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  #401  
Old Friday, April 13, 2012
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On the fate of nations

By Amin Villani

13th April 2012



ONE of the important themes in the Quran is the fate of earlier nations. In many verses Allah enjoins us to travel around the world to see the ultimate fate of those who went before.

Many Prophets mentioned in the Quran had travelled a lot during their lives. Thus the Quran makes it incumbent on every generation to travel around the earth and see the glory of Allah, the majesty of His nature and learn how nations rose and went down. The land bears testimony to the fact that many nations have emerged, raised and reached the heights of civilisation but ultimately they went down and lie buried under the earth. Similarly, history is also evident that the world witnessed many rulers, dynasties and nations that touched the zenith at one point in time and then slid into oblivion.

Many warriors conquered vast lands, enslaved weaker nations, ruled over them and then their successors faced decline and met their fate. A nation which reaches the pinnacle of its height and a nation which falls to its lowest ebb have both left marks for the coming generations to ponder upon and learn from the causes of their rise as well as their downfall.

The Quran also mentions the vicissitudes of some nations like of those of ‘Aad, Hud and Saleh, etc. for drawing lessons. It directs the Prophet (PBUH) to relate such stories so that his followers may reflect. The narrations indicate certain core values upon which a nation can stand and grow and also warn us to abstain from such vices that cause downfall.

From verses in the Quran, it can aptly be derived that there are aspects that can derail a nation from the road to human development. These can include excessive materialism, abuse of power and use of intoxicants, for instance.

A nation engrossed in excessive materialism tends to ignore higher spiritual values, human rights and sense of equality among its members. It falls into corruption and goes haywire. The Holy Prophet (in one of his sayings warned that excessive love of the world (materialism) was the root of all wrongs (Ibn Majah).

Similarly, disregard of human rights promotes lawlessness, violence, crime and use of intoxicants make a nation drift towards catastrophe. Therefore, every nation needs to guard its lines against such vices. Human history provides ample proof that the great dynasties that ruled over nations for hundreds of years fell just because they sold their souls.

In Indian history, the Mughals’ was one such dynasty which ruled India from 1526 to 1857 but it fell because of negligence of eternal verities. Many Mughal princes were involved in excessive drinking, infighting for succession and pursuing acrimonious policies.

Among the core values, the following of which is fundamental for a nation to touch its zenith, is education. In Islamic teachings, acquiring education is made obligatory. The Prophet is reported to have said to acquire education even it be in China. In Muslim history, we see education has played an important role in the uplift of the nation.

Muslims founded educational institutions such as Jamia Al-Azhar in Cairo during the Fatimid rule in 969CE and Madressah Nizamiyyah in Baghdad during Seljuk times in 1067. The role of the Aligarh Muslim University in India cannot be ignored. It enabled Indian Muslims to achieve the desired status in society. Such efforts supported Muslims to develop; however, when they stagnated, they started facing decline.

In Pakistan, the education sector faces a dismal situation. The issue props up every now and then and every government has been aware of it. As per government-approved curriculum, we teach Islamiat in our schools. But many schools are unaware of its importance; they teach Islamiat as a formality while its real purpose is to build character and inculcate a sense of fear and presence of the Almighty in the individual’s heart and mind. Everyone lives, moves and has his being under the watch of Allah and is accountable for his/her deeds.

Acquiring education in the Islamic context is not only for worldly improvement, but also to better understand Allah’s creation.
It has a role in developing a nation, helping a people to live ethically as rational beings. Further, it enables them to differentiate right from wrong. Education is essential to develop critical faculties among learners to think freely and challenge some of the negative stereotypes. Thus education is a core value to equip the people to realise their potential.

Presently, the education sector is beset with untold problems. Every now and then we hear and read about ghost schools, ghost teachers and even unqualified people occupying teaching posts on the basis of their political affiliations. Such gross irregularities over time can make a nation’s ship sink. Therefore, those who are charged with the responsibility of imparting and managing education, need to awaken their conscience and devise a system of monitoring and evaluation to check the ills. The curriculum needs strong and meaningful content.

Though the present sorry state of affairs has led to polarisation in society to some extent it can still be argued that things can move towards betterment if we continue to straighten our directions in the light of the Quran’s value system based on the knowledge of right and wrong. Our success lies in educating our children in letter and spirit because a nation that loses the sense of educating its people is well on the way to decline.

The writer is an educationist.

amin.valiani@itrebp.org
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Of parents and promises


S.G. Jilanee
Friday, April 20, 2012


DUTY towards parents and sanctity of the given word are among the values held in high regard from time immemorial, especially in eastern traditions, philosophies and religions.

Not only do the Abrahamic faiths, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, place due emphasis on duty towards parents and keeping to the promises made or agreements signed, faith systems such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, also embrace these finer human values.

Take, for instance, the emphasis placed on obeying, respecting and attending to the needs of parents as illustrated in the Ramayana, which narrates stories of devotion to parents, especially in their advanced years. Here is a particularly touching episode:

A young boy, Shravan Kumar carried his blind, old parents on his shoulders from one pilgrimage to another. Like scales of a balance, he put each in an open basket. He hung the baskets with a rope at each end of a long flat bamboo, which he carried on his shoulders.

It was during one such journey that Rama’s father, King Dasrath of Ayodhya, accidentally killed Shravan as he was filling his pitcher from a stream in the jungle. Covered by foliage he was invisible to Dasrath. The latter mistook the gurgle of water rushing into the pitcher for a deer drinking at the stream and shot an arrow.

