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MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-09 No:165    *   SEPTEMBER 2000 / JAMADI-UL-THANI 1421H


Faster than Light
Brilliant Birbal
The lighthouses of Faith
" I Want to Represent India in Olympics"
Islamic Timepieces
"Match the Right Answers Contest"
Result : "Moral of the Story Contest"
Arab Proverbs
Words from Quran

Faster than Light

By Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz *

HAVE you ever thought how quickly you can see things including a very distant object like a ship on the horizon, or a fast moving car round the corner. You may be attributing it to your sharp power of observation but hold on... It has nothing to do with the "power of your eyes"... it is the speed of light which brings things quickly within your vision.

The speed of light has been a puzzle for centuries. Galileo suggested one of the first experiments to measure the speed of light, and Italian scientists carried out his idea. Two men were stationed on two hilltops were to uncover their shaded lantern one by one. The scientists tried to measure the time that elapsed between the moment the first lantern was uncovered and the moment a return beam was detected. The speed of light was much too fast to be measured this way, and the scientists therefore concluded that light might well travel instantaneously.

Olaus Roemer, a Danish astronomer, calculated the time required for light to travel from the sun to the earth as 11 minutes. However, the first terrestrial measurements were made in 1849 by Armand Fizeau, a French physicist and a year later by Jean Foucault who arrived at a value of 186,000 miles per second. In 1983, the value of the speed of light was fixed at exactly about 186,282 miles per second.

All light is produced by atoms that have gained energy either by absorbing light from another source or by being struck by other particles. An atom with such extra energy is said to be excited. Ordinarily, an atom stays excited only briefly. It de-excites by giving up its "extra energy". Usually this extra energy is emitted or given off as light. The light then carries away the extra energy. In order to dissipate and distribute this energy equally in all directions, light travels and travels very fast.

For centuries, people believed there is nothing faster than light. While travelling through vacuum it is the fastest thing experienced by us. However, this belief has been shaken by L.J. Wang and his team working at NEC Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. In their experiment, researchers developed a device that fired a laser pulse into a glass chamber filled with vapours of Cesium atoms. The pulse travelled 310 times faster than it would have travelled in vacuum. It left the chamber before it had even finished entering! It was the most convincing demonstration that the speed of light-- supposedly an unbreakable natural barrier can be broken, at least under experimental conditions.

The explanation for this "abnormal" behaviour of light is simple. The light could leave the chamber before it had finished entering because the Cesium atoms change the properties of light, allowing it to travel more quickly than in vacuum. The leading edge of the light pulse has all the information needed to produce the pulse on the other end of the chamber, so the entire pulse does not need to enter the chamber before it could leave from the other side. Scientist claim that this effect was possible only because light has no mass, the same thing cannot be done with physical objects (But who knows?). This experiment, which at the moment, is a culminating part of a series of similar attempts made elsewhere also, has shown that the generally held belief that nothing can move faster than the speed of light is wrong. Besides, it is likely to help in developing faster computers which may use light particles or "photons" as information carriers-something very natural, yet not tapped and exploited by technologists.

* The author teaches Botany at Zakir Hussain College, Delhi and edits the Urdu Science monthly.


Brilliant Birbal


Shazia Andaleeb

BIRBAL was emperor Akbar's most trusted courtier and advisor. He enjoyed the highest position in the Moghul court. No one was a match to him when it came to intelligence and wit. Birbal's closeness with Akbar had made many a courtier jealous of him. They were always waiting for a chance to pounce upon him.

One day a courtier approached Akbar and said, "Birbal is supposed to be very intelligent. Let him prove his intelligence by answering a couple of questions." Birbal was summoned by Akbar and asked to face the questions.

The courtier arrogantly stepped forward and shot the first question: "Birbal, tell me where is the centre of the earth."

Birbal was a picture of calm. He pointed to a spot in the corner of the court and said, "This is the very spot which is the centre of the earth, neither an inch to the left, nor an inch to the right. You can measure the earth and verify my claim."

The answer left the courtier speechless. He knew that it was impossible to measure the earth. He just stared at Birbal's face. But he soon recovered and shot the second question.

"Okay, Birbal, you tell me how many stars are there in the sky."

He was confident that the question would upset Birbal. But for a man like Birbal, this was like a piece of cake. Maintaining his cool, Birbal asked a sheep to be produced in the court.

This surprised the courtier who sarcastically remarked: "Here I am talking about stars and all you do is to ask a sheep to be produced. Why don't you just admit that you have no answer to the query".

Birbal came out cooly: "This is part of your answer alone. There are as many stars on the sky as there are hair on this sheep's body. If you have no belief, you can go ahead and count them".

