Last Will of Guru Gobind and Emperor Aurangzeb

From @parikramah ‘s blog, some comments on the last will and testament of Guru Gobind and Emperor Aurangzeb.  (I am mostly interested in the two wills and posted those here.. if you are interested in the dharmic vs adharmic discussion you can to to the link above for the full post)

Fatehnamah – A Tale of two Wills

Guru Gobind had earlier written in the Zafarnama

چه ها شد که چون بچگان کشته چار
که باقی بماند است پیچیده مار
che ha shod keh chon bachegaan koshteh chaar
keh baaqi bemaand ast peycheedeh maar

“What happened that you have killed four children (my sons, the sahibzadas)? For the coiled snake (in the form of my Khalsa) still remains…”

It is interesting that the Ten Gurus of Sikhism spanned an epoch of India’s recent history that coincided with the Moghal dynasty. Guru Nanak was imprisoned by the invader Babur, the first Moghal. And Guru Gobind Singh faced off with Aurangzeb, who died rather pathetically shortly thereafter. The Last Guru was called Sacha Patshah (The True Emperor) by Indians at that time, while Aurangzeb isn’t.

It is just 24 verses, the Guru boldly declares the facts of time, and is still advising and admonishing Aurangzeb. Its remarkable that, having just escaped against overwhelming odds from a siege and assassination attempt, the Guru was able to write – in verse no less! – to his persecutor and the murderer of his father and sons, with words of wisdom and warning. He was still willing to meet with the old Moghal and accept his apologies. There can be no doubt who is Guru here.

به نام خداوند تیغ و تبر
خداوند تیر و سنان سپر
be naam e khodaavand e tegh o tabar / khodaavand e teer o sanaan o separ!

1. In the Name of the Lord of the sword and shield! Lord of arrow, battleaxe and spear!

خداوند مردان جنگ آزما
خداوند اسپان پا در هوا
khodaavand e mardaan e jang-aazmaa / khodaavand e aspaan paa dar havaa!

2. Lord of those men that try the test of battle! Lord of their horses that fly through the air!

همان کو ترا پادشاهی بداد
بما دولت دین پناهی بداد
hamaan koo toraa paadshaahi bedaad / bemaa dowlat e deen-panaahi bedaad!

3. The same Lord that granted you a material kingdom, To me He entrusted the protection of the Dharma.

ترا ترک تازی با مکر و ریا
مرا چاره سازی با صدق و صفا
toraa Tork-Taazi ba makr o riyaa / maraa chaareh-saazi ba sedq o safaa!

4. Whereas you engaged in plunder by deceit and hypocrisy, To me was left the responsibility of creating the Way of truth and purity!

[Note: The word Tork-Taazi, which literally means “Turk-Arab” in Farsi, but is a term used to mean plunder and vandalism, pillage and rape in that language.]

نه زیبد ترا نام اورنگزیب
ز اورنگزیبان نه یابد فریب
na zeebad toraa naam e Aurangzeb / ze aurangzeebaan na yaabad fareeb!

5. The name “Aurangzeb” does not befit you, Since one doesn’t find fraud in that which is supposed to bring “honor to the throne”!

تسبیحات از شجه و رشته بیش
کزان دانه سازی وزان دام خویش
tasbeehat az shojeh o reshteye beesh / kazaan daaneh saazi vazaan daam e kheesh!

6. Your rosary is nothing more than tangled beads and thread, With every movement of your beads you only expand your snare of entanglements!

[Note: Here the Guru is referring to the test of sanity of will and purpose. It is an inferred fact that Aurangzeb would have not been able to experience any peace and bliss in his tasbeeh (japa), even if he carried one wherever he went. He may have clung to it for a sense of security, but there was no immediate experience of bliss in it, nor any clarity and ability gained from it. For Aurangzeb, the Holy Name was a co-dependency. For the Guru, it was a relationship based on pan-determinism.

A dharmaarthic system should foster pan-determinism between individual contributors, not co-dependency on or between elites and subjects.]

تو خاک پدر را با کردار زشت
با خون برادر بدادی سرشت
to khaak e pedar ra ba kerdaar e zesht / ba khoon e baraadar bedaadi seresht!

