Stories about Baghdad

Iran and Iraq may not be tourist hot spots, but they offer a spiritual journey like no place else

I was recently invited to a trip to Iran and Iraq by a group of close friends from Lahore, and as I had never been to these states before, I decided to take the opportunity to visit the shrines frequented mostly by Shia pilgrims. After all, how else was I going to be able to travel through war-torn Iraq (where the Islamic State has only recently been defeated) and gain access to the heavily sanctioned country of Iran? Mesopotamia – the cradle of civilisation and home to many Imams of the Islamic world – has been off-limits to most ...

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Remembering Ibne Insha: The man who wanted ordinary people to bring a revolution

The great poet, humourist and travel-writer Ibne Insha passed into literary immortality 41 years ago. While writing in this space on the occasion of his 90th birthday, I had noted that he was not only a literary craftsman who had imbibed the art of creating natural, effortless humour out of the ordinary, but that his travelling had also exposed him to the Cold War machinations of the newly departed colonial powers, especially in the Middle East. Even before Insha was struck by the disastrous Arab defeat to Israel in 1967, he travelled the Middle East. Whatever tragedy he saw unfolding ...

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Can the Kurdish referendum potentially destabilise the Middle East?

Over the last few weeks, political conversations in Iraq have mostly revolved around the historic Kurdish referendum. This referendum allowed the Kurds to declare independence from the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. The Kurds are a stateless ethnic group of people who inhabit spaces in modern-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They’ve been one of the most persecuted groups in history and it was only recently, in 2005, that they gained constitutional recognition in Iraq. A few days before the referendum, I asked an Iraqi friend about what the referendum entails and if it would prove to be successful. He smiled and informed me that Baghdad had been resisting ...

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In the event of a terrorist attack, why are Muslims in the West forced to assure the world that they are “good” Muslims?

We witnessed yet another terrible and senseless attack against innocent people in London, in which seven people were been killed and some 50 injured. And it was only a week back when a suicide bomber of Libyan origin killed 23 innocent people at a concert in Manchester. Muslims from the local community are equally outraged and several joined hands with the local community to help. Muslim doctors at local hospitals worked side by side with other colleagues for long hours to assist incoming casualties. However, this is not enough. Whenever a terrorist strikes anywhere, but more so in a western capital, Muslims all over the world are asked to make ...

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Lessons from Islamic history: The Mutazila and Ibn Hanbal

By the time the ninth century began, the Abbasid Caliphate had completed its construction of the new capital Baghdad. Within a few decades, the city became a major centre for science, art, and agriculture. The works of Plato and Aristotle were translated into Arabic and local philosophers built on Greek thought to become the foremost exponents of discipline in the world. Within the hospitals that served both the rich and poor were separate wards for the mentally ill that utilised talk therapy, music, and art as treatment modalities. Within the clergy, a movement known as the Mutazila (literally translated as “withdrawers”) ...

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Was Quetta an ISIS job or a JuA job? Or was it a joint effort?

I found out about the Quetta bombing the way I do about most breaking news – through Facebook. My heart sank as I saw an article a friend had posted about a cameraman who worked for one of the same publications as I do. He was a father of four children and legal guardian to three others. On Tuesday, while filming a protest of lawyers outside a Quetta hospital he was killed in a suicide attack alongside 93 others. The attack – yet another in the violence-plagued south-western province of Balochistan – is said to have taken out an entire generation of ...

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I felt safer in Iraq than I do in Pakistan

When I told my friends and colleagues about my plans to visit Iraq, I received much criticism and concerns. Understanding that Iraq, like Pakistan, is under a constant threat of terrorism, the response was much anticipated. But unlike Pakistan, Iraq has a history of hosting pilgrims and tourists – even in the face of adversity. And that was what made my resolve to visit this historically rich country even stronger. Pilgrims usually visit the shrines of Imam Ali (RA), Imam Hussain (RA), Imam Musa Kazim (RA), Imam Taqi–e–Jawad (RA), Imam Ali Naqi (RA) and the martyrs of Karbala, especially of Hazrat Abbas (RA). ...

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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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How Islamic is the ISIS?

A recent news story left me utterly shocked and angry. Yesterday, the Islamic State (formerly known as the ISIS), a militant outfit, blew up and levelled one of the most well known and revered shrines in Mosul, Iraq – the resting place of Prophet Younus (AS). The militants blew up the shrine in front of a large number of people. The Islamic State (IS) has razed 15 mosques so far, belonging to both Sunni and Shia sects and, interestingly, this recent destruction of Prophet Younus’s (AS) shrine was done under the supervision of a proclaimed ‘caliph’. In the middle of all this chaos, my questions are ...

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Will TTP back the ISIS?

Reports from various sources and news agencies are claiming that Pakistan is all geared up to tackle terrorism on a large scale. The question however is: how much can Pakistan really do, with the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, protection of its eastern borders and dealing with internal security affairs? On the other hand, the United States has once again embarked upon a full scale procedure to eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Iraq. The US has confirmed that it is now flying armed drones over Baghdad. Pentagon has claimed that this act is for the protection of ...

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