The shaft hit Shravan. At his cry of pain, Dasrath rushed to his side. But, even as the young boy breathed his last, his thoughts were for his parents. Shravan, requested the king to take the water he had collected, to his thirsty and helpless parents, and died.

Similarly, when Abraham told his son Ishmael of having dreamt that he must sacrifice Ishmael and asked the latter’s view, the son promptly told his father to go ahead with fulfilling his dream. “Father,” said Ishmael “do that which you are commanded, God-willing you shall find me patient” (37:102). And Joseph “raised his parents high on the dais…” (12:100) as a mark of reverence when they went to Egypt.

As to the importance of the given word, though there are anecdotes galore of how people would lay down their lives to stick to their promise, here is one, again, from the Ramayana to illustrate the point.

King Dasrath once promised his third and youngest, wife, Keykeyi that he would grant her two wishes. After many years, when the time came to nominate his successor Dasrath decided to choose his eldest son Rama from his first wife Kaushilya. At this point Keykeyi decided to cash in on his promise and named the two boons; one that her son Bharat be nominated as the successor to the throne and, two, that Rama be sent for 14 years in exile.

Dasrath was devastated, because Rama was his most beloved son. But having given his word he was not one to back out. Bharat was appointed to succeed him and Rama was exiled.

When some people counselled Rama to refuse going into exile, he answered that it was the tradition of his Raghuvangshi dynasty that a life may be lost but a given word must not be retracted (Raghukul reet sada chali aayee/ Pran jaye varu vachan na jaye).

A similar example is in Abraham’s prayer to God seeking forgiveness for his father, who was an idolater. He prayed because he had told (promised) his father; “Peace be on you. I will pray to my Lord to forgive you” (19:47).

Islam takes these noble values to celestial heights by sanctifying them as divine injunctions. Believers are ‘enjoined’ to give respect to their parents and be kind to them. Time and again they are reminded of the travails their mothers suffer in bearing them and giving them birth.

“And We have enjoined upon man concerning his parents — his mother bears him in weakness upon weakness…,” says Allah (Luqman:14). In Al Ahqaf:15 the message is repeated: “We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship and brings him forth with hardship….”

Sura Al Asra lays down filial duties in greater detail: “Your Lord has decreed … be kind to parents. If one or both of them attain old age with you, do not say to them a word of contempt, nor repulse them and speak to them a gracious word. And out of kindness lower to them the wing of submission and say, ‘Lord, bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in my childhood’” (17:23-24).

The message is that if parents are infirm and their voice is frail, the offspring should bow (if required) in order to hear them properly.

As to fulfilling promises, Surah Al Maeda, begins with the words, “O you, who believe, fulfil your pledges” (5:1). Next, in Sura Al Asra, there is the command “Keep the covenant”, followed by a warning about accountability. “Surely every covenant will be inquired into” (17:34).

In Al Mominoon the injunction adopts a hortatory note to induce believers to abide by their promises; “Those who faithfully observe their trusts and covenants … these will … inherit Paradise (23:8; 10-11).

But abiding by covenants and adhering to the word given is not all. Even contradiction between word and deed is strongly deplored. “O you who believe, why say you that which you do not,” says Sura Al Saff.

The essence of the message in the Quranic verses cited is that frivolous conduct, where pronouncements have no value, is conduct unbecoming in one who aspires for the office of Allah’s vicegerent on Earth.

http://dawn.com/2012/04/20/of-parents-and-promises/
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Is riba-free banking possible?


Ahmad Raza
Friday, April 27, 2012


ISLAMIC banking has grown reasonably fast in the last decade in Pakistan. People invest religiously trusting the fatwa of the so-called Sharia boards of these banks. Are these financial instruments really riba-free (interest-free)?

Do these instruments conform to the juristic and ethical frameworks laid down by the Quran, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the imams of the leading schools of thought?

If the analysis shows otherwise, then why not do ‘modern’ banking instead of labelling riba-infested products as ‘Islamic’ and selling them as halal and riba-free?

The theoretical problem arises out of our inability to comprehend the meanings of two words ‘riba’ and ‘ba’ah’ used in the Quran to strictly prohibit the former and clearly permit the latter. There are two verses in the Quran which deal with the concepts of riba and ba’ah and adjudicate reasons for their subsequent prohibition and permission.

The Quran clearly refers to the inherent psychological nature of men, which ordinarily thrives on boundless greedy profiteering and moneymaking without personal labour and effort. So the Quran clearly describes in a verse this human weakness and declares that those who approve of riba are “possessed by Satan” (2:275). It is strictly forbidden and instead one should engage in ba’ah which requires personal labour and effort.

The second verse of the Quran explains the economic rationality of riba and declares that it is forbidden because it leads to profiteering and moneymaking in a multiplication mode of economic exchange (3:130) which does not involve labour and effort by the owner of the economic resources.

Therefore, one should engage in socially and ethically permissible economic activity of ba’ah. On the other hand, the practice of riba leads to unprecedented social and economic inequalities which create an unjust society, which the Quran and the Prophet disapprove of in manifest words.