7. Your nature and disposition is from your grisly deeds, Moulded by the dust of your father and the blood of your brothers.

وزان خانه خام کردی بنا
برای در دولت خویش را
vazaan khaaneye khaam kardi banaa / baraaye dar e dowlat e kheesh ra!

8. And from that (by imprisoning your father and murdering your brothers) you have laid a weak foundation for your kingdom.

من اکنون با افضال پرش اکال
کنم ز آب آهن چنان برشگال
man aknoon ba afzaal e Purush e Akaal / konam ze aab e aahan chonaan barshgaal

9. “Now by the grace of the Eternal Oversoul (Akaal Purush), I have made the water of steel (Amrit for my warriors) which will fall upon you like a torrent.”

که هرگز از آن چاردیوار شوم
نشانی نماند بر این پاک بوم
ke hargiz az aan chaardeevaar e shoom / neshaani namaanad bar een paak boom!

10. And with this torrent your sinister castle will vanish from this holy land without a trace!

ز کوه دکن تشنه کام آمدی
ز میوار هم تلخ جام آمدی
ze kooh e dakkan teshneh-kaam aamadi / ze mewaar ham talkh e jaam aamadi

11. You came thirsty (defeated) from the mountains of Deccan; the Rajputs of Mewar have also made you drink the bitter cup (of defeat).

[Note: Throughout the ten-generation span of the Gurus, they took a pan-Indic view in terms of political and social mobilization, and even the panj-piare came from all parts and strata of society. In ideological and spiritual terms, they took a global view, as Guru Nanak did.]

بر این سو چون اکنون نگاهت رود
که آن تلخی و تشنگی ات رود
bar een soo chon aknoon negaahat ravad / ke aan talkhi o teshnegee at ravad

12. Now you are casting your sight towards this side (the Punjab). Here also your thirst will remain unquenched.

چنان آتش زیر نعلت نهم
ز پنجاب آبت نه خوردن دهم
chonaan aatash e zeer n’al at naham / ze panjaab aabat na khordan daham

13. I will put fire under your feet when you come to the Punjab and I will not let you even drink water here.

چه شد گر شغال با مکر و ریا
همین کشت دو بچه شیر را ؟
che shod gar shaghaal ba makr o riyaa / hameen kosht do bacheye sher ra?

14. What is so great if a jackal kills two cubs of a tiger by deceit and cunning?

چون شیر ژیان زنده ماند همی
ز تو انتقام ستاند همی
chon sher e zhiyaan zendeh maanad hamee / ze to enteqaam setaanad hamee!

15. Since that formidable tiger is still alive, he will definitely extract revenge on you!

نه دیگر گرایم با نام خدا ات
که دیدم خدا و کلام خدا ات
na deegar garaayam ba naam e khodaat / ke deedam khodaa va kalaam e khodaat!

16. I no longer trust you or your ‘God’ since I have now seen your ‘God’ as well as his Word.

با سوگند تو اعتبار نه ماند
مرا جز با شمشیر کار نه ماند
ba saugand e to e’tebaar na maanad / maraa joz ba shamsheer kaar na maanad

17. I do not trust your oaths any more and now there is no other way for me except to take up the sword.

توی گرگ باران کشیده اگر
نهم نیز شیر ظ دام بدر
tuye gorg e baaraan kesheedeh agar / naham neez sher ze daam bedar

18. If you are an old fox, I, too, will keep my tigers out of your snare.

اگر باز گفت و شنیدت با ماست
نمایم ترا جاده پاک و راست
agar baaz goft o shoneedat ba maast / namaayam toraa jaadeye paak o raast

19. If you come to me for detailed and frank talks, I shall show you the path of purity and truthfulness.

به میدان دو لشکر صف آرایی شوند
ز دوری به هم آشکارا شوند
be maidaan do lashkar saf-araee shavand / ze doori be ham aashkaaraa shavand

20. Let the forces from both sides array in the battlefield at such a distance that they are visible to each other.

میان هر دو ماند دو فرسنگ راه
جون آراسته گردد این رزمگاه
miyaan e har do maanad do farsang e raah / chon aaraasteh gardad een razm-gaah

21. The battle field should be arranged decoratively in such a manner that both the forces should be separated by a reasonable distance (of two furlongs).

از آن پس در آن ارصه کارزار
من آیم به نزد تو با دو سوار
az aan pas dar aan arseye kaarzaar / man aayam be nazd e to ba do savaar

22. Then I will advance in the battle field for combat with your forces along with two of my riders.

تو از ناز و نعمت ثمر خورده
ز جنگی جوانان نه بر خورده
to az naaz o ne’mat samar khordeh / ze jangi javaanaan na bar khordeh

23. So far you have been enjoying the fruits of a cosy and comfortable life but haven’t yet collided with fierce warriors (in the battle field).

به میدان بیا خود با تیغ و تبر
مکن خلق خلاق زیر و زبر
be maidaan biyaa khod ba tegh o tabar / makon khalq e khalaaq zir o zebar

24. Now come into the battle field with your weapons and stop tormenting the people who are the creation of the Lord.

According to internal Moghal reports, Aurangzeb was old and senile by this time. He had been a fratricidal bigot who acted on the encouragement of a jealous priesthood hardened by ethnic and theological differences. Apparently, he could not tell the difference between Dharma and Adharma, and so his sense of duty was imbued with this lack of ethical discrimination. He dies in the hope of redemption, and had even apologized and invited the Guru to come see him on his deathbed. Here is his last will and testament (link):

“Praise to be God and blessing on those servants [of Him] who have become sanctified and have given satisfaction [to Him]. I have some [instructions to leave as my] last will and testament:

FIRST – on behalf of this sinner sunk in iniquity [i.e. myself] cover [with an offering of cloth and capital] the holy tomb of Hasan (on him be peace), because those who are drowned in the ocean of sin have no other protection except seeking refuge with that Portal of Mercy and Forgiveness.

SECOND – Four Rupees and two annas, out of the price of the caps sewn by me, are with Aia Bega, the mahaldar. Take the amount and spend it on the shroud of this helpness creature. Three hundred and five Rupees, from the wages of copying the Quran, are in my purse for personal expense. Distribute them to the faqirs on the day of my death.

THIRD – Take the remaining necessaries [of my funeral] from the agent of Prince Alijah; as he is the nearest heir among my sons, and on him lies the responsibility for the lawful or unlawful [practices at my funeral]; this helpless person (i.e. Aurangzeb) is not answerable for them, because the dead are in the hands of the survivors.

FOURTH – Bury this wanderer in the Valley of Deviation from the Right Path with his head bare, because every ruined sinner who is conducted bare-headed before the Grand Emperor (i.e. God), is sure to be an object of mercy.

FIFTH – Cover the top of the coffin on my bier with the coarse white cloth gazi. Avoid the spreading of a canopy and uncanonical innovations like [processions of] musicians and the celebration of the Prophet’s Nativity (maulud)

SIXTH – It is proper for the ruler of the kingdom (i.e. my heir) to treat kindly the helpless servants who in the train of this shameless creature [Aurangzeb] have been roving in the deserts and wilderness [of the Deccan]. Even if any manifest fault is committed by them, give them in return for it gracious forgiveness and benign overlooking [of the fault].

[SEVENTH, EIGHT, NINTH – His assessment of the Irani, Turani, and the Saiyid nobles and his advice how to treat them keeping in mind their qualities and weaknesses.]

TENTH – As far as possible the ruler of a kingdom should not spare himself from moving about; he should avoid staying in one place, which outwardly gives him repose but in effect brings on a thousand calamities and troubles.

ELEVENTH – Never trust your sons, nor treat them during your lifetime in an intimate manner, because, if the Emperor Shah Jahan had not treated Dara Shukoh in this manner, his affairs would not have come to such a sorry pass. Ever keep in view the saying, ‘The words of a king are barren’.

TWELFTH – The main pillar of government is to be well informed in the news of the kingdom. Negligence for a single moment becomes the cause of disgrace for long years. The escape of the wretch Shiva took place through [my] carelessness, and I have to labour hard [against the Marathas] to the end of my life, [as the result of it].

