Anger Story

(This story is written by Sanaa Shaikh of Shams class at Hedayah Gurgaon. During our discussion in class on the topic of “Controlling Anger” [Lesson 23 – Islamic Tahdib and Ikhlaq] students were given an assignment to write a story about an angry person who got into trouble because of his / her temper)

What is the worst possible way to find out you have magical powers?  Accidentally turning your sibling into a duck? Making your teacher’s hair green for a week? Giving the local bully a pigs’s tail? How about a door slam that ends up burning down your house?

Yeah, Rasheed was not having the best day.

He doesn’t even remember what the argument started over- his brother hogging the PlayStation or maybe his Ammi nagging him about homework? That was unimportant. It was followed by loads of yelling and stomping though. A trail that followed him to his upstairs bedroom where he slammed the door hard enough to crack the frame. He thought Ammi would kill him for that. Well, if Ammi knew what was to follow she may have excused him.

Rasheed wanted to punch someone, or something. The loudest, vilest things rang in his ears. His vision was blurry with tears. His jaw hurt from grinding his teeth so much. He couldn’t bear it anymore. He screamed. Then his hair promptly caught fire. Then he screamed some more.

His commotion brought his parents up to his room, who also joined in the screaming fest. Now smoke was trailing him. Everything was on fire. Rasheed fainted. 

His head felt like an anvil had dropped on it, while it was still hot. Everything was woozy. As his senses adjusted, he saw that he was outside his house. Somewhere in the background his brother was crying, and his mother was fussing over him. His father was engrossed in a very animated conversation with the village warlock, the old magician lady who lived nearby. His apparently very flammable hair was singed and burnt. Oh, also his room was charred black. He wanted to cry again.

The warlock saw that he was awake and walked over to him. She helped him up on his feet then smacked the side of his head. He yelped loudly.

“You are magic. Keep safe. Don’t burn house down. Foolish child.” The warlock was a woman of a few words. Rasheed looked around at his family sheepishly, and apologised for his actions. But there was nothing to do now, except regret.

His brother forgave him and hugged him. Then his parents also joined in. They were just glad to have regular Rasheed and not roasted Rasheed. 

The warlock lady checked her wristwatch. “Okay. You better have learnt you lesson.” She waved her hands around and his room was restored. She nodded at him and vanished in a poof of pink light. She did not restore his hair.

“Always remember, Rasheed, anger doesn’t solve anything but can destroy everything” his father patted his back.

– Sanaa

Diriliş: Ertuğrul and Muslims in Popular Media

Picture this: two strangers outside a masjid are embroiled in a lively discussion over a minor campaign undertaken by a 13th century Turkish tribal leader who doesn’t even have a recorded biography. No, they are not historians specialising in 13th century Turkey. No, they are not even Turkish. They’re just one of the many, many fans of the massively popular, semi-historical, fantasy adventure television show Dirilis: Ertugrul. Seems strange? Well, not in this universe.

So how did a show starring previously unknown actors created by a newbie director gain so much popularity that it airs in 30 countries, is dubbed/subtitled in even more languages, boasts its own cosplay and merchandise, and even has several dedicated meme pages? How is it being picked up by major streaming services like Netflix and YouTube? How does it command a several-million-strong fanbase that even includes world leaders? Why are people hosting Ertugrul-themed birthday parties and printing Kayi flags on phone covers? And most importantly, why do the supposedly ultra-orthodox, music-is-haram, tv-is-shaitan touting, wildly-conservative Muslims love it so very much? Honestly, play the opening theme in any grocery store and a Muslim person will emerge from the other aisle to share a knowing nod. 

It is rather heartwarming, and deeply surprising, to see how a TV show seemingly brings together people. Despite the fact that it is set in medieval Turkey, featuring warriors on horseback and damsels in elaborate head-dresses, it could not be more relatable to its viewers. Those who watch Ertugrul, almost see themselves reflected in it. It has found a dedicated following among Muslims, without being overly religious and preachy or stereotypical and cliched. It has managed to capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of an audience who grew up feeding on mainstream media, but yearned to see themselves represented in it. 

