Khalid Abdullah Al-Khlaywi
Praise and Glory are due to Allah, who took His servant for a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa which we have blessed, to show him from our signs, verily, He is the all-Hearer, the All-seer. [17:1]
Thus says Allah in the Qur’an of the miracle of the Israa and Mi’raj, or ‘The night journey and the ascension to Heaven’. It was the most magnificent trip ever taken by the Prophet (Pbuh). It was a journey from Earth to Heaven, from the lower assembly to exalted assembly; rather, it was a journey from the created to the creator.
I wonder how great was the happiness that filled the Prophet’s heart in the presence of Allah, subhanahu wata’ala, in a place never reached except by him, (Pbuh), O Allah! All thanks and praise unto you for allowing us to be among the followers of this great Prophet, whom you have blessed with this so high a station.
With the Israa and Mi’raj, the Prophet (Pbuh), became the first and only human to cross the barrier between the seen and the unseen. He then returned to tell us about what he saw, and what was made obligatory on us. He returned to confirm the truthfulness of Allah’s previous messages and to tell us of what is going to happen in the distant future, things that would occur on the last day and beyond.
And while this miracle represented the first serious trial for the companions’ faith in Allah, it has remained until today a test of all believers’ faith in Allah and in the unseen. Allah says, “And we made not what we showed you but a trial for mankind.” (17:60) A test that ascertains one’s faith. And for those who succeed in it, the Israa and Mi’raj presents an endless source of inspiration and motivation with regard to the deen, this life and the Hereafter.
What does it All mean?
Means betaking the Prophet (Pbuh) from Makkah to al-Quds during the night by al-Buraq and then returning him back in the same night, Ibnul Qayyim said, “Allah’s, saying ‘took His servant for a journey by night and not sent His servant implies that Allah accompanied the Prophet (Pbuh). For the latter ‘baa’ in the Arabic language means besides. And this is why the Prophet (Pbuh), when setting out for a journey would say, “O Allah, you are the companion during (my) travel.”
Refers to what happened to the Prophet (Pbuh) when the ascended from al-Masjid al-Aqsa up to beyond the seventh Heaven, where Salah was prescribed, and then returning back in the same fashion in the same night.
In al-bidayah wan-Nihayah, Imam ibn Katheer said, “Ascension did not take place aboard al-Buraq as some people might think, for al-Buraq was tied to the door of Bayt-ul-Maqdis, so that he could ride it back to Makkah. The Prophet (Pbuh) ascended from one heaven to another until he passed the seventh Heaven.”
A Journey of Rejuvenation and Inspiration
In the few years that preceded the incident of Israa and Mi’raj, the Prophet (Pbuh), and the believers with him had gone through and suffered from many stressful and sad events.
He, first lost his most beloved wife, Khadijah, the first Muslim and his best friend, supporter and motivator, the woman who spent all of her wealth, used all of her family and tribal relationships to support him, the one who provided the best comfort and consultation he could possibly find. Then he lost protection against the hard aggression of the people of Makkah when his uncle, Abu Talib, died. As long as his uncle was alive, no one in Makkah was able to hurt him, (Pbuh), and his followers, but after his death, they were forced to take exile in a valley close to Makkah, where there was no food or shelter.
Yet the biggest disappointment came when the Prophet (Pbuh) went to Taif seeking their acceptance and help, but they refused him and did all they could to hurt him. Such was the situation. Many of his followers had emigrated to Ethiopia and those who stayed with him were defenceless and hungry. What was most stressful for the Prophet (Pbuh), was the fact that people knew him to be a person who was truthful at all time but still did not believe in him.
