Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The chosen ones, the lucky ones

( these are specifically my personal views)
By Almas Akhtar
Sep 2015
( via Almas"s various blogs)
According to Abu Huraira : The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever goes out for the Hajj pilgrimage and dies, then the reward of Hajj will be written for him until the Day of Resurrection. Whoever goes out for the Umrah pilgrimage and dies, then the reward of Umrah will be written for him until the Day of Resurrection".
Few hours back I got the news about the death of a extended family member at Mina and that two others with him ( wife and son) are still missing. 
I am wrong he is not dead he is a "shaheed" according to my Islamic Belief and there is no greater death than that of dying in your "ihram"while performing Hajj.
I know the family is very worried for the safety of the two missing family members. I along with all their family members are praying for the safety of the mother and son. Family members all over the world are calling the telephone numbers frantically and praying day and night. 
I have picked up the phone two times since this morning to call the daughter of the "shaheed uncle" but I could not dial the number. I don't know why I think he was one of Allah"s favorite, maybe all those who achieve martyrdom at Mina were Allah"s favorite.
Life and Death is what this world is all about, we are born and we die but we don't know when and where. Some people die within few minutes, some suffer for years before their death.
Hajj 2015 has been mered with two tragedies the fallen crane near Kabba which killed several hundred people and then the stampede at Mina which killed over 700 people. 
The word Hajj means "to intend a journey", theoretically which is both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions or the spiritual side of Hajj.
I know it may be hard to understand, but when you're in Mecca looking at the Kabba you want to stay there forever. More so you're likely to ask Allah to let you die in Mecca. In fact you can hear it in the dua's of people throughout the journey. You never feel closer to Allah or care less for the world then when you are in Mecca during Hajj or Umrah. I went for Umrah last year with my family and when ever I heard Janaza after prayer, I secretly hoped and prayed that one day when my children are grownup my Allah calls me to this Holy land for my death. 
Just like Hajj life is also a journey!
I don't know if it was just me or others feel the same, the last day when we were leaving I could not move my eyes from the sight of Kabba. Good byes are always hard but that particular one was very hard!
It's not that anyone becomes suicidal. It's not that the Saudi government need not to do a better job with crowd control. It's not that those operating the heavy machinery shouldn't be held accountable. I agree with all that I also agree with the frustration of the families. By any means I don't need to say that we shouldn't push for measures to protect the Hajjis.
What I'm trying to say is that nothing in the world is more pleasing than the thought of meeting our Allah our creator while performing Hajj or Umrah while we are in His House.
Oh Allah, have mercy on those souls, and let them meet You while proclaiming the Talbiya as they did in this world. Let us meet You while You are pleased with us!
Labek Allah Humma Labeik!
Maybe those who achieved martyrdom during Hajj 2015 were the chosen ones, maybe they were the lucky ones!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bin Roye.......finally

So finally after months of anticipation yesterday was the day for the Movie Bin Roye"s Premiere in Michigan. It was great to see the excitement of over 600 people from our community. The crowd was a mix of young and old American Pakistanis, over excited female fans of Hum Tv and few reluctant husbands who came in with their wives. They were all enthusiastic about supporting their newly revived film industry.
The promos went quite well but then due to "technical difficulties" the film could not been played in the theatre. The sheer disappointment on the faces of the over 600 attendees was quite obvious...."why us? again?"
Well the crowd was given a choice to watch the film in the adjacent smaller theatre or the other Paki film Jiwani hai Diwani or just go back. 
We managed to get "front front row" seats in theatre 17 which was playing Bin Roye. Even though it was highly uncomfortable but were able to watch the movie!
My analysis of Bin Roye could be summed up in one line. It is basically a Pakistani drama turned into a movie. 
Story was "typical" and film was greatly "predictable".
I wasn't that impressed by the acting of Humayun Saeed why is he the popular actor in Lollywood these days? He is quite old and looks old, casting him with Mahira Khan was no doubt a big mistake...the couple looked odd and awkward together. 
The direction, songs and colorful dresses did add glamour and glitz to the movie. 
Everything was romantic and uplifting, until the intermission, after which the audience is put through an emotional turmoil. Will Irtaza notice his bestfriend’s feelings or will he follow his heart? will Saba make a sacrifice that’ll haunt her for life?
I greatly enjoyed the other mega publicized Pakistani film "Bol" ( 2009)more than this one. Bol was an excellent film about socio-political issues plaguing our community. 
Even though "Bin Roye" lacked the wow factor, the audience enjoyed lovely views of Clifton beach, Dolmen Mall, beautiful mansions in Karachi and the "pretend Tariq Road on chaand raat".
Way to go Pakistan film industry!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One calls him Ibrahim and One calls him Abraham , hajj and yum kippur on the same day!


