ ستمگر ہنر آزمائیں
تو تیر آزما ہم جِگر آزمائیں

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Education


Education is one of the most important aspects of contemporary society or rather any society temporally located anywhere in the world’s history. In connection with this, it is important to ascertain as to what constitutes as education. In the recent past not only in Pakistan but rather as a global phenomenon, the term ‘education’ has become synonymous with all sorts of things which would be called ‘tertiary training’ or ‘technical training’. Unfortunately, it could not be farther from the truth. For education is not technical training. Education is a name for teaching and inculcating moral values into pupils. It is more than just about moral values; it is to make them to appreciate the mores of their society. It is to make them a responsible member of the society. If education can not achieve this end for itself and the pupil, it does not deserve to be called as education. The purpose of education is to make better and responsible human beings for the society, the sorts of human being who can become an asset of the society. In the midst of our cry for moral values and mores of the society and the want for conformity with them, it is pertinent to mention lest we forget that the education must also teach the students to question. Question the very education they receive,  question the knowledge that they receive, question the values they are imbibed with, instead of being passive recipients of morals and mores they should be actually question the values they are being indoctrinated with, and last but not the least to question the authority of the society and that of the state; for it is only when we question, we can differentiate between true knowledge and falsehood. It is only when we question that we are able to transform ourselves from mere sheep to reflecting human beings. We must not forget that nature has bestowed us with the best it had, thus we must not act like sheep who have a shepherd to shepherd them where ever he wants. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I am a Human Being


I cry days and nights
Bound in chains of miseries
I neglect the affection I receive
Running after what is not mine

I look and look around,
Look for the love I never had.
Live for the love that was never mine
In the quest of conquering what is not destined for me
I kill all that is only mine

I run after those who were never mine.
Never looking at all that I had
I overlook beauties right in front of my eyes
Searching for those far beyond the horizon

I am tangled in my own thoughts
I am everything yet nothing.
I do not see nor try to look at both sides of life
I live in my own fantasies.

I sometimes loose hopes then see the world around
I do not understand just not myself

It is me who is living in me.
It is none other than me who is still lost in the spirals of sadness
It is me who is in search of me

I am a human being

A walk in the moonlight


Something deep inside
The fear of the dark night
Like wolves howling
Standing by the mountain side
A child like standing stiff
The chill icy night
All dark around with fright

The hidden moon then peeped a little
The hope of life of colour
Strived to take birth again
The child sat down screamed and screamed
The screams that none heard
All came back, but died
Stayed within like leaves of the autumn dried
No way so clear
There was so fear
Which place to hide
Waters of hope so deep
He had to run miles and miles
In the moonlight

Just to set free
To live a life of a human
Have to let go the clouds, the fears
Be not the prisoner of thy dreams, staying with the dreams
Live the life, live the dreams

The screams rested a little, fears stayed to one side
World like heaven on Earth
Started knowing his insides
Why was shrouded like in a mystery
Moved on and on
Leaving behind the worthless worries
Scares, nothing distracted the thoughts no more
Nor fueled the fires of reason
Fears passed by
Light took the place
Love found the way
Led to such a worthless life on the same Earth

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Understanding Randomness


The mind has delved into the realm of the “random”. Thus it asks the pivotal question, what is random? What constitutes random? Is random truly random? I remember my lecturer once telling the class for one of my engineering courses, “In digital world the random numbers generated are not ‘truly’ random because the system needs a ‘seed’, which is acted upon by few mathematical operators to generate this ‘random’ number”.

Accepting this premise for the argument’s sake, question arises that which ones are ‘truly’ random numbers? Randomness as a phenomenon goes beyond numbers as well to more abstract domains of words, letters and thoughts. A teacher once in school told us about the motion of molecules while lecturing on Brownian motion. He called it to be ‘random’. I guess this was officially the first time I came across the term which I understood to mean ‘something that cannot be determined prior to it occurring’ or simply ‘unpredictable’. Coming back to Brownian motion, one is compelled to further inquire whether it is unpredictable or not?