In the midst of all these sorrows, Allah took His Prophet (Pbuh) through the Israa and Mi’raj to provide him with inspiration and support by showing him what no other human has ever been blessed with. In the heavens, he witnessed the great signs of Allah, and the indications of divine providence toward him and the dawah, such that he became certain of the success of the dawah and of his victory over his enemies. The miracle of the Israa and Mi’raj proved to the Prophet (Pbuh) that if the earth would straiten to him at certain times, then heavens’ gates are open for him at all times, and if some terrestrial would harm him, then the people of heaven would support and stand with him.
Lessons to Learn
Imaan is belief, and practising what you believe. One of the distinguishing factors in rank between Muslims, in the sight of Allah, is the extent to which they believe in, and practise the teachings of Islam. Allah says describing the believers, “And who believe in the revelation sent to you, and sent before your time, and (in their hearts) have assurance of the Hereafter. They are on (true guidance), from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper.” (2:4-5) How could they afford not to believe while knowing for certain that the informer is either Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, “And whose word can be truer than Allah’s?”. (4:122), or His messenger, “Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a revelation revealed.” (53:3-4). The incident of Israa and Mi’raj was a major test of the companions’ belief in Allah. When they succeeded in overcoming the doubts caused in their minds by Satan and the pagan Makkans, they felt a strong surge of Imaan they had not experienced yet. They now knew that their Prophet (Pbuh) was a true messenger of Allah and that Allah would not abandon them to their enemies. They realized that acceptance of the ‘ghaib’ or unseen’ news their Prophet (Pbuh) told them of, is the foundation to what belief is all about.
Choosing the Way
An-Nawawi said that the reply of Jibreel (to the Prophet), ‘You chose the fitrah’ meant that he (Pbuh), had chosen the religion of Islam. That is, “You have chosen the emblem of Islam and Istiqamah (being steadfast on the straight path). The milk was a sign, because it is easy to drink, good and tasty while wine is ‘the mother of all evil’ and it is a cause for different acts of malice.”
Look at the world today and you will see the manifestation of this. People have turned to wine, excelled in manufacturing and serving it; the result is that if has served to corrupt their minds, hearts, and spirit.
Despite all of the technological advancements, humanity still witnesses horrible consequences of their anti-fitrah practices; war, decease depleted resources, wasted minds and efforts, greed, filth and happily souls going into misery, to say the least. It all happened when the natural Fitrah was rejected, in search of a way of life other than the way of Allah, the creator of this life, and the next. Allah says, “But whosoever turns away from my reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its teachings) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and we shall raise him up blind.” (20:124) “And whosoever is blind in this world (i.e. does not see Allah’s signs and believes not in Him), will be blind in the Hereafter, and more astray from the path.” (17:72)
Fitrah and acts of fitrah should, therefore, be the choice of the Muslim. In fact, fitrah is the state we are all created in but as mentioned in the authentic hadeeth, Satan and his followers work hard to take us away from it. It is very important that Muslims know the characteristics of the acts of fitrah so that they know how to choose. Life, after all and as shown by this incident, is about choice.
Fulfilling Our Purpose
In the light of what some Muslims practise in the so called night of Mi’raj there remains a question regarding whether Muslims are required to do a special worship in that night. The question is on which date Israa and Mi’raj took place, and the answer is the exact date is not known. And a logical conclusion would be, ‘if you do not know when it happened, you cannot celebrate on a certain night’. But let us further examine the matter of specifying certain worships and associating them with certain times as a matter of religion. Let us discuss what is meant by Ibadah or worship in Islam.
