All posts by ivestige

A Philanthropist ,traveller ,freelance blogger @Dawn_com @Nation.com @theasians.co.uk @DunyaBlogs

KAABA: ALLAH AND HAJR UNDER THE CEILING OF THIS HOUSE

Kaaba

I travel to open my heart and eyes and learn more around the world than our books will accommodate. I travel to bring what little I can in my ignorance and knowlwdge,to those parts of the globes whose riches are differently dispersed. Six years ago I travelled to Mecca to perform Hajj in search of a few unanswered questions.

Hajj is one of mankind’s most enduring rites for more than 1400 years. The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their household during their absence. There are about 3 million Muslims from all over the World perform Hajj and approximately 4 million Muslims perform Umrah every year. The present form of Hajj was established by Muhammad with its roots in the chronicle of Abraham, the Hajj is a set of rituals performed every year for five days in the month of Zia-Hajj. Pilgrims follow the route of Muhammad, who went on only one Hajj. It begins in Mecca, before moving to the desert of Mina, then to Arafat, for a day-long vigil, then to the rocky plain of Muzdalifah, a few miles away, where pilgrims collect pebbles to ritually stone the Devil, and then brings back to Mina for three days. Back in Mecca, pilgrims bid farewell to the Kaaba.

What is so special about the Hajj that it is expected to produce close to significant changes in the personality, attitude, and outlook of a person? Is there anything magical in the rites and rituals of the Hajj that produces the changes, or is it the constant conscious effort on the part of the performer to inculcate in himself/herself the spirit of those rites and rituals which brings close to the desired changes? What is the most significant aspect of this adoration?

Since my return from Hajj I have consulted many accounts written on Hajj to learn the essence and core lesson from Hajj. Majority of the accounts discuss about the rewards of Hajj, seldom scholars have pointed out towards the literal message.

 While browsing many accounts on Hajj I came across a quote from Jaffer Sadiq:

“Ismail buried his mother Hajr in the area of Hijr-e-Ismail and then constructed a wall over it so that people would not step her grave.”

The whole practice of Hajj hides in these lines. This tradition is further explained by Dr Ali Shariti in his account on Hajj. He elaborates:

“Toward the west of Kaaba there is a semi-circular short wall which faces Kaaba. It is called Ismail’s Hajar. Hajar signifies lap or skirt. The semi lunar wall resembles a skirt. Sarah, the wife of Ibrahim had a black maid called Hajar. Here was a woman who was not honoured enough to become a second wife to Ibrahim yet Allah connected the symbol of Hajar’s skirt to His symbol, Kaaba. The skirt of Hajar was the region in which Ismail was raised. The house of Hajar is there. Her grave is near the third column of Kaaba.”

What a surprise since no one, not even the prophets, is reckoned to be buried in mosques, but in this case, the house of a black maid is located next to Allah’s house! Hajar, the mother of Ismail is buried in that location. Kaaba extends toward her grave. There is a narrow passage between the wall (Hajar’s skirt) and Kaaba. When circumambulating around Kaaba, Allah commanded that you must go around the wall not through the passage otherwise your Hajj will not be taken on.

Those who believe in monotheism and those who have accepted Allah’s invitation to travel to Hajj must touch this skirt when circumambulating the Kaaba. The grave of a black African maid is now a part of Kaaba; it will be circumambulated by man forever! Today the infection of social profiling still remains where we are judged on the colour of our skin, caste, social class or even beliefs.  How wonderful is this symbol that Ismael planted? A flag of equality at the entrance of the all knowing, all seeing Great creator’s household. Now we can affirm the Kaaba is humanity’s bastion.

Allah, the Almighty needs nobody and nothing. However, among all His countless and eternal creatures, Allah has chosen one, mankind, the noblest of them. From among all humanity: a woman, from among all women: a slave, and from among all slaves: a black housemaid!

The weakest and most humiliated one of His creatures was given a place at His side and a room in His house. He has come to her house and become her neighbour. Hence now, there are two, Allah and Hajar, under the ceiling of this House!

The rites of Hajj are a memory of Hajar. The word Hijrah (migration) has its root in her name as does the word immigrant.

Hajar’s grave is in the midst of man’s circumambulation of Kaaba. You, the immigrant, who has disassociated himself from everything and accepted Allah’s invitation to go to Hajj, you will circumambulate Hajar’s grave and the Kaaba of Allah simultaneously. The planets rotate around the sun, the electrons around the nucleus, rotating around such a center mean allegiance with love. Tens of thousands circumambulating around the Kaaba and Hajr like the galaxy turning together with billions of stars.

Although the history of hajj goes back to Ibrahim’s era, but Islam contributed furthermore towards Hajr. In the second year after Hijrah according to some traditions Prophet Muhammad was commanded to change direction of prayers from Mosque Al-Aqsa to The Holy Kaaba. Prayers have become a constant reminder about the importance of women. Stand in respect when you embark on your prayers and bow down to bury your ego to acknowledge the status of women and thank Almighty God in Sujood for giving you this chance to infer. It is hard to realise. But for those who think they live in freedom and defend humanism, the significance of these incidents transgresses the scope of their apprehension.Coronavirus infections at Tokyo Olympics rise to 79

Esteem is an unassuming resounding force. It means being treated with consideration and esteem and to have a regard for other peoples’ feelings, listening to people and discovering them, i.e. giving them one’s full attention. Even more importantly, respect means treating one with dignity.

Respect is the opposite of humiliation and contempt. Hence, where the latter can be a cause of conflict, the former and its opposite can help translate it. How do you feel when you are appreciated, honoured and respected ?

Do women need any legislation to protect themselves under such commandment ?

Ali Ibn e Abi Talib must have said these words in respect of Hajr:

”Be respectful to women,for they are the mothers of mankind”

Remembering innocents


If you require my personal opi­nion, I don’t like this law at all. Even people who are deeply religious have spoken out against this black law. I have showed my solidarity with minority communities who are being targeted by this law and, in doing so, I have sent across a firm message. The actual problem is that the government is not prepared to face religious fanaticism head on. The thing I find worrisome is that if you examine the cases of the hundreds tried under this law, you have to ask, why is it that only the poor and defenceless are targeted? How come over 50 per cent of them are Christians when they constitute less than 2 per cent of the country’s population. This points clearly to the fact that the law is abused to target minorities. What I find particularly loathsome is that when you speak of amendment, people assume you condone the crime. If I am against the death sentence, it does not mean I condone murder. The sentence against Aasia is inhumane. I have been handed over an appeal for a presidential pardon which I will convey to the president and soon Aasia will be pardoned. The blasphemy law is not a God-constituted law. It’s a man-made law. It was founded by General Ziaul Haq. Hence it’s a law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities. Salmaan Taseer a vocal critic of the blasphemy law, showed his overwhelming support for Aasia Bibi and his response on blasphemy laws in an interview with Newsline on December 23, 2010

On 4 January 2011, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad by his bodyguard, who disagreed with Taseer’s above stand on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and Aasia Bibi. Ever since he was murdered for attempting to reform blasphemy laws in 2011, politicians have been reluctant to take a firm stance on the issue. Religion supposed to provide sanctuary to those who are insecure intellectually or physically not to take life of those who have difference of opinion or no opinion.