In order to understand the alleged ‘randomness’ of motion of molecules, let us perform a thought experiment. Excuse it to be an overly sciency narrative but anyways. Suppose we take an ideal gas at a temperature of zero Kelvin. It should have zero volume and zero energy. Now if this gas is supplied with a small amount of energy, the molecules would absorb this energy and thus start their vibratory motion while registering a proportional change in volume. These molecules owing to very high density of matter will have ‘elastic’ collisions with each other. These collisions will make the molecules to move in different directions. If properly analysed which the energy level of these molecules and other mechanical factors, the direction of travel after the collision can be calculated using elementary algebra. As my understanding of the word ‘unpredictable’ goes it does not include anything that can be calculated. So how come the motion is random? Or maybe the right question to ask would be; is it really ‘random’?

The scientific world is filled with processes that are called ‘random’ processes. The list includes Bernoulli Process, Dirichlet Processes, Gamma Processes and many others. But they all fall in the category of Brownian motion. The most convincing types of so-called ‘random’ processes are the ones of type alpha-particle emission as it seems not possible to calculate the emission prior to its occurrence. But having said this there is a possibility that these processes are random because our current technological level is not sufficient to ascertain the occurrence of event. So they might not be truly random but are random for us observers. This brings us to famous quotation from Einstein who while talking about randomness at sub-atomic level famously said, “God does not play dice.” To this Niel Bohr replied, “Do not tell God what to do”. Although I do not have any scientific proof to substantiate my claims, but building up from the above given arguments the possibility should not be overlooked that the processes are not truly random rather label as such due to either in availability of sufficient technology to ascertain or the calculation is too difficult to make. Whether they are sub-atomic processes, biological processes or any other including neurological or psychological process are not truly random per se. Who knows, maybe Einstein was right.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A Professor's Dilemma


A young and enthusiastic professor joined a local private engineering university. After completion of his doctorate he returned in a highly motivated state of mind in order to impart what knowledge he had acquired to the younger generation. He aspired to design the course in state-of-of-the-art sort of way so that he be able to make his students to strive beyond their capacities and try and achieve excellence at least in that particular course. He wanted to lead the students to the research horizons of his field so that to make them reach the skies. His colleagues advised him against such high goals arguing that this is a very new university and intellectual capacity of pupil does not support endeavours for such high standards. One of them suggested the professor to test these students with very trivial mathematical problems that can be solved by students of grade 10th or 12th. He further informed that the intellectual abilities of these students were not even of such a level that they could handle such trivial mathematical problems. On one hand he aspired to make his students to excel to world class standards of knowledge and on the other hand he was warned and discouraged by his colleagues and seniors that the students can not handle such high standards. With such conflicting thoughts in his mind, he moved towards the classroom to deliver his first lecture.

Assigned a course of final year students, the professor decided to conform to the later advice of his colleague and test his students with very trivial mathematical problems that should be of the level of 10th grade students. To the astonishment of the professor the complete class managed a score next to zero. These final years students of an engineering university miserably failed to answer the questions that should be within the grip of 10th graders.

With the test results in his hands the professor found himself in a fix. He was at a crossroads, where he had two choices and had to choose one of them. Unfortunately, he was not comfortable with any of these available choices. One of the choices that he had was to lower down standard of education to such a level that would be comparable with that of the pupils whom he was supposed to be teach. In this case what he could do was to start from this bare minimum level and then try and raise the standard of these pupil during the course of an 18 weeks semester. Having established this, one thing was certain that no matter how hard he tried and exerted these students, he might be able to improve them to a large extent but will never be able to reach the epitome that he aspired to reach. Considering current intellectual level of these students, an 18 week semester was way too less a time for a task of building it up to the level that is required for the professor to fulfil his aspirations. The second choice he had was to leave the students on their own and continue lecturing, maintaining those ideal standards of education that he wanted. He could lecture them without reducing the desired standard of education dis-regarding the intellectual ability or dis-ability of these students to grasp ideas presented. They were final year students and they should have been able to do it. If they are not capable enough they would simply fail as all those not capable enough always do. Reducing the standard of education just so that the students can pass the exams, it seemed morally wrong to him.

Now from here a question arises that what is morality? What constitutes a morally right position on this or any other issue for that matter? Kantian definition of morally right action states, “A maxim is morally right if it can be universally applied and then does not produce negative effects.”[1] Using this definition of morally right action let us analyse the above choices.