Allah has decided the purpose of our creation, “And I (Allah) created not the jinn and the mankind except that they should worship Me (alone).” [51:56] Man would never attain this purpose unless he fulfils two requirements: First, he should find the right way to worship Allah, the way through which Allah has promised its followers safety, success and happiness in this life and in the Hereafter; and promised its non-followers quite the opposite. Man would never find this path among other deviating paths except through the guidance of Allah. Second, following and holding on to this right path in worshipping Allah is possible only with Allah’s support and help to the worshipper. Allah has joined these two (requirements) in the greatest chapter of the Qur’an, “You (alone) we worship, and your help alone we seek.” (1:4)
Those who claim that Muslims should have a special celebration on the night of Mi’raj usually compare it to the night of al-Qadr. They say that the night of Israa is better than the Night of al-Qadr. Some say the opposite. If those who said the night of Israa is better than the night of al-Qadr, claim that the night of Mi’raj is better for the Muslims so that the spending of that night in Salah and Dua would be better than doing the same during the night of al-Qadr, then such saying is wrong, and such was never claimed by any of the scholars. Such a claim is wrong Islamically and logically for as mentioned earlier, it does not make sense to celebrate an occasion the date of which is not known. If on the other hand, those who have such a claim mean that the specific night on which the Prophet (Pbuh), was taken for Israa, and during which the Prophet (Pbuh) encountered what he had never experienced before or after, without specifying any night salah or worship for that night, then such a claim is correct. When Allah gives His Prophet (Pbuh), a blessed and an honoured occasion, place or time, this does not make such an occasion, place or time better than all other occasions, places and times. Specifying and associating such an honour with certain occasions, places, or times require knowledge about the heart of these matters, and the value of blessings which can only be known through revelation, ‘Wahy’. Thus, no such claim should be accepted unless it had evidence from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
That is why we do not know of any evidence that the night of Mi’raj was to be better than other nights, and particularly, the night of al-Qadr. Neither the companions, nor their rightful successors “the Tab’een,” made a point of associating certain doings during that night. They have never told us of its exact date. Even if the Israa and Mi’raj was the best blessing for the Prophet (Pbuh) and his companions, they were reported not to have prescribed any particular form of worship for that night nor that place. Why should we? There are many blessed occasions, places, and times in Islam with which we have no prescribed worships associated. The incident of Israa and Mi’raj is one of them and it should remain as such.
The incident of Israa and Mi’raj represents a great occasion in the history of Islam. Its story and the circumstances that surrounded it at the time touches the heart and the mind of every Muslim willing to ponder and contemplate it. Muslims should celebrate it by studying it, learning from it and by exerting themselves to find inspiration and motivation in it so that they can keep steadfast on the way of Islam and struggle even harder in the path of Allah.
( Couresy Al Jumuah)
The Christian missionary interest in Islam, as evidenced in the growing numbers of Christian missionary institutes for the study of Islam, is of course, not a mere academic fancy. It has everything to do with the proselytising project. True, one cannot dismiss the importance of genuine dialogue, and although some Christian groups are undoubtedly serious in their commitment, for many it is simply a more clever and subtle way of propagating their faith.
By Our Correspondent
Christianity and Islam have had a long history of interaction, which has witnessed both conflict as well as periods of co-operation. Today, while voices such as Samuel Hintington’s, cry hoarse about an impending clash of civilisations-essentially between the Muslim and the western worlds-there are others who are calling for greater inter-religious dialogue, particularly between Christians and Muslims.
Inter-religious dialogue is now a much talked-about issue in Christian theological circles. One even finds diehard evangelical Christians these days mouthing pious phrases calling for dialogue. For some Christians dialogue is indeed a sincere effort at trying to sympathetically understand the faith of other people. For other Christian groups, however, dialogue is little more than a more subtle, and therefore, effective means to carry on with the proselytisation project.
The logic is as follows; In the colonial period, Christian missionaries in countries in Asia and Africa spared no effort to ferociously attack all non-Christian religions, and because they had the protective arm of the colonial state they were able to do so with impunity.
However, the situation underwent a complete change with the independence of the former colonies of the European powers. Naturally, it was no longer possible for missionaries to carry on the conversion agenda using their old methods. They were forced to adopt seemingly less harsh methods, and ‘dialogue’ emerged as one of the principal means of pushing ahead with the old objective. The Church sees no contradiction between dialogue and evangelism or proselytisation.