On 13 April 2017 a mob of hundreds of students marched through the university campus chanting religious slogans as they searched for Mashal Khan, he was grabbed from his room by a mob, while they stripped naked and beat their colleague Mashal Khan with sticks and bricks, the 20-25 students of the Mardan university enjoyed precisely this feeling of righteousness. They said Khan had posted content disrespectful of Islam on his Facebook page and so they brought it upon themselves to punish him. Ultimately, one student took out his pistol and shot him in the head and chest and then his body desecrated by a mob accusing him of committing blasphemy. Hundreds of others watched approvingly and, with their smartphone cameras, video-recorded the killing. This indicates that much of the Pakistani public endorses violent punishment of suspected blasphemers. Why? How did so many Pakistanis become bloodthirsty vigilantes? Politicians and clerics have both spoken of the need to prevent false blasphemy allegations. But there is less agreement on whether blasphemy laws should actually be altered. A great deal of the condemnation has revolved around the mob taking the law into their own hands. Mashaal Khan had blasphemed! Until this was finally exhibited to be false, no proper funeral was possible in his home village.

Mr Iqbal Khan said my son, was murdered by people who he had trusted would teach him. He will never come back, but his memory may live on eternally. I know justice will not bring my son back. Still I urge all political parties, for your children’s sake and mine let’s become one. Let’s send out the message loud and clear.  

No one should be frightened of going to school.

We lost Mashaal Khan but I don’t know what message we gave to the world in his demise. Mr Iqbal Khan has astounded everyone with a composed response to his son’s brutal murder, no tears from him but an imperturbable and indomitable warrior who is trusted to get justice for his son. Mashaal Khan had Iqbal Khan for a father, a respected figure with strong social bonds and political beliefs who has become an inspiration for thousands of people like me.

Could the case change blasphemy laws?

I am afraid no, we will be raging again for someone innocent, who will become the target of blasphemy, hundreds of articles will be written and countless condemnations from the lawmakers.

Sigh!

Paedophilia

On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of an outbreak of coronavirus causing severe illness, which was subsequently named SARS-CoV-2. As of April 01, 2020, nearly 874,560 COVID-19 caseshave been documented, although many more mild cases have likely gone undiagnosed. The virus has killed over 43,428people.

Shortly after the epidemic began, Chinese scientists sequenced the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and made the data available to researchers worldwide. The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has since caused a large scale COVID-19 epidemic is the product of natural evolution.

The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered, according to findings published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Since corona has spread almost across the globe, it has been declared a pandemic. While we are waiting for a breakthrough to cure the corona virus, I would like to bring your attention towards another pandemic which has always been here: paedophilia; child sex abuse.

Paedophilia is believed to have occurred in humans throughout history. The International Classification of Diseases defines it as a, sustained, focused, and intense pattern of sexual arousal as manifested by persistent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, or behaviours involving pre-pubertal children. Child sexual abuse, also called child molestation, is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means), indecent exposure of genitals, child grooming, child sexual exploitation or using a child to produce child pornography.

Child sexual abuse occurs in all populations. It happens to children in all socioeconomic and educational levels, across all racial and cultural groups, and in both rural and urban areas; it can occur in a variety of settings, including home, school, or in places where child labour is common. The vast majority of child sexual abusers include someone the child knows such as a relative, teacher, clergy, neighbour, or friend. Approximately 60 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls who were sexually victimized were abused by someone the child knew. The global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males.Approximately 30% abusers are relatives of the child; around 60% are other acquaintances, such as friends” of the family, babysitters, or neighbours. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; Child sexual abuse often occurs alongside other possibly confounding variables, such as poor family environment and physical abuse.

Child sexual abuse can result in both short-term and long-term harm, including psychopathology in later life. The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, propensity to further victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to the child, among other problems. Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma. Research has shown that traumatic stress, including stress caused by sexual abuse, causes notable changes in brain functioning and development.

The physical signs of child sexual abuse are often hard to detect, as most perpetrators avoid physically harming their victims so they can repeat the activities over time. Because of this dynamic and the fact that children generally disclose long after the last contact, few children will have diagnostic findings. Child sexual abuse can be very different from rape, where force and restraint are used and signs of injury are generally present. Children who received supportive responses following disclosure had less traumatic symptoms and were abused for a shorter period of time than children who did not receive support.

In 2015 authorities in Kasur uncovered a massive paedophilia ring. In a scandal that rocked the Pakistan, at least 280 children were sexually abused by a gang who blackmailed their parents by threatening to leak the video, it involved an organized crime ring that sold child pornography to porn sitesKasur child sexual abuse scandal is a series of child sexual abuses that occurred in Hussain Khanwala village in Kasur District from 2006. 

The man linked to the rape and murder of the four boys in Chunian, spoke out following his arrest about his own history of suffering sexual abuse. He was abused for 12 years at the shop where he worked, he told police, who later arrested his former employer.

In 2017, Pakistan’s penal code was amended to address the endemic problem of child abuse. Laws were tightened concerning child pornography, exposure of a child to seduction and child sexual abuse.

In 2018, over 3,800 cases of child sexual abuse were reported across Pakistan, according to child rights organisation, SAHIL. The most vulnerable groups were identified as boys between the ages of six and 15 years old, and girls who are either infants or between 16 and 18 years old.

In October 2018 six-year-old Zainab Ansari’s body was found in a trash dump in Kasur’s main town. Police said she was raped before she was killed. Imran Ali, a local man, was arrested and convicted for her murder in a high-profile trial following countrywide protests against the crime.

On February 07, 2020 Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution calling for the public hanging of convicted child killers and rapists. The non-binding resolution follows a spate of high profile child sex-abuse cases that have provoked outrage and riots across Pakistan in recent years. The Quran commands us that a murderer should be hanged, child killers and rapists should not only be given the death penalty by hanging, but they should be hanged publicly, said Ali Muhammad Khan, Pakistan’s parliamentary affairs minister, who presented the resolution in the national assembly.

