DHU'L HAJJ - MUHARRAM 1424 H
Volume 17-02 No : 206
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Selling cute Kashmiri handicrafts may be his bread and butter. But Zafar Shawl is a man with a strong conscience and he has taken up the cause of educating people from all communities about the perils of dowry and has helped over more than 45 dowry-related cases to date.
By Nigar Ataulla
Weddings among Muslims these days is a grand affair. All type of rites and rituals have crept in. The Mehendi ceremony and the Shukrana are new innovations. A blast of music picked up from the latest Channel V Top 10 is part of the show. Then of course the buffet banquet. Some weddings put on display, 10 types of desserts to be eaten after a meal of spicy oily biryani and bagara baigan, of course followed by hot chai. The bride's value is measured by the weight of the gold she is wearing and the groom's value is measured by the number of cards he holds-not visiting cards-but those famous Green-Cards.
But more than all this, it is painful to see the evil concept of dowry dominating the weddings today. While the girl's clan needs to be blamed for succumbing to pressure, the boy's khaandan is no better, They arrive with a hand-written list of the items they wish to extract from the girl's parents. But who bells the cat? How many really have the courage to stand up and tell the boy to take a walk along the highway.
Have Muslims forgotten the good old days of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)? When the Prophet's(Pbuh) daughter Fatimah was married, she was given only the minimal things required for daily use by the Prophet. This was given as a token of love for his daughter.
To revive that golden era back among the Muslims, there is a courageous person who traces his roots to Kashmir.
Zafar A. Shawl, the owner of the swank little shop in Bangalore called "Himalayan Anti-Dowry", selling cute Kashmiri crafts does not believe that " Woman's Day" is restricted to March 8. He would like woman's causes to be taken up everyday of the year. The name of his store was originally " Himalayan Dowry", coined from a 17th century ritual where a woman would give her betrothed a jewel called Himalayan Dowry as a token of her love. In Bangalore, uninformed feminists took exception to the obvious interpretation of the name and staged demonstrations outside the shop. Shawl then decided to compromise and inserted the word "anti" between 'Himalayan' and 'Dowry' to appease his detractors. He began selling Kashmiri Handicrafts. But the unusual name of his store had other repercussions. Apparently, women who were harassed for dowry would approach him asking for help and intervention. Shawl, a man with a strong conscience decided that his objective in life was more than selling Kashmiri handicrafts.. He got into the act, counselling husbands, wives and greedy in-laws. And true to his name, Shawl and his "Himalayan Anti-Dowry" shop have helped 45 dowry-related cases from all over India. Most recently was the case of Fathima Begum (Name changed). She came to Shawl complaining that her husband wanted to buy a car and expected her to raise funds from her family. When she refused, he informed her that he would marry one of his office colleagues as she was ready to buy him a car. Shawl was prompt in his action, by paying a visit to the other woman. He informed her that her paramour was already married and as per the Shariah rules he can have another wife only if he can do justice to his first wife. So he could not marry again. The woman had no idea that her paramour was already married and this came as a shock to her. Shawl also met her father who assured him that all would be well soon. Soon the entire office staff learnt about this and put pressure on the car-crazy man to give up his unreasonable demands. Shortly after that, the errant husband saw reason and Fathima was happily re-united with her husband and three children.
Shawl meets youngsters and educates them against the perils of dowry. " In most cases, we find that the young people are not the ones who care for dowry. It is the elders who are to blame," he says.
"We Muslims do not raise our voice against dowry. Islam has given a high position to women, but the menfolk do not understand this. I have no objection to a doting father giving gifts to his daughter on her wedding. But I am dead against parents of the boy and the boy pressurising the girl and her parents to get this and that. And I also feel sad when the girl and her parents succumb to this pressure and give in. This is where I feel Muslims should be pro-active. We hardly have any NGOs who will help the would-be brides from dowry harassment in our community," says Shawl. The Imams in our mosques give sermons on so many issues, but never touch upon this topic of dowry. Does anybody in the community have the courage to walk up to a wedding where he or she sees grandeur and extravagance and declare that this is wrong. No! We all meekly stuff ourselves with food and come back. "Muslims, please wake up to the reality of the evil of dowry and save yourselves and your daughters from its tangle. While we pray five times and fast and pay our zakat and go to the hajj, we have lost our souls. Islam preaches peace and equality, but are we practising this in our daily lives? I help people from all communities and not just Muslims because saving humanity is the spirit of Islam," says Shawl. Apart from his anti-dowry deeds, Shawl is also an Egyptian Crystal healer whose clientele come from different parts of the world. He does not charge any money for healing. So why then does he carry out his deeds such as these? " I am a Sufi. In Sufism, the best thing to do is to share one's happiness. When you invest in other people's happiness, you will always get it back. And that's what I am doing," he says.
For further insight into Zafar Shawl's missionary zeal, walk into Himalayan Anti-Dowry Store, No 72, M. G. Road. Bangalore-560001. Ph: 080-25597366, Res: 3536567. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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