Let us first consider the case of reducing the standard of education. When such a maxim is universally applied this means every professor will have to do the same. Suppose every professor does reduce the standard of education just for the sake that these students can cope with it. This will obviously have some positive implications and some negative implications. The possible positive effects of such a move can be that nevertheless when the semester ends there will be some improvement in the intellectual ability of these students even if of the order of say 2%. Secondly, the results of the class will be respectable which at the end of the day matters to the students who had been paying the tuition and administration of the university if not to professors themselves. As for the negative repercussions of such an action, this will eventually reduce the standard of education on the whole. Reduction of standard of education on such a scale would obviously reduce the value of the course, thus the degree and the education itself. It leads to a sort of never ending downward spiral. As with successive years the standard of education would ultimately keep on reducing in real terms and a time will come when the degree would be worthless and outdated according to the technological level of that particular epoch. Unfortunately for us, the technological development in current age does not take into consideration the fact that pupil are intellectually not capable enough and therefore it should slow down its own pace. Rather it moves at its own pace which happens to be an exponentially accelerated pace.

Now analysing the second case of maintaining the standard of education. A standard of education which intends to stand at the pinnacle of technological advancement in current era and aeons to come. As with every deed this one will also have its own positive and negative ramifications. The negative effects of this will be that many of the pupil will fail the course and under the condition of universality of the maxim, they would eventually drop out of the university. It would increase rate of university drop outs which will negatively influence reputation of teaching staff at least if not the university itself. A high percentage of university drop-out might have a negative bearing on unemployment rate in the particular society and thus might possibly lead to social problems of its own. But these affects should be short-termed considering the fact that if such a maxim gains universality, then educational institutions catering for prior education would try to increase their standard of education for their own sake leading to reduction in the problem in long run. As for positive effects of this action. It will lead to increased respect for institution as it will be recognised as having a class of its own. It would attract intellectual brains from near and far, this would positively effect the university in form of its research output and the society at large as well. The university's graduates and its degree would gain respect and have its own worth, making it a favourable investment for those willing to invest for their education. The university would reach epitome in education and would be at the helm of research, and would surely retain such a position as long as it does not compromise on its standard of education.

The above analysis (I by no means claim neutrality for it, it may or may not be neutral) would find its supporters on both sides of the divide and many looking for a compromise between these two positions. I for one surely support the second position and abhor the idea of compromising on standard of education under any circumstances. I guess the other position would find many a sympathizers for itself and I would not be surprised if most of them are students themselves. But one thing I am pretty sure about is the fact that compromised reasoning leads to compromised results. Lastly, let me further add here that I by no means intend to blame students for these conditions, rather it is the system that is to be blamed. But unfortunately, it is the students who would suffer the brunt, one way or the other.


[1] Fundamental Principles of Metaphysics of Morals [1785], Immanuel Kant

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Ahmedi Question


The question that has come  up in the heretic mind that I carry around is, are ahmedis Non-Muslims? if yes, then why? When I asked this question to a friend of mine, the conversation went some what like this:

Me: Do you think Ahmedis are Non-Muslims?
Friend: Yes, ofcourse. They do not believe in khatam-e-nabuwat (finality of Prophethood)
Me: How do you know about it?
Friend: Who does not know? Everybody knows about it.
Me: Have you read any of their books? or do you have any Ahmedi friend who would have told    you some of their beliefs?
Friend: No. Are you Ahmedi?


After this the conversation shifted to my explaining that I am not Ahmedi and when somebody asks such questions it does not make him out of the circle of Islam.

From this conversation the obvious question that comes up is, what is meant by the “finality of Prophethood”? Well finality of prophethood is a concept intrinsic to Islam. It states that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is last of the long chain of prophets that God sent for guiding the mankind. In order to claim oneself of being a Muslim, a person has to believe in the above stated belief.

Here is a need to ask some more fundamental questions. Who has the authority to define a Muslim? What constitutes a Muslim? As I understand Islam the only authority that can define a Muslim is the Quran. Hadith being the second source of Islamic law stands second to Quran for definition of Muslim. So what does Quran say on the subject? Well as per Quran, a Muslim is a person who believes that there is only one God and believes on finality of Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). As for the hadith, it has this to say in this regard:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle said, "Whoever prays like us and faces our Qibla and eats our slaughtered animals is a Muslim and is under Allah's and His Apostle's protection. So do not betray Allah by betraying those who are in His protection.[1]

and

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah." Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik, "O Abu Hamza! What makes the life and property of a person sacred?" He replied, "Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have.[2]

Having firmly established what constitutes a Muslim, we move to see what does Ahmadi belief hold? More importantly where does it differ from the rest of Islamic sects. Before doing so, what needs to be understood is that Ahmadis have got two of their own sects as well. These sects hold slightly different views from each other. The names of these sects are Lahore Ahmediya Movement or Lahori group and the second sect is called, Ahmadiya Muslim Community. The following tables hold differences between Lahori group, Ahmadiya Muslim Community and the rest of the Muslims.