Although sexual abuse and murder of children are among the most horrific crimes, but the death penalty is not a solution. Capital punishment does not deter crime. Executions, whether public or private, do not deliver justice. They are acts of vengeance and there is no evidence that they serve as a uniquely effective deterrent. Pakistan should focus on proper child protection and crime prevention measures instead.Lawmakers in Pakistan need to look at the facts; there is no evidence anywhere in the world that capital punishment deters crime any more than prison.

As a society, we have a collective responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse. I am sure there will be cure for COVID-19 soon, but the child sex abuse. There is no evidence that paedophilia can be cured.

Sassui of deebal And the first mosque of South Asia

Sassui of Deebal and the First Mosque of South Asia

Sassui is the prettiest of all girls in the world. 

Oh prince, she is absolutely matchless. 

She is a fairy from Koh Qaaf. 

Her eyes are deeper than oceans on the earth, 

Her cheeks are brighter than stars in the sky, 

Her voice is sweeter than the cuckoos in the jungles. 

Whoever sees her smiling loses heart to her.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai 

Shah Jo Risalho reflects the mood of Shah Abdul Latif‘smystical moods, his poetry is inspired by the folk tales of the Indus Valley and Punjab. Shah Abdul Latif’s symbol of the woman soul exemplifies the Virahini (A woman separated from her lover) tradition in the Hinduism. All his folk tales revolve around the fate and fortune of a woman, who are completely dedicated to the union of her lost beloved. The heroines of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry are known as the eight queens of Sindhi folklore. All of them are celebrated inSindh for their honesty, integrity, piety and loyalty. The Eight Queens of Shah Latif’s are Marui, Momal, Sassui, Sadia, Noori, Sohni, Sorath, and Lila. Shah Latif has insinuated in elaborate way to these characters of Sindhi folktales and used them as allegories for high spiritual life. Although Shah Latif, came from a relatively orthodox Muslim background, but spent a period wandering through Sindh in the company of Hindu Yogis.

Deebal (Banbhore) is broadly known for two reasons, the folktale of Sassui and Muhammad bin Qasim’s entry point to conquest Sindh.

The folk tale of Sassui illustrates this genre very well. Sassui, a Brahman’s daughter was born with an unlucky horoscope foretelling she would marry a Muslim. The inauspicious fortune prompts her parents to place her in a basket in the river to rid themselves of the child. Retrieved from the river by a washer man. When Sassui became a young girl, she was as beautiful as the fairies of heaven. The handsome young Prince of Kecch falls in love with. Punnhun’s father and brothers were against his dishonourable marriage to Sassui, him being a prince and she being a washer man’s daughter, do what they can to ruin their marriage. Accordingly the made the couple drunk and kidnapped the prince. Waking up in the morning, Sassui finds her bed empty. She became mad with the grief of separation from her lover and ran barefoot towards the town of Kecch in Balochistan. She finally achieves union with her beloved in death.  

All are enemies, camels, camel men and brother in laws,

Fourth enemy is wind that removed the foot prints of Punnhun,

Fifth enemy is sun which delayed its setting,

Sixth enemy is sky which did not make travel easy,

Seventh enemy is moon which did not shine longer.

Shah Latif sings this historic tale as an example of eternal love and union with Divine, symbolising Sassui’s drunken slumber, as sleep of heedlessness, and her setting out in search for her beloved as always beset with trials and difficulties.

The city of Deebal dates from the 1st century BC to the 13th century AD. The city was gradually deserted after the 13th century due to change in the course of the Indus.

Government of Pakistan conducted a large scale excavation during 1958 through 1965 and unearthed extensive remains of various types of buildings and invaluable cultural material. The remains include a large fortified harbour town, an outer city, and industrial areas.

The masonry of the remains of the Grand Mosque is finely dressed limestone laid in mud mortar. A flight of three steps in each portal are decorated with a variety of sunflower and lotus flower patterns. A noticeable feature of all the doorways was the presence of Siva Linga, carved on the lowest step of the stairs.

The moveable cultural material found here included, fourteen specimens of Kufic inscription carved on dressed limestone slabs, many stone blocks carved with sunflower or lotus patterns. F.A. Khan and identified remains of a large structure, as a Grand Mosque, which was constructed in 727-728AD.

Soon after the discovery of the Grand Mosque, in 1960 M Abdullah Chaghatai, a scholar of Muslim Architecture, visited the site and did not agree with F.A. Khan on following points:

The structure has no Mehrab in the western wall. According to him mosque at Kufa and Wasit (The city was built by al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf in c. 702 CE on the west bank of the Tigris across from the historical city of Kashkar) cited as examples of early mosques, did have Mehrabs.

The structure appears as a terrace and must have been a Hindu Temple.

Some of the elements such as basis of pillars are carved with Hindu motifs.

The square ground plan as of this structure is favourite plan of a Hindu Temple.

The discovery of Kufic inscriptions from this structure only suggests its reuse as a mosque during later period.

Later in 1969 S.M. Ashfaq does not agree with Chaghatai and asserts that the structure identified by Khan, functioned as a mosque throughout its existence, showing that the mosques in Kufa and Wasit did not have any Mehrab in their original structure.

The first building phase of the structure represents the famous Hindu temple. As recorded by the Arab historians, the temple was destroyed during the war in 712 AD. The Abbasid Caliph Mustasim Billah decided to utilise the structure, and ordered the Governor of Sindh to convert it into a prison. The job was completed in 853AD in the reign of Caliph Mutawakkil. A strong earthquake in 894 AD destroyed the entire city of Deebal. Prince Muhammad bin Abdullah of the Habbarid dynasty of Sindh converted the structure into a mosque in 906AD that continued to function in the last building phase. This mosque which came into existence does not representthe one built by Muhammad bin Qasim, nor can it be deemed the oldest mosque of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.The observation made by Chaghatai in 1960 stands correct. (Ancient PAKISTAN volume XV Muhammad Ishtiaq Khan)

Since 2010 five seasons of excavation and research have been conducted jointly by Pakistani and Italian team of historical and archaeological mission where Prof Dr Valeria Piacentini, scientific director for the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy, works tirelessly alongside a group of 10 Pakistanis, headed by Naheed Zehra, director for exploration and excavations.

According to Professor Piacentini; what has been found indicates the area to be an interlacing of different religions and a hub of religious creeds, a remarkable harbour, a cultural hub, a bastion town, a thriving marketplace of luxury goods and at the centre of trade with a large part of the world, including Inner Asia, Eastern Asia, the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean. And all the research so far indicates that Banbhore is in fact Deebal. There is no doubt it is Deebal.

The process of Islamisation of Sindh was long and gentle. Most likely the conquest of Sindh was motivated by the economic gain of its land, and the control on Persian Gulf. With a common language, and with the wandering spiritual teachers revered by people of all faith, the division between Hindus and Muslims of Sindh was not, until the recent decades. I hope the religious tolerance prevail in the land of seekers of peace.