Ba’ah is permitted because it is based on rational, ethical and mutually agreed contracts of economic exchange, sharing risks, benefits and liabilities and profit (land, labour, capital, commodity or intellect). The law of riba and ba’ah applies equally and universally to both tangible and intangible economic resources. In simple terms, riba is an irrational, exaggerated, labour-less and unethical accumulation of wealth in a multiplication mode, while ba’ah is a rational and socially and ethically agreed economic exchange of labour and money.

The actual labour and work done by a person is weightier and considered a sacred trust, for according to a hadith the worker is a friend of God.

Now let us illustrate by an example to show what it means to accomplish a riba-free economic exchange. I own one acre of land and I give it for cultivation to a peasant on mutually agreed terms. A riba-free land-tilling agreement between me and the peasant would be something like this: the owner of the land should provide the water, seed, fertiliser and protection in case of natural calamity hitting the crop and distribute ushr forthwith.

The peasant would cultivate the land with honest labour, take care of the field, protect the crop against dangerous animals, sell it at a fair market price and distribute the profit equally with the owner of the land. This land modaraba and the transaction thereof will be a completely riba-free economic activity. The peasant shall be duly compensated for his labour in case he opts out of the transaction before the maturity of the crop.

Let us now analyse a so-called Islamic financial product offered by Islamic banks in Pakistan. The product is known as ‘car modaraba’. The Islamic financial product is a nomenclature shift from the routine banking sector offering the same product as ‘car-leasing facility’. All terms and conditions of the modaraba contract are analogous to the car-leasing agreement, favouring the Islamic bank rather than the end-user. It is a misnomer to call it modaraba because the Islamic bank is not the first owner (in this case the car maker/manufacturer is the true owner).

The Islamic bank thus does not fulfil the qualification of ownership required to enter into a ba’ah with the buyer (in this case end-user of the car). The bank is not a seller in principle, rather a supplier of the car as a middleman and making profit in a multiplier exchange mode from a product which is produced by another party in the first place.Now this Islamic bank imposes all sorts of conditionalities to secure this so-called modaraba contract with the car buyer — in fact a consumer of the car, not a worker as per Islamic framework. This includes car price, car rent (another term for mark-up), takaful (name change for insurance), processing fee, binding contract and capping on further usage of the car. Is this modaraba transaction fair to the parties, free of multiplier mode of economic exchange, sharing liabilities and benefits? The answer would be an emphatic ‘no’.

An economic transaction would be considered riba-free if it avoids multiplier mode of moneymaking, profit-taking and capital-creation. According to Islamic economic rationality, labour is mightier than capital because it creates economic value. On the contrary, Anglo-Saxon liberal economics rests on the reverse proposition (adhered to by banks in Pakistan, both ‘Islamic’ and ‘modern’), which holds that capital creates value and therefore the worker must lay in bondage to capitalistic domination.

The vicious cycle of capital accumulation is perpetuated by multiplier mode of economic exchange. No sector of the economy is exempt from this multiplier effect and hence infested with all the attributes of riba.

The writer is a social scientist and teaches at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore. ahmadelia@gmail.com
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Fatwas can be changed


Asghar Ali Engineer

Dated: 04th may, 2012.

RECENTLY a conference of the Muslim Personal Law Board in India saw a huge crowd of 200,000 Muslims from all over Maharashtra.

The chairman of the board, Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadwi, made a highly emotional speech and said that Sharia is divine and no change in it can be made; even if the whole Islamic world changes Sharia, Indian Muslims will not allow any change and will keep traditional Sharia close to their hearts.

How appropriate is this stance? Today many women are agitating for certain necessary changes to issues such as triple talaq and unregulated polygamy which cause suffering to them. Some concerned people, including myself, have taken the initiative to codify Muslim personal law so as to minimise its misuse and give relief to Muslim women.

To what extent Sharia can be misused can be judged from the fact that a well-known Islamic university in Hyderabad Deccan allowed a man to marry two young girls simultaneously on the assumption that Islam allows polygamy.

All this is based on books written and fatwas issued hundreds of years ago. Our ulema do not want to deviate from these written texts. Whenever any question is asked they simply consult these texts and issue a fatwa and again, like court judgements, these fatwas become a precedent for subsequent edicts and are treated as universally applicable. Lay Muslims do not know that these fatwas are merely opinions expressed by a mufti and are not binding.

Should fatwas issued by eminent ulema be treated as unchangeable? Or can they be changed with time and place? Generally, Sharia is thought to be divine and immutable and no human being can make any changes in it. In fact, Sharia laws have been developed by eminent imams like Abu Hanifa and others to meet the requirements of their time and place. Thus Sharia can be described as a sincere human approach to divine intention. It is well known that when Imam Shafi’i shifted to Egypt, he changed his opinion on several fiqhi (jurisprudential) matters.

Recently I saw a book by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known scholar highly respected in the Arab world. It is on the subject of fatwas and the necessity for changes in fatwas. Yusuf al-Qaradawi has invoked the principle of ijtihad in Islam to justify changes in fatwas. The sheikh even maintains that Sharia cannot be useful for the ummah unless ijtihad (he indicates several forms) is exercised from time to time.Sharia, it is important to note, must remain dynamic and relevant to the time and place where it is applied. Fundamental principles and values on which Sharia is based cannot be changed, but the laws based on these principles and values should and must change from time to time to keep them relevant and useful. That is why in most Islamic countries traditional Sharia laws have been changed or codified to make them as useful as they once were.