Think of all previous Muslim characters you’ve seen, from the gun-toting Hollywood terrorist to the shayari-dropping Bollywood poet, or even the occasional azaan soundtrack in quirky indie movies. I’m not saying that all Muslim representation in mainstream movies is negative, but the good ones are few and far in between. Dirilis: Ertugrul came and changed the paradigm. It worked quite the way hypernationalist parties work (which seems apt, considering it has also been accused of being political propaganda), it found its target audience and stuck to it. It didn’t try appealing to commercial interests or perceived prejudices, it just made a show for a relatability-starved Muslim audience, sprinkled with authenticity and creativity, and it did wonderfully. 

I suppose there’s a lesson or two here for us Muslims (apart from ibn Arabi’s highly quotable sayings), a lesson about how we want to move forward as an Ummah. We don’t see ourselves represented in the media because we always rely on others to tell our stories for us. We expect someone who has probably never met a Muslim person in their life to show accurate, honest portrayals of Muslim characters. That’s absurd, and inevitably leads to disappointment. The solution isn’t abandoning and demonising media altogether, it’s too wonderful a platform to do that. The solution is, quite simply, to tell our stories ourselves. Look at the show in question, for example. Ertugrul is a show created by Muslims, starring Muslims, for Muslims. And look at how successful it turned out. 

For too long we have presented our stories the way we expect to be seen, not the way we want to be seen. We’ve all seen Dirilis: Ertugrul, but perhaps it’s time for a Dirilis: Ummah?

Pogrom or Pandemic

Do hand sanitisers wash off blood?

We’re living in sick times and in times of sickness. There are diagnosable symptoms, there is the coughing, the fevers, the vomiting. You can get tablets in the pharmacy for them. Then there are the undiagnosable, inexplicable symptoms. The numbness in your mind, the ache in your heart, the dread in your stomach. You cannot get tablets in the pharmacy for them, you cannot even report them to the authorities 

The doctors ask the standard questions; the “whom did you meet?”, the “where did you breathe?”, the “how did you walk the street?”

I met the ghosts, made of smoke from the burning flesh, a city across.

There is the disease we don’t talk about it. It spreads from those who poison your hearts and then rot your brains. Gladly, gladly you celebrate it.

We must absolutely avoid the infected areas. 

But the broad-shouldered gun-wielders wouldn’t let you in without a lawyer anyway. You can’t see the charred and the stained from here, and the drains clogged with corpses. You’d be all too happy to stay safe, rightfully so, and complain about the Metro stations they closed. 

What fitting revenge for causing inconvenience to the general public.

We must greatly practice social distancing. 

After all it was a riot, both parties are equally responsible, it’s a balanced loss everywhere; absolutely, absolutely. But their houses, they’re ash; their lives, a burnt flash. And them? Look at the hatred in their eyes; how dare they cry victim, how dare they! You’d be all too happy to distance yourself from such divisiveness,the jihadists and the saffronites.

What fitting revenge for the immoral 500-a-day women sitting in streets.

We must quarantine the infected. 

The most important element of a pandemic/pogrom, keep them together for containing the spread/easy access. Generations of ghettos and streets, narrow enough only for a bottle of kerosene or hot coals. Maintaining public order is the need of this dark hour, lest they go back and bury their burnt and the official death toll rises. You’d be all too happy to close the newspaper and not burden your heart. 

What fitting revenge to those godforsaken, anti-national traitors.

We must wear masks for extra safety. 

Keeps the germs and the police and the pollution away, it does. It’s running out everywhere, they could just wrap a cloth around their nose and hope the facial recognition system the taxpayers paid for just doesn’t work, unfortunately; and the CCTVs are blurred or blown up, unfortunately; and the law enforcement officials are bribed left and right, unfortunately; but curse the demonic concerned citizens who did digging of their own and released phone numbers and pictures, like that is going to change anything. You would be all too happy to just shed a tear and keep silence.

What fitting revenge to those degenerates demanding rights to exist.

Alas controlling a pandemic is too expensive for rulers here, so let’s wait it out. Let’s hope they die out at overwhelmed hospitals, there’s no shortage of burial land anywhere (5 acres).

Perhaps stand sanitisers do wash off blood, given their sudden popularity in the sudden times.

Reach out to someone, cry. Help someone you can, breathe. Go out to someone, learn. Be a human while you can, and while you want to.