Dara shukoH: i was not a terrorist

In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. God is the first, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden.

Praise be to the absolute existence. God’s essence manifests so that the seed of  Perfection, which lies latent within it, may become patent.

My friend, the human spirit has entered this framework of the body so that which is potential may become actual, and may return, enriched with all experiences, to its original source.

I was born on 11 March 1615 in Ajmer. I was the eldest son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Begum. My father named me Dara Shukoh; Dara means wealth or star, it is interesting that second part of my name is spelled in two ways where “Shikoh,” stands for terror and “Shukoh,” means glory, splendour and grandeur in Persian.

I was Sufi natured and peace loving. I was a disciple of religious gurus like Baba Lal, companion of Saint Kabir, Mullah Shah Badakhshi; I was a friend of the naked mystic Sarmad Kashani of Jewish Armenian antecedents. I was also a friend of 7th Sikh guru Har Rai.

As part of Mughal norms, I studied Quran, Persian, history poetry and calligraphy. Compared to my father and brother Aurangzeb I have huge respect towards Hinduism. I have spent time with Hindu Pandits and Sadhus to know more about Hinduism. I spent time translating Upanishads in Persian language which was an attempt to reduce differences between Islam and Hinduism in Hindustan. I devoted much of the efforts towards finding a common mystical language between Islam and Hinduism. My spiritual incessant quest for monotheistic strands in Hindu philosophy led me to study the Upanishads, and with the help of some scholars of I managed to translate 50 Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian.  

My parents Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal had 4 sons: Dara Shukoh, Shuja, Muhiuddin who later became Aurangzeb, and Murad. In terms of religious outlook, I was the otherworldly Sufi, with my apparent indulgence of all faiths other than my own, Shuja had distinct leanings towards the Shia faith, Muhiyuddin the orthodox Sunni, and Murad with no religious affiliations whatsoever, content as long as the pleasures of the senses continued unabated. 

One part of the palace comes alive with me reciting poetry and holy books of all religions. And the other parts, mainly the training ground, use to tremble with Aurangzeb’s Swords and Spears. I was an art lover, and my brother a seasoned warrior. Our extremely opposite ideologies kept us apart from each other, even when we both were brought up in the same atmosphere.

When my father suddenly got unwell, he formally announcesme as his heir, granting me the title of Shahzada e Buland Iqbal. This infuriated my brothers, especially Muhiyuddin.But my brothers refrained from publicly expressing their displeasure. All of them wished to see themselves on the throne, but there was just one Peacock throne. My father’s affection towards me and coldness towards my brotherMuhiyuddin grew with every passing day. My weakest link was that I seldom stepped out of the safe confines of the palace walls. My father kept me close to himself. Whereas Muhiyuddin was frequently sent by father to the battlefields. And he returned stronger every time.

In June 1658, Aurangzeb besieged father Shah Jahan in the Agra Fort forcing him to surrender unconditionally by cutting off the water supply. Jahanara the eldest sister came to Aurangzeb proposing a partition of the Empire, Punjab and adjoining territories for me; Shuja would get Bengal; Murad would get Gujarat; Muhiyuddin’s son Sultan Muhammad would get the Deccan and the rest of the empire would go to Aurangzeb. But Aurangzeb refused Jahanara’s proposition on the grounds that I was an infidel. 

Muhiyuddin changes his name to Aurangzeb after the coronation. And also adopts the title of Alamgir. Jahanara joined her father in imprisonment at the Agra Fort, where she devoted herself to his care until his death.

The armies of both of us faced one another in the battle of Samugarh, near Agra. I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when I stepped down from my howdah to come to the aid of my beleaguered soldiers. When they saw the empty howdah, the soldiers assumed that I have beenkilled and surrendered. I escaped to Thatta in Sindh and then to Gujarat. I sought refuge with a local chieftain Malik Jiwan on the escape route to Afghanistan, but he betrayed me to Aurangzeb.

I was brought to Delhi, placed on a filthy elephant and paraded through the streets of the capital in chains, my fate was decided by the political threat I posed as a popular prince with the common people. Aurangzeb was not expecting such enormous public sympathy for me from the citizens of Delhi. Convocation of nobles and clergy, called by Aurangzeb in response to the perceived danger of insurrection in Delhi, declared me a threat to the public peace and an apostate from Islam. I was assassinated by four of Aurangzeb’s henchmen in front of my son on the night of 30 August 1659.

Aurangzeb could’ve pardoned me, but he wanted to set an example to every rebel, of what could happen to those who challenge him. Aurangzeb ordered his men to have my head brought up to him and he inspected it thoroughly to ensure that it was mine indeed. He then further mutilated the head with his sword three times. After which, he ordered the head to be put in a box and presented to his ailing father, Shah Jahan.

The face of water can never be veiled by ice…

though a bubble might be seen, unveiled by ice.

Truth is reality’s ocean, both worlds inside it:

like water in ice, and water… concealed by ice

Colonial Lahore of Rai Bahadur sir Ganga Ram

Lahore had been a capital of Mughals and Sikhs long before the East India Company’s annexation of the Punjab. Destabilisation in the region after the death of Ranjit Singh served as an alibi for British Military intervention, which enabled the final annexation of Lahore. Lahore came under direct control of the British East India Company in 1849.During the colonial era Lahore became the centre of a web of religious, cultural and personal connections reaching out to the cities of the Indian sub-continent and to the world. Colonial Lahore featured on the tourist trails eased by railway links and hotel development. 

The city transformed under the colonial state that used it as a symbol of its Majestic power. Lahore became one of the largest cities of the Indian subcontinent. Colonial period laid the foundations of modern Lahore with Indo- Islamic style of architecture. A few miles from the walled city were scattered villages surrounded with landscape. The British were interested in the fertile lands of the Punjab. The Lahore Canal was built to open up barren lands between Lahore and Ferozepur. In 1861 the British, with the experience of the 1837 famine in the sub-continent in mind, decided to build a series of canals to open up fertile lands to ensure that future famines were avoided. 

Sir John Lawrence, Governor of Punjab laid the foundation stone of Lahore Railway station in 1959, it was one of the earliest purpose built structure in Lahore, which was completed in three years. The British built Mall roads in most of the cities they ruled. The origin of Mall roads is known as Pall Mall in London. To connect Anarkali with the new British administrative area known as Mian Mir Cantonment, a public road was built that was named Mall Road, which is a classic example of colonial era Lahore that has developmental history. 1860 was of historic significance for the Mall road, as it marked the beginning of its landscape development. 