Al-Qaradawi has given 10 grounds on which fatwas can be changed; all these grounds are highly relevant. First, he gives four grounds on which fatwas should change i.e. change in time, change in place, change in conditions and change in what he calls ‘urf (social practices or traditions). The Quran also uses the term ma’ruf in this sense. Then he gives six more grounds for desirability of change which are: change in knowledge; change in needs of people; change in capabilities of people; spread of calamity (when some acute problem becomes common); change in collective political or economic condition and change in opinion or thought.

These 10 grounds, in fact, capture all possible changes which can take place in a given society. This makes it amply clear that Islamic jurisprudence is by no means static or immutable as commonly thought but it has enough space for change. It is altogether another matter if our ulema are rigid or incapable and try to hide behind the divinity of Sharia. In fact, if any law remains static it cannot meet the requirements of society.

Today personal laws — as developed during the mediaeval ages — need many changes. It is also well known that Sharia law during that period had incorporated many Arab customs and traditions as ma’ruf, and triple divorce was among them. The Prophet (PBUH) had denounced this particular practice as the Quran intended to empower women and give them equal
status and no one practised it during his time. However, it was later on reintroduced for certain reasons.

Today, women are highly aware of their rights and such practices are against the principle of equality, which is more
fundamental than any Arab custom. Still, it is practised in countries like India and even thought to be divine. Similarly, polygamy is much misused and also thought to be a man’s privilege. It has to be regulated and should not be allowed to be used as per one’s whim. No woman would accept it today as they did in the past.

Mediaeval formulations in respect to personal laws were also influenced by patriarchal values and today patriarchal values are being challenged, especially by women.

Polygamy should be allowed only in cases where it is very necessary. Similarly, other personal laws could also be reviewed if needed. It would greatly benefit the ummah if our ulema kept the abovementioned 10 grounds in mind while giving their opinion in matters of Sharia.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.
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Independence of judiciary
By Syed Imad-ud-Din Asad | 5/11/2012 1200 AM

THE notion of judicial independence and impartiality hasalways been an integral part of Islamic law.

Regarding the administration of justice, the Quran declares: `Surely, We have revealed the Book to you with truth so that you may judge between people by means of what Allah has taught you.

And be not one pleading the cause of the dishonest.`(4:105) It is agreed that the occasion of the revelation of the abovementioned verse was a dispute between a Jew and a Muslim. The Muslim, supported by his tribe, had falsely accused the Jew of theft. Based on the evidence the Prophet (PBUH) decided against the Muslim.

At a time when help was sorely needed for the defence of Islam, such a verdict meant the loss of that tribe. But such considerations did not carry any weight with the Prophet and he cleared the Jew of the charge. Thus, the verse lays down that dishonesty must be punished, and the balance of justice must be held equal between friends and foes and between Muslims and non-Muslims.Muslim judges are required to be upright and not to be swayed by ties of relationship or by considerations of fear or favour. The Quran says: `O you who believe, be maintainers of justice, bearers of testimony for Allah, even though it be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives whether one be rich or poor....

(4:135); `... And not let hatred of a people keep you from actingequitably....` (5:8); `... So judge between men justly and follow not desire....` (38:26) The Prophet was known for his fair and impartial administration of justice. He strictly implemented the Quranic instructions regarding equality before the law, and never made any distinction between litigants on the basis of faith or relations. Besides Muslims, nonMuslims would also come to him for the settlement of their disputes and he would adjudicate in accordance with their laws.

Most importantly, instead of claiming any legal immunity, helaid down the rule that even the head of state may be challenged, in both official and private capacities, in a court. His following statement demonstrates it all: `Verily, those who were before you were destroyed because when a man of stature from among them committed theft, they passed no sentence on him.

The successors of the Prophet also ensured the implementation of judicial independence and impartiality. Caliph Umar once went to a judge for the settlement of a dispute. The judge, on seeing the caliph, rose in his seat as a sign of respect.

Hazrat Umar, considering this act as an unforgivable weakness, immediately dismissed him from office.

Another example that shows how just and impartial the Islamic judiciary must be is when Caliph Ali went to court regarding a piece of armour in the possession of a Jew. As the evidence submitted by Hazrat Ali was apparently insufficient, the judge gave his verdict in favour of the Jew. The Jew was so impressed by the fairness of the Islamic justice system that he immediately returned the armour to Hazrat Ali and embraced Islam.

The following portion of a letter, written by Hazrat All to one of his governors, eloquently explains the status and role of the judiciary in Islam: `Select as your chief judge one from the people who by far is the best among them; one who is not obsessed with domestic worries; one who cannot be intimidated; one who does not err too of ten; one who does not turn back from the right path once he finds it; one who is not self-centred or avaricious; one who will not decide before knowing the full facts; one who will weigh with care every attendant doubt and pronounce a clear verdict after taking everything into full consideration; one who will not grow restive over the arguments of advocates; one who will examine with patience every new disclosure of facts; one who will be strictly impartial in his decision; one whom flattery cannot mislead; one who does not exult over his position.`But it is not easy to find such men. Once you have selected the right man for the office, pay him handsomely enough to let him live in comfort and in keeping with his position, enough to keep him above temptations. Give him a position in your court so high that none can even dream of coveting it, and so high that neither backbiting nor intrigue can touch him.

Thus, we see that Islam provides for an independent and impartial judiciary. As law in Islam stands at the apex of social organisation, those who administer the law must likewise be elevated and kept independent of executive control. Also, it is the duty of the judges to stand firm for justice, though doing so may become detrimental to their own interests.