Prophet Ibrahim had two sons Ismael from his second wife Lady Hajrah and Issac from his first wife Lady Sarah. Both sons were raised in two different countries far away from each other. Both became Prophets. Prophet Mohammed the Holy Prophet of Muslims was a descendant of Prophet Ismael.  Prophet Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Jews along with his father and his son. Like their mothers  Prophet Ismael and Prophet Isaac never got along with each other but came together to bury their father.

Jews and Muslims are quite different from each other yet the two religions are quite comparable to each other.

Tommorow is a unique day it's the day of Haj for the Muslims when over 4 billion Muslims will circulate the Kabba in Mecca like Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail did many years ago. They will run seven times across Safa and Marwa the two mountains like Lady Hajrah. Pilgrims in Mecca will be at Mount Arafat, praying for forgiveness.Those Muslims who are not on the Hajj are encouraged to fast the day of Arafat, which in solidarity with their co-religionists in Mecca.

Tomorrow  is also Yum Kippur which is day of atonement , the Holiest Day in Judaism. Jews all over the world fast on this day.

The coinciding of both the Day of Hajj and Yom Kippur will not happen again for many years in fact many decades and that’s why this year’s Muslim and Jewish holidays are very special.

Technically the rituals of Yom Kippur and Arafat, are remarkably similar. Both communities worship the same God. Both communities honor the same Prophet who is Prophet Ibrahim.

Muslims call him Ibrahim and the Jewish people call him Abraham.

And on this day in the year 2015 many of his descendants who may don't like each other, will break their fast almost at the same time, all across the world.

Hajj Mubarak and Happy Yum Kippur!

Diyar e Dil ; journey of happiness through one"s heart

DIYAR  E DIL : journey of happiness through one"s "dil"

Of all the urdu serials on air at this time, Diyar-e Dil is probably one of the few with a well-plotted story, a deep message and some excellent acting. Farhat Ishtiaq’s powerful story and strong acting by the major characters makes this serial worth to watch.   She has tackled the age old phenomenon of " bachpan ki mangni" and the stubbornness of Desi parents. As a writer, she gives each of her characters the luxury of telling their own story in their own way. While many dramas and films are based on strong bond among the female characters Diyar e Dil is the story of Aghajaan and his sons Behroze and Shoaib. The older refused to marry the girl his dad has picked out for him and the younger honored his father"s wish by marrying that girl. It is a story of so called "authority" shown by parents in our culture towards their children. It is also the story of stubbornness of our youth who fail to let go. Or maybe let go when it's too late. The drama also depicts the eastern family values shared among grandchildren and grandparents.

The bond between parents and children is too strong, it cannot be broken by high flying egos is the message of this drama. This ego breaks people and only regret remains thereafter.

Maybe after the Disney/ Pixar film "Finding Nemo" Diyar e Dil focuses on the close bond shared between fathers and sons.

The drama is slowly drifting to its end with the grandchildren being  in charge. DD also gives the message that often hatred and anger blindfolds a person thinking capabilities.

While the story dwindles towards the last few episodes Wali and Faraah have emerged as two strong people.......Wali as the caretaker and Faraah who is finally listening to her heart.

It's easy to be angry, show anger towards others but very hard to pick up the broken pieces of a broken relationship. To ask for forgiveness from others may be hard but is a source of relaxation. The drama is very close to reality and tells that truth always prevails.

Look around, listen to your heart, think with your head and mend fences before it is too late.......
Tune in for Diyar e Dil on Tuesday nights on Hum Tv!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Being Humanistic rather than Being Feminist

Being Humanistic rather Being Feminist

I am a woman, want to see a woman being elected as leader of my country. I see two strong female candidates in the current US Presidential race but sorry can't vote for them. My answer " I want to vote for a humanistic person to become President".

My case: Being Humanistic rather Being Feminist.