Mall road shows the vision of the British who envisaged itsconception keeping the future scenario in view. In early colonial accounts, Lahore as a city is confined to the walled city. British confinement of Lahore to the spaces inside the walled and gated city enabled administrators collating facts about the city to separate it from its suburbs and contiguous areas.

The early residential development in Lower Mall was known as Donald town. The Upper Mall was both an administrative and recreational area with the Government house and the Lawrence Gardens in which the Lahore Gymkhana Club was located. The central Mall was known as Charing Cross. The alignments of the Mall road remained unchanged until 1920, where after extensive developments were made in the eastern sections of GPO crossing by the Executive Engineer Sir Ganga Ram.

The history and architecture of Lahore cannot be separated from Sir Ganga Ram, who was one of the most respectable names when it comes to the beautification or welfare services in Lahore. Sir Ganga Ram was the father of modern Lahore. His works stand tall even today and each monument speaks for his meticulousness and eye for detail. For twelve years, he was the executive engineer of Lahore, a period which has been called as Ganga Ram period of Architecture.

The Lahore High Court, the museum, Post Office Building,the Anglican Cathedral, and National College of Arts are a few of the several examples constructed following this hybrid tradition. In these structures, balconies, columns and watchtowers, interact with domes, canopies, arches and screens. In Lahore, all of these iconic structures were raised by Ganga Ram. From the leafy end of the Mall that begins with the Aitcheson College to the university and Lahore museum it is the spirit and creative vision of Ganga Ram which permeate the air. Ganga Ram also built and endowed the Maynard hall and Hailey hall for the Punjab University.Working with the colonial state, he transformed the landscape of the city to reflect the glory of this new empire. A new cityhad been raised from the debris of its Mughal past.

Ganga Ram Hospital, Lahore 1921, Lady McLagan Girls High School, the chemistry department of the Government College University, the Albert Victor wing of Mayo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram High School, now Lahore College for Women, the Hailey College of Commerce, now Hailey College of Banking & Finance, Ravi Road House for the Disabled, the Ganga Ram Trust Building on The Mall and Lady Maynard Industrial School. He also constructed Model Town and Gulberg town of Lahore, and the railway track between Pathankot and Amritsar. He also gave Lahore new waterworks in addition to many other buildings.

He died in London on 10 July 1927. His body was cremated and his ashes were brought back to Lahore. A portion of the ashes were consigned to Ganges River and the rest buried at his Samadhi in Lahore on the bank of the Ravi River.  Sir Ganga Ram had served Lahore with his intellect and zeal for giving Lahore the best architecture which is a pride of Lahore.

The brothel houses were first developed by the British in old Anarkali Bazaar for the recreation of the British soldiers during the British Raj. After that these were shifted to Lohari Gate and then to Taxali Gate. Under the British colonial rule, Heera Mandi became a hub of prostitution. The place was originally the center of the city’s courtesan culture in the Mughal era, known as the Shahi Mohallah, it was a specific place where the servants, and courtesans of the king used tolive. The British authorities offered several justifications for the British regulation of prostitution in colonial British India. One justification of such state regulation of prostitution was the notion that prostitution was a vital safeguard against homosexuality. The British saw another further need for prostitution, It was seen as necessary to stave off boredom among soldiers. The British preserved and regulated prostitution through mandatory licensing and medical examinations, not out of concern for prostitutes, but out of concern for their own military men.

Sleepless on a hot August night, the narrator sets off towards Lahore City. 

The moon blazes down onto sleeping men, lying like corpses. 

A restless child stirs on a rooftop, and is stilled by its mother. 

Through the Delhi Gate he enters the walled city, where it seems even hotter and more stifling.

He hears men talking and pulling at their hookahs, and a shopkeeper balancing his books behind the shutters. 

At the Mosque of Wazir Khan he climbs a dark stair to a minaret high above the moonlit city. 

A muezzin gives his splendid cry to prayer, briefly rousing the sleeping men………

__ James Thomson

June 21

June 21, the sun brightens our skies longer

Democracy: is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Feminism: The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.  The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Feminism at its core is about equality of men and women, not sameness. Feminism is not about hating men.

Although democracy and feminism are not as democratic and feminist as they should have been, but we still have something to celebrate because of the struggle of Benazir Bhutto. I often quote the fragments of her speech delivered at Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. In her speech she advocated Islam, women empowerment, and democracy. Let me quote some again to refresh our memories and celebrate her day of birth, because she still is alive for whatever she had contributed towards democracy ant women empowerment:

Empowerment is not only a right to have political freedom. Empowerment is the right to be independent; to be educated; to have choices in life. Empowerment is the right to have the opportunity to select a productive career; to own property; to participate in business; to flourish in the market place.

Muslim women have a special responsibility to help distinguish between Islamic teachings and social taboos spun by the traditions of a patriarchal society. This is a distinction that obscurantist would not like to see. For obscurantists believe in discrimination. Discrimination is the first step to dictatorship and the usurpation of power. In distinguishing between Islamic teachings and social taboos, we must remember that Islam forbids injustice; Injustice against people, against nations, against women.

It shuns race, colour, and gender as a basis of distinction amongst fellowmen. It enshrines piety as the sole criteria for judging humankind. It treats women as human beings in their own right, not as chattels. A woman can inherit, divorce, receive alimony and child custody. Women were intellectuals, poets, jurists and even took part in war. The Holy Book of the Muslims refers to the rule of a woman, the Queen of Sabah. The Holy Book alludes to her wisdom and to her country being a land of plenty. The Prophet Muhammad himself married a working woman Bibi Khadija.

Women are not only victims of physical abuse; women are victims of verbal abuse. Often men, in anger and frustration, indulge in the uncivilized behaviour of rude and vulgar language against women. Unfortunately, women at times also use vulgar language to denigrate another woman. The discrimination against women can only begin to erode when women are educated and women are employed.

When I was growing up, women were not educated. I was the first girl in my family to go to university and to go abroad for my studies. Now it has become the norm for girls to be educated at university and abroad when the families can afford it. I have seen a lot of changes in my lifetime.

The end of the cold war should have ushered in peace and an era of progress of women. Regrettably, the proliferations of regional tensions and conflicts have belied our aspirations. As in the past, women and girls have again been the most direct victims of these conflicts—the most helpless, and thus the most abused. The use of rape as a weapon of war and an instrument of “ethnic cleansing” is as depraved as it is reprehensible. The unfolding of this saga in different parts of the world, including Jammu and Kashmir and Bosnia Herzegovina has shaken the conscience of the entire international community.

A woman proud of her cultural and religious heritage, a woman sensitive to the obstacles to justice and full participation that still stand before women in almost every society on earth. As the first woman ever elected to head an Islamic nation, I feel a special responsibility towards women’s issues and towards all women. And as a Muslim woman, I feel a special responsibility to counter the propaganda of a handful that Islam gives women a second class status.

There is a moral crisis in the world, a crisis of injustice and inaction, a crisis of silence and acquiescence. The crisis is caused by centuries and generations of oppression and repression. This conference, therefore, transcends politics and economics. We are dealing with a fundamental moral issue.We must shape a world free from exploitation and maltreatment of women. A world in which women have opportunities to rise to the highest level in politics, business, diplomacy, and other spheres of life. Where there are no battered women. Where honour and dignity is protected in war and conflict. Where we have economic freedom and independence. Where we are equal partners in peace and development. A world equally committed to economic development and political development. A world as committed to free markets as to women’s emancipation.

We must shape a world free from exploitation and maltreatment of women. A world in which women have opportunities to rise to the highest level in politics, business, diplomacy, and other spheres of life. Where there are no battered women. Where honour and dignity is protected in war and conflict. Where we have economic freedom and independence. Where we are equal partners in peace and development. A world equally committed to economic development and political development. 

And even as we catalogue, organize, and reach our goals, step by step by step, let us be ever vigilant. Repressive forces always will stand ready to exploit the moment and push us back into the past.

I have never claimed that Benazir Bhutto was perfect, no one is, but she still managed to offer the world an alternative model of feminism. And in her campaigns, she advocated new services for women and opposed sexual discrimination, though few measures were adopted under her government. If anyone personified the feminist and democratic struggle in Pakistan, it was Benazir Bhutto. She challenged tradition, patriarchal norms and defied cultural boundaries. She continues to reign on as the most influential Pakistani of our times, overshadowing sportspersons, politicians, generals and Islamist jihadists. She challenged terrorists publicly even when she knew that the price of that challenge could be her own life.

Benazir Bhutto was a zealous guardian of her father’s legacy, populist, appealing and glamorous face of Pakistan and a trailblazing feminist. She was a lighthouse for democracy in Pakistan: “Benazir Bhutto doesn’t cease to exist the moment she gets married. I am not giving myself away. I belong to myself and I always shall.”

In her famous speech Benazir Bhutto quoted the German writer, Goethe: Freedom has to be re-made and re-earned in every generation. We must do much more than decry the past. We must change the future.

Let me quote my own words again to conclude the article: the day lasts longer on June the 21st to celebrate the achievements of Benazir Bhutto for Democracy and Feminism.

Bood abad dayam Shahr e Lahore

The Hindu realm of Loh-awar annihilated with the departure of last Rajput king, who was defeated by the powerful Ghaznavi forces. Lahore was plundered by Genghis khan’s army. Khilji and Tughlaq dynasties didn’t give any attention to Lahore. Then came the Moghuls, Babur’s invasion brought the end of Lodhi’s kingdom.

Lahore reached the peak of its architectural glory during the rule of the Mughals. During this time, the massive Lahore Fort was built. A few buildings within the fort were added by Akbar’s son, Jahangir. Jahangir’s son, Shahjahan was born in Lahore, who extended the Lahore Fort and built many other structures in the city, including the Shalimar Gardens. The last of the great Mughals, Aurangzeb, who ruled from 1658 to 1707, built the city’s most famous monuments, the Badshahi Mosque and the Alamgiri Gate next to the Lahore Fort.

Jalal ud din Muhammad Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, who moved his Capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Lahore and elevated the city from a provincial centre to a capital city of the Moghul Empire. The first residence prepared for Akbar was on an island in the River Ravi. At Lahore the Mughal Empire under Akbar and Shah Jahan was to reach its zenith.

The Lahore Fort is a citadel in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It contains 21 notable monuments, some of which date to the era of Emperor Akbar. Lahore fort Built, damaged, demolished, rebuilt and restored several times before being given its current form by Emperor Akbar in 1566. The Lahore Fort was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire was at the height of its splendour and affluence.

Shahi Mohallah which is located deep in the heart of the vibrant city, in the very pious location of Lahore surroundedby Badshahi mosque, Data Sahab Darbar and Imam Bargah Gam e Shah. Not far from the Taxali Gate, this was built when Akbar expanded the original Walled City while rebuilding Lahore Fort. Shahi Mohallah did not exist before 1575; it wasthe centre of the city’s courtesan’s culture for the Lahore’s Mughal era elite during the 16th century. By the time emperor Shah Jehan ascended the throne a lot of people connected to royal activities, because of its adjacency to the court settled here, and children of the court were being educated and cultured in the fine arts by people living here.

Akbar’s son, Jahangir, built the first Shalamar garden in the Kashmiri landscape and his son Shah Jahan who was born in Lahore witnessed the construction of Shalamar Garden in Lahore. Shalamar Gardens were built primarily to entertain guests. The origins of Shalamar Garden are directly attributable to another garden of the same name built by Jahangir in Kashmir. The waterworks in Lahore required extensive engineering to create artificial cascades and terraces. Ali Mardan Khan was given the task whose name is closely associated with the construction of several buildings. His most distinctive work is a canal which brought water from the Ravi River to the suburbs of old Lahore, contributing to the construction of the Shalamar Garden.

The Wazir Khan Mosque was also commissioned during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as part of an ensemble of buildings that also included the nearby Shahi Hammam baths. Wazir Khan Mosque is renowned for its elaborate embellishment in a style which draws from the decorative traditions from several regions. 

Moti Masjid, despite being a small mosque and having limited usage, is no less striking than any other Mughal Era mosque. The building has its own valour and splendour, and constitutes all the elements of a mosque in a limited space. Moti Masjid is situated in Lahore Fort behind the Clerk’s House. It is one of the two mosques built in marble by Shah Jahan. The second such mosque was built at Agra Fort.

Lahore was the beloved city of Dara Shukoh, where he was serving as governor before he engaged in a civil war with Aurangzeb to claim the throne. Under Dara Shukoh, one can argue that the Mughal throne was heading towards embracing not only religious tolerance but also religious pluralism. Towards the end of his stint as the Lahore governor, Dara Shukoh summoned red bricks from Jaipur. He sought to build a pathway from the Lahore Fort, which would lead halfway across the city to the shrine of the Sufi saint Mian Mir who had died in 1635. Before Dara Shukoh could complete his pathway from Lahore to the shrine of Mian Mir, he was captured and killed by Aurangzeb’s men. Aurangzeb ordered that a mosque be constructed out of the pile of red stones that Dara Shukoh had summoned for the task. This is how the iconic Badshahi mosque of Lahore came into existence. Aurangzeb, unlike the previous emperors, was not a major patron of art and architecture and instead focused, during much of his reign, on various military conquests which added over 3 million square kilometres to the Mughal Empire. As a symbol of the mosque’s importance, it was built directly across from the Lahore Fort and its Alamgiri Gate, which was concurrently built by Aurangzeb during construction of the mosque.