Dialogue is often simply a clever means to break down the walls of suspicion that stand between non-Christian ‘target groups’ and Christian missionaries. In the course of the ‘dialogue’, once ties of friendship are established between the Christian missionary and the target group, it is thought that non-Christians can be more easily brought over to the Christian faith.
Dialogue serves another important function in the Christian missionary agenda. It enables Christian missionaries to familiarise themselves with the culture, beliefs and practices of non-Christian groups, and on the basis of that, to mould their missionary methods accordingly. An interesting example of this is a recent international conference in Spain of Christian missionaries who claim to be experts in what they call ‘Islamics’. One of the major suggestions made at the conclusion of the conference was that Christian scholars must devote their attention to studying what they termed as the ‘popular’ religious traditions of various Muslim communities and to embark on a ‘dialogue’ with these traditions. Although they did not state it in so many words, the intention was obviously the same as what a former director of a Christian centre for the study of Islam in India had suggested in a report; that these ‘popular’ traditions centred around the dargahs should be adopted by the missionaries so that for prospective Muslim converts to Christianity would not be seen as a radically new or alien faith. Further, suggested this ‘expert’ on ‘Islam’, after studying the ‘popular’ dargah-based traditions that are centred around belief in the supposed miraculous powers of the Sufis, that the Christian missionaries must go about proclaiming that Jesus alone, and not the Sufis or any one else, has the capacity of performing miracles!
A number of Christian centres for the study of Islam have come up in recent years in several parts of the world, including India. Most of these are flush with funds from US and European churches. Although they present themselves as academic institutions, many of them are actually deeply into the business of spreading Christianity among Muslim communities. At these institutes Christian priests are taught the basics of Islam so that they can then go about doing Christian ‘outreach’ work among Muslims.
Particular stress is given on what is called ‘enculteration’ in Christian missionary parlance-the would be ‘missionary to the Muslims’ is familiarised with the culture, art forms, language, morals and ethics of Muslim communities he is to work among and every effort should be made to express the Christian faith through the medium of these cultural structures so that it can be made more intelligible, less alien and thus more tempting for prospective converts.
And so, for instance, you have a group of Christian missionaries in Delhi, who, having made a deep study of contemporary Islamic movements, have started an evangelical drive that they have christened as the Isa Tablighi Jama’at, using the practices of the Tablighi Jama’at to propagate Christianity! or, the Isa qawwalis brought out in the form of cheap audio cassettes by the Beruma Mission, a Secunderabad-based Christian missionary outfit targeted specifically at an Indian Muslim audience.
The most passionate advocate of this ‘enculteration’ approach to spreading Christianity among Muslims is a Christian missionary, Phil Parshall, who has spent many years in Muslim lands. In his New Paths in Muslim Evangelism; Evangelical Approaches to Contextualisation, he spells out his missionary strategy under the cover of ‘dialogue’ with Muslim host communities. Thus, he advocates that missionaries must acquire a sound grounding in Islam and the local language, and should attempt to befriend their prospective Muslim converts. They should try as much as possible to adapt themselves to the local cultural milieu, even going to the extent of offering their prayers in a form like that of the Muslim salat, the classic ‘dialogue as evangelism’ strategy.
The Christian missionary interest in Islam, as evidenced in the growing numbers of Christian missionary institutes for the study of Islam, is of course, not a mere academic fancy. It has everything to do with the proselytising project.
True, one cannot dismiss the importance of genuine dialogue, and although some Christian groups are undoubtedly serious in their commitment to it, for many it is simply a more clever and subtle way for the propagation of their faith.
It’s time the Congress paid back the Muslims for their support by implementing programmes for their development. Lip sympathy will not do.
Prof. Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan
Indian Muslims have a very unique place in Indian polity. With 12% share in Indian population, next only to Indonesia in the world, they play a significant role in the victory or defeat of any political party. Being forced to face the negative consequences of Partition, they had to rise from the ashes. At one time it was thought that Indian Muslim had to lick the dust and get enslaved by the Hindu majority. But it did not happen because of the spirit of Islam which taught them to be upright, be courageous and remain loyal to their motherland and seek their rightful place.
