A Christmas Carol

I believe that the books that we have read as a child do have much to offer if looked at again with adult eyes. There are things, for example, friendship, brotherhood, love, treachery, heartbreak, misery, war, and most of all death, that a child has yet to encounter. As far as adults go, we have had a fair share of these either it being a personal experience or from other people’s lives.

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A Christmas Carol was first published in the year 1843 and today we are in 2017. This very fact, that two people, the writer and the reader, can come in contact, have a conversation, and momentarily, share a period of time long gone, is a testament to the power that books hold.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Ebenezer “Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” on whom “External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.”, and on top of all that, he hates Christmas.

This is the first time I am reading Charles Dickens as far as I recall (I may have read his work as I child), and his writing style took me by a pleasant surprise.
When he mentions the death of Scrooge’s partner and friend, Jacob Marley, this is how he describes his condition.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

The flow, the usage of words, the craft, I loved every bit of them and I am sharing direct quotes from early on in the book so that you may get a taste of it.
Your mileage may vary.

Scrooge’s nephew comes to his house to invite him to Christmas dinner which you may have understood by now he refused.
He the turns away two men who came seeking donation for the poor, and gives his clerk, Bob, a hard time when he asks for a day’s leave on Christmas.  Later that night, Marley’s ghost pays him a visit and when he comes to terms that something haunted is coming his way, he says, “It’s humbug still!” said Scrooge. “I won’t believe it.”.

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I will not say more as it will be a major disservice to you, the reader.
Though I will add that Marley’s ghost isn’t the only ghost who pays him a visit.

This is a story of great inspiration and heart about how we as person change over the course of our lives, be it for the good or the bad, and how life gives us a chance to reflect on our life and mend it before it gets too late.
I highly recommend this book to any lover of Classics.

Also, I take great pleasure in informing you that this novella is the first book that I have started (7/2) and finished (15/2) in 2017. As I have stated in my article, The Stranger, 2016 was not a productive year for me when it came to both reading and writing.
I am currently reading two non-fiction books, The Prince and Meditations.
Both of them require a good amount of brain juice and are not suited for just picking up and reading. For this reason, I started A Christmas Carol. I read it on my tablet through Google Play for free. This is a public domain book and you can easily find it for free, like on Gutenberg.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the City. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!”

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Video

The famous Lucknow, its railway station, late train and fun conversation

Hi everyone,

In this video I introduce you to my city Lucknow and its main railway station.
I had gone to the railway station to pick up my brother (Dawood) whose train was running late.

That’s when the idea to start recording what was in my mind came to my mind, it turned out to be decent plus me and my brother Usama had a great time, so I gave them a basic edit and it is here for your viewing pleasure.

Basic History Lesson:

On 23 April 1867, the 47 mile Lucknow-Kanpur section was opened for traffic. This became part of the Oudh Rohilkhand Railway. The present Lucknow division, in 1925 was part of East Indian Railway till 1952. It caters to the Rail transport requirement of the most populous state of the country, serving 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh, with a total route of 1,458.94 km (906.54 mi), through 194 stations.

Lucknow’s Charbagh Railway Station, till 1867, was a large orchard. The present Station building was constructed in 1926 with domes and minars of Saracan design, intended to harmonise with the architecture peculiar to the important historical buildings to the city which date to the days of the Nawabs of Oudh. The building constructed in red brick has a frontage of long verandahs adorned with Mughal arches. It is situated at Charbagh in the south of the city, hence the popular name. The words ‘Char Bagh’ refer to the four gardens which existed here earlier.

Keep Calm and Work

Many times I read status updates and tweets from people that feel like pure gold, and then once in a while you find a goldmine. Once such goldmine is Ustadh Abu Eesa.

Following him on Social media and listening to his lectures has been a great experience, the way he presents his thoughts in a clear, concise, concrete manner is amazing Masha’Allah. On occasion he shares long status updates like the very latest one which I am going to share with you in just a moment, that although is primarily for a Muslim audience but Insha’Allah others will also benefit from it.

There are people who stand up for a cause they feel close to, want to change something, improve the world, Masha’Allah, very noble indeed but when others don’t join them in or don’t follow their way of standing up for the cause, they get sore. Now this is what basically Abu Eesa’s latest status update is all about.