Twelve is blessed [among numbers]. I have concluded with twelve directions. (Verse).
“If you learn [the lesson], a kiss on your wisdom.

If you neglect it, then alas! alas!”

Ahkam-i-Alamgir, (Eng. Tr. J.N. Sarkar, Text in Ir. Ms. 8b-10a).

There is another will of Aurangzeb in India Office Library MS.1344 p.49b (Sarkar, Aurangzeb, Vol.V, 201). Its chief interest lies in the suggested method of partitioning the empire among his three surviving sons.

Continue reading “Last Will of Guru Gobind and Emperor Aurangzeb”

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Chandrayaan 2; if at first you don’t succeed..

… try, try again

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is the crown jewel of India’s applied science and engineering institutions, having developed reliable satellite launching capabilities as well the ability to pull off “first world” space missions of great complexity and ingenuity. After a string of recent successes, including the innovative Mangalyaan mission to Mars, the agency planned to land on the South polar region of the moon and use a locally developed rover (Pragyan) to explore the lunar surface and carry out various experiments. This mission (Chandrayaan 2) was initially conceived as a joint mission with Russia and was approved by the UPA govt led by Dr Manmohan Singh in 2008. The Russians later dropped out of the project (they were mainly responsible for developing the landing vehicle that would travel from the orbiter in lunar orbit down to the lunar surface), so ISRO decided to go ahead with the mission on their own. Given ISRO’s recent successes and the rising tide of Indian Nationalism (and the generally science-illiterate level of Indian media) the mission generated intense hype within India, but with very little communication to the general public of the extremely difficult technical challenges that have to be overcome to successfully land a vehicle on the moon (and the significant risk of failure, even in the best run missions).

Image result for chandrayaan 2

Unfortunately, the Vikram Lander did run into trouble and appears to have crashed onto the moon after something went wrong in the last stages of its descent to the lunar surface. Given the complexity of the technological challenges (first and foremost, the fact that it is too far from the earth to be controlled by ground engineers on earth, it has to do the job autonomously) this is not a totally unexpected outcome (per my technology-literate fellow blogger @kaeshour the probability of success was 40%). As the saying goes, “space is hard” , failures unfortunately happen with some regularity and have happened in every space program. Still, it was heartbreaking to see the disappointment on the face of the ISRO scientists as the lander lost contact with the earth and a nation of over a billion people faced deep disappointment after tremendous hype had been built up around the mission. (as an aside, the mission is far from a complete failure. The lunar orbiter is in orbit around the moon, conducting experiments as intended and will continue to do so for many years. It remains to be seen if anything is still functional on the lander)

ISRO itself is a very professional organization and will no doubt continue its stellar work, but even the hype around the mission does not have to end in disappointment and disillusionment. Instead it is likely that the last minute loss will itself become a vehicle for “soft power” phenomena including everything from a greater interest in science and engineering to a paradoxical renewal of national pride and unity (e.g. someone on my twitter feed described the video of PM Modi hugging a weeping ISRO chairman as a boost to Indian asabiya; I can see why that may be so). The loss was followed by messages of support and appreciation for the fact that India could conceive, create and almost successfully carry out a mission of such complexity and difficulty (the exception being the science minister of Pakistan, who managed to set new records of boorishness and idiocy in his twitter feed)

Be that as it may, the topic of the Indian space program always brings up a few recurrent critical memes, and this setback may see a few of those resurface as well. One is the question of whether a poor country such as India should be spending money on a space program. The other is a relatively new one: that the “Hindu Nationalist” government of Narendra Modi uses space achievements as a means to boost “toxic nationalism”. As is usually the case, the two memes have merged in some cases to create what one may call the “New York Times style guide to writing about the Indian space program” (though to be fair in its latest article the NYT has managed to soften the “poor Indians wasting money on space” theme and devoted only one sentence to Mr Modi’s “muscular nationalism”). How valid are these criticisms?

The first one can be broken down into questions: 1. What good is a space program? and 2. How much should country X spend on a space program?