Finality of Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh)
Mainstream Muslims
The meaning of “Seal of the prophets” is that Muhammad is the last of the prophets.
Lahori group
The meaning of “Seal of the prophets” is that Muhammad is the last of the prophets. No prophet, either new or old can come after him.[3] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the Mujaddid (reformer) of the 14th century Hijra and not a true prophet.[4]
Ahmadiya Muslim Community
Muhammad brought prophethood to perfection, he sealed prophethood and religious law, thus being the last law-bearing prophet. New prophets can come but they must be subordinate to Muhammad and cannot exceed him in excellence, alter his teaching, nor bring any new law or religion. They shall be sent for the revival of the true spirit of Islam.[5]

This article of faith is of foremost importance as it talks about the finality of the prophethood. The issue of finality of prophethood of Muhammad (saw) gains further importance as it is discussed by the Quran itself. What is evident from the table above is that as far as Lahori group is concerned they do not differ with mainstream Muslims at all. Given this particular sect conforms with the rest of conditions imposed by ahadeeth given above, calling them a non-Muslim would not only be sheer arrogant stupidity but straying away from teachings of these ahadeeth as well.

As for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, this sect may have strangely different concept of the issue but if looked on the whole they tend to conform to the basic understanding of Islamic injunctions by following Mohammadan law and excepting him to be above the rest. In this sense to submit that they are outside the fold of Islam would be mis-guided to say the least. Their belief may be wrong from the point of view of majority of the Muslims but on the whole it does not deviate from the original law or the spirit of that law. The reason being that the subsequent prophets it talks about seem more like “reformers” than a “prophet”. Although they insist on using word “prophet” for their “reformer” but then the question arises, whether this is enough to throw somebody out of the folds of Islam? Not to mention the fact that the very similar use of word “prophet” exists among sufi orders as well. As Ibn Al-Arabi, the greatest sufi mystic of all times, elaborates in his book “The Bezels of Wisdom” or “Fusoos al-Hikmah” as it is originally called..




Jesus, Son of Mary
Mainstream Muslims
Born of a miraculous birth from the virgin, Mary, but not the son of God. Did not die on the cross but was transported to heaven, where he lives to return in the flesh to this world shortly before Doomsday. Since Jesus (considered a prophet) came before Muhammad, his return to Earth would not disqualify Muhammad as the “last” prophet. Jesus will come to earth not as a prophet but as a follower of Muhammad and preach the teachings of Muhammad.[6]
Lahori group
Similar to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community belief except that the question of Jesus's virgin birth is not an essential requirement of faith and is left to the individual's personal conviction.[7]
Ahmadiya Muslim Community
Believes in virgin birth of Jesus but not that he is son of God. He survived the crucifixion and did not die an accursed death. Everything with Jesus was natural like other human beings regarding his birth and his death and that is the Lord's rule. Instead he travelled east to India in search of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Jesus lived a full life and died on earth, specifically Jesus's tomb lies in Kashmir under the name Yuz Asaf.[8]

This Issue is not of so much of significance that it should act as a litmus test of who is a Muslim or not, the reason being that it is not from the basic tenets of Islam elaborated above.


Return of Jesus
Mainstream Muslims
At the “end of days” Jesus himself will descend from heaven in the flesh.[9]
Lahori group
References to the second coming of Jesus among the Muslims are allegorical in that one was to be born and rise as a prophet within the dispensation of Muhammad who by virtue of his similarity, and affinity with Jesus and the similarity between the Jews of Jesus’ time and the Muslims of the time of the promised one (The Mahdi) is called by the same name. The prophecy of the second coming was fulfilled in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.[10]
Ahmadiya Muslim Community
References to the second coming of Jesus among the Muslims are allegorical in that one was to be born and rise as a prophet within the dispensation of Muhammad who by virtue of his similarity, and affinity with Jesus and the similarity between the Jews of Jesus' time and the Muslims of the time of the promised one (The Mahdi) is called by the same name. The physical coming of Jesus (an old Israelite prophet) would disqualify Muhammad as the final prophet. The prophecy of the second coming was fulfilled in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.[11]

This Issue is not of so much of significance that it should act as a litmus test of who is a Muslim or not, as it is not from the basic tenets of Islam. But what is worth mentioning regarding Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is that it further elaborates their earlier claim regarding finality of prophethood. It seems that their claim regarding new prophets is particularly about Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself. This claim gets further elaborated below.