I’d like to give some sincere (long!) advice first to myself, and then secondly to the Muslim activists of today.

This would usually be very straightforward to normal people in normal times, but the problem is that practising Muslims have become worryingly emotional, in no doubt emotional times. The reason this is calamitous is because practising Muslims are meant to be the stable, objective and mature voices that non-practising and/or excitable/immature Muslims are meant to seek understanding from in times of confusion.

Again this is a reminder to myself before anyone else. And the fact that I have to keep repeating this is only so that it becomes easier to swallow iA for those who might need it most. See, these folks get very angry if we don’t repeatedly refer something to ourselves publicly and again and again. Such is life. And of course, I am not free of emotions and no doubt this is most applicable to me too in light of all I have said and done.

It is actually very dangerous when working for a cause – such as currently, getting Moazzam Begg off ridiculous terrorism charges etc, or long-term, reducing the plight of the Palestinians, or those which we don’t do enough, procuring more rights for Asian modern-day slaves in the Gulf countries – that you believe only *your* method for change is the correct one. That you believe only what *you* are doing is righteous. That you believe anyone else who isn’t doing what you’re doing, is wrong, or to be criticised, humiliated or condemned.

This is Islamically unacceptable. Anyone with a modicum of Shar‘i knowledge would not make this claim. That is why you don’t ever hear such statements from scholars or those blessed with intellect and experience. Why? Because none of these actions that people want from you in support of their cause are things which Allah sent down, or obligated upon His creation, or His Messenger (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) commanded to, or the Companions reached consensus on. Their legal status is that unless they contain something prohibited, they are *allowed* (mubāḥ) and potentially recommended based upon agreement, and possibly even obligatory based upon evidences which must be furnished by the claimant on a case-by-case basis.

You’ll rarely hear an ‘Ālim say, “Why did YOU not retweet/FB/attend/record a video/protest/lobby/poster the town/write about this? Aha! Your silence is DEAFENING! Not got permission from your paymaster/love the dunya too much/only help your mates/support your nation only/adore your kids too much/blah blah ad infinitum!??” but you *will* hear the naïve and ignorant repeat this again and again.

Rather, these are all permissible means which are based upon the general benefit that they achieve. They are not to be forced upon people! You do *not* have the right to make imtiḥān (determine a person’s state) of the people on such matters subḥānallāh. You are going to use the matters of politics and subjective opinions, to hold the people accountable?! To force them in to that which Allah and His Messenger doesn’t force them? A-fattān anta? Are you seriously putting the people to trial like this? Allah and His Messenger are free of you.

Reminder the believers of their obligations by all means, but how few proper reminders do we see today! And that is a reminder to myself too, yes I know! Guilty as charged!

Stop putting believers on the spot in this fashion, when Allah doesn’t. “Why are you not protesting for Palestine today!?” “Why are you not part of the Twitter Storm?!” “Why isn’t your Facebook cover photo the Raba’a sign?!” “Why isn’t your cover photo the Syrian flag?” “Why did you not retweet XYZ?!”

Stop forcing people to do things according to *your* opinion for *your* sake, and not for Allah’s.

Stop trying to embarrass people for doing the ḥalāl which they normally do from laughing, smiling, joking, studying, working, chilling, whatever. All which Allah has allowed for them. All which is still allowed for them even if the world is burning down. All which is still allowed for them even if you are hurting and crying for whatever reason. All which you and everyone on this planet does *day and night* whilst somewhere someone every second around the world is horribly oppressed or murdered or persecuted. All of which we are collectively responsible in the general sense, and others in the specific sense as per the principles of Sharī‘ah, in different ways and means and methods.

We are allowed to differ on these matters. Allah and His Messenger have allowed it. So who are you to close the doors and force people through yours? Some prefer certain avenues, others don’t. Some are busy, some aren’t. Some believe you, some don’t. This is not Qur’ān. This is not Ḥadīth. This is politics. This is the area of discussion and debate, not that of certainty and creed. Some prefer political lobbying, others see it as a waste of time. Others prefer protesting and demos, others don’t and never will. Some want a huge celebrity endorsement, others want to keep celebrities out of it. Some want to get scholars involