Surviving through Kashmir Floods

This is my story

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My two kids – Abdullah 6 years old adn AbdulRahman 23 days old on the day of flood.

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The rainbow the day before the flood

6th September was my cousins mehendi _ day before the wedding day. We  didnt go the whole day as it was cold and rainy and it would be difficult to manage with a new born. My elder son who is 6 was bored and we spent the day playing word building. At around 5, the rain stopped and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. My son was super excited and went outdoors with my mother, took pictures and kept saying what a wonderful day it was.

We went to the mehendi function at around 7.30 which was held in the nearby community hall. It was cold and dark. There was no electricity and all people were too busy arranging blankets and lighting. We were using gas lamps and the discussion was that of the havoc flood had created. Somehow after a long cold wait, the menfolk managed to arrange a backup electricity and dinner was served right after. Dinner over, and we started to make arrangements for going home. It was around half past 10 when we left for home, to see people in groups on the road. We asked what the matter was and were told that the governement had issued an alert to evacuate the area due to flood. They said the flood water was coming from Islamabad and would reach JawaharNagar/Rajbagh area in around 7 hours. The people said, “Where will we go, we will just move to the 2nd storey of the house”.

Once we reached home, we woke up the family who had rented the ground  storey of my father’s house warning them of the flood and telling them that they could move their stuff to the 3rd storey and the doors have been left open for them in case of flood.

I told my parents to rest at ease since I wake up many times to take care of my newborn and that I would warn them in case I see anything. I kept waking up and checking outside for any sign of flood – for any sign of people evacuating.  I heard nothing. The ground was dry. All was quiet.

At 1:30a.m. my husband’s brother called me saying that he would come to pick us up since there is a flood alert in the area. Having seen the upto the brim flood channel two days back, I thought it would be too big a risk to travel at night over the Rambagh bridge. I kept thinking that the bridge could break – and well things seemed ok round our area – so why take the risk?  After a series of calls, I told him that we will be fine on the 2nd floor even in case of flood. I expected flood of 2 to 3 feet. He warned me and said that as per reports  the water might rise up to 6 to 7 feet. Just before dropping the phone, he asked if we had a 3rd storey in our house to which I answered in the affirmative.

Phone lines became congested after that and calls were made with difficulty. My husband (who was out of station) called at 3:00 am and asked if all was ok.

Again, all was well. I had heard an announcement in the masjid right before. I couldn’t hear anything said before, but when I reached the window where the sound was clear, I only heard “Bambaren che ne zuroorat” – there is no need to panic. I told my husband about this and we assumed all is well.

At 6:00 a.m. my aunt  (living in JawarharNagar area) called my father and said that water had begun to rise and it had already reached the drain in front of their house.  I told my father that I’d go to sleep now that they are up. However  at 7:30 a.m. I checked again the the ground was dry outside – I sent a message to my brother in law that all is well at this end. I must have dosed off after that.

At 9:30 a.m. my father woke me up, “come I will show you something” – I saw out of the window and it was not at all what I had expected. We expected the water to come from the front – it came from the back, we expected the water to rise slowly – it was a forceful gush of water. And the water came with all its force and started rising. I woke my son, Abdullah up and we all started looking at what the flood was doing. We saw walls around our and our neighbours houses fall as if made of sand. The water spared none. I reminded him of the story of Prophet Yunus and how only Allah could save him from inside of a stomach of the fish – inside the dark ocean. The only one who could save us from this water is Allah.

The family (husband, wife and father in law) living downstairs had already moved a lot of their stuff to our 3rd storey. I told them to move their rice and other food items up too. Meanwhile, water entered our house. It rose steadily and we kept counting the number of stairs it was covering.  When it was rising higher, I thought it might come inside our 2nd storey and wet our flooring. So my concern was to get everything that can be removed from the floor to a safer place.  We picked stuff and started piling it up on the beds.  I asked my mom to bring her purse with money etc up with her  – just in case.

I took my newborn – Abdul Rahman’s bags up to the third floor and his small mattress. As I saw the water rising to the topmost step of the ground floor, I took Abdul Rahman and Abdullah up.

I have never felt my brain stop working but it was now. I froze.

I held my Abdul Rahaman in my arms and gave instructions to Abdullah to not leave my sight whatever might happen. My mother brought a glass of milk for Abdullah. She said she’d get other things. I stopped her.

And we sat up there in the 3rd storey waiting. My mother kept counting the number of steps of the stairs as they were being covered by water.

We were inside a house that was inside a fast flowing river. Water rose higher and higher. My father saw our beds rise up to the ceiling – floating in water. We were incapacitated. We didn’t know what to do.

I was crying, my mother was crying, Surabhi was crying. All of us were praying.

There was nothing else we could do.