Shahdara Bagh is the site of several Mughal erasmonumentally, including the Tomb of Jahangir, the Akbari Sarai, Tomb of Asif Khan, Bara Dari of Kamran Mirza, and the Tomb of Nur Jahan. Jahangir who died in the foothills of Kashmir who is buried in the Dilkusha Garden. His body was brought in a funeral procession from Kashmir to Lahore. Nur Jahan is buried at her tomb in Shahdara Bagh too, which she had built herself. Upon her grave is inscribed the epitaph:

Upon my grave when I die,

No lamp shall burn nor jasmine be,

No candle with unsteady flame,

No bulbul chanting overhead,

Shall tell the world that I am dead.

The decline of Mughal Empire began after Aurangzeb’s death. Lahore was again ravaged by invaders. The last attack on Lahore was made by Shah Zaman Durrani who besieged the city…..

To conclude the glorious Mughal era, I couldn’t find anything better than the prayer of Dara Shukoh for my beloved city Lahore:

Khuda Punjab ra mehmur darad

Ba Khak e Auliya manzur darad 

Bood abad dayam Shahr e Lahore 

Waba wa Kahat Z bakha dur darad

__Dara Shukoh 

May God keep the Punjab prospering!

May He protect the land of the Saints!

Oh, may Lahore be always full of bliss!

May disease and famine never visit it!

__ Pran Nevile

Napoleon Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

Bonaparte of Lahore: Maharaja Ranjit Singh

For Ranjit Singh, it was the capture of Lahore that was the ultimate step, transforming him from a warlord to a Maharaja. In July 1799 Ranjit Singh seized Lahore and in 1801 Ranjit Singh proclaimed himself maharaja of the Punjab. In July 1819 he finally expelled the Pashtuns from the Vale of Kashmir, and by 1820 he had consolidated his rule over the whole Punjab between the Sutlej and Indus rivers. Ranjit Singh had become a Sikh Napoleon, a Punjabi sun king.

Short in stature, never schooled, and did not learn to read or write anything beyond the Gurmukhi alphabet. He rose from the status of chieftain to become the most powerful Hindustani ruler of his time. He was the first Hindustani in a thousand years to stem the tides of invasions from whence they had come across the north-west frontiers of Hindustan. A French traveller compared him to Napoleon in miniature, while other observers praised him as a military genius. 

Ranjit Singh presided over a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-caste empire of remarkable toleration and inclusivity. The army included Hindus, Muslims, and European Christians French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and Prussian, though not British. His administration was a diverse affair; his prime minister was a Dogra Rajput, his finance minister a Brahmin, his foreign minister a Muslim. He set up separate courts for Muslims. Nezam Din was appointed chief Qazi with Mohammed Shah Puri and Saidullah Chishti as the two Muftis. For those Muslims who, like the Hindus and the Sikhs, preferred to be governed by the customary law of their caste or district, the Maharaja set up separate courts under judicial officers appointed by the Durbar. Hakim Nurudddin, the younger brother of Faqeer Aziz Uddin, was appointed chief medical officer.

Hindu and Sikh admirers deified him as a virtuous man and a selfless patriot. This academic apotheosis reduced a full-blooded man and an astute politician to an anaemic saint and a simple-minded nationalist. Muslim historians were unduly harsh in describing him as an avaricious freebooter. English writers, who took their material largely from Muslim sources, portrayed him as a cunning man, devoid of moral considerations, whose only redeeming feature was his friendship with the English____ Khushwant Singh

Lahore: Citadel of Tolerance

According to historical references, Ranjit Singh’s army desecrated Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque and converted it into an ammunition store, and horse stables. Lahore’s Moti Mosque was converted into Moti Temple by the Sikh army, and Sonehri Mosque was converted into a Sikh Gurdwara. Lahore’s Begum Shahi Mosque was also used as a gunpowder factory. 

But on the other hand Maharani Jind Kaur, the mother of Duleep Singh, donated a collection of handwritten Qurans to Data Sahab Durbar. Mai Moran Mosque which he built for his beloved Muslim wife Moran Sarkar, or how on  the request of Sufi Faqeer Satar Shah Bukhari, Ranjit Singh restored the Sunehri Mosque  back to a mosque.

Once a calligraphist who had spent many years making a copy of the Koran turned up at Lahore to try and sell it to the foreign minister, Faqeer Aziz Uddin. The foreign minister praised the work but expressed his inability to pay for it. The argument was overheard by Ranjit Singh who summoned the calligraphist to his presence. He scrutinized the writing with his single eye. He was impressed with the excellence of the work and bought the Holy Quran for his private collection; later Faqeer Aziz Uddin asked him why he had paid such a high price for a book for which he, as a Sikh, would have no use. 

Maharaja replied: God intended me to look upon all religions with one eye; that is why he took away the light from the other.

The Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Shalamar Gardens was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to celebrate his capture of the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Shuja Shah Durrani in 1813.

A market of food stuff that was set up by Heera Singh became known as Heera Mandi, which was known as the Shahi Mohalla, it was a specific place where the servants and courtesans of the king used to live. It never was a place for prostitution in the Mughal era.

The personal life of Ranjit Singh was as colourful as his political career. He loved to surround himself with handsome men and beautiful women. He lived the life of a soldier and drank hard. Ranjit Singh married many times, in various ceremonies, and had eighteen wives. In an interview with French journal Le Voltaire his youngest son Duleep Singh quoted; I am the son of one of my father’s forty-six wives.

Kipling’s description of Ranjit Singh: Four things greater than all things are Women and Horses and Power and War.

Ranjit Singh had eight sons, but he acknowledged only Kharak Singh and Duleep Singh as his biological sons. His eldest was Maharaja Kharak Singh was the eldest from his second wife. Duleep Singh was from his last wife, Jind Kaur. 

Ranjit Singh suffered from numerous health complications, three strokes, which some historical records attribute to alcoholism. He died in Lahore on 27 June 1839.Four of his Hindu wives, and seven Hindu concubines with royal titles committed sati by voluntarily placing themselves onto his funeral pyre as an act of devotion. This happened despite the fact that the Sikh Gurus had condemned and denounced the man-made notion of the inferiority of women and protested against their long subjugation. Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located adjacent the Badshahi Mosque, a sign of religious tolerance.

When Kharak Singh died in 1840, his son Nau Nihal Singh performed his last rites beside the Ravi River in Lahore. When he was returning to the palace via the Hazuri Bagh, a massive block of stone from a gate fell upon him and died instantly.