It was Detroit’s Renaissance High School in autumn of 2012 a brief campaign stop over of the Democratic Party through Michigan which was a "swing state".Olympic gold medalist and Flint native Claressa Shields introduced Vice President Biden to the crowd. Biden praised the 17-year-old as a perfect example of Michigan’s and of America"s "do not give up attitude".

Crediting President Obama with the US auto industry’s revival, Biden said their re-election campaign can be summed up with the popular "made in Michigan" bumper sticker “General Motors is alive, Osama bin Laden is dead!”

“This isn’t your father’s Republican party anymore,” Biden said, adding: “It isn’t even Mitt Romney’s father’s Republican party anymore.” George Romney was Michigan’s Governor in the 1960s. Mr Romney was born in Michigan but he was trailing in polls in the state.
President Obama"s action to restructure General Motors and Chrysler helped prevent a domino effect that would have taken down everything in the auto industry, from the factories that manufactured auto parts to the dealers who sold the cars". It helped many blue collar families across the state. Many of them were there cheering for the Vice President who could easily connect with them, who quoted sayings from his stay-home mom quite frequently. He was a son, husband, father and grandfather and a man who had endured many personal tragedies in life. His smile was quite captivating which did not reflect the pain hidden inside him.

Joe Biden did not have the Kennedy charisma or the GQ looks, with white hair, big smile and long stories to tell he seemed like an Average Guy or maybe an Average Grandfather who cared for everyone. His funny childhood stories about playing with neighborhood children in a factory town and daily bus rides home to stay with his sons after he lost his wife and baby daughter in an automobile accident made people laugh and cry periodically.

As he concluded his speech and moved towards the crowd to shake hands and wave good bye, I got up from my seat and yelled " you have the same birthday as me Mr Vice President. He was few feet away from me, he heard me, turned around and said "awesome, few awesome people are born on nov 20th every year!".

That was my only interaction with Vice President Biden, could not get a chance to get a picture with him yet greatly admired him. I had voted for him and Obama in 2008 and liked them but that day when I saw him interacting with auto workers, university students and regular everyday people I could tell he was not acting or was uncomfortable among the sweaty and tired people who had waited for hours for him. He was not in a rush, listened to them, giggled with them. He was at ease with the public which is the greatest quality a politician can have!

Biden may run for President in 2016, I will support him, work for his campaign and vote for him just because he is a personable guy and politicians who can make other people comfortable around them have the strength to make a difference.

A friend informed me about a young lieutenant who  died suddenly of a seizure in Washington, D.C., just days ahead of his departure to Afghanistan. Another army personnel mentioned the young man"s death to the Vice President Joe Biden who had met the lieutenant"s father several times in the early days of 1988 and now in 2012, Biden asked for the father’s phone number.
He called the father and talked to him for over an hour, trying to console him for his terrible loss. This was not a courtesy call from the Vice President of a country, it was one father talking to another.

Early this year in 2015 Biden lost his 42 year old son Beau to cancer, he was crying openly during the memorial service. Joe Biden had sat with Beau and his younger son Hunter for many months in their hospital bed while they recover from that tragic accident which killed their mother and baby sister. He was not only their dad but more than that maybe a combination of mom and dad.

Tragedies make people angry and negative but not Mr Biden. He still smiles a lot, talks a lot. Hold hands, give advises. He has taken care of his family and friends all along, he will take care of American People too if he becomes President. After all they will also be his family. The greater American Family!

Conclusion : We don't need a reformer, adviser,entrepreneur to lead the free world we just need a good human being!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Un-American Ones ....#iStandWithAhmed

The "Un-American Ones"

A 14 year old ninth grader was super excited, he had worked extremely hard to build a digital clock and wanted to show it to his teachers in McArthur High School early Monday morning. He entered school with a smile. Ahmed Muhammed wanted to become an engineer one day, he thought his teachers will be proud of him and he would become popular among them in the beginning of school year. He had build the digital clock from a pencil case.

Well  the 14-year-old child"s day ended not with praise, but punishment, pretty harsh punishment as the school called police and he was arrested. His teachers thought the clock looked like a " home made bomb".

Maybe because his name is Ahmed Mohammed, he is of Sudanese decent, his skin color is not white and he is a Muslim.

So all Muslims are criminals and terrorists ? Maybe so according to the teachers in Irving, Texas. Even so children who are educated in American Public Schools by American teachers.
Is it the zero-tolerance mindset, mixed with a bit of Islamophobia........the scare of Muslims kind of thinking which led to the police called to investigate an enthusiastic science student.

