Tag Archives: Islam

All set for the sacrifice – a sheep on a motor bike

A Pakistani man holds a sheep on a motor bike after buying it in an animal market in Lahore on November 6, 2011. Eid, the festival of sacrifice, is Continue reading

Suicide Bombers Strike Sufi Shrine in Pakistan

K.M.Chaudary/Associated Press


:”Suicide Bombers Strike Sufi Shrine in Pakistan”,”description”:”Militants in Lahore struck Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine, killing at least 35 people.””By SABRINA TAVERNISE and WAQAR GILLANI”:”July 1, 2010″,

ISLAMABAD, July 1 — Two suicide bombers struck Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrine on Thursday night, a devastating attack by hard-line militants on the moderate, more flexible blend of Islam that is practiced by most Pakistanis. Continue reading

Mystical Form of Islam Suits Sufis in Pakistan

Posted by Raza Rumi

A New York Times piece where I was quoted.

By SABRINA TAVERNISE- LAHORE, Pakistan — For those who think Pakistan is all hard-liners, all the time, three activities at an annual festival here may come as a surprise.
Thousands of Muslim worshipers paid tribute to the patron saint of this eastern Pakistani city this month by dancing, drumming and smoking pot.
It is not an image one ordinarily associates with Pakistan, a country whose tormented western border region dominates the news. But it is an important part of how Islam is practiced here, a tradition that goes back a thousand years to Islam’s roots in South Asia. Continue reading

Basant: Only festival where people come together

by Sher Ali Khan and Aoun Sahi

The News on Sunday: How can we make basant safe?

Yousuf Salahuddin: To start with, you have to ban motorcycles from Saturday night to Sunday evening because a majority of accidental deaths have been of motorcyclists.

Secondly, there are two companies manufacturing these dangerous strings. The issue is not kite-flying or celebrating the festival; it’s about the deadly string. Children are buying these strings regardless of the danger these put their lives in. So, the manufacturers should be held accountable.

Thirdly, aerial firing has to be stopped. This was done during Shabhaz Sharif’s last term. If he gives the stick to the police, this can be regulated.
Continue reading

Bibliography: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam By Dr. Muhammad Iqbal

Bibliography: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam By Dr. Muhammad Iqbal

Works of Allama Iqbal

(A) Works in Prose

Bedil in the Light of Bergson, ed. and annotated by Dr. Tehsin Firaqi, Lahore, 1988.The Development of Metaphysics in Persia (a contribution to the history of Muslim philosophy), London, 1908. Reprinted Lahore, 1954, 1959, 1964. Continue reading

Painting prostitutes, Pakistani brushes off religious hard-liners

By Ivan Watson

It’s hot and sweaty in a rat-infested room in Lahore’s historic red light district, a neighborhood of narrow alleyways lined with brothels.

A barefoot, long-haired woman is gyrating and twirling on the carpet, to the beat of a four-man band whose drummer sweats profusely as he pounds out a furious rhythm.

The dancer, who only gives her first name, Beenish, is performing a kind of Pakistani belly-dance called the mujra.

Her harmonium player, a skinny bald man who squints through coke-bottle glasses, has been performing like this for the past 50 years. But he says the art form is dying out. Continue reading

Baba Shah Jamal

Sufi devotees in Lahore
Some believe that Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam can be used as a defence against extremism (Photos: Kamil Dayan Khan)

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions. Continue reading

East-West exchanges: Lahoris interact with a visiting author

Lahore Nama hosted a small discussion group Lorraine Adams yesterday. Miranda Husain, freelance journalist and a writer  – also an active participant at the event – reports below:

We are happy to humbly term our discussion group with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Loraine Adams a resounding success, with most of those gathered proudly showcasing their verbal animation skills!

Ms Adams may now be known to many as a critically acclaimed novelist. However, her extensive career in political and investigative journalism means that behind the creativity lies a woman with a solid understanding of US foreign policy, especially within the global war on terror context. Significantly, she believes that despite the recent regime change in Washington, Pakistan remains immensely vulnerable in the face of the world’s largest military machine.

And this really sums up the reason behind Ms Adams’ visit.