The poor courtier was totally non-plussed. He realised that he was no match to Birbal. Embarrassed, he walked out of the court never to confront the wise Birbal again.



The lighthouses of Faith


Rafiq Pasha

MINARETS are the tall, slender tower like structures of the mosque which can be seen afar. These structures never existed during the time of Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh). But the minarets have become the integral part of Islamic faith and culture. Minarets are deemed as the lighthouses of faith.

At the time of the Prophet and the caliphs there were no minarets even in the Prophets' Mosque in Madinah. Even after the introduction of azaan this concept was never thought of. The principle that higher the altitude farther will carry the voice was applied by the early callers. The call for the prayer was initially made from a pillar on the roof of Abdullah Ibn Umar's house. The muezzin Billal Habashi would climb and reach the top to call azan. Later Caliph Al-Walid Ibn Abdul Malek built four minarets, one on each corner of the mosque. These were the Islam's first minarets. He had hired Greek architects to build them. Later minarets were constructed in the great mosque of Damascus by the Caliph Al Walid.

With loudspeakers replacing the need for a high perch for the muezzin, minarets are no longer needed. Yet they remain a part of the mosques

The minarets in the early days were square and built on the model of Byzantine towers. After their adaptation in Madinah, they became standard model throughout the Muslim world. Even though the minarets had similarity with Christian Byzantine culture, slowly due to its function it was distinguished as Islamic. During a period of time the minaret design slowly evolved as Islamic architectural form bearing no traces of Byzantine origin.

Minarets built during ottoman's era were sometimes more than 70 metres tall. Sometimes they were constructed as the stepped storeys. Staircases were built inside for the caller to reach the balcony. Staircases were either made of stones or bricks and they were reinforced with arches under each landing. The classic example of this is the great mosque of Kairouan in north east Tunisia built around 836. The Wazir Khan Mosque of Lahore is the perfect example of square minarets.

The successive storeys of the minarets were given different shapes. The change continued and perceptibly a design was perfected which was widely adapted. It had a square base succeeded by a polygonal storey and a cylindrical main shaft. Surrounding the top of the shaft, a balcony was built of light wood, cantilevered on brackets or superimposed niches. Above the balcony was another storey which was crowned with a dome or a conical roof. Sometimes minarets were decorated in such a manner which made it look Islamic. In Iran minarets were decorated with striking patterns in bricks and ceramic tiles. The shorter minarets of the holy mosque of Makkah were replaced with 89 mts. tall minarets in 1955.

Now with the invention of loudspeakers, the height and the distance have no relevance.

Yet the minarets built after the advent of loudspeakers have remained true to the traditional designs. Internal staircase and balconies are slowly becoming redundant. Yet so powerful is the symbolic role of minarets that it has the central place in Islamic culture. Almost all the minarets built since the advent of loudspeakers have remained true to traditional designs, tall and slender.


Meet Athlete Sarfaraz

" I Want to Represent India in Olympics"

Mohammed Sarfaraz Ahmed in actionMOHAMMED Sarfaraz Ahmed is 21 and aspires to represent India in 110-mts. hurdles event at the Olympic games. He however missed the chance narrowly this year. In the qualifying race at Chennai in August, Sarfaraz cleared the race in 14.69 seconds but was placed fourth. The man who came first, Gurpreet Singh, recorded a timing of 14.49 seconds. Second and third were Sahib Singh and T.T. Yesudas whose timing was 14.64 and 14.68 seconds.

Sarfaraz had just landed from Los Angeles where he is a student in Management Information System (MIS) at the California State University. Chennai weather was sultry and jet-lag had also caused him weariness. Next time Sarfaraz wants to arrive early for Olympic selections and achieve his goal.

Sarfaraz has been an athlete since 8th standard. He won the Los Angeles city championship for 110 mts. hurdle in 1995. He says in order to represent the United States he will have to run still faster and clear the race in 13.8 seconds. And in order to win an Olympic gold medal, the timing required is 12.96 seconds.

What makes a good athlete. Lanky Sarfaraz says one has to stay away from greasy (oily) food, take lot of fruit and milk in the diet, avoid junk foods such as burgers, dosas, pepsi and sweetmeats (mithai) etc. A normal person requires 2400 calories of energy daily but an athlete may require upto 7200 calories. He says one needs to build up muscles which gets transferred into speed while running. Lot of fluids are required to ensure that muscles do not cramp. According to Sarfaraz the age during which an athlete reaches the peak of his career is between 24 and 28.