We heard and saw helicopters move in the sky. Some people took out flags with red cloth and started waving it to get attention. The helicopters obviously were not interested in saving any of us.

I heard some man’s voice reciting Quran. It was someone from our neighbors reciting Quran on top of the house where he was taking refuge. We were helplessly waiting – waiting for death?

We heard a house collapse. The sound is still so clear in my mind. And we knew our house could collapse all the same. It was an old house with wooden ceilings.

My father was tense. He sat and talked with the menfolk from the other family. There was tension everywhere.

Phones weren’t working. My phone battery was already low as there had been no electricity the day before. I communicated with my husband through sms messages which went after being resent a few times.

He was worried. When water reached 2nd floor and kept rising he asked if we needed to be rescued. I said yes, but wasn’t sure of how the rescue could be sent.

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Our house was under water – ground floor and first floor under water.

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I received a sms from my father in laws phone saying Faisal (my husband’s friend) was coming in a rescue boat to get us and to be on a lookout.

At around 2:30 we saw the boat finally. It was a small raft being manned by 2 people – one of them Faisal. When I looked at the boat, it didnt look safe to me.

But it was not time to complain. People were calling out to him to take them to a safe place. Obviously he couldn’t help everyone.

Our neightbours asked to be shifted to a safer and higher house and while the two men in the boat transferred them, I fed my newborn and packed a small bag with his clothes, blanket and diapers. I wrapped him in a towel and we waited on the varendah of the 3rd floor to  be rescued.

I asked my father if he’d like to be dropped to my aunts house – which I believed to be sturdier before Faisal would take us to a safe place. He said he wasn’t sure if they were still at home and didn’t want to waste time. We should leave immediately.

I thought if we leave and reach a safe place, we can arrange for their rescue too. So it was me and my two kids. Abdullah refused to be carried to the raft. It was scary, I don’t blame him. I had to go first. I climbed over the gril/iron fence around the varendah and had to jump into the raft. Then Abdul Rahman was handed down. And finally Abdullah. Faisal said there was place for one more person and Surabhi was sent down.

We were being rescued.

And we set out in the very small raft. I was worried for my parents – feeling helpless as we set out. We moved from over the houses – after all – it was one big river. The two men maneuvered the raft carefully – ensuring it doesn’t touch anything sharp – avoiding the roofs, avoiding the electricity poles. We used the electricity lines to help move in the water and we reached the rajbagh road (near Minto Circle).  A shikara carrying people was coming towards us. And suddenly – I saw Faisal try to cover a hole in the raft with his hand. Our raft had popped.

What happened in the next few seconds is still so unclear to me. It all happened too fast. When our boat popped, the first thought was to save the kids. Abdullah was transferred to the shikara which coincidentally was right next to our collapsing raft. I gave Abdul Rahman to a unwilling and scared man in that shikara. Abdullah started screaming and crying – “Meri mamma mar jayaygi” – “My mother is going to die.” Our raft was collapsing – from the bottom as well. We grabbed electricity high tension wires – and managed to get on top of a two storey building that had a flat roof – just the concrete slab.

We were alive.

We transferred the kids back to us on the building and the shikara moved on. I hugged Abdullah who was still in a shock. In fact we all were in shock. We sat on this building – which was the Rajbagh Postoffice building – shocked and unsure of how we were still alive. We laughed amidst our tension. It was laughter hiding the tension and fear that we all felt.

The towel in which I was carrying Abdul Rahman was damp. Luckily the blanket I had carried in the bag was still dry, so I wrapped him in that black and white striped blanket, and held him over the damp towel so it doesn’t get wet with my wet clothes. We sat thinking of what to do next.

We waited for some boat to rescue us from the post office. Boats came and went. They had to get people from places, or were already full. Some said we can take 1 person. Faisal asked me to go first with the kids and reach a safe place. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get help for them if I go as I wouldn’t be able to do much with two kids to take care of. It would make more sense if one of the men goes and comes back with a boat to rescue us and my parents and Surabhi’s husband and father in law.

The other guy with Faisal was sent. We told him to get a big boat so we all could be rescued. After he left, Faisal sat and said, “Do you know, I don’t know that guy!” – I was shocked – I was sure it was either his friend or cousin who had come along for our rescue. Faisal explained that when he had got into the raft his cousin had come along but didn’t know how to maneuver the raft. Then he had asked if anyone knew how to use the raft and this man had come forward. This man had been with Faisal the whole day rescuing people before they reached us.

Had we put our last chance of being rescued in hands of a man we didn’t know? He had just had a narrow escape from death. He might not be willing to put his life in danger for us – again. But maybe he would come back for us – we still had hope.