Unfortunately, judicial systems in many present-day Muslim countries rarely show the independence and impartiality required by Islamic law. This is not due to some inherent fault in the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. A dishonest government never prefers an efficient judiciary and, therefore, competent persons are never appointed to judicial posts.

And when a competent person somehow does get appointed, his actions are neither supported nor encouraged. Of course, an upright and capable regime has nothing to fear and does not need to resort to such tactics. • The writer is a graduate of Harvard Law School and director of the Centre for Law and Policy, Lahore.

syed_asad@post.harvard.edu
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Default By Nilofar Ahmed | 5/18/2012

Free will and predestination

AFTER creating Hazrat Adam God asked all the angels toperform sajdah, or prostration, before him (2:34).

Being the first human being, he represented all of humanity. Iblis, or Satan, was a jinn who had been so pious that he was placed in the company of angels, at which he became proud and refused to prostrate before Adam.

His argument was that he had been created from fire and, therefore, he was superior to Adam who had been created from clay (7:12).

Why was Adam given such a high station? The answer can be found in the accounts of Adam and Eve in paradise, when they are given the freedom to eat and drink whatever they desired, from wherever they desired and however much they desired, except for the fruit of one tree (2:35).

This forbidden fruit was placed within their grasp, making it a possibility for them to eat it, and for Satan to tempt them, symbolising the fact that of all the creatures in the universe, human beings and jinns enjoy a certain amount of freedom of choice.

Having no choice the angels bowed to Adam. But Satan showed his defiant attitude and did not comply. It is this choice that gives human beings and jinns the potential for a high station. All the other creatures have a fixed path and a fixed destiny. Surah al-Ahzab says, `We offered this trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but, being afraid (of breaking the trust), they refused to bear it. But man accepted it. Indeed, he is unjust and ignorant` (33:72).The `trust` offered was the responsibility accompanying choice and free will. But the others were afraid of this heavy burden and of inclining towards transgression rather than obedience. Human beings accepted `free will` and its accountability, but continue to betray the `trust` that accompanies it.

Humans were created in ahsan-i-taqweem, or `the best of form`, given qualities of imagination, invention and mercy. But they can also become the asfala safileen, `the lowest of the low`, capable of self-centeredness, injustice and destruction. The `trust` therefore, requires responsi-bility towards humanity, all creation and one`s inner self, based on rightful belief.

According to the Sufis, the human being has the best capability to bear this trust and must struggle to make his station purer. Through the logic of the intellect and the burning of the veils by the fire of love, he is able to experience the gnosis of the Essence of the Divine Being and to progress to higher spiritual stations.One third of the Quran speaks of accountability, the Day of Judgment and Heaven and Hell, leading one to think that one will be judged by one`s belief and actions. If life is governed by laws, then where lies freedom of choice? Since God is omnipotent (2:20), how much blame do human beings deserve for their deeds? One also believes in naseeb, or destiny, and yet the successful person is lauded and the unsuccessful person is looked down upon. What is the relationship between the will of God and the will of human beings? This question was asked and deliberated upon by many people in the early years of Islam. Soon two distinct schools of thought, the Jabariyah and the Qadariyah, emerged. Jabar means to enforce, or that helpless state of human beings in which they are forced to act in a particular manner. The Jabariyah school believed that all creation is under an absolute decree, which cannot be changed. They held God responsible for the actions of human beings.

Qadar means power. The Qadariyah school believed that human beings had absolute power and freedom and that there was no such thing as predestination. They felt that man`s actions were imperfect and, therefore, could not be attributed to God.

The others felt that the Qadariyah seemed to have taken away the power of God and, in a way, assigned partners to Him.

Hassan al-Basri, one of the most renowned tabieen, jurists and scholars of the eighth century, developed Qadari leanings.

He thought that a belief in predestination should not be an excuse for inactivity or negative activity. He stressed individual moral responsibility which, he felt, was balanced by God`s mercy and His final control of man`s destiny. The Qadariyah school later found a balance between the omnipotence of God and the need for personal moral effort.

The truth has to lie somewhere between absolute decree and absolute choice. The answer is to be found in a hadith of the Prophet (PBUH), who asked a man who came to visit as to what he had done with his camel. The Bedouin replied, `I have left it in the care of God`. The Prophet said, `First tether the camel and then leave it in the care of God` (Tirmizi).

Human beings have been given a certain amount of ground for action. It is their duty to first do their best within that ambit and then attribute it to one`s destiny.

As one progresses spiritually, one`s will becomes aligned to the will of God. Perceived contradictions become dissipated and one`s will diminishes in inverse proportion to one`s submission to His will. There is a hadith, `Nothing can change the divine decree except dua` (Ahmad), that is, supplication can change destiny, hence the emphasis on prayers. Allama Iqbal said, `Raise your khudi, (nafs, or spiritual self), to such a height that God would ask before every decree, `Say, what is your desire?`• The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.

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A test for parents
By Amin Valliani
5/25/2012


IN building society, parents have a special duty. They are to nurture their children in such a way so that they become responsible and committed to serving humanity.

The Quran describes children as a test for parents. In Surah Anfaal (8:28) and Surah Taghabun (64:15) Allah says that ` .

your possessions and your children are but a trial.

Therefore, they are to be brought up with a full sense of responsibility so that they become true assets of society and a source of constant happiness for their parents.