Status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Mainstream Muslims
Mainstream Muslims consider him an apostate and believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was one of the 30 false claimants to prophethood
Lahori group
Ahmad was a Mujaddid (Islamic Reformer) of the 14th Islamic century (19th Century Gregorian), the promised Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus. He is referred to as a prophet in the metaphorical sense only (as other recognized Islamic saints and sufis are similarly referred to), not a prophet in the technical meaning of the word.[12]
Ahmadiya Muslim Community
Ahmad was a prophet ("Rasul" as mentioned in 2:285 [We make no distinction between any of His Messengers]) but subordinate and deputy to the Prophet Muhammad. The Messiah, Imam Mahdi and Mujaddid of the 14th Islamic century, and the second coming of Jesus.[13]


As per Quranic teaching, whether I believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be an apostate or not is immaterial as far as my belief as a Muslim is concerned. Some people might argue that in hadith mentioned above does imply this. But if looked more carefully the hadith does not name the persons, therefore my view of Ghulam Ahmad becomes immaterial as long as I believe in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (saw).

As for Lahori group, they call him to be saint the promised mahdi. this belief although not in conformity with the mainstream belief but at the same time is not such that it would put them out of the fold of religion Islam. The reason being that believing in somebody being a saint or not is not a basis for checking whether the person is a Muslim or not.

For the Ahmadiya Muslim Community, this point does also help their case as they seem to refer to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as second coming of Jesus Christ. While most of the Muslims believe that Christ’s second coming is awaited event, this group believes that he did return in the body of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It again is deviant from the mainstream belief on the issue but does conform to the basic definition of a Muslim established at the beginning. As second coming of Jesus is not something which can be claimed as basic tenet of Islam. Whether he has come or is still to come is immaterial from the standpoint of definition of Muslim as endorsed by Quran and Hadith.

When confronted with this argument somebody reasoned that these people believe another thing and say something else to gain acceptance. This is a riddiculous argument and as a matter of fact can be used against anybody anywhere. As a refutation for this argument, I would like to quote the following hadith:

It is narrated on the authority of Usama b. Zaid that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent us in a raiding party. We raided Huraqat of Juhaina in the morning. I caught hold of a man and he said: There is no god but Allah, I attacked him with a spear. It once occurred to me and I talked about it to the Apostle (may peace be upon him). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Did he profess" There is no god but Allah," and even then you killed him? I said: Messenger of Allah, he made a profession of it out of the fear of the weapon. He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Did you tear his heart in order to find out whether it had professed or not? And he went on repeating it to me till I wished I had embraced Islam that day.[14]

In light of above presented argument, I strongly feel that beliefs of Ahmadis might be different from rest of Muslim sects but it does not fall outside the fold of Islam. It is so, because the basic tenets of being a Muslim can not be dependant upon the whim and desires of any person and can only come from Quran and hadeeth. As far as my understanding of Quran and Hadeeth goes, these people may not be good Muslims (by somebody else’s standards) in the same sense as all the rest of Muslim sects think of all the other of the sects as not good Muslims but still are Muslims and can not be casted out of the fold of Islam, the same should hold here as well.

[1]Sahih Al-Bukhari: The Book of Prayer, Hadith Number 387
[2]Sahih Al-Bukhari: The Book of Prayer, Hadith Number 388
[3]The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement:
[4]The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement:
[5]The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry
[6]Sahih Muslim: Hadith Number: 242
[7]The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement:
[8]The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry
[9]Islamic View of the Coming/Return of Jesus, by Ahmad Shafaat, Islamic Perspectives
[11]The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry
[12]The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement:
[13]The Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry
[14]Sahih Muslim: Book 1, Hadith Number 176