We watched all the boats coming but he didn’t come. Faisal thought he should try something and tried to make a raft of bamboo sticks that he got from an adjoining building. Well that raft that he made failed and we knew we were stuck here.

Finally it was getting dark and now we were getting worried for we would be stuck in open in the cold in the middle of nowhere.

A boat came by and Faisal pleaded with them to take just the kids and me. My 22 days old Abdur Rahman and my 6 year old Abdullah and myself were moved to the already full shikara. I managed to find a place to sit. A very kind lady held AbdulRahman with her and also handled Abdullah. She asked Abdullah to hug her tight and keep his eyes closed during our journey. It was already very dark – and the boatman had to move the shikara among rooftops, electricity poles and wire, broken trees – and there was no light – no flashlights to show him the way. He was skillful and we were lucky enough to reach Abdullah Bridge. Where we had come from didn’t make any sense – no land routes made any sense at all. There was water everywhere – in fact our boat moved over the dividers near Abdullah bridge and dropped us right onto the bridge.

On the bridge.

On the bridge there was chaos. It was dark, and people were just silhouttes without faces. Once we were out, I walked – barefooted as I and Abdullah was – on the bridge looking for the car that was supposed to wait for us there and pick us earlier that day. I remembered Faisal saying it was a white Safari with the number something like JK02. I walked like a mad woman – AbdulRahman in my arms, a bag across my shoulder, and Abdullah right next to me. I walked looking for it, but couldn’t find it. I thought it would be unlikely that anyone who expected us to come in the morning will still be here at night waiting for us. Also, the other side of the bridge which had been dry was also filled with water.

We were were stuck on a bridge which had water under it and on its two ends.

I asked around to see if we could move to nearby and safe DalGate area (where my husband’s uncle lived). One man said – “This tipper is going to dalgate. Get into this and you will be dropped.” I asked him where it would drop us exactly – for I knew it will be difficult for me to find the house in the dark. He said you will be dropped and will have to walk a bit in water to reach the housing areas. I thought it dangerous to have to walk in water in the dark with two kids so I stayed back.

I went back to where the boat had dropped us. I was going to see if anyone would take us along to their house – anyone’s house. I was helpless and scared for my children.

A kind lady told me that once transport is arranged she’ll take me home with her. But I knew their vehicle was completely packed. She was still waiting for someone and asked me to take refuge from the cold in an auto that was standing there. I sat in that auto with my two kids. It saved them from the cold. Abdullah was tired. I told him to put his head onto my lap and he fell asleep right away. I cried to see my kids in this situation.

One man came by and asked if we had eaten anything that day. I didn’t say anything – I couldn’t say anything. He gave me a pack of bread with a few slices of bread in it. I woke up Abdullah and fed him a slice or two. He ate them hungrily. I checked Abdul Rahman – I kept checking for his breath – so see if he was still breathing.

Someone said that the tipper that had gone to Dalgate to drop people had toppled in water. Had we been saved on more time?

I heard someone say that people should move from this side of the bridge to another as water might rise on this side. I walked to the other side of the bridge and sat down. I huddled Abdul Rahman in my lap. Abdullah sat close by. He was cold. I covered him partly with my shawl while some of it was on top of AbdulRahman, while some on my head. I sat feeling miserable. I felt scared and worried for my parents – at least we were alive. I wasn’t sure if my parents were still alive – our house could have collapsed. I was worried for Faisal and Surabhi who were still stranded on the post office. I could see flashing lights from Rajbagh, and hear people screaming for help. I felt miserable.

While in this misery, I spotted a relative on the bridge. Their family too was stranded on the bridge. I sat close to them. Suddenly, Usman my cousin who was getting married comes infront of me “Baji, what are you doing here?” He told me his story. Their house had collapsed but they all have moved in time to another uncle’s house. I told him my story. He looked at my bare feet and asked me to wear his slipper. I wore them for a while and them asked Abdullah to wear it. It was way too big for him, but atleast covered his cold feet. I asked him if I could send an sms through his phone. I tried, but it didn’t go through. His cousin Babar came by I asked him I could send an sms through his phone. Again he said you can try and I sent an sms to Jahangeer telling him that we are alive and on the bridge. The message went through and after some time Jahangeer called on his phone and I talked to him. I told him briefly what had happened and where we were. He said the he had already talked and that rescue boats will be sent only in the morning. At least he knew we were alive.

That night was the longest night of my life. Sitting on top of river Jehlum, I waited for morning. Abdullah was cold, hungry and sleepy. I wasn’t sure if my new born will survive. I was shivering with cold myself.

Usman said that it is dangerous to go in a boat now as people just cram in and there is danger of it getting toppled. We will move early morning to a safer place.

At dawn, the birds woke up and and announced morning. I thought to myself. I would have loved to be here in normal circumstances and would have marvelled at the beauty around me – but right now – even this was part of a nightmare.

