Be a Pen Pal (1)

Remember the time when we used to write? No, not writing texts with our thumbs on our phones, but when we actually sat down on a chair with a writing pad on the desk, with a pen in our hand?It was a long long time ago, I know.

I still remember doing that.

When I was 13, one of my friends, who used to be really close at that time, moved from Abu Dhabi (where we used to live) to Canada. That seemed like such a difficult time because talking to her on the phone literally everyday had become a daily ritual, although we met at school every day too. Writing letters to each other was the only solution we could think of. You know, it after all has never been easy being a teenager and there is just always so much to tell! 😛 So for the next several years, we were pen pals. We actually wrote letters to each other, really long ones, whenever we could and it was just awesome. I just loved the whole process: from writing the letter to posting it, waiting for the reply and then actually getting it. It was a long long process and I am sure the younger generation (makes me feel really old :P) does not even know how it is done. They just know that it takes less than 10 seconds to send a message across through email.

With time, we got all techy too.We had our computers and internet connections. And we started writing emails to each other. And somehow, it lost all charm with the advent of social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook. We know what is happening in each other’s lives through status updates and photo sharing but we hardly talk now. You know, the heart to heart talk that we just loved to have. Now I dont even know her any more. She is just another name on my friends’ list.

 

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Why, oh why? [Women and Masjid (Pakistani Perspective)]

Growing up in a family like mine, I never realy felt any biases against myself due to my gender. I had the same curfew time and went to the same educational institutes like my brother. I learned to drive pretty much the same time and interesting both of us were taught to offer salah by our grandfather too. In fact, a lot of the times it was my brother who thought I always got the advantage, being a girl, and got away with a lot of things and now wen I think back, I cant really deny that completely 😛

But as I grew older and started going to Pakistan more often (and then later lived there), I realized, things were ‘culturally’ very different from what I had been taught at home and from what I had learned from books. I am not saying that Islam really differs too much between the two genders, but the difference is way too visible in the predominantly so-called Islamic State. You know, as it is said, if you want to understand Islam, look at Islam itself and not Muslims. This saying started to become a reality for me.

Soon, I found out there is not a single masjid nearby where women could go to pray if they wanted to. Funny. Yes, I am a Hanafi and I always knew that Prophet Mohammed (SAW) encouraged women to pray at home but did that mean women are not allowed into the masjid at all? I started digging for answers and interestingly, I found a hadith which says:

Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Do not prevent your women from attending the masjid, even though their houses are better for them” [Sunan Abu Dawood]

Not bad at all! This was all very logical…something I knew already but just didnt know from where it came. Praying at home is better for women but Islamically, men could not prevent women from praying at the masjid. The meaning was straightforward: a masjid is supposd to provide proper facilities for women at masjid and then it is upto the women whether they want to go or not.

Now, talking about fiqh. Hanafis are usually the most strict wen it comes to women praying at the masjid and as it is the predominant fiqh in Pakistan, I really needed to know whether it is something cultural or Hanafis really believe that going to masjid is, in fact, haram for women. I found the following:

Hazrat Aisha (RA) has been reported to have said, “If the Messenger of Allah (SAW) was alive to see what women are doing now, he would surely have prevented them from entering the masjid for prayer just as women of Banu Israel were prevented” [Sahih al-Bukhari]

Now the above is simply an opinion by Hazrat Aisha (RA), not a ruling. It is also of common knowledge that Hazrat Omar (RA) prevented women from attending masjid for prayer as part of the law during his reign without making it part of the religion itself. Futher, the fatwa on this matter must be scrutinized far more carefully:

“It is disliked for women to attend congregational prayers in the masjid even for Eid and Juma prayers, and even for old women attending night prayers, according to the more reliable position in Hanafi School, due to the corruption of time.” [Imam al-Haskafi, Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr, 1/566]

So, again, it is disliked and not considered haram as the common misconception in Pakistan. Further, if you look at the Hanafi rules, you will in fact find various laws regarding how a woman should behave in a masjid if she is having her periods. Now , if according to Pakistani jurists, women are not allowed in the masjid at all, why do we need to talk about wat a women should do if her periods start when she is in the masjid?