Come on people Ahmed is not a terrorist. He is like millions of so many other kids going to school in USA.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the Columbine massacre in 1999, killing of Muslim students in North Carolina last year were few of many events in how this country now reacts to " threats" or "irrational fear".

The police released the child later and dropped all charges, since yesterday the story has been tweeted and shared on facebook thousands of times.

Even President Obama tried to
sugar coat the situation. He tried to comfort  Ahmed by tweeting "Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great"!

Mohamed, who is of Sudanese background, drew support from a number of high profile African-American personalities including talk-show host Montel Williams and rapper Talib Kweli Greene.

As the hashtag #iStandWithAhmed spread on Twitter a number of NASA scientists gave their backing to Mohamed, including astronaut Chris Hadfield, and systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi.

But can this kid or many more around him can ever forget the feeling of "being labeled as the bad guy"!
Maybe not!

When I look around I see myself as a Muslim with a not so common name living in America. I look around at the children in our community will they be treated like Ahmed? Should they not show their artistic and scientific masterpieces to their teachers?
Are we the Un-Americans?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chai ka Cup

It's just a drink ........really it is!
Some like it strong, some like it hot, some not so hot , some like to add milk to it, some add sugar, some just add water to a tea bag, some honey and pistachios, some boil it for hours, some have to wait for the perfect color, some have to have a certain flavor........it's just a drink .......maybe it is an art, maybe it shows hospitality or more than that!
People serve it to guests, enjoy it with friends, drink it to celebrate , drink it when they are depressed or maybe under stress. Students drink it while studying, colleagues drink it while negotiating a deal.......remember East India Company they hypnotized the Mughals with the aroma of chai!
The Americans transformed it to "chai latte" and the Europeans invented "tea time".
It's tea break during a cricket game, tea time during tough negotiation,it's tea twinglings from Assam or chai-walas at railway stations maybe the medicated green tea of china.........
People fall in love, life-long friendships are made, marriage proposals are considered, leaders negotiate arms deals, patients recover slowly, gratitude expressed, anger reflected .........all over "just a cup of tea"!
It serves as a medicine, an addiction, a habit. Books were written, treaties signed and masterpieces created all over a cup of tea! Really!
Every person, every household, every country has a tea story!
It is served in fine porcelain, French Noritake, road side teapots or in paper cups.

It is more than a companion during grief and gratitude, happiness and solitude and also during manipulation and treachery !

It's just a cup of tea......my chai ka cup!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Kipling and his love for Lahore

Famous British author Rudyard Kipling lived in Lahore as a child and a young adult after his father was sent there as the curator of the Lahore Museum. The newspaper "Civil and Military Gazette" was published in Lahore, which Kipling called his " mistress and most true love",it appeared six days a week. Kipling published his first collection of verse in 1886 called "Departmental Ditties".
Rudyard Kipling wrote about the culture, traditions and people of Lahore in the thirty-nine stories published in the Gazette between November 1886 and June 1887. In November 1887, he was transferred to the Gazette's much larger sister newspaper, "The Pioneer" in Allahabad in the United Provinces. In Allahabad, he worked as the Assistant editor of The Pioneer.
One of his most famous novel "Kim" is based in Lahore in which the hero Kim (Kimball O'Hara) is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier and a poor Irish mother who have both died in poverty. Kim earns his living by begging and running small errands on the streets of Lahore. The novel is set in early 19 th century in Lahore which was a cultural icon of British India. Kipling writes about the Moghul Architecture, gardens and streets of the city and especially about the " Ajaib Ghar " ( museum).Mahbub Ali, a Pashtun horse trader who is a British secret service helps Kim. Kim is deeply immeresed in the local culture, many regard him as a local child.
Kim befriends a "Tibetan Lama" who is on a quest to free himself from the Wheel of Things by finding the legendary River of the Arrow. Kim becomes his "chela" or the person who tames him. Kim's trip with the lama along the Grand Trunk Road is
the first great adventure in the novel.
Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling was the curator of the old, original Lahore Museum, and is described in the scene where Kim meets the Lama. The gun in front of the Lahore Museum described in the first chapter is an existing piece called Zamzama, sometimes referred to as Kim's gun.
Kim ranks 78 in the list of 100 best novels of English Literature. Rudyard Kipling got the noble prize in literature in 1907. Other than Kim his most notable works include "Jungle Book".