We all gathered to get into the boat. It was set to go near SangarMall wherefrom I would’ve gone to Usman’s relatives house with them. Usman said he would go back to JawaharNagar and try to see if he can rescue people from there. I implored on him about my parents and that I was worried on account of them living in an old house and that it could collapse anytime. I returned him his slippers, telling him that I will reach a safe place soon.

Usman left and we have to leave in the boat. However, this boat that we were to leave in had a hole in it. So we didn’t leave. We sat and waited.

Around 8:00 or 9:00 – I had no track of time – we heard that rescue boats will be coming to take people from the bridge. People were lined up so the rescue in boats could be organized.

I was too tired and just wanted to rest for a while. I saw a jeep and thought if I could sit at the back for a while. A man moved the men sitting there and made place for us. We sat and I rested my back for some time. More women got in to rest. Everyone had a sad story to tell. The woman who sat near me had a baby 1 month old who she had sent earlier on with her sister and didn’t know where it was. While I sat there, Abdullah said “Faisal Chachu” – and I asked where – he pointed to him. I called him and was happy to see him. He was surprised to see me and asked why I was still there and had not gone the night before. I told him what happened. Faisal and Surabhi had been rescued from the PostOffice the same day as us and he had sent her on a rescue boat to a rescue point at night itself. Faisal too had been at the bridge – only that he had not seen us and we had not seen him.

Anyhow, we got into the queue and waited for our turn to get rescued. Women were asking for water for kids who were famished and thirsty. Abdullah too was thirsty and begged for water. One woman had procured some water in a bottle for her daugther. I asked her for some water for him. Two cap-fuls of water was what my son got to quench his thirst.

Abdullah refused to get onto the motor powered raft. He said he would never get into a raft ever again. We waited for a shikara and got into it. The men who were rowing the shikara were tired and thirsty. They asked if they could get a little drinking water. There was water everywhere but not a drop to drink. The brave men said they’d get water soon, and asked us to get into the boat. This boat too had a hole in it and a man got into drain that water from the boat as it moved in the flood water to DalGate. Abdullah was too scared and was crying. I asked him to hug me while we moved on and we kept reciting the Kalima together. The roads that are full of traffic had turned to a river. Tourist Reception Center was under water. Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s corporate head quarters was under water. We reached near Jan Bakers (Dal Gate), but the boat couldn’t take us to land – the rush of water was too high and it would make it difficult for the boat to go back to get more people. So they had tied a rope and people waded through water to the other side. Women were carried by men to the other side. I told the men that I could wade through the water on my own but needed help with my children. One man carried Abdul Rahman, another carried Abdullah on his shoulders. I tried to walk through the water with my bag. It was very difficult to wade through the water due the speed at which it flowed. A man came to help me out, carried my bag walked with me till I reached the other end. Once I reached the other side, I freaked out for I couldn’t see my kids. But it was just a moment after that I caught glimpse of Abdullah and AbdulRahman. These men took my kids up the stairs and I walked behind with the bag. I was much slower compared to the men – tired and worn out. I tried to catch up but couldn’t. The men would wait for me to catch up in the middle and then walk on till we reached the cafeteria on the hilltop.

I always wanted to climb up these stairs and see what was at the top. However, this was not what I had in my mind.

We reached up there where this young man asked me if I had a blanket with me – I asked in negative and he got a blanket from somewhere and spread it on the floor and asked me to sit on it with my kids. I sat down, grateful, tired and feeling safe. Abdullah saw some kids with food and asked if he could get some. I told him to wait till I figure out where to get it. Some girls sitting in the corner asked about me – felt sorry for me and asked if I had had anything to eat. They passed me a bananas and I took one for Abdullah. Hungry as he was, he ate quickly. I told him to put his head on my lap and lie down. I folded the edge of the blanket on his legs which were wet. He fell asleep right away.

I was in a refuge camp. There were groups of people everywhere. More people walked in – sometimes meeting someone they knew. Everyone would start crying and asking whereabouts of others they might have some news of. There were people crying. Rescue teams would bring up little kids and hold them high for everyone to see – “Anyone knows this kid?” until the kid was owned up. They gave clothes to people, food and a sense of security.

I sat there trying to figure how to reach Jahangeer’s uncles home. I asked around. There are much confusion but I heard that even Dal Gate was under water in some places. Faisal also came looking for us here and asked us to come with us so he could escort us to Jahangeer’s uncles house.

We started walking. Faisal got Abdullah onto his shoulders and then looked at my bare feet. There stood in front of us a beggar woman. Faisal asked her if she was willing to sell her slippers for Rs 50/- to which she agreed. I wore the beggar woman’s slippers and walked on. We asked for directions – which was met with directions + invitations to have lunch first. Thankfully, we moved on till I reached home. When I walked in, I was met with hugs and tears. Everyone had been worried that we might not have survived.

Faisal said he had fulfilled his responsibility and couldn’t stay. He had to leave.

I was glad to be at a place I could call home. And this was at present home to 4 other displaced families.

The first thing I wanted to do after changing and washing up was to call Jahangeer and tell him that we are safe and find out if my parents had been saved. Telephone lines weren’t working. There was no news of my parents.

Three days later my husbands uncles walked from Baghat to DalGate. They brought good news. My parents were alive and at present in my in-laws house. Alhamdulillah. I was relieved. Now I knew that they knew I am alive and I knew they are well. I was thankful and calm. However, we were told that it would be impossible for us to go to Baghat as the route was way too dangerous.

We stayed in DalGate for many days. I have no count of the days. These days were long tense days. The food stock in Dalgate was already low – the shops had no ways to get new stock, people had swarmed to DalGate from rest of the city. There was no electricity, very little water. There was no collection of garbage and the inside roads stank of garbage. We would hear announcements “Name of person from this place – if anyone knows whereabouts of this person please report to the masjid”. There were people looking for their nears and dears. There were announcements of Janazah/ Funeral prayers. There were reports of death, and rumours of death. The atmosphere was that of tension and misery.

Everyone had lost something.

Parting words:

I wrote this story of mine to pen down what has been going on in my mind ever since. I keep getting flashbacks of my hungry child sleeping on the footpath on the bridge. I keep dreaming of flood even today, and I keep thinking of all those unsung heroes who put their lives in danger to save others. I know Faisal for he is my husband’s friend, and there were so many others whose names I know not. These were locals – brave hearts who I pray will be rewarded by Allah manifold – for no reward is good enough for them.

Lessons Learned:

For the first time I realized what hunger and thirst could do – the state of those who beg for these. I felt pain watching my child go hungry – something I will never forget.
I also realized through experience that Allah will save you in whatever condition you might be – if it isn’t the time written for your death.
I saw that the basic needs for all people – rich and poor is same. No one was looking for comforts on the bridge that night — everyone wanted the basic necessities that make us all equal.

Khandar – The Kashmiri Wedding – Kupwara

A few years back I had the honour of being invited to a wedding feast in Kupwara. To me a chance to visit the countryside in Kashmir is always something I look forward to – not only does it pristine unmatched beauty thrill me, the simplicity of its people, the sweet smile of the kids who grow up away from the ‘city-life’ makes me feel like this is the real Kashmir. Kashmir away from the ugly influences that makes us act like someone else.

Anyhow, that is a different discussion altogether. I am here to write about the Kashmiri Wedding – Kupwara style! 🙂 Travelling from Srinagar to Kupwara wasnt exactly very easy especially due to the traffic on the highway.  The roads are pretty well built (general countryside comparison) so it wasn’t much of a problem reaching Kupwara otherwise.

Within Kupwara itself it took some time to figure out where exactly our host lived and we ended up driving through a streamlet. (I loved it – absolutely!). The road within the village was very difficult to travel through especially walking with little baby guests. Anyhow, we reached – late. Better late then never.

By the time we reached the bride had already been brought home. There was music and drum beating and the wanwun(traditional wedding singing) started. We dropped our stuff and rushed back down to view the festivities. The women sang together, standing and singing. The wanwun style was different from the Srinagar style, and the environment was completely different. Nobody looked made up to pretend to be someone else. Women carrying children, children running here and there, some groups up and some down (on the uneven terrain), singing and happy. There was a small tent(shamiyana) where the bride was. I made my way in the tent scanning to look for the bride. In srinagar the bride would be all decked up and sitting on some arrangement close to being a throne. I coudln’t find the bride. The tent was packed with women sitting so close to each other that there was hardly space to walk through.

And then finally I saw her – there was someone clad in a burka and she was the bride. And I thought how apt. The bride all dressed up is the last thing we should put up for display as we do in the city. The bride dresses up for her groom and not to display her charms to the guests who have come. I was impressed.

The children had started playing with firecrackers and confetti – jubilant having got their hands on them.

We (being special guests) got special treatment and the food was ready to be served so we were called up in the exclusive room to have our lunch. We were famished and more than happy to hear the food announcement. Gladly we walked into the mudhouse and the room on the first floor. The room was simple – mud walls. Window with a beautiful view of the wide expanse of paddy fields and the mountains in the backdrop. We washed our hands with the tash-naer as is traditionally done and pretty much jumped onto the wazwan. The wazwan was way simpler than the city extravagant wazwan, tasted different too somehow, but alhamdulillah was good. While we ate, we heard music and with my hand still having food on it, I crawled to the window to see- and I literally wanted to jump outta the window to join the festivities. There was the sword dance going on. Tried to take the video with one hand and (the other still having food clung to it) and a little boy of 2 tugging at me.

Here it is, for the blog readers! (Click on the image below to start the player)

*Video:wedding in kashmir - scene from a wedding in kupwara

 

Final thoughts:

Kashmiri wedding doesn’t have to be complicated extravagant affair really. It can be simple and beautiful like the wedding feast I experienced in Kupwara!

 

Romance in Islam

Romance in IslamHow often do you hear people talk about Romance with an Islamic context? Talking of romance, of love generally speaking – in front of many Muslims would raise eyebrows as the image of ‘Romance’ and ‘Love’ that we have today is what is presented by the Holly/Bolly Wood or the loads of novels that come with stories making people fanaticize love using the perspective of the authors. These people start imagining and making this love the ideal for their own lives. I have seen loads of people who sing songs with perfect lyrics not knowing the language at all. There are so many who would intelligently discuss how life is so well portrayed in these. The response to love and all associated ways of expressing it come in the form of people burning Valentine Cards, shunning any form of talk of romance and love.

The problem is that love and affection and even romance for that matter is a natural human need that finds no ideology to follow in our cultures and finds beautiful looking image of life in what is presented in these un-Islamic sources of entertainment.So does this mean that the rich Islamic life system that covers just about every aspect of life, forgets about this very important need? Is romance to be abhorred just because we have learnt over time to understand it from the western or hindi-movie perspective?

I found a very interesting blog post by a Muslim about how the idea of a romantic evening would differ from an Islamic and the de-facto perspective.

I knew there has to be some guideline, something that would make romance fit within the Islamic perspective going back to the time of the Prophet. And wow! There is so much, and so beautiful in the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself that tells us what romance is. Maybe the typical mullah forgot to talk about this aspect and we just clung on to a strict, no-smile image of Muslim that is so anti-Islam. But of course the learned men and women could tell you a lot more on how a beautiful relationship is to bemaintained than a ’google-searcher’ like me could put forth.

Anyhow, I did my research and I have my conclusions drawn from the beautiful life of the Prophet (s.a.w), and his companions.Bringing flowers for your loved one, looking beautiful for your mate, having a candle-light dinner with your mate — things that bring romance and speak of love are not only possible but something that would be recommended. The only difference – and an important difference indeed – is that the relationship has a pure foundation — that the man and woman, who have this bond of love, are legally bound together in the bond of marriage. [And of course, marriage is not to be that drag that men and women seem stuck in, and forward jokes about. In Islam, a marriage is the foundation for love and affection between a man and woman that is unlike any other human relationship.]

So, now that you want to talk of romance, a good idea would be to get married. For what is romance without a mate?

With marriage settled and accepted as the default, let’s talk of Romance.

“They are your garments and you are their garments” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:187).

How beautiful, and how romantic. J This statement from the Quran itself puts in one sentence the meaning of marriage and what it is supposed to be. The husband and wife are supposed to be to each other like garments – closest to you, protecting you, beautifying you, hiding your shame, and comforting you. SubhanAllah! What could be a better analogy to describe marriage?

How to poison your mother in law

Got this in another email! And yes, it is very very interesting. 😛

Poison Your Mother-in-Law …

A long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all.

Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law’ s habits. In addition, she criticised Li-Li constantly.
Days passed days, and weeks passed weeks. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish.
All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing Li-Li’s poor husband great distress.
Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law’ s bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it.
Li-Li went to see her father’s good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all. Mr. Huang thought for a while, and finally said, Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you. Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.”
Mr.Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs.
He told Li-Li, “You can’t use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I have given you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body.
Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. Don’t argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”
Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of murdering her mother-in-law.
Weeks went by, and months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr.Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother. After six months had passed, the whole household had changed.
Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn’t had an argument with her mother-in-law in six months because she now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.
The mother-in-law’ s attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in- law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.
Li-Li’s husband was very happy to see what was happening.
One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again. She said, “Dear Mr. Huang, please help me to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law! She’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”
Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there’s nothing to worry about. I never gave you any poison. The herbs I gave you were vitimans to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”
Treatment of Mothers-in-Laws
By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi
Excerpt from: The Muslim Woman and her Husband.
Note: Although the article below is written in reference to the wife treating her mother-in-law.
The advices are also applicable to the husband in his treatment to his mother-in-law as well.

One of the ways in which a wife expresses her respect towards her husband is by honouring and respecting his mother.