Parents rightly consider their offspring their chief support especially in old age and attach high hopes to them. They wish for their children to gain respect and dignity in society thus they are nursed, nurtured and loved in childhood. While providing the best care for children, parents sacrifice their rest, sleep and other interests. They desire that their children listen to them and honour their words. Also, respect for parents is a basic requirement of society.

But our present-day society is characterised by an intergenerational gap. Traditional values are under pressure in the modern age. Children, on reaching the stage of adolescence, become more independent and sometimes ignorant of their parents` needs. They develop their individualistic nature and chalk out their own patterns of life. Many youngsters do not obey their elders but express their free will. They differ with their parents in many areas and declare them outmoded. This requires parents to act sensibly with patience and forbearance.

If children are trained properly in their formative years, with deep understanding of the correct principles in their heartsana mmas, inese win stay witn them for their entire life and they will perform wonders.

Therefore, parents need to take great care during childhood by helping, guiding and encouraging their children and by participating in their educational and other healthy activities.

At times, due to various reasons, young children seem engrossed in juvenile activities, and become overambitious and aggressive in their attitude.They go overboard and do not comply with their parents` wishes. This creates tension and stress within families and family bonds become shaky. Children find their parents` demands excessive and intrusive while parents complain that their young children do not heed their advice.

In this situation, both sides need to be more mindful; they must understand each other. Parents are to realise that they are under trial. They must take lessons from the religious traditions that even many prophets had to face such situations. Prophet Yaqoob had 12 sons, the majority of whom were not happy with him. Similarly Prophet Nuh was not happy with his son.

Surah 29 asks `Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: we believe and will not be tested? And indeed We tested those who were before them....` (29:2-3).

According to a hadith, the hardest tests were given to the prophets, thereafter the saintly people were examined and then those who were below them in rank. Thus every person is subject to tests and trials in this earthly life.

Though parents and children are biologically connected, this does not mean that they are to impose their will on each other.

Dialogue and creating mutual understanding are the best ways to tackle cumbersome situations. Both have to take care of each other and contribute to the well-being of each other.

Adolescents need their own space to move freely. They are full of energy, ideas and emotions.

All parents desire that their children should remain obedient, loyal and devoted. But to achieve these objectives, parents have to provide a spiritual environment in their homes where children spend most of their time. At the initial stage, they should take utmost care in their religious formation by setting examples of honest living.

Children are to be nurtured and looked after in accordance with Islamic teachings. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said that the best gift a parent may give to children is education. He loved his grandsons Hazrat Imam Hasan and Hazrat Imam Hussain and thus set an example for Muslims to follow.

Children are to be taught that life is competitive; it is not a bed of roses but is made up of problems, trials and tribulations.

But one must strive for good and not lose hope.

We should teach our children that there is pleasure in contributing to the welfare of others and life is in the long run a series of events which involve the idea of give and take. In case youths turn rebellious, parents should use their intellect rather than emotions to deal with the situation and try to bring the youth towards the right path.

They should also invoke Allah`s help, seeking His guidance to overcome difficulty, like Prophet Yaqoob prayed intensely, which resulted in the easing of his difficulties; all his recalcitrant sons asked for forgiveness at a later stage (12:9798).Pakistan is at a crossroads as its majority population consists of youth. Figures show that more than 60 per cent of the total population of Pakistan is below age 24. This burgeoning youth population can be a huge asset if properly nurtured, carefully trained and guided towards their full potential.

They possess strength, will and grit. Therefore, they are to be engaged in productive activities. All stakeholders need to be alert to make this soaring number of young people social assets for Pakistan. • The writer is an educationist.

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Women and faith
By Asghar Ali Engineer
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6/1/2012



LAST year, I had gone to Afghanistan for a series of lec-tures on women`s rights. I also spoke on this subject in a gathering of distinguished ulema and one of the issues which came up for discussion was about women being naqisat al-`aql (short of reason) and naqisat al-iman (short of faith).

I asked if these definitions were in the Quran, as I did not find them anywhere in the holy book. When I asked if they were in the hadith, the answer was yes. However, I pointed out that any hadith which goes against the Quran cannot be accepted as authentic.

All the ulema agree that the Quran gives equal rights to men and women and both enjoy equal dignity. Then how can a woman be short of reason and faith? An alim who was insisting on women`s shortcomings was unable to reply and instead murmured and sat down.

Recently I was going through a book written by Maulvi Nazir Ahmed, a great scholar of Islam with somewhat liberal views, where he discusses the story of the creation of Adam (AS) and his being expelled from paradise for eating the forbidden fruit.

Maulvi Nazir Ahmed mentions that though Satan could not mislead Adam as he was firm in his resolve not to eat the forbidden fruit, he succeeded in misleading Hawwa (Eve) as she was short of reason and she persuaded Adam; both ate and were expelled from paradise.

It is highly surprising that a scholar of the stature of the Maulvi did not bother to consult the Quran, which nowheresays that Satan succeeded in misleading Hawwa. The Quran directly blames Adam for being misled and thrown out of paradise.

In Ayah 121 of Surah Ta Ha it is said `And Adam disobeyed his Lord and went astray.` Here Adam is directly being blamed for allowing himself to be misled and going astray, while Hawwa is not mentioned.

