Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Shawwal / Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1423 H
January 2003
Volume 16-01 No : 193
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Book Review


Down the Path of Doom
Treasure of Wisdom
A Modern Phenomenon
Animals and Earthquakes


Down the Path of Doom

Communal Rage in Secular India
By: Rafiq Zakaria
Published by:Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, Year: 2002
Pages: 248 Price: Rs. 350

Reviewed by
Yoginder Sikand

As home to a bewildering variety of religions, castes and ethnic groups, India has no choice but to be secular, the alternative being interminable civil war and uncontrollable destruction. In recent years, the marked rise of communal and fascist movements in the country have wrought unimaginable havoc in the country, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, and threatening to set India against itself. At a time when the logic of communalism has won millions of adherents, the need to state the obvious-that India cannot survive without secularism-is particularly urgent. In this book, veteran scholar-activist, Rafiq Zakaria provides a grim picture of the way India is heading, driven by communal passions and hatred, down the path of doom. He begins with a chapter on the recent macabre events in Gujarat, which has witnessed one of the most brutal pogroms in recent history. He puts together various reports to trace the sequence of events. He writes that for years now, Hindutva groups have been spreading hatred against Christians and Muslims in Gujarat, creating an environment conducive to inter-communal conflict. He refers to conflicting reports about the burning of the train compartment at Godhra, which lit the spark that set off a trail of killings in the state that took well over a thousand lives. The book also consists of a discussion of the logic of fascism, in all the various guises that it comes in India today. Hindu and Muslim fascists, Zakaria argues, are both impelled by the same anti-democratic impulse. They claim to speak on behalf of their own communities, while, in actual fact, they are their worst enemies, causing murder and mayhem in the name of religion. Zakaria issues a grim reminder of the chilling horrors of religious fascism, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir and argues that Indians must learn from these lessons before it is too late. Zakaria urges us to a reconsideration of our own histories in order to challenge the logic of communalism.

This book is a pointed reminder of the grave threats that we are faced with today, and in that, it well serves its purpose.

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Treasure of Wisdom

My Dear Son

My Dear Son
By Imam Ali
A Selection from Nahjul Balagha
Translated by: Ali A.Behzasnia, M.D.Salwa Denny

Reviewed by
Nigar Ataulla

Slowly, safely, sailing across the seas, has arrived this brilliant book from the Islamic Academy, Trinidad, West Indies. It is very difficult to introduce a man like Imam Ali. Many people have written about his life and character. None of these are sufficient to introduce such a great man.Perhaps the best way to know him is to refer to the sayings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), to study the history of Islam or to read his book “ Nahjul Balagha” from which this book has been compiled. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) once said, “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate.” Dr. George Gordagh in his book, “ Ali, The Voice of Human Justice,” says: “ O, mother nature, it would have been wonderful of you if you would have employed all your powers and potentials to once again give birth to a great man, a genius and a hero such as Imam Ali.” My Dear Son, comprises advice from a father, who realises the mortality of life, who is old, who has patiently borne reverses and calamities, who hates inordinate desires and has overcome them. This letter that was written nearly 1400 years ago by Hazrat Imam Ali is applicable and appropriate even to this day. The book begins with the touching words of Imam Ali addressed to his son: ‘ “ After praise to God and the holy Prophet (Pbuh), let it be known to you that decay of health, passing away of time and nearness to death have made me realise, I should give more thought to my future (next world) and to my people, advise them more and spend more time in equipping them mentally to face this world. I felt that my own sons and my near ones have as much right to utilise my experiences and knowledge, all the ups and downs of life, all the realities of life and the hereafter. I decided, therefore to spend more time and to prepare you for your future. This was neither selfishness nor self-esteem, nor any mental luxury of giving away advices, but it was the sincere desire of making you see the world as I found it, looking at the realities of life as I looked at them and doing the right thing and at the right place as it should be done which made me write down these advices to you.”

The second half of the book comprises, The Richest Treasure-Hazrath Ali’s famous letter to Malik-e- Ashtar, Governor of Egypt. There is a main central idea running throughout these instructions, like one single thread out of which a cloth is woven, and that is of Allah. The government is of Allah, the governors and the governed are both creatures of Allah. This letter is based on the principles of administration as taught by the holy Qur’an.

Islamic Academy, Trinidad has put in extra effort in the quality of printing of this book that bears an international look. Packaged well, the book compels one to read it at one go and to keep reading it all over again. For copies of the book, you may have to send your letter sailing across the oceans addressed to Islamic Academy, 3, Rapsey Street, St. Clair, Trinidad, West Indies, as nowhere in the book is the email of the Academy available. But it is worth the effort to wait for days and get this book into your hands.

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A Modern Phenomenon

Fundamentalism
By Steve Bruce
Published by: Polity Press, Cambridge
Pages: 136, Price: 14 pounds sterlin

Reviewed by
Yoginder Sikand

Much has been written about the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism which has now assumed such alarming proportions in large parts of the world. For many, fundamentalism is synonymous with violence and terror, for others with politics played in the name of religion. As such, then, there is no unanimity about what the term actually refers to. Consequently, it is often bandied about as a red herring, a term of abuse to label detractors with. A simple, and definition is that Fundamentalists are those who see themselves as seeking to go back to the true fundamentals of their religion. This definition is hardly useful, as often the fundamentals themselves are subject to multiple interpretation. Then again, all believers in a particular religion, and not just those considered fundamentalists would see themselves as following the fundamentals of their faith.

If fundamentalism is not capable of being satisfactorily defined, it can, however, be sought to be explained. This slim book brings together a variety of perspectives on the phenomenon of fundamentalism.

Bruce devotes much of his attention to the dangers that some varieties of religious fundamentalism pose to our world today.

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Diary Dak

Dak Diary

Animals and Earthquakes


By Syed Sujeel Ahmed

A study conducted some time back by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey shows that strange animal behaviour might help predict earthquakes. Investigators found such occurrences within a ten-km radius of the epi-center of a recent earthquake.

According to the investigations, it is found that some birds screeched and flew about wildly, dogs yelped and ran around uncontrollably. Scientists are of the belief that animals can perceive environmental changes several hours or even days before the mishap. Animals were noted as being restless for several weeks before a Tashkent earthquake. An hour before the disaster, domestic animals refused to go indoors, and dogs howled and barked furiously. In 1960, an earthquake struck Agadir in Morocco. Survivors recall that stray animals, including dogs, were seen streaming out of town before the earthquake. In a safari zoo near San Francisco, animals would not eat the evening meal before a 1979 quake, and they ran around wildly all night. Unusual animal behaviour preceding earthquakes has been noted for centuries.

British Admiral Robert Fitzroy reported huge flocks of screaming seabirds in Chile, in 1835. An hour and a half later, dogs were seen fleeing, and ten minutes later the town was destroyed. Similar stories of chickens running around in apparent states of panic, horses trembling, and dogs barking incessantly were recorded throughout the 18th and 19th centuries by survivors of the earthquake destruction in India, Yugoslavia, Peru, Mexico, and the United States. In 1976, after monitoring bizarre animal behavior, the Chinese predicted a devastating earthquake. Although hundreds of thousands of people were killed, the government was able to evacuate millions of other people and thus keep the death toll at a lower level. In a vast country like ours, why can’t we too apply such methods like the one applied by the Chinese government to minimize the losses during quakes. We too can flash the news of earthquake by watching the behaviour of animals. For this purpose we need to setup Animal Behaviour Reading Centers with experts doing the job. You can reach Sujeel on ssujeel@yahoo.com

Islamic Voice invites readers to contribute for Diary Dak with authentic incidents, notes, people and places
from across India or the globe, accompanied with photographs. Confine your Diary Dak to 700 words.


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