Today, Indian Muslims right from Kashmir to Kerala, from West Bengal to Maharashtra have proved their political will and power. Every political party has realised the importance of Muslim vote. Even BJP is forced to woo Muslim voters. Elections are won and lost mostly depending on the Muslim wind. In some states, Muslims account for 12 to 20% population and have certain Muslim dominated pockets where even a little more than one-fourth voters are Muslims.
Muslims continued to support the Congress party inspite of initial adverse opinions about it. Congress party leaders had special policies and programmes for Muslim development. The 15 point Economic Programmes were specially framed for the development of the minorities. But very little advantage could be taken due to inter-play of many factors. Ignorance of the masses, indifferent bureaucracy, selfish Muslim political leaders, sleepy Muslim intellectuals, etc. contributed to this dismal social situation. Election promises remained on the paper. Nevertheless, Muslims remained supporters of the Congress may be because of a lack of alternative .
But the demolition of Babri Mosque and the consequential chaos and strife awakened Muslims so much so that they had to take harsh decisions.
Congress party headed by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, became the first casualty. Narasimha Rao and Kalyan Singh, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh were responsible for the meticulous operation - demolition of the sacred mosque. It is equally true that a vast majority of the Hindus displayed their concern over the situation. In this process, Muslims decided to disown Congress and look for other secular alternatives. Thus, the Samajawadi party of Mulayam Singh and the Janata Dal attracted Muslims. The 1993 election in Karnataka could be cited as a case-study to highlight the changing scenario.
During the electioneering, all possible provocative speeches were made by the Janatadal party workers to rouse the feelings of Muslims. Demolition of Babri mosque was the malicious propaganda which could reach the mind and heart of the Muslims so much so that reason and rhythm were thrown to the winds.
Muslim votes were consolidated and used to destabilize the Congress party. The most significant contribution made by the then Congress chief minister, Mr. Veerappa Moily to reserve 4% seats in professional colleges and in Govt.services exclusively for the Muslims went astray. The big wigs among the Muslim political leaders were almost crushed. Muslim vote-bank proved fatal to the Congress party. It was thought at one stage that Muslims and Congress had permanently become parallels. Some Muslims were ready to support even the BJP.
The election result was that the Congress was reduced to the status of a third place with about 40 seats. BJP had slightly more. But the Janata Dal could just sweep the poll. Unbelievable success indeed! Some ministers later admitted, “success or failure of any party lies largely in the hands of Muslim votes”.
But how were Muslims treated by the Janata Dal leaders in power? There were three Muslim ministers, of whom one cabinet minister and the other two of state minister rank. Pressure was brought on J. H. Patel, the chief minister to upgrade at least one state minister to cabinet rank. But he did not care. The unfortunate irony is that all parties want the Muslim support and then extend all benefits to their caste men. If one chief minister is a Vokkaliga, a dominant non-Brahmin upper caste, he doles out all favours to his kith and kin. So too was the case with Patel, a Lingayat. Caste politics has demolished all social values, norms and political ethos as well as ethics.
During the 1999 elections, Muslims had no alternative except to go back to Congress. Muslim vote-bank became so solid and effective that the Congress is back in power on its own strength. Karnataka chief minister S. M. Krishna is a very sobre man. He has understood the importance of vote bank. Though he is also a Vokkaliga, his cultural background is entirely different. He gave seats to 18 Muslims of whom twelve have won the seats. He has also appointed 4 as cabinet ministers and one Muslim woman as a state minister.
Thus, a new turning point, very close to the immortal Devaraj Urs, the late chief minister who ushered in a new era for Muslims, Dalits and Backward classes, has just emerged. It is hoped that full justice will be done to the Muslims and also to the other minority communities.