Protest Etiquette in the Indian Democracy

Five easy steps to become the perfect protestor

Know the Cause

Okay first of all, why would you be against anything Modiji does, huh? Anyway he knows better and kuch soch samajh kar hi kara hoga so you might as well support him by coming out on the streets. God knows what crazy thoughts these terrorist students might put in the innocent citizens’ minds. Either stay at home and watch some quality news on WhatsApp or RepublicTV or go and wave saffron flags on the road. All these infiltrators will change the face of India forever otherwise. What brutality? What secularism? What democracy? Modiji is no bigot okay he does not discriminate only, and what else do these Pakistanis deserve? Modiji has said na that a Bill that seeks to divide people on the basis of religion is not about religion at all so why don’t you trust him even though half his supporters wants a Hindu Rashtra.

Now understand the real problem this Bill address: refugees. We didn’t want refugees when the Rohingya Muslims were in the midst of a genocide just last year (but we invested in the government that was doing the genocide) because we were overpopulated and under resourced but now our 5 trillion dollar economy can support all these non-Muslim immigrants from these evil Muslim countries. And oh, ignore the Sri Lankan Tamils (some of whom happen to be Hindu also) crying about their genocide, or living under a regime with the state religion as Theravada Buddhism. Please okay, Modiji knows best.

As for NRC, whose realisation Modiji and Amitji are divided upon, of course you trust a government that hides data on hate crime, unemployment, farmer’s suicides, electoral bond donors, and its ministers’ education when it asks you to show fifty year old documents to prove your identity.

Educate Yourself

You have to read the shady article your bhakt uncle sent on the WhatsApp group, first. All these activist people are just anti national terror sympathisers, why just go and read the deleted Facebook post from 2007 they made. Don’t trust all these Congress-funded NDTV, Indian Express, The Hindu etc who are sending ground reports. They are all anti nationals and are very popular in Pakistan you wonder why. Only trust Modia that reports exactly what Modiji wants it to.

As for the protestors, all these idiot researchers, specialised students, and PhD professors, with more degrees than the Cabinet combined, people who have spent their entire life studying policies and politics are all anti nationals with vested interest. Of course they are only protesting because they read one twitter post. That Ramachandra Guha is an idiot only, what kind of historian protests violent history from repeating itself or defends the founding principles of our country? Just another stupid anti national. The United Nations and all these NGOs saying they concerned about the suppression of freedom of expression in India are all pro-Pakistan and very biased. Even Oxford university and all these foreign schools releasing statements of support are doing so that foreign students who manage to not get harassed stop coming to India. Its all a conspiracy, you know.

Support the Police

The police knows best okay. They are supposed to maintain law and order and they are doing exactly that, albeit they are using brutal and extrajudicial methods to establish the will of he dominant class. Has a police officer ever troubled you? A little bribe and they go away, no? Such amicable people they are, abusing their institutionalised use of force.

And all these Jamia, Rajiv Chowk, Mandi House protestors deserve what they got, they must have done something only. Why does the police never lathicharge Jantar Mantar or India Gate where all the rich, upper caste, privileged masses go to candle march, huh? And the police support the democratic protests also, see how nice they are to the pro-government, pro-NRC-CAA bhakts peacefully yelling “goli maaron saalon ko”. The police are just agents of the government, doing what the suppressive regime tells them to. It’s not like they want to actively suppress the voice of dissenters and detain innocents on suspicion or fire at protesters and accidentally kill themor beat up minors from Muslim neighbourhoods or whatever they do. It is their duty only na.

Do not Be Violent

If you are an anti government anti national peacefully protesting and raising slogans on azaadi why do you have to fear BJP, RSS,ABVP wagerah wagerah goons who will throw stones or get crisis actors to subvert the crowds, excusing the police to fire? Because protestors can be identified by their dress no, so local BJP workers in Murshidabad will wear skullcaps and do what they can to incite mischief. Good for them. If your anti national university gets broken into by police yelling Jai Shree Ram, and if cops leave a trail of blood in your library and shoot at students and end up arresting random outsiders that is also your fault.

History shows that asking nicely will get you everything from voting rights to emancipation from slavery to occupation in Kashmir; hence violence has no place in a protest. And protests (or dissent, for that matter) have no place in our democratic country, okay.