And then at times I think, if women are allowed to go freely to markets, lawn exhibitions, fashion shows and social gatherings where men and women intermingle, often (not always obviously) in the most un-Islamic manner, then how can going to masjid be considered haram? Sadly, in a country like Pakistan, even the most religious women often have to miss their prayers because they were either stuck in a traffic jam or were buying essentials at a market. You would be shocked to know that most shopping malls in Pakistan do not even have a prayer room for women and interestingly, most shops remain closed till around 1 in the afternoon.

So what are women supposed to do?

Well, I guess just wat they have been doing so far…prayers can wait!

Ae dil mere chal re

Pakistan has already won more matches in this worldcup than the last two world cups combined, if that wasnt enough, Pakistan has actually beaten Australia to be at the top of the group which featured both Sri Lanka and Australia, has qualifid for the quarter final and will be up against West Indies. Now west Indies is the team which definitely came out to be the better of the two wen the two teams met in the last world cup, but if Pakistan wins, it will be through to the semis, again first time after the ’99 world cup but this time it will be up against Australia or India…God, thats already too much to handle for weak hearted like me! Although its just the matter of holding the nerves for three more matches but is Team Pakistan really mentally strong enough? Obviously, I wouldnt have been thinking like this if I was an Australian but I am really proud of the fact that even though Team Pakistan had been through all sorts of problems from wicket keepers absconding to the best seamers in the world being banned for match fixing, it was actually able to bring all the odds together.

So for now I have my fingers crossed and enjoying moments like this:

Afridi....still going Boom Boom...but this time round with the ball

And yea, I am still lovin it, although realistically speaking, I dont think Pakistan is winning the World Cup…but a little wishful thinking doesnt hurt 🙂

Coming of age

Image Source

So here I am, celebrating my third blogoversary. As I started off from a different blog, I celebrate the day I started blogging rather than the day I started this particular blog.

Anyway, life has changed drastically for me over these past three years and so has my blogging. The reason I started blogging was not something that made me continue blogging. I have repeated quite a lot of times why I started blogging and wat kept me going initially but it changed over time. Soon it was about the number of visitors, the number of subscribers, the number of comments. I dont blog for those reasons anymore. I dont blog for stats any more or to get insane number of comments that I once used to get for the controversial posts that I started doing. I have learned to blog for myself.

But what is it that has kept me hooked to this even then. I mean being the person that I am, I tend to get bored quite easily but why am I still blogging after 3 years. A question that I asked myself today when I saw the Blogoversary badge on my other blog.

And the more I think about it, the more I get convinced that surprisingly, no matter what I might think, the reason is once again pretty much what I started blogging for. It changed in between when I got obsessed with stats. But now, I have come to the point where I started: to talk about things that matter to me, regardless of what they mean for others, regardless of how many people read it, regardless of how many people care to leave comments; I am just happy to have an outlet for my feelings to share with the small but loyal readers’ base and with complete strangers who stumble upon my blog.

At the end of the day, I guess I just want to be heard, even if it is by a small group of people and in doing that I want to be a part of the people who dare to be heard. I dont want to be a celebrity blogger, just someone with a voice.

The country drowns

For the past few months I was living in a utopia: a place where the main headline at the primetime news is that an undercover reporter has cnfrmd that people are gracious enough to give up their seats for elderly people in trains and the newspaper places the news of a salesgirl to have not been attentive enough to a tourist on the front page. While living here news coming from Pakistan sounds nothing less than news coming from hell.

Over the past few years good news has become more of a luxury for Pakistanis but nothing has been worse than watever has happened over the past one year. can it get any worse? I hope not but I think it would.

We have gone spirally downwards from the country beside India to the country that killed its ex prime minister, from the country that the whole Muslim world looked up to as the ‘leader’ to a country that trained people like Faisal Shahzad who cant even be loyal to their own country and from the country of sports champions to the country of sportsmen who can throw away just about any game for a few thousand dollars. I wish we could get back to those simple times wen people didnt even know Pakistan exits

And then we wonder why people dont want to help the victims of a flood that has drowned one-fifth of the country. Do we need any more reasons? Well, I can give you a few more. The ‘perfect’ record of our President is just one of the many for a start.