Staying away from oily and junk food and building of muscles makes a good athlete

Sarfaraz is six feet one inch tall and around 85 kgs in weight. He prays all the five times and even fasts during Ramazan. He says an athlete should not allow his ego to go wild and maintain Islamic values. You can also watch Sarfaraz's website at: 



THE Prophet (Pbuh) said: Those who believe in Allah and the Hereafter, should be hospitable to their guests.

Hospitality is for three days, after which whatever the host does is sadaqah (Favour).

  1. The guest is to be entertained lavishly and with an open heart for three days. This is the right of the guest.

  2. The host should wash his hands before helping the guest to wash his hands. After dinner is over, the host should wash the hands of the guest first but wash his own last.

  3. The guest should be provided with all comfort, even at the cost of personal comfort and convenience.

  4. Even if the guest had been discourteous in the past, he should be treated well.

  5. The guest should be requested to pray for the host.

  6. The Prophet (Pbuh) prayed for the host in these words.

  7. "O Allah! Bless the food Thou hast given them. Forgive them and have mercy upon them."


Islamic Timepieces

MAN has used several methods for ascertaining the time of day before the advent of the modern clocks and watches. He has also used various types of time-telling methods, such as water, sand, fire, and other methods until eventually came the pendulum clocks, the first mechanical time pieces. After that there was one improvement after another, until today's modern timepieces.

Muslim astronomists have, over the years, improved the timepieces, to the extent that they made timepieces not only to tell Salah times, but also that could tell the seasons, length of day and night, and so on. Among their achievements is the astrolabe, for determining the four points of the campus, movement of the stars, and the direction of the Kaabah, as well as the invention of the campus.

Among the famous Islamic timepieces is the Haroun Rasheed clock which he presented to the French monarch Charlemagne, and the sundial, which comes in various kinds and shapes. The Muslims of gone by times used to keep a sundial in every mosque, the famous one being the one in the Cordoba Mosque, a scientific museum piece. There is also another one at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem, another one at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, another one at the Qairawan Grand Mosque, another one at Al-Azhar, and another one at the Muhammad the Conqueror Mosque in Istanbul, plus several other famous ones that reflect Muslim scientific ingenuity.


"Match the Right Answers Contest"

ALLAH often gifted the holy Prophets with certain symbols, special talents and sent down calamities on their opponents who rejected and tortured them. All these got associated with the names of these Prophets. Match the 14 Prophets with the words laid in the opposite column and send us the answers by writing the aplhabets in a bracket against the number. For example, the name of Hazrat Nooh is associated with Floods. So the answer is 9 (L). 


1.   Dawood  A.  She Camel

2.   Sulaiman 

B.  Fish 

3.   Yusuf 

C.  Serpent 
4.   Muhammad D.  Zamzam 
5.   JesusE.  Wind 
6.   Shoeb F.  Iron
7.   IsmaelG.  Fire 
8.   Saleh H.  Quran 
9.   NoohI.   Earthquake
10. IbrahimJ.  Patience
11.YunusK. Mariam
12. Moses L.  Flood 
13. Ayub M. Healing 
14. YahyaN. Famine Management

Enclose the coupon appearing on this page along with your name, address, name of the school / college in order to reach us by September 25, 2000. The contest is open for persons aged 18 years or less. The all-correct entry reaching us the earliest will be given Rs. 300. Five subsequent correct entries will be offered a story book towards prize. 

"Match the Right Answers Contest"
September 2000


Result : "Moral of the Story Contest"

August 2000

Best Answer Rs. 500

'Divided we fail United we win' Miss M.Haseena of Magdalene Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Rahmathnagar, Tirunelvelli (T.N)

Three other best entries Rs. 100 Each

1. 'Agreement is better than argument',
Syed Arshad, Tumkur. 

2. 'Argument for agony, adjustment for harmony', 
Deeba, Bangalore. 

3. 'Unity Brings Success', 
Javeed Ahmed Khan, Mysore.

Other entries liked by the editorial board are:

'Mutual Understanding makes life easier', 
(Bilal Ahmed, Tumkur); 

'Team work, best for all' 
(Md. Muneer Loni, Nagpur); 

'United Efforts achieve the goal' 
(H.S.Abdul Rahman, Mysore); 

'Cooperation uproots deprivation' 
(Shakeel Asgar, Raipur); 

'Unity is strength' 
(Md Aslam, Sakina, Razack and Mehreen, all from Bangalore).


Arab Proverbs


'Ala gad lihafak mid rijlak.  
Stretch your legs according to the length of your quilt
Cut you coat according to your cloth 
Courtesy : Primrose Arnander & Ashkhain Skipwith, Stacey International, London.


Words from Quran



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