Despite this, Maulvi Nazir Ahmed and most ofour ulema blame Hawwa for yielding to temptation and persuading Adam to eat the fruit of the tree. The evidence of the Quran is totally ignored and the ulema rely on hadith. Why did it turn out this way? The reason lies in our anti-women attitude and thinking in general, which dictates that women are inferior to men and that men are the rulers. Where does this attitude come from? Naturally from the patriarchal values which are prevalent in society.

We would continue to think this way and quote prominent ulema without understanding that our ulema were products of certain periods and were prisoners of their time. In other words, we have to adopt a socio-cultural approach to religion.

What we call Islam is not merely based on the Quran and Sunnah but also our social and cultural values. The social structure of that time was not only patriarchal but the prevalent patriarchal values also deeply penetrated our understanding of the Quran and our theology, though we consider our theology divine.

Women in the past feudal and patriarchal structure of society were subjected to severe restrictions including the denial of any public role. The segregation of women from men also became part of our treatment of women. During the Prophet`s (peace be upon him) time women playe d active roles, took part in various public debates and even accompanied the Prophetto the battlefield.

However, all this changed once Islam entered the era of monarchy and a feudal culture became the ruling culture. The monarchs maintained large harems and made women their prisoners to be guarded by eunuchs. It was in this environment that women lost the rights that they had been given in the Quran and Sunnah. Men were now projected as their superiors, totally ignoring what the Quran had to say.

The Quran gave equal rights to women in every respect (see verses 33:35 and 2:228). The holy book did not use words such as husband and wife but used zawj or zawja instead (zawj or zawja means one of the couple). Thus the husband and wife are referred to as zawj and our ulema, later on under the influence of the feudal and patriarchal culture began to quote a hadith that had prostration (sajda) been allowed for man, I (the Prophet, peace be upon him) would have ordered the wife to prostrate before her husband.

The Quran also avoided using the word ba`al as in Arabic it signified a deity. The Quran uses the word ba`al only three times and that too for narrating stories of the past; otherwise, it uses the word zawi for `husband`. The use of the word ba`al was avoided lest it be misinterpreted. The husband in Islam is no more than one half of the couple, signifying the equality of both husband and wife. Yet our ulema privilege the husband over the wife.

Since women were confined to their homes and their role reduced to that of a housewife, they lacked experience of the outside world, while parents thought that a person destined to be a housewife did not need any higher education. The woman thus usually remained illiterate and could acquire no experience of public life outside the home and hence came to be described as naqisul `aql (short of reason).

Today, conditions have changed drastically; women are working in every field of life and have become great achievers.

In fact, they have proved themselves to be superior to men in several fields. To describe them as naqisul `agl is to display one`s own self as being short of reason. E The writer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.
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The importance of ‘mehr’

MARRIAGE in Islam is a legal contract between two parties and not a holy sacrament. Many terms and conditions in the marriage contract are obligatory, while others can be set and agreed to at the time of marriage.

The gift or dower given as a mark of respect to the wife at the time of marriage by the husband is obligatory and is referred to as mehr. It is the legal right of the wife. It can be in cash or kind. The amount is variable and should be agreed to by both parties.

One of the words used in the Quran for this purpose is sadaqah (4:4), meaning the gift that is given in good faith and as a good deed, out of generosity, without meaning to aggrandise oneself. The other word used in the Quran is ajr (33:50). This word means a reward and is also used to denote wages. It is given as a gift to the woman who is going to leave her family and the security of her home, and is risking adjustment in a new and unknown set-up.

No one is exempt from paying the mehr. Even the Prophet (PBUH) has been told, “O Prophet, We have made permissible for you the wives whose dower you have paid….” (33:50). When Hazrat Ali came to the Prophet to ask for the hand of Bibi Fatima, the first thing the Prophet asked him was, “Do you have anything to give as mehr?” He said he had a horse and a saddle. He sold his saddle for 480 dirhams and brought it to the Prophet. The immediate needs of the bride and the new household were met with this amount. The concept of jahez, or giving endless amounts of household goods and gifts by the bride’s family, does not exist in Islam.

In some countries this legal requirement has been made a mockery of, either by fixing an unrealistically large amount and then not paying it, or fixing a ridiculously small amount, which there is no need to pay. The widow is sometimes asked to forgive her husband at his deathbed. The mehr remains a debt on the husband throughout his life and after his death the heirs inherit this debt and are bound to pay it.

The mehr is the sole property of the wife and neither parents nor any other relatives have any right over it. Sometimes male relatives illegally take away the mehr without the woman setting eyes on it, making it look like a sale.

Depending on the mode of payment, there are two kinds of mehr: the mu’ajjal, or prompt, and the muwajjal, or deferred. The deferred payment is allowed in the case of those who might be expecting remittances at a later date. But delaying the payment unnecessarily is not being true to the contract. Some people, in trying to be pious, say that they are willing to fix the mehr of their daughters at the rate of the sharai mehr, which some elders have worked out to be the unbelievable amount of Rs32.25! It is difficult to say where they got this figure from.

The Sharia, or Islamic law, has not fixed or even recommended any amount which could be called the sharai mehr. If inflation over the centuries could be calculated, the purchasing power of this amount would be found to have been reduced several thousand times. There is the well-known case of an old Sahabiah who questioned Hazrat Umar in the mosque when he suggested putting a ceiling on the upper limit of mehr.