At the Protest

Guys, it’s very easy to protest safely, rightfully and peacefully. Just wear Modi masks and wave RSS flags and throw some “Pakistan Muradabad” while you’re at it. It’s chill bro.


Another End

How much is too much and how little is not enough?

There comes a point, after the frightened tears and ringing ears, when all becomes numb and you don’t feel anything at all. When horrifying headlines and terrifying tweets make you giggle because the alternative would be crying and you don’t have the strength to do that anymore. So you laugh in the face of utter misery, until the silence stops echoing.

I am not an student of law, or of politics, or of history. But the first thing all third graders learn in social studies class is democracy is the best form of government because the people get to rule themselves. Because they are citizens not subjects. Because its ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. Because ‘people and their wants’ is the central theme of democracy. I guess disappointment is just something you accept when you grow up. But now that you don’t get marks for it for being politically correct you can go around giving sweets to celebrate the death of democracy. I mean, if your government isn’t studying the Constitution, why should you either.

I won’t explain to you the details or the legalities of that little piece of paper considering history books will include it soon enough, for better or for worse. But I will paint you a picture, of 1.4 million troops (that’s one third of one of the biggest armed forces on the planet) holding guns on empty, deserted streets. I will show you the utter silence where no phones chime or ring, and no voices whisper again. I will take you to the homes of the disappeared, the gagged and the missing. I will paint you a picture of a people without a voice, of a people with darkness in their eyes, of a people erased. I will ask you, and you won’t answer.

On a brighter note; tyranny, forceful occupation, colonisation, ethnic cleansing, genocide? Not yet.

“Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” and move on or “Inna Allah ma as-sabireen” and wait

The struggle doesn’t end yet.


Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un

This was the First Friday after the Last Friday

The bodies not yet cold in their graves,
The bloodstains on the walls not quite gone
The flowers on the sidewalk not yet wilted
The knees of the faithful not quite worn

The iron willed, the fiery eyed, the strong souled,
They rise
“Allahu-akbar”, begins the takbīr

This was the First Friday after the Last Friday

There were gang bikers on the streets
There stood armed policemen across
There watched thousands of strangers
There with the faithful they stood in solidarity

The bright-smiling, the quiet gaited, the calm minded
They bow
“Subḥāna rabbī l-ʿaẓīm”, recited in ruku’

This was the First Friday after the Last Friday

They stand on the firmest of grounds
They avow in the strongest of terms
They impassion to the deepest of hearts
They love on the greatest of heights

The hand holding, the kind hearted, the soft spoken
They prostrate,
“Subḥāna rabbī al-‘aʿlā,” whispers of sujood

This was the First Friday after Last Friday

The broken do not weep, they are tranquil
The tragedies do not hurt, they are honoured
The martyrs do not die, they are blessed

This day too more walked through the very same doors
This day too they smiled and welcomed their brothers
This day too peace was delivered to all who sought it

The worshippers finish the first of many Salatul Jama’ah to come,
“As-salāmu ʿalaykum wa raḥmatu llāh”

They took the peace with them

Why thoughts and prayers ring hollow

There’s a numbing air of wariness as I write this. One that many of us are unfortunately accustomed to, even. After a while, the shock stops registering until everything becomes a repeated cycle of newspaper numbers, tasteless TV debates, ‘patriotic’ radio songs and a sense of gloom wondering where the next WhatsApp hate message would come from, and if you have enough emotional strength left to ‘make excuses’ to the person in perpetration or to just block them and get on with it, hoping the next time is more merciful. Because yes, there is always, always a next time. 

In the sixteen years I have been alive, and the fewer years in which I’ve actually cared, I do not (regrettably) remember a single ‘peaceful’ year which wasn’t graced by the endless circle of black bands, candle marches, and people crying in general. It all feels extremely insensitive to even think in such brash terms, but after over 16,554 deaths due to several terror-related ‘incidents’ in just the last 19 years, I daresay this terrible routine is one we’ve settled into and show no signs of recovering from. And cynicism doesn’t begin to cover it.

Two hours after the news of the Pulwama blast hit the mainstream media, I found myself with a screenshot someone had forwarded, titled ‘How Not To Be A Twat After A Terrorist Attack’ and what made me sick wasn’t the fact that there guidelines on how to behave like a decent human being but the fact there was a need for it in the first place. Or that there had to be admonitory headlines streaming by the likes of  ‘No need for hate, Muslims condemning Pulwama blast’. For in crisis there are always two types of victims, the ones who die and the ones who have to live with it. And in times like these, though Muslims may die and Muslims may kill, the Muslims have to live with it. 