It is now in the hands of the Congress leaders to retain Muslim vote bank by implementing policies and programmes for their community. Lip sympathy and paper tigers will not help. Muslim political leaders and other non-Muslim political leaders who have won the elections due to Muslim vote bank should not fail them. If they fail, Muslim vote bank will get out of the hands of these leaders.
It should be under scored here that Muslim vote bank is highly secular and tactful too. No religious considerations play a negative role. Muslim vote bank ensures success of Muslim as well as the non-Muslim candidates if they are honest, secular and deliver the goods.
By Hasan Mansur
The outcome of the general elections is the installation of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which was conceived as an unprincipled, and opportunistic electoral contraption of 24 political outfits. Yet the BJP has no reason to crow over this as a triumph of the ‘able’ leader and his promise of a ‘stable’ government; the Congress has much less reason to celebrate; the strength of the BJP in the Lok Sabha has not gained much while that of the Congress has touched the nadir. The electoral game was reduced to a choice between Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi, a slanging match between the two, wherein priorities that mattered most to the majority poor, like literacy, jobs, homes, health etc got marginalised. But the most alarming feature is the cornering of crucial portfolios by the BJP and its cronies which would enable them to subvert the constitution itself.
Though the Pokhran blasts and the Kargil war cries did not wash with the voters, there has been a steady militarisation of civil society. The militarisation of public consciousness has gone space aided by the media; women were manipulated to cry over the bodies of their husbands or sons while children were militarised to donate their pocket money to the Kargil war. The BJP positioned an external enemy for tactical reasons. It made Muslim nationalism contingent on their hatred of Pakistan as though the patriotism of the Manuvadis is authentic and valid whereas that of Muslims had to be certified by the Manuvadis.
In the cultural field, films like Haqueekat, Border etc, made a fine art of milking pulp-patriotism. After all, joining the army, as a renowned columnist noted, is just a ‘ limited job option’ for poor peasant lads; yet the ‘sacrifice’ of the jawans was sentimentalised.
There was militarisation of music with Lata Mangeshkar and A.R.Rahman belting out martial tunes, inventing disco-nationalism. Sentimentality is the best way to cloud a people’s vision. Militarisation of civil society is the most effective means of snuffing out dissent. The need for public debate or the spirit of critical inquiry which is the essence of democratic consciousness, was consciously suppressed.
A look at the election manifestos of the mainstream parties will reveal the sordid electoral games played by them. The NDA is honest enough to give only one paragraph to minorities, promising a ‘riot-free and terrorist-free India’, a promise more in the breach than in observance as seen in the communal violence in Ahmedabad and the persecution of Christians and the state itself fomenting violence and turning out terrorist. It spoke in generalised terms without spelling out what steps would be taken for educational and social development of minorities. The Congress on the other hand was lavish with its promises, devoting several pages to the programme for minorities. But its rule in the last 50 years gives the lie to its pious protestations of concern for Muslims in particular. The communists have promised removal of economic and social backwardness and opportunities for employment. Minorities have seen through this game of all the parties and are highly sceptical of things to come.
The poor among the backward classes, tribal, Dalits and the minorities must brace themselves for a long haul. The post-election scenario reveals all political parties, regretfully including the left, as bereft of any ideology that is pro-poor. Electoral games will be played again, a game of musical chairs, the choice between Shiv Sena-BJP axis and the congress as in Maharashtra, it is either BJP or Mulayam/ Kanshi Ram or congress in Uttar Pradesh, Laloo vs JD-BJP axis in Bihar, DMK or AIDMK in Tamil Nadu or Naidu-BJP axis vs Congress in Andhra Pradesh and in the centre, the congress and the NDA axis of the rag-tag lot of 24 parties. The choice for the people is between the devil and the deep, to put it better, between the frying pan and the fire. To sum up, in this cynical and sordid electoral game, the poor will be the sacrificial goats.