If you have read my blog previously, I am sure you have noticed that I am one of the few crazy optimists who still believe there is hope for Pakistan. But with each passing moment, my hope is dwindling. I dont know wat to expect any more.

Around Taipei

I still remember saying out loud, ‘what a lucky a****** this guy is, his whole life will be a vacation!’ when I saw  pictures of Javed Miandad’s (Junaid) son’s wedding. Regardless of how she looks or the amount of gold that she was wearing, her dad is one filthy rich man and Junaid most probably does not need to work for the rest of his life.

Little did I know back then that I will get married to someone whose work will make my life a vacation at least for the initial period of our marriage. Am I enjoying it? I would be highly ungrateful to Allah (SWT) if I say that I am not. Do I want to spend the rest of my life like this? No, I dont want to spend the rest of my life like a nomad. I would want to spend more time at home and less at a hotel. Obviously, a vacation should be earned and I dont call these trips vacations..they will be part of my ‘routine life’ for some time.

Anyway, I was in Taipei for the last 12 days and perhaps that is also the reason why I was not updating the blog so frequently or responding to your comments. The trip went well, at least for me. So without further vents of my emotions, I’l just talk about the city itself.

Taipei 101

The much talked about tower is not actually 101 floors….its 91 floors. The height is added by the pinnacle. Nonetheless, the building is humongous, grandiose and state of art, especially because the city lies on the earthquake prone region. Taipei 101 was built with this in mind in addition to all other challenges posed to all skyscrapers all around the world. The effect of tremors is controlled (mellowed by 40%) by a huge steel pendulum weighing 660 metric tonnes, serving as a tuned mass damper, suspended from 92nd to the 88th floor.

Taipei 101 has two observatories: one indoor on the 89th floor and one outdoor on the 91st floor. Both of them offer a 360 degrees view.

The building can be a shopper’s paradise an houses outlets of some of the world’s most popular brands. It also has a bookstore (Page One) which boasts to have the largest English Books collection in the whole of Taiwan. And oh, the building also has the world’s fastest elevator.

Museums

National Museum of History: Not much to write about. It mainly houses pottery (something I have no interest in) and a few Buddha statues which are worth seeing. The only good thing about the museum is the Botanical Garden which is just adjacent.

National Palace Museum: Architecturally charismatic. The museum is huge and can take you nearly 4 to 5 hours and even then you cannot claim to have seen it all. When the Communists were advancing on Beijing in the final years of the Chinese Civil War, the Nationalists grabbed all they could from the Forbidden City and brought it to Taiwan. Its interesting to see possibly some of the most secretive documents in the museum. The best thing about the museum is that the entry is free after 5 pm on Saturdays….we were lucky to have reached at the right time. Sadly, they dont allow photos to be taken inside the museum.

Shilin Night Market

Not the only night market in the city but definitely the biggest, a ‘must-see’ attraction especially for women. You can buy both branded and unbranded stuff here and the market is so huge that you can actually shop till you drop. Food is in abundance here but obviously as language can be an issue, avoid eating as you might end up eating pork even if you ordered some fried fish. We ate at a korean restaurant and ended up eating so much (shopping can make you hungry!) that I was on the verge of throwng up by the end of it.

Eslite Mall

Simply loved it! Its a 4-storey book shop!! 😀 I ended up spending 3 hours in the store and wasnt really impressed wen Pasha came to pick to me up….seriously wanted to stay a lil longer.

Grand Mosque

One of the only two mosques in Taipei and as it was merely on a 15 minutes walking distance from the hotel, I visited this one a few times. The beautiful mosque was built in 1950s with funding from Saudi Arabia and houses a small library in addition to the basic facilities like the wudhu area and separate prayer halls for men and women (the ladies prayer hall is on the second floor). It was simply beautiful to be referred to ‘sister’ by men in the mosque and made me feel at home immediately.

And finally, a bit of Geography

Its a mountainous city with one of the peaks being volcanic. Other peaks are now believed to be ‘extinct’ volcanoes. Wallah-u-Alam. The city is one earthquake prone region and earthquake tremors are quite common….2-3 per month usually of 5-6 magnitude on Richtor scale. We were lucky (or unlucky :S ) to have witnessed one such earthquake during our trip.