Viewing fiction as the best means of engaging the reader’s imagination – while continuously reiterating a shared humanity – Ms Adams has deliberately chosen to set her next novel in modern day Lahore. Thus she aims to use the reader-character relationship as a vehicle to debunk the many false or distorted stereotypes about this country and its people. Such efforts must not only be welcomed, but be seen for what they are: Ms Adams’ personal contribution to the discourse on Pakistan and its position on the world stage at this critical political juncture.

Refreshingly, Ms Adams is not bashful when it comes to recognising that she, as an American and also as a Pulitzer Prize winner, is taken seriously when engaging in such dialogue. Equally refreshingly, this does not stop her from trying to seek out the entire octave range of the Pakistani voice. For she does not believe in speaking for people, but in listening to them.

This is why she asked those gathered to fill in any gaps in her research approach. Thus the discussion leapt from the real or imagined Western media bias against Pakistan to insistent requests that she visit Old Lahore. Also touched upon were issues of class divisions at the national and provincial levels based, among other things, on language. However, the recurring theme appeared to be the heterogeneous nature of Pakistan and its multiple identities, even though these were, admittedly, restricted to the Muslim realm, with no real mention of minority group identities.

Nevertheless, the discussion’s fundamental success was this: what began as a Western-Eastern exchange of perspectives transformed into an exchange of ideas on a human level. And such exchanges must never be underestimated.


Lahore Nama would like to thank Ayesha Nasir for the geneorus hospitality and a great venue for this event.

Images above are from here and here

Dancing Girls Of Lahore Strike Over “Taliban” Law

Patrick Cockburn and Issam Ahmed in Lahore
Friday, 12 December 2008

The dancing girls of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, are on strike in protest against the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire.

The strike, which is supported by the theatres where they perform, was sparked by the decision of Lahore High Court last month to ban the Mujra, the graceful and elaborate dance first developed in the Mughal courts 400 years ago, on the grounds that it is too sexually explicit. Continue reading

Lahore’s oldest guide

Raza Rumi

The interior of Data Darbar

The grave of the saint

Outside the shrine,

The shrine at night

Perhaps the greatest of the experiences at Data Darbar is to find oneself connected to a stream of humanity, shoulder to shoulder, with a shared sense of spirituality that cuts across ethnicity, sect, ritual and even religion at times. Despite the mayhem, the serenity of the place is soothing

“To traverse distance is child’s play: henceforth pay visits by means of thought; it is not worth while to visit any person, and there is no virtue in bodily presence”

Last week, accompanying a visitor from the Mecca of Sufis, Delhi, I reconnected with the Data Darbar or the royal pavilion of the great saint of Lahore, Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri. This shrine is the oldest and perhaps the most vibrant cultural marker of the past one millennium in Lahore. The title of Ganj Bakhsh was bestowed by the saint of the saints Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti of Ajmere, whose ascendancy in the Chishtia Sufi order is recognised by all and sundry. Pilgrimage to Ajmere by itself is a matter of spiritual attainment for the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent. It is not difficult to imagine then what the stature of Lahore’s Data Darbar is in this esoteric yet real and lived Islam in South Asia. While Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti honoured the Lahori saint with the title “bestower of treasure,” ordinary folk on Lahore’s streets were more direct by naming the saint as Data, the one who facilitates the fulfilment of aspirations.

Living nearly 11 centuries ago, Syed Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri was not a Lahori but a resident of Lahore’s cultural step-cousin, Ghazni, until he arrived in India and wandered in northern India before settling in Lahore for the last 34 years of his life. This was the time when mystics from Central Asia, in their constant urge to discover new vistas of spiritual exploration, started to travel and settle in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. It remains a mystery as to why Data Ganj Bakhsh would have chosen Lahore as the final stop in his life long journey. Perhaps the secular interpretation could be that Lahore was an inevitable stop over for all the Central Asian and Turkic caravans and armies and provided the right kind of environment for a foreign mystic to amalgamate into. A little before Ganj Bakhsh’s arrival, Lahore had been resurrected from the earlier ravages of time by the Ghaznavid ruler Mahmood and his son Masood.

Lahore’s fame had also spread deep into the rugged, mountainous climes of Central Asia. Its old fortified city, the banks of a gushing river and the motley collection of artisans, masons, artists, poets and musicians were all too well known.