Q1 is easy to answer. A space program is not some sort of purely symbolic act of “conspicuous consumption”. Space is now an industry worth 100s of billions of dollars, with vast applications in communications, mapping, scientific research, military use, entertainment, etc. It is not like a statue or a monument whose only worth comes from its symbolism (and even that is something all human societies do, as an essential component of “soft power” and the building of group identity, etc). There is no question about the fact that earth orbit applications are now a routine part of our economic and scientific life, so there can be no question about the fact that someone needs to have a space program, though everyone may not be in a position to participate. Further out (the moon, mars, the sun, and beyond) the question becomes a little trickier, but quite apart from spinoff engineering applications (not trivial in itself), the purely scientific merit of these efforts is considerable. There is a very real (but very hard to quantify and analyze) human urge to know, to explore, to do what has never been done. It is this urge that has led humans from the African savannah  to the moon and beyond and whatever some naysayers may say about it, it is a part of human nature, and it not a trivial part. Nerds across the world will not need convincing on this account, but it extends beyond the nerdsphere and is really a part of all of us and I see no reason to deny it.

Q2 is trickier, but the first thing to keep in mind is that nation states are aggregate entities and a large country with many poor people still possesses far more resources at govt level than a small country with rich people. Pakistan has a space program, but Lichtenstein does not, even though on a per capita basis Lichtendstein is orders of magnitude richer than Pakistan. Costa Rica is better off than Brazil, but Brazil has a space program and Costa Rica does not. This is natural and perfectly expected. India is a country with far too many poor people, but it is also a HUGE country, with a 2.5 trillion dollar economy. It can afford a space program. How much it should spend on that program is open to debate, but it is hard to say that it spends too much at this time. People will go further and say the most ridiculous things about this; i remember reading an article somewhere many years ago where the writer asked if 10,000 (or whatever) engineers and scientists at ISRO would not be better employed building toilets in a country with so much open defecation. This is so silly it does not need to be discussed much further (anyone who seriously thinks the engineers of ISRO could be sent to build toilets in Indian villages, and that this would be a good use of their talents, is not someone you want to waste time debating; leaving aside the fact that building these toilets is already a huge project in India and does not need help form ISRO), but we can agree that how much gets spend on ISRO is a valid debate. My own view is that it is, if anything, not enough, but others can have different opinions. Whatever opinion they have, it would be useful to look at this not in isolation as “ISRO vs Toilets” but as just one component in a huge Indian national budget, in which huge chunks are wasted on items much less useful (practically and symbolically) than ISRO.

The criticism that space projects are a way to promote “jingoistic nationalism” may have some merit to it, but not much. We can (I hope) agree on the everyday usefulness of the broader space program, but high risk moonshots and trips to Mars have less immediate practical returns; so it can be argued that the scientific research projects (which are sometimes of no immediate economic benefit) should be left to richer nations to pursue. But there is a huge “soft power” aspect of this and the most important returns may not be the jingoistic nationalism ones (though these obviously exist as well). In a country like India, these events play a huge (but hard to quantify?) role in promoting scientific literacy, the image of working women,  a culture of engineering excellence, innovation and creativity. That alone would be worth the price of such a mission (in this case, under 200 million dollars, i.e. 2-3 Rafale aircraft?). But coming to the nationalism issue, what is really being said here is that the writer does not approve of this particular nationalism. I doubt if even one Marxist-Leninist in the world failed to feel pride and joy at the launch of Sputnik. I am confident that none of them wrote op-eds asking why Russia is investing billions in space when so many of their own citizens cannot even afford their own one room apartment. The question is really about whether the writer likes the Modi govt (or India as a whole) or not. Now there are good reasons to be critical of the BJP govt in India, but my point is that 1. this is about India, Indian science and Indian pride and does not have to be about the Modi govt. 2. The “soft power” benefits of this particular project (science awareness and ambitions in India, higher standards for Indian engineering, science, organization and institutions) are more than just “muscular nationalism”. 3. “Muscular nationalism” itself is a feature of this world of nation states. Russia, America, China, Pakistan, everyone does it. The hippie in me is wary of all of them, but no more wary of the Indian variety than any other. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. People who do not criticize Russian, Chinese, American or XYZ space programs being used as nationalist symbols should apply the same standards to India, nothing more, nothing less. That means those who are critical of ALL these programs (and such people exist and are frequently sincere and well meaning people) should carry on, everyone else can shut up.

