Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

Some of us cannot afford the hijab of today

There is a school named The Clifton High School which is not in Karachi but in New Jersey, USA, and Abrar Shahin is a Muslim student of Palestinian descent who recently graduated from this school. Sincere congratulations and best wishes in her subsequent career to the young lady who appears to possess a strong sense of identity since her photograph shows her wearing a hijab, and who is about to present us with what I hope, a healthy debate. In the hormone-charged atmosphere of high schools, where girls dress quite revealingly, it takes conviction to cover your head with a scarf at ...

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Where is the beauty of Islam?

Children’s author, Beverly Cleary, worked as a librarian for the US Army during the Second World War. In her autobiography, ‘My Own Two Feet,’ she wrote of an incident which made an impression on her during that time period: “An army chaplain requested a book on flower arranging, a subject I had not expected to interest the army. I bought the most beautiful book I could find, and when I handed it to him, he remarked, ‘We teach little children to worship in beauty and then send them to Sunday school in church basements’.” Aside from agreeing with the chaplain, the incident resonated ...

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Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 5 A child of fire

Hercules ‘filtered’ through the kitchen wall one day, but it was not his unconventional entrance or his massive djinn like physique on that occasion that made me stare at him blankly. It was that I was not used to seeing him anywhere except in the study. When I inquired so, he shrugged and walked around the kitchen, peering at the various appliances, finally stopping at the toaster. “What’s this?” I allowed myself to reflect briefly on the irony of someone as powerful as Hercules being stumped by a kitchen toaster before explaining and offering to toast some bread to demonstrate, but he took the slice of ...

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Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 4 Halloween

I hadn’t seen Hercules in a while, and I wondered how djinns celebrated Halloween, perhaps by pretending to be human. I, myself, had celebrated Halloween by putting on a Rehman Malik wig and a pair of Asif Zardari grinning dentures. I found him on a stool, and he was made up to look human. Atop his pint-sized body, on his normally clean shaven face now without a veil, were the most outsized moustaches I had ever seen; bushy, black and shiny, upturned and pointy at the ends. Before I could say anything, Hercules struck a ‘Ta-da’ pose on the carpet in front of me. “But… ...

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November 12, 2014

Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 3 Written in blood

One day, I showed a letter to Hercules which my grandmother found in a drawer of this house.  It was dated June 1942. “Dearest Lily, It’s been a while since I wrote. The cook was away and we were at the club every day because nothing can persuade me to cook in this heat. All stoves are wretched of course, but these ones much more so. My respect for Indian haunches increases whenever I see our cook, all 200 pounds of him squatting at that blazing furnace for hours doing whatever it is one does with kedgerees and curries. And then if you please, ...

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Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 2 Hercules

Having met the djinn once, I was looking forward to meeting him again. So a few days later, I went into the study and knocked on his ‘door’, the drawer at the bottom of my grandfather’s hat stand. “What?” responded an irritable voice. I opened my mouth, intending to ask him to please come out, before recalling that I didn’t know his name. What does one call a djinn in the absence of a name? Djinn sahib? Djinn ji? Or plain and simple ‘djinn’? He saved me from this dilemma by appearing just then, all six inches of him, complete with bikini, spats ...

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Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 1 Who are you?

The Pattersons, an English couple and previous owners of my grandparents’ house, had returned to where they had come from when their countrymen left India. There’s a picture of them on the landing; she is sitting on a deck chair in shorts while he is hanging over the back in white flannels with a chota peg in hand. Both of them appear to be sun-streaked blondes, the “dahling”, coffee party types. My grandmother, on the other hand, modelled herself as the ideal woman in her Bahishti zewar (heavenly ornaments) which meant that the sun rose on my grandfather’s… well from his ears, ...

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Yes, Senator Rehman Malik, you deserved to be booted off that plane!

There are times when something you dream of actually happens, like Senator Rehman Malik getting booted off that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight. Had anyone else been booted off this way it might not have had the same impact, but with Rehman Malik… it’s like being presented with a large, a very large, box of chocolates, a complete set of Harry Potter books (which are amazingly yet to be read), and a tonne of ice cream all at one go! Oh joy! My salams to the gentleman who took that stand. May you live long in a genuinely better Pakistan, with my prayers for ...

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I am with Nawaz Sharif on this one

In 2008, at the prime minister’s palace in Baghdad, President George W Bush took the stage when suddenly, a shoe whizzed through the air towards him. Bush ducked (he was good at that at least) and missed the shoe but the world heard the words yelled that accompanied the missile, ‘This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you *&% !’ And then, since normally he who has one shoe also has another, another shoe followed the first with another shout, ‘This is for the widows and orphans, and all those killed in Iraq!’ This person, who had been unable to contain himself, ...

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Cheaper by the dozen and fasting for two this Ramazan

If you remember in the book ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ (the movie was awful), Mr Gilbraith had the entire family’s (he had 12 kids) tonsils removed on the same day because it was ‘cheaper by the dozen’. The temptation to get the most out of one’s money has always been present; you see the yearning everywhere. Recognising this very fact, market gurus have come up with ‘two for one’ deals which everyone loves, for good reason. I do too myself. You can get useful things like two cartons of diapers for the price of one, two boxes of cereal for the price of ...

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