According to some scholars, even if the mehr is not mentioned in the nikahnama, the mehr would still be an obligation and the law will award it on the demand of the wife. The amount, in this case, would be determined by the mehr of the females of her class or of her father’s family, known as mehr misl, or the financial position of the groom, the social status of the bride, the prevalent custom of the time and place and the agreement that the bride and the groom can reach over the amount. There is no upper limit on the amount of the mehr, but the amount should be a realistic one. It can be from a “heap of gold” to anything that the parties agree to and is non-refundable.

In Surah al-Nisa, it is said, “Give to the women their agreed dowers [willingly]….” (4:4) and, “…as an obligation….” (4:24). According to Imam Malik, if the parties agreed that there would be no mehr then the nikah would not be valid. But according to Imams Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i and Ahmed the nikah would be valid, but the mehr would still remain an obligation.

It is an obligation even in the case of the women of the “…People of the Book….” (5:5). According to Maulana Umar Ahmed Usmani, the labour of the groom cannot be accepted as mehr, because the mehr has to be an amount paid to the bride.

These days, marriages are being conducted with great pomp and show in which a great deal of wealth is squandered. If, instead of spending so much on unnecessary items, top priority is given to the payment of mehr, it would mean fulfilling a religious obligation. It would also be more in line with the Quranic injunctions and the example of the Prophet, and could provide some security to the bride, especially if she can invest the amount profitably.

The writer is a scholar of the Quran and writes on contemporary issues.

Source: http://dawn.com/2012/06/15/the-importance-of-mehr/
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Economic disparity
IN all societies and in all epochs, human beings have been confronted by disparity. This can be observed in every aspect of life. One can see disparity in economic and social spheres and also in educational or intellectual spheres. But the most stressful is disparity at the economic level.

Every society consists of the haves and have-nots. Some people are born rich, with a silver spoon in their mouths while others strive to become rich. Similarly, there are people who are weak financially and desperate to make ends meet. The Quran recognises such a nature of society and declares it as God’s will. The Holy Book says “…It is We who portion out between them their livelihood….” (43:32). Thus a society is like a human hand whose five fingers are not equal, but they are part of one hand and their strength lies in their unity.

However, the gap between rich and poor should not be too wide. A wide gap tends to precipitate unrest and peace is threatened. The peaceful coexistence among different segments of society is possible if all of us think of humanity as one and adopt certain values ourselves such as caring and helping each other.

The rich class should realise the hardships of the poor and share a portion of its wealth to uplift the poorer class. All world religions, through their teachings, try to minimise the gap between rich and poor and exhort the well-off to help the less fortunate so that they may also lead a life of dignity.Islam, too, encourages its followers to be generous. Helping others and providing succour to the needy is regarded as one of the cardinal principles of Islam. The Quran declares that society has a right and stake in whatever the affluent possess. This is in contrast to the western notion which upholds the individual’s right of ownership over his or her wealth. The Quran says “And in their wealth there is the right of the beggars and the deprived”. (51:19).

The Quran uses different terms such as zakat, khairat, infaaq, sadaqa and qarz-i-hasana etc for spending in the way of Allah.

All these terms imply a notion that one should be generous enough to share one’s wealth — material and non-material — with others and try to create harmony in society.

Zakat is considered to be an obligatory contribution that all affluent Muslims need to pay and provide for those who are in need. Its Arabic root signifies the purifying aspect, for it cleanses the giver of greed and excessive materialism, promoting, at the same time, the general level of well-being and happiness in society.

Regardless of disparity, Islam considers all Muslims equal in the eyes of Allah; there is no privileged class in Muslim society.

However, keeping the human inclination of preferring one’s parents and relatives over others in view, Islam allows that man’s first charity should be to his or her family members, if in need. They should consider their parents and relatives first if they be in need of financial help, followed by other segments of society.

Despite these principles, in our present-day Pakistani society, one sees widespread poverty. With every passing year, poverty continues to increase. Millions of people slide into poverty because of the ongoing economic crisis. Begging has become common; the number of homeless persons continues to grow; migration from rural to urban areas in search of livelihood continues unabated. Crime and suicide rates are high in our country. This grim situation brings one to the conclusion that this society has failed in many ways.

In order to redeem the situation, we need to wage a war against poverty. Islam has provided us multiple ways of spending on the poorer segments to uplift them. Help should not make the poor even poorer and dependent on aid all the time. In other words, money should not be doled out; rather, people should be helped in a way so as to enable them to stand on their own feet, to earn their livelihood and later contribute to society.

To paraphrase a popular saying, if one gives a man a fish, he will have one meal. However, if a man is taught to fish, he will have meals for the rest of life. It is stated clearly in the Quran that all that is created on the earth is for humankind; it is for man to use the same for humanity’s collective benefit. Man’s mission would be incomplete till he uses God’s blessings beneficently. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has also set such examples.

Poverty cannot be eradicated in one go; it needs a well-thought-out plan in which education has a vital role. Education should be made life-oriented; people should not only be literate but skilfully trained to earn their livelihoods. Every year, thousands of students pass their examinations but are unable to find jobs. They must be encouraged to acquire skills in various trades, take initiatives in the field of their choice and start serving society.

All fields are open, it is for man to sow the seed and reap the fruit. There are some NGOs that serve free meals to the needy
on a regular basis. This is good, but the best way to serve society is to train unemployed youth and engage them in some fruitful service. Similarly, in each locality there should be a bureau tasked with searching for opportunities in new fields, training unemployed youth and engaging them.
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