Personally, I think it was a great effort and much of it succeeded (that orbiter is still going around the moon, and will be for years to come); unfortunately the lander failed, but such things happen. Better luck next time..

Image result for chandrayaan 2

One and the same be your resolve, and be your minds of one accord.
United be the thoughts of all, that all may happily agree. (Rig Veda, last mantra)

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DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

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It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

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It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

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That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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Metaphors for full, empty, void, overflowing — Indian trains

You already know the way things are —

so this DoubleQuote will show you the familiar, hopefully with a new slant —

— the abstract intuition that sees these two images taken together as a binary, a pairing of extremes — something the brain finds very reassuring —

— and a metaphor for duality and as such, non-dual.

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The lower of the two photographs, with the ladies walking along the railway tracks with no train in sight, is taken from an article on the oncoming monsoon that might interest you:

Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead

A brain tumor — what kind of strong weather in mind and heart is that? We live in an alien, often beautiful, sometimes unbearably human world.

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Climate change: impact on the Hajj


The Hajj, Mecca

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Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels

Here’s the abstract:

The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

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That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible

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The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

Kumbh Mela:

Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

Arba’een:

Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

Papal Mass

Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

Makara Jyothi

India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

Bishwa Ijtema:

Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

[ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

Umrah:

Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

Kalachakra,:

Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group.

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The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Rome, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (c)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”, “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (a)”,  Razib’s  “Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action“, and “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (b)”.

A growing part of the global caucasian intelligentsia are attacking Hong Kong protesters as far right fascists. This is part of a growing trend among xenophobic caucasians attacking Asians for “white supremacy”, “nazism”, “racism”, “oppression”, “patriarchy”, “imperialism”, “colonialism”, “hegemony”, “exploitation.”

Why is this happening? Is it just jealousy? Is it that many caucasians fear that “darkies” own a growing percentage of global wealth, earn a growing percentage of global income? Is it fear that “darkies” have growing competence, capacity, merit, mental health, intelligence? Is it fear about improving “darkie” academic outcomes?

I am not sure. Can everyone share their thoughts?

How should us “darkies” react?

I believe in loving and respecting our enemy with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds and all our might. This includes everyone who is disrespectful, not loving, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, white supremacist, Nazi, facist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, patriarchal towards us. And everyone who accuses us of being disrespectful, not loving, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, white supremicist, Nazi, facist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, patriarchal. And everyone who labels and mislabels us. And everyone who falsely accuses us.

Everyone has the right to freedom of art and thought. If we truly love and respect others, then how can we not respect their right to disrespect and not love us?

The sweetness of love will gradually melt their hearts.

Some might say that this works for most people who are mean to others, but is insufficient for dangerous people. For particularly dangerous people, we can combine the deepest of love and respect with dialogue. And for the most dangerous people, we can combine love, respect, and dialogue with other things.

Can there be any other way?

This topic is one of the reasons The Brown Pundits Podcast would like to interview Irshad Manji:

Irshad Manji has touched the sweetness of the heart, the silence that is always with us. And while I agree with her that we should respect and love others, and not label others. I don’t think we have the right to limit the freedom of art and thought of others by asking them not to label and mislabel us.

One example that inspires me is how Krishna dealt with harsh bigotry, criticism, false allegations, others mislabeling him, disrespect, bigotry, prejudice, white supremacy, Nazism, fascism, oppression, hegemony, exploitation, patriarchy. Krishna insisted that others be allowed to criticize Krishna.

I would be curious to listen to Irshad Manji’s thoughts about this.

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India Still Rising (c)

One of the economists I follow is Rathin Roy [member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.] India has several major long term growth challenges. One is geographic inequality in growth. South and West India are growing much faster and have much lower population growth rates than the rest of India, causing them to pay far higher taxes than they recieve in government spending benefits. Some believe this could cause long term Indian instability. My view is that the poor parts of India are likely to grow rapidly in the future. When measured in terms of human population I think STs, SCs, OBCs and poor conservative Sunni (non Sufi) Indians are likely to experience rapid economic growth, causing this issue to take care of itself over time.