In many ways a bastion of stability, altruism, and tolerationfor forty years, Ranjit Singh’s reign was not without its shortcomings. Investment in infrastructure failed to keep pace with military spending and the jagir tax system, inherited from the Mughals, went unreformed. Without a lasting framework for future governance, after Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the empire was weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. 

This opportunity was used by the British East India Company to launch the Anglo-Sikh Wars. The Sikh empire was finally dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the British Crown.

When the pages of history are written, it is not the angry defenders of religious intolerance who have made the difference but 

In quest of jinnah

I would like to share something about his life which is not known to many, perhaps known to many.

Sir Dinshaw Petit father of Ruttie Petit belonged to a family of Parsi merchants well known for their business discernmentand philanthropy. His grandfather was a self-made millionaire, pioneer of Bombay’s cotton industry. Sir Dinshawentertained lavishly, keeping one of the best tables in Bombay. His annual Polo Ball was the highlight of the Bombay season. His grandfather famously hosted a fancy dress ball for theDuke of Edinburgh. 

Jinnah had come to Bombay penniless from Karachi, but became one of Bombay’s best known and wealthiest lawyers within the span of two decades. A star politician, known for his luxury cars and fashionable clothes. Sir Dinshaw admired Jinnah, who was very popular among his compeers because of his personality and nationalism. The friendship between Sir Dinshaw and Jinnah was unequal from the start. But the famous 1916 session when the League and Congress held a joint session in Lucknow where he emerged as the unchallenged leader of Muslims. His name was in the newspapers almost every day, either on behalf of the Congress or League, having overcome conservative forces within both parties. 

It was during one of the holidays that Ruttie and Jinnah fell in love. She was only sixteen at that time. A fashionable Parsi girl, known for her wide reading, her poetic temperament and passionate interest in politics. Jinnah approached Sir Dinshaw, and began straightforwardly, with his marriage proposals. To break the news to the unsuspecting father was not easy. The baronet did not see it coming. It was not an enviable situation for any suitor to be in. Jinnah was not twenty four years older than Ruttie but had known her since she was born. Sir Dinshaw had a reputation of a staunch supporter of intercommunity marriages, but no one, in Bombay’s mixed society, had dared to cross the matrimonial divide among the Hindus, Parsis and Muslims. It was not Ruttie’s youth only but marrying out of community. It was the unspoken rule in the older generation. 

Sir Dinshaw not only refused but took out a restraining order against Jinnah. According to Kanji Dwarkadas, Sir Dinshaw claimed in his plea for the court injunction, that Jinnah was planning to marry his daughter against her father’s wishes with an eye on her fortune, he should be kept away from meeting with her.

Some friends and relatives did advise her to forget a man who was unsuitable because of his age and religion, but also because of mismatched temperaments, politics was his only passion. But she would not hear a word against him. In 1918 Ruttie turned eighteen when they decided to get married. Jinnah chose renowned Sunni Imam of Bombay’s Jamia Masjid and a member of Muslim League Maulana Nazir Ahmed to convert Ruttie to Islam on Thursday, April 18.After keeping the world guessing Jinnah married with Ruttie on Friday 19 April. The marriage was performed according to Shia rites, well known Shia cleric Maulana Muhammad Hassan Najafi was deputed as Ruttie Dinshaw’s representative and Shariat Madar Aqai Abdul Hashim Najafi signed on behalf of Jinnah. Shareef Dewji Kanji, Umar Sobhani and Raja Sahib Mehmoodabad were the witnesses of Nikah. The only women he had invited were his two sisters, Shirin Peerbhoy and Fatima Jinnah. Jinnah forgot to buy a ring for the ceremony, but Raja Sahib came to rescue him here too, when he offered a diamond ring from his finger. The wedding document serial number was 118.37. According to Nikahnama the Mehar was Rs 1001, but Jinnah presented Rs 125,000 to Ruttie as a gift.

The news of wedding broke out to Sir Dinshaw through a newspaper. Ruttie Dinshaw the only daughter of the distinguished Parsi baronet, Sir Dinshaw Petit, yesterday underwent conversion to Islam and it today being married to the Hon. Mr. M.A. Jinnah.

The Jinnah resided mainly at South Court Mansion in Malabar Hill, very close to Sir Dinshaw’s Petit Hall. However, there was no contact between them and the Petit family, and the estrangement continued even after the birth of Ruttie’s only child, Dina Wadia, the following year. Ruttie was also ex-communicated from the Parsi Community with extraordinary measures.

By mid-1922, Jinnah was facing political isolation, as he devoted every spare moment to be the voice of separatist incitement in a nation torn by Hindu-Muslim antipathy. His increasingly late hours and the increasing distance between them left Ruttie feeling neglected. The marriage deteriorated rapidly after the birth of their child.

Ruttie Jinnah developed intestinal ailments with cancer speculated to be the cause. In early 1928, she moved into a suite at Bombay’s Taj Mahal Hotel, leaving Jinnah home with eight-year-old Dina. On 19 February 1929, Ruttie fell unconscious in her room at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Jinnah was in Delhi, when he received the call from Bombay, it was his father in law, telling him that Ruttie is not well, that was the first time Jinnah spoke to his father in-law. Jinnah reached Bombay next evening, but Ruttie was already dead. Her body was taken to Arambagh, Khoja cemetery belonging to the Khoja Shia Isna Ashri Muslims. When Ruttie’s body was lowered into the grave and Jinnah was called to throw the soil on her grave, he broke down suddenly and wept like a child.She died on her 29th birthday. 

Couple of lines from her last letter to Jinnah: 

Try and remember me, beloved, as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon…

Darling I love you – I love you – and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you..

I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy which commenced in love should also end with it.

Darling I love you – I love you….

(Credit to Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi and Sheela Ready’s Mr and Mrs Jinnah)

After Jinnah died, his sister Fatima asked the court to execute Jinnah’s will under Shia Islamic law. This subsequently became part of the argument in Pakistan about Jinnah’s religious affiliation. In a 1970 legal challenge, Hussain Ali Walji claimed Jinnah had converted to Sunni Islam. Witness Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901.Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah’s joint affidavit that Jinnah was Shia was rejected. But in 1976 the court rejected Walji’s claim that Jinnah was Sunni; effectively accepting him as a Shia. In 1984 a high court bench reversed the 1976 verdict and maintained that “the Jinnah was definitely not a Shia”, which suggested that Jinnah was Sunni.

I have been wondering for year, that how honest was Sharifuddin Pirzada? He was born in 1923, and Jinnah’s wedding took place in 1918, Sharif had stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901. If we go through theNikah ceremony of Jinnah, then where does Shariffudin Pirzada stands?

My gratitude and respect to a non-practising Muslim who was a Muslim by faith and Shia by choice, and an ambassador of all faiths.