The slow death of liberal ideology rooted in dicotic governance will see the strengthening of fascist forces. In the Indian context, it is Manuvada. Setting up an economic base for the organisational unity of large capitalists, rural exploiters and the urban middle classes, consumerism-ridden, rapidly adopting a fascist policy of militarisation and aggression are seen in the dreams of India with nuclear muscle. In this task, it will mobilise an organised force of cadres from the urban middle class to disseminate its medieval theology of Manuvada while the lumped elements from the backward classes will provide the muscle power to push its agenda of restoring the Manu code in the country. It will win public approval with populist slogans against capitalism but gaining full power, it will deliver the people to the tender mercies of big capital which is a subaltern of the multinationals, thus setting up a structure of direct authoritarian rule. This is the game plan of the Sangh Parivar and its political outfit, the BJP.
Yet all is not lost; the Left though it has not lived up to its ideological obligations is a live force and it must shed its complexes and inhibition in order to make common cause with other groups, particularly the Dalits who are a potential force in this combat against Manuvadis. The crying need is a broad-based national popular alliance of these forces including the tribal, backward classes and the minorities.
The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) with its one-point programme of restoring the rule of Manu, a throwback to the inequality, violence, contempt for women and the resurrection of macho masculinity of a caste-ridden structure, an Indian version of Fascism, must be confronted and must be overcome in order to set up a just social order bereft of exploitation.
The Muslims must become a part of this democratic movement which alone will assure their security, give them what rightfully is the inherent right of all people, the fundamental right to life with dignity.
The survival of our pluralist society where the common people could come into their own depends on the decisive defeat of forces of regression represented by the RSS and ending once for all the hegemony of Manuvada in this country.
By D.A. Sait
“Can you lend me twenty thousand rupees?” Said my friend, Haneef, the other day, causing me to jump three feet in the air. “For God’s sake, have a heart,” I pleaded, having descended to terra firma. “Do not spring a thing like that out of the blue. Anyway, why do you want to bite somebody’s ear for such a colossal sum? Is somebody blackmailing you?”
“It amounts to that, but not of the conventional variety. The management of the English medium school, where I wanted to admit my daughter for the first standard, is asking for a donation of twenty thousand. English medium schools come rather high, you know.”
“Then to hell with English medium schools, say I. Why, when I was a kid my parents spent practically nothing for my education till I entered college.”
“But times have changed, my dear man,” philosophised Haneef, and education of “all types have become commercial propositions now.”
“For that matter everything has become commercialised now. Look at any matrimonial alliance. Lakhs and lakhs have to change hands before two people can become man and wife. Perhaps the management of your school has to provide for a daughter’s dowry?”
“You do not know the half of it. Many of these schools have invented so many funds to which the parents of the wards have to contribute such, for instance, as a building fund.”
“Why a building fund? Do not they already have a building? If not, where are they teaching the little perishers, on the streets? There is a building all right,” explained Haneef. “The name, ‘Building Fund’ is only a euphemism for daylight robbery. Then there is a development fund.”
“What, if anything, do they develop, besides of course, their stomachs?”
“You are right,” conceded Haneef, “seeing that some of them have stomachs like the underside of a hippopotamus. From the development fund we now proceed to the well-digging fund.”
“Why do they want to dig a well? You do not mean they want to jump into it and end it all when the going gets tough?”
“Funny thing is there’s no well in the school compound, though they have been collecting towards it for the past five years.”
“It looks as if these schools must have a fund invention department whose primary function is to invent new funds every year. Well, the only solution I can offer for your problem is to invent a fund yourself called the ‘Haneef welfare fund’ and invite contributions from the general public, unless you would prefer to admit your child to a government school and be done with it.”
“Thanks, old man,” said Haneef. “I think I will take your advice.” “And if you have any money left over,” I added, “send it to the Kargil Fund, for the welfare of those who are fighting for your country.”