During the 34 years of his Lahore residence, Ali Hajveri became the most revered of dervishes whose inclusive and tolerant mystical path attracted the majority of its non-Muslim population. Let us not forget that the non-Muslim population was also a subject of a pernicious caste hierarchy where access to templar gods and clerical blessings was denied to a good number of the population. This was the beginning of a centuries’ long process of peaceful conversions. Islam’s egalitarianism and its larger message of equality before God was quite a magical idea for many, not to mention that the Sufi path did not require conversion per se. This is why Data Darbar has been a hub of inter-communal quests for spiritual attainment.

Other than that, Ali Hajveri’s important contribution to the corpus of documented mystical thought is the treatise that he authored and left for posterity. Known as Kashf- al- Mahjub, or “Unveiling of the Hidden,” it is a monumental document striking for its communicative tone and systematic way of discussing mysticism.

Through the dynasties that were to follow Mahmood Ghaznavi’s controversial military campaigns, the primacy of Ali Hajveri’s shrine continued. Its centrality to the evolution of Muslim rulers meant that the origins of Islam were paradoxically not rooted in the capture of power. Voluntary conversions at Sufi khanqahs and dergahs were a constant process. The Sultans of Delhi and the Moghuls were all enamoured by the mythical might of the saint, and while the imperial grandeur continued, the ordinary Lahoris had already renamed Lahore as “Data ki Nagri”- Data‘s city. Khawaja Moin ud din Chishti undertook 40 day long meditative exercises at this shrine before he moved to Ajmere to carry on the Sufi mission of spreading love, tolerance and harmony and of re-emphasising the indivisible equality of man. The Moghul prince and heir apparent Dara Shikoh, like his great-grandfather Akbar, was also a true devotee of Data Ganj Bakhsh.

The decline of the Moghul Empire did not impact the energy of the shrine. In fact, the formidable Punjabi leader, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, like his predecessors, invested in the upkeep and expansion of the shrine complex. The rulers dare not afford the wrath or displeasure of the saint, such has been the power of imagination. Therefore, it is but logical that Mian Shahbaz Sharif, during his first tenure as the chief minister of Punjab, initiated the mega project of Data Darbar‘s physical renewal, expansion and “beautification” in the late nineties. Continue reading

Faces of Lahore

Faces of Lahore

This is a photo by Ane Malik – quite serene and brings out  the glory of Badshahi mosque of Lahore

A lament on the End of Lahore that was..

The End of Islam, the End of Lahore by Billo

Yesterday was, without doubt, one of the most depressing days here. What was termed a ‘debate’ was really a farcical show, another attempt to lampoon the “decadent” west. And here we had two teachers, both with their f**ng American twang, quoting Nietzsche-the nihilism of the west-and Plato (the noble lie..”they didn’t teach you that, did they?”) and Chomsky. A heady brew. The west is in crisis, it has no moral foundations. Pornography, incest…what’s your problem with that?This university is funded by amriki money, to produce ‘brown saahibs’ (Macaulay was wheeled in). And all this in front of the students.
“But how should we respond to the cartoons?”
Follow the will of God. And for that you need to go to the best interpreter, and that is mufti K-A…
More than that, other colleagues were attacked on the platform. The social sciences themselves were irrational, an eye-wash. The social scientists themselves devoid of any logic. We can essentialize, we must. In our tradition we talk of the kaffir and the muslim. Why should we even be concerned with words like freedom, peace, tolerance. They’re out to get us. Look at Bosnia, look at Chechnya. And all this from people who teach Business Studies and Sociology! Oh, the irony.
Now, you might think I’m making this up given that it’s so absurd. But that’s exactly how it was. And this ain’t no crummy university but supposedly the best or one of the best in the country. But what was really shocking was the way in which the vast majority of those around lapped this up, laughing and stomping their feet like f**king clowns.
A few dissenting voices, old Lahore speaking. But I can’t but help feel the game is over. I felt like saying, but have you actually ever listened to Bach. No, it won’t do. This place is buggered. There’s no two ways about it. Fanatics everywhere want people to take sides. But I prefer not to. Let us remain true to our roots and be unsure. As the Allama once said:
Even if the Divine reveals His Face
I’ll still take “perhaps” and “maybe”.