The Muslim woman who truly understands the teachings of her religion knows that the person who has the greatest right over a man is his mother, as one notes in many Ahaadeeth. So she helps him to honour and respect his mother, by also honouring and respecting her. In this way she will do herself and her husband a favour, as she will be helping him to do good deeds and fear Allah Ta’ala, as commanded by the Qur’an. At the same time, she will endear herself to her husband, who will appreciate her honour and respect towards his family in general, and towards his mother in particular. Nothing could please a decent, righteous and respectful man more than seeing strong ties of love and respect between his wife and his family, and nothing could be more hateful to a decent man than to see those ties destroyed by the forces of evil, hatred and conspiracy. The Muslim family which is guided by faith in Allah Ta’ala and follows the pure teachings of Islam is unlikely to fall into the trap of such jahili (ignorant) behaviour, which usually flourishes in communities today.

A Muslim wife may find herself being tested by her mother-in-law and other in-laws, if they are not of good character. If such is the case, she is obliged and would be meritorious to treat them in the best way possible, which requires a great deal of cleverness, courtesy, diplomacy and repelling evil with that which is better. Thus she will maintain a balance between her relationship with her in-laws and her relationship with her husband, and she will protect herself and her marriage from any adverse effects that may result from the lack of such a balance.

The Muslim woman should never think that she is the only one who is required to be a good and caring companion to her spouse, and that nothing similar is required of her husband or that there is nothing wrong with him mistreating her or failing to fulfill some of the responsibilities of marriage. Islam has regulated the marital relationship by giving each partner both rights and duties. The wife’s duties of honouring and taking care of her husband are balanced by the rights that she has over him, which are that he should protect her honour and dignity from all kinds of mockery, humiliation, trials or oppression. These rights of the wife comprise the husband’s duties towards her: he is obliged to honour them and fulfil them as completely as possible.

One of the Muslim husband’s duties is to fulfill his role of qawwam (maintainer and protector) properly. This is a role that can only be properly fulfilled by a man who is a successful leader in his home and family, one who possesses likeable character and qualities. Such a man has a noble and worthy attitude, is tolerant, overlooks minor errors, is in control of his married life, and is generous without being extravagant. He respect s his wife’s feelings and makes her feel that she shares the responsibility of running the household affairs, bringing up the children,and working with him to build a sound Muslim family, as Islam wants it to be.

Khandar – The Kashmiri Wedding – part 2

One of the readers pointed out that the Kashmiri wedding is a lot more than just food, and I certainly agree. Actually the food is just a part of it – an interesting set of courses that interest the five senses in different forms.

But the fact remains that in Kashmir weddings are an elaborate affair that start with the elaborate and painstaking process of matchmaking. This involves middle-men(or sometimes women) called the ‘manzimyor‘ (or manzimyarin), who do their part to make the simple and beautiful concept of a nikah into an elaborate set of annoying rituals. But then the marraige rituals come much later – only after the kouri-mael (girl’s family) and the gobre’-mael (boy’s family) come to terms and agree that marriage should take place.

So without digging into so many things that would side-track me, I will dedicate this post to the manzimyors and their endless pursuit of finding happiness for their clients.

Anyways the process starts with the parents of the girl/guy [who they wish to get married] calling for manzimyors. Or, well, sometimes the manzimyor having sighted a potential client might just decide to walk into the house himself.

Anyhow, the manzimyor carries his ‘list’ of potential spouse-to-be for the client. The list is usually in terms of
Name
Date of Birth
Parentage
Caste
info on brothers/sisters (and if married a little on who they are married to)
Educational background
Job profile
Address

and once in a while, it comes with a photograph too.

The parents look at the list, shortlist candidates, do a background check. This checking process could mean a visit to the neighbor’s house, checking with colleagues of the prospective boy/girl, getting information about the parents from whatever sources possible.

The manzimyor arranges for the other to check if they would be interested as well. And then they too do their checkup routines.

Now that both sides are ready and satisfied with the ‘rest of the things’ comes the viewing/interviewing of the girl/boy. This can be done by the parents, cousins, or well whoever the family deems fit to take the interview (sometimes this is skipped going to next step). The boy and girl meet — meeting could range from seeing from far or talking for 2-20 mins.

And ta-da.

If they both say yes [well that’s what it is supposed to be]… then, the next step is the ‘thap’ — literally meaning “catching” — which is nothing dramatic like it sounds. Its as simple as the parent’s of the boy giving a gift to the girl (which is almost ALWAYS gold). This is to symbolize the agreement of both sides in taking further steps to getting the two married.

huh! and now i am tired.
Actually the way i put it, it sounds rather simple. But well.. it can get annoyingly difficult… however… this is the traditional way of getting married in Kashmir … and the NORM.

Anyone who defies the norm is looked at with those strange eyes that stare without understanding.. but then…. that is a different issue…. will talk about it some other day..

In the meanwhile, you can stay fascinated with the way marriages are arranged in Kashmir!