Rathin Roy is optimistic about short term Indian economic growth but worries about India’s long term economic growth.  He worries that India could enter the upper middle income country trap, similar to Brazil. Let us assume that income or Y depends on three inputs, K (Capital = tools or the sum total of all previous investments minus depreciation), L (Labor = total hours worked),  A (technology, product development and process innovation, total factor productivity):

Y = F(AL, K)

dY/dL = marginal product of Labor = long term real wages on average

dY/dK = marginal product of Capital = long term real rate of return on investment

India has a reasonable savings rate which finances investment.

India has a long term challenge with A or technology. What are these challenges?:

Continue reading “India Still Rising (c)”

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Browncast Episode 43: Indian Elections, the Aftermath, with Kushal Mehra

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

In this episode we discuss the outcome of the Indian elections with Kushal Mehra, host of the Carvaka Podcast (and a BJP supporter, albeit not exactly a traditional one). Kushal thinks Modi’s sweeping victory had more to do with his ability to deliver real benefits to the poorest Indians. Feel free to disagree and post your opinions in the comments. We talk about the failure of the Left’s dream scenario of “dalit-Muslim unity” as a counterweight to Hindutvadi politics (at least in this election), what this means (or does not mean) for Indian democracy, the role of Indian Muslims, and so on.

 

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A quick reaction to Indian Election

I wrote the following article for one of the English daily newspapers in Bangladesh. The main idea is directly borrowed from a very good post in Brown Pundits (2016) by always superb contributor Omar Ali bhai.  “Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?”  https://www.brownpundits.com/2016/12/05/islam-is-rock-on-which-liberal-order/

Link to my article here.  Text follows. Just as a reminder, newspapers op-eds are not suitable place for good elaboration and defense of ideas. This is not an analysis or theorizing, just a reaction.

The rock that broke liberalism

https://www.dhakatribune.com/opinion/op-ed/2019/05/25/the-rock-that-broke-liberalism?fbclid=IwAR3cQVWjO1PYe6muE33Dijy44kR90fJRH1Iv6UBqS9KYqHr9e7AlTHKjvdo

I was watching live streaming of the India Election 2019 results on the NDTV website. Panelist after panelist was commenting on how significant were Balakot strikes in boosting BJP’s re-election prospects, and how ignorant are the liberal elites of India about the appeal of national identity among the masses.

This was NDTV, as a reminder, one of the citadels of India’s liberal elites. BJP’s triumphant re-election under Narandra Modi underscores the wave of right-wing populist nationalism sweeping across democracies of the world — Europe, Australia, Latin America, the US, Asia, maybe soon in Canada also.

With every election, every referendum taking place in established democracies, it is becoming apparent that this wave may not be just yet another right turn in the cycle of politics soon to be corrected by pivot to the left, but a fundamental shift in the people themselves.

A couple of years ago, in a South Asia focused blog I frequent, a much-admired Pakistani-American writer wrote a post posing a great question: “If and when modern humanism and liberalism crashes and burns, will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?”

His point was not that Islam single-handedly threw a powerful challenge to the liberal order, or “end of history” would have been achieved if Islam didn’t throw a wrench into the gears of civilization.

He argued that by obdurate refusal to accept the fundamental assumptions of post-enlightenment worldview, by obstinate resistance to assimilate with the mainstream when in the minority and by dogged persistence in recreating antediluvian theocracies when in majority, Muslims not only undermined the universal validity of the whole liberal project, but also sowed deep doubts about the liberal project among its previously most faithful adherents.

Muslim recalcitrance has hastened delivery of the contradictions that the liberal project was pregnant with from the beginning.

And the contradictions are huge indeed. The liberal order is prone to breakdown because it doesn’t sufficiently account for the fact that human nature itself is broken. People are not just utility or satisfaction maximizing beings. Enjoyment and suffering are intimately co-mingled.

People do not just want to reach heaven together; they want some, preferably who are somewhat different, to be confined to hell as well. Apart from the contradictions, surely undercurrents of technological and economic change, the shift in global power balance, the inevitable decay of political order, played a far more important role in undermining the liberal dominance than obstinate resistance of the followers of Islam?

However, it’s hard to deny any causative role of Islam. The emergence of right-wing, national identity politics was perhaps inevitable in India, but BJP’s astonishing dominance must be partially attributable to Pakistan’s persistent spoiling and nightmare-neighbour role? Right-wing majoritarians everywhere are scapegoating Muslims as the principal other; morality of their methods can be questioned, but the success cannot.

Moreover, I would argue that Islam has not undermined the liberal order by sowing doubts within liberal ranks or exposing its contradiction, it has weakened liberalism by emboldening and consolidating the enemies of liberalism in established democracies which were scattered and disheartened after the bloodbath of WWII and subsequent emergence of liberal world order.

Stubborn defense of group identity by Muslims of the world has made upholding group identity respectable for all groups, majority or minority, powerful or weak. In the age of mass politics, group identities like religion or nation have more elements in common than in difference. If Muslims can be unabashedly assertive about the sanctity of their religious identity and traditions, other groups can be unapologetic about their respective identities too.

Muslims may be a small minority in most of established democracies, but they comprise nearly one-fourth of humanity, and they have a very emphatic presence in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe. To people of different faiths, Muslims, regardless of their actual numbers as minority, represent the much talked-about demographic threat from the south.

Muslims, whether in majority or minority, are on the other hand deathly afraid of the political, cultural, and economic threats emanating from the leading political and ethnic groups of the world. It’s a mutual cycle of fear spiraling downwards. Muslims cheering the probable demise of a liberal world order is the height of folly.

As the world’s most powerless and disunited major group, they will continue to pay the major price of breakdown in blood and misery. Uighurs of China portend that bleak future.

In established democracies, Muslims are generally politically allied with liberal progressives, and this alliance has opened liberals up to accusation of double standards in protecting a very illiberal minority identity. Abandoning universalism and embracing identitarianism is hollowing out liberalism from within. Either the principles of liberalism apply for all groups or none at all.

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Browncast Ep 41: An Indian Muslim on Maharajah Modi

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…).

We speak to Jahanara, a Cambridge student who has extensive experience with the Delhi education system and who happens to be an Indian Muslim.

Image result for maharaja modi

I’m joined by MJ & LV (this is part 2 of Episode 38; I plan to do part 3 with Kushal of Carvaka) as we discuss the ramifications for India; it was a balanced podcast in the sense I felt that we respected all viewpoints and respectfully disagreed but enjoyed listening to one another.

As I alluded to in yesterday’s post; Jahanara is the “ideal Indian Muslim” by Indian standards. I don’t want to delve into her life details, to protect her privacy, but I can’t think of a prouder or more assimilated Indian. But it seems to me that her “Muslimness” is now almost being foisted on her; making her an incidental Muslim.

I get from the podcast that Indian Muslims, who are a multiplicity, are increasingly becoming a minority who have to prove their “Indianess.”

But listen to the podcast and make your own views. I did take LV & MJ to task for their “Hindu privilege”; a bit like white privilege, it’s so invisible in India that once can take it for granted.

I also called LV a Left-Liberal Hindu, her Hinduism isn’t necessarily important to her, but becomes an issue when she feels it’s being hijacked by Rightist forces.

So it was an interesting back and forth and as always I try to keep my views fluid so that the podcast can reflect the right balance of views. I did point out that Modi, in terms of his personal austerity and immense work ethic, is an enviable leader. He has no progeny to leave office to and no dynastic politics at work; he is all about the country. Incidentally Imran may be the same as I can’t see any of his three children succeeding him in terms of PTI.

I also feel that if India is heading towards the same type of governance as Pakistan (God forbid) then the idea that Hinduism is somehow manifestly superior to Islam is a bit weak. I do sense Indians want to keep the tagline of secular, liberal democracy but with overtly Hindu characteristics, which is fine albeit majoritarian.

MJ, as per usual, is off to good and great things; giving a speech today on Brexit and Dharma with Hindo Sengupta.

We would definitely appreciate more positive reviews. Many of you listen to us, but don’t leave any reviews!

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