Stories about God

The every day kind of fanatic

On a cold December afternoon of 2009 my Uncle and 16-year-old cousin were martyred in a bomb blast in Rawalpindi. Earlier that year, I had heard the term suicide bomber and figures of casualties on the TV innumerable times. But each time, there were a few moments of grief and then I would go back to finishing dinner or doing my homework. The reality of these words didn’t sink in until I lost my own dear ones to an act of religious fanaticism. I will always remember the smell of gun powder, roses and blood in the air from that tragic ...

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What’s with the morality brigade?

The sight of the world around us degenerating into a hate-fuelled spectacle brings pain to the heart of anyone with real faith. Man’s greatest achievement, at least according to great religious philosophers like Ibn Rushd, Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas, is the ability to act of free will rather than instinct. It is what separates man from the animals and makes us Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqaat or the highest of all creation. Sadly, roving drones around the city, nay, the world, serve as a constant reminder that the term is quite liberally applied to much of mankind. In The Decisive Treatise (Fasl Al-Maqal), Ibn Rushd, ...

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Are disease and death punishments from God?

A common idea prevalent in Pakistan is that disease and death, especially if they are severe, debilitating and disfiguring, have to be punishments from God, for acts done in the past. The fact that this idea is common among those who do not have knowledge of the sciences is not surprising, since they have grown up with superstitions. However, hearing the same rant from a medical student or a science student is not only disturbing but also depressing, since a medical student knows that most illnesses have known causes. These perceptions are more common when diseases that are sexually transmitted are ...

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Gender apartheid in the Muslim world

Before we had started praying, a man came running towards us from the front rows and forced us to stop. I was out of sorts and felt really embarrassed in front of about fifty men, when they turned around with eyes gazing at us fixedly, as if we had committed an act of blasphemy. “But you are not allowed here.” He took us to a dark, dingy warehouse on the far right. “Pray here,” he said. I looked around. It was a deserted room with unwashed utensils and dirty clothes scattered everywhere. Not allowed? I kept thinking to myself. Why on earth ...

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Reality check: India will win the semi-final

The Pakistan versus India semi-final on March 30 has the general population psyched on both sides of the border. People are vigorously praying to their respective Gods that they be given this win. Indians are keeping a vrat (fast) for the sake of the Indian team while people in Pakistan slaughter goats in the hope that God would accept their sacrifices and present a victory over India. Well, only God can really help and if He is busy on March 30 then I guess India are winning. God helped the Pakistan cricket team win the World Cup in 1992. Let us take ...

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Tolerance & understanding: Learning from Egypt

Just before Christmas last year, I passed a group of children arranging themselves in two straight lines outside the big church in F-8, Islamabad. They had a special program planned and were waiting to welcome their guests with flowers. I caught a glimpse of laughter and nervous excitement and nearly smiled, before seeing the police van, ambulance and fire engine parked on the curb. Then there was a sudden stab of panic and I wished I could stop to usher them all inside. “Please, God, let them be safe,” was all I could think on the way home. Is it ironic ...

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The significance of the Karbala story

The Islamic New Year has arrived, but instead of the celebration that we see in other religious traditions, there is mourning and reflection because of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (RA). There is an exhaustive amount of literature on the history of this tragic event in the canons of Islamic thought across all the schools of thought, but it is not the historicity of the event itself which is of concern but the existential significance of it. Religious literalism can be best described as grasping for excruciating detail of the event, usually steeped in antiquity, whilst forgetting to draw from these ...

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Terrorised again: Welcome to my world

It’s been a while since I wrote about my country’s current state of affairs or the multiple attacks that continue to make me believe I’m a soldier living in a war-zone. On any given panic-holiday, I meet my friends for brunch and talk about how good it feels to finally have a day off – you will never find us complaining about some extra hours of sleep. You see, we Karachiites are completely desensitized to disgustingly worrying levels of poverty, bomb threats and suicide attacks. Living in Karachi, you grow up and you learn to toughen up and just deal with things. We ...

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