Men’s rights in Islam.

Oh yes you read it right. I didn’t forget any woe-some ‘wo’ anywhere. I am here doing a little research on men’s rights in Islam.

Its been a very suffocating and frustrating experience being labeled as a “feminist” just because I question the way the position of men has been portrayed in our society.

There was a time when I used to argue with any Little Tom, Mr.Dick and Uncle Harry, not to speak of Little Beth, Miss Susan and Aunty Betty. And then I realized that its pointless – simply because you can’t argue with walls.

And I have given up on reading from volumes and volumes that speak of women’s rights (sometimes speaking more in terms of duties) in Islam (which is, simply put, submission to God alone), because it is quite simple really.

What many people unfortunately don’t realize, much to my distaste and their own misunderstood definition of life, is that the rights and duties of human beings lies in the different roles that they play. They differ and compliment each other.

As an individual, each human being is equal and has same rights. It is only when it comes to the roles that they play that the job-scope, job-responsibility differs. It is pretty simple if you really were to think of it. But we human beings have our way of making simple things so complex and difficult that we end up fighting over the things that we all logically agree to.

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Quran 33:35)

Ah! Now isn’t that beautiful. SubhanAllah! So all those freaked out men who think Islam has given them an upper hand, and all those freaked out women who think Islam is making them second class citizens – please READ and THINK!

So since all of you can read volumes about women’s rights in Islam, I think a little note on men’s rights ought to be there. InshaAllah one day I will dedicate a book on this … (that is one of my long term plans… oh.. plz dont steal my idea…:( ), but now I am going to put it in a little note for you all to read through and comment.

Man as an individual
Man’s rights as an individual are no different from that of a woman. Just like women, men too have to pray 5 times a day, fast the whole month of Ramadan, give charity, go to Hajj (if they have the means to).
(Note: Though women are absolved from praying and fasting on certain days due to their special needs, men have no such privileges.)
Also, the same rules apply to men and women when it comes to speaking the truth always, not backbiting, being honest and all the good good deeds. Also, just like women, they have right to work and earn a living through that work.

Man as a son
The first role that every human being takes is that of a child. As a child, just like women, men have to be good to their parents, to take care of them, to be especially kind to the mothers, and other good things.
However, in addition to these duties, men are also supposed to financially support the parents, and sisters( if they are unmarried, for if they are married their husbands are supposed to do that).

Man as a husband
This is a very special role that a man takes upon himself, and obviously his role is different from that of women counterparts.
First, to get married, the man must first prove his ability and serious intention to take care of the family that this marriage would lead to. So, he must provide the wife “mehr” (an amount of money that is demanded by the bride [btw, there is no limit to the amount that can be specified]).
Now that he has got his wife and the nikah (the marriage agreement) has been signed in front of witnesses, the man has to provide a feast to the people. This marriage feast called ‘walima’ doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, but it is meant to announce and rejoice in the marriage.
With the wife brought home, the husband has to provide for her. Men have to protect (cool.. if a lion attacks, the man must risk his life to save the wife… cool.. this is religious obligation)

men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Quran 4:34 )

Well did u read it properly.. did u read “beat” and get that grin on your face? If you grinned and thought men are supposed to beat up their wifes, shame on you. If you really understood what this meant, you would be saying just as I do.. subhanAllah!.
What is asked of women is to be loyal to their husbands – and it is in extreme cases when women tend to cheat on thier husbands, that men must do something to fix the case. So a guideline is laid for them
– first admonish them
– then refuse to share bed with them
– then beat (actually it is not more than a tap with a stick as big as a toothbrush as explained by the blessed Prophet).

So even in such serious matters where men can and do tend to loose their heads, Islam puts a restrain and sets a limit.

Anyways, since Muslim women are expected to be (and generally are, alhamdulillah) loyal to their husbands, this is to speak of fixing a problem. What we all need to focus on is the fact that the man is responsible to providing for the women. If you would like to get more information on that I suggest you listen to Shiekh Yusuf Estes (Oh, I absolutely adore this man.)

Anyways, if i were to talk of the responsibility of man towards his wife in the role of a husband, that alone would need a book.. but this is just a starter … so we shall leave the delicacies for the book.

Man as a father
As a father again, man has many many responsibilities. The man must provide for all the financial needs for the children alone. However, just like women men have to take care of the children, and ensure proper education of the children catering to their need for affection and love.
Even in case of divorce, the man is supposed to provide for the children regarding food, clothing, schooling, and health expenses according to the father’s standard of life.

What I have put together here in this small note is what Islam requires of men. Because Allah made us, He understands us best. He is compassionate and full of Mercy.

And He has asked us to deal with each other with love and affection. All humans – men & women – have been asked to keep faith and do good deeds.