Because even though our hearts wrench and bleed like any other, we must march through the streets, release statements and ‘condemn’ that which is obviously evil, in order to justify our inclusion as worthy Indian citizens. Because it hasn’t been even two complete days and people are already being booked on sedition charges over Tweets and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who they are. Because hate isn’t just poison, it’s also the plague. And you know how the plague is stopped? By burning down it’s carrier.

The more we tolerate intolerance, the more it will keep blowing up in our faces. So let’s make a vow to not get into a petty fight with with the bigot aunty from the colony WhatsApp group, to not get let your boiling blood get to your brain watching Arnab Goswami (I mean, seriously?), to not claim having a higher moral ground because you used a hashtag, to not own the privilege of crying victim when there are far worse alternatives, and most importantly, to never, ever be just another ignorant idiot our country seems to lamentably have an abundance of. Let us not sit back or make excuses and play pacifist either, because that would really be the ultimate dismissal. 

We can’t demand justice or fairness if we’re not willing to be stand there and watch it be delivered. The solemn ‘thoughts and prayers’ are in the end, just words and noises. It’s about time we make our voices heard, not only because they matter but also because no one else is going to speak for us. 

PS: Just as I finish writing this, comes the news of another blast  near Jammu.

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of a people make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.

Surah Al-Maidah, (5:8)


Born Muslim

My ancestors,

They didn’t give me grand majestic empires to run
Nor powerful thrones to vie for or crowns to hold in;
They didn’t bequeath me ancient magical wisdom
Nor gave me secrets and sorcery to run in my blood;
They didn’t pass me down multimillion dollar luxuries
Nor oil wells and gold mines to topple economies with;
They didn’t leave me with old famous textbook names
Nor family trees on tapestries to hang in the living room;
They didn’t even let me have mysterious affairs in manors
Nor generations of journalists to poignantly answer to;

But what they did do is this,
They left behind a never-dwindling wealth,
They left behind a never-fading fame,
They left behind a never-ending history,
In a different city, a country apart, a continent away, or maybe right here,
A generation ago, or a century ago, or a millennia ago or maybe yesterday,
They whispered,

أشهد أن لا إله إلاَّ الله و أشهد أن محمد رسول الله

Ashadu an la ilaha illa illa-ilah, wa ashadu anna muhammadan rasul ullah.

They gave me the ‘different’ name that doesn’t translate into my native,                                 They gave me the ‘different’ language that doesn’t read left to right,
They gave me the ‘different’ identity that seemingly doesn’t fit;
They gave me something very, very beautifully different;

They gave us ourselves; Alhamdulillah we’re born Muslim




What is in our name?

How appropriate are the words of the Ameerul Mu’mineen, Umar bin al Khattab (radiaAllaahu anhu) when he said: “We were the most humiliated people on earth and Allah gave us honour through Islam. If we ever seek honour through anything else, Allah will humiliate us again.”

How apt is this statement in today’s time, when Muslims throughout the world are being humiliated and their dignity is disrespected. Laws are being formulated and practiced against Muslim culture, accusing our self-respecting dressing for being ‘oppressive’ and ‘backward’. ‘Ghettoisation’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ is on the rise in many parts of the world. On a lower level, Muslims are the butt of jokes with restaurants slyly selling ‘Halal pork’ and Pringles wishing Ramadan Kareem on packets of smoky bacon-flavoured chips. Muslims are being asked to ‘go back to Arabia’ and are refused entry into countries for being a ‘security threat’. They are being bullied and are called out to ‘apologise’ for the actions of radical extremist groups which don’t represent an iota of Islamic values and only exist to spread terror and abuse their illegal power, defaming millions of Muslims across the globe. Muslims are being murdered simply for being a Muslim.

Have we been seeking honour through anything else other than Allah?

I believe it is as much a sin to suffer cruelty as to inflict cruelty. May Allah forgive us and guide this Ummah to stand up for ourselves, because what we are being shown as to the world, because the violence that is being propagated in our name, because the humiliation we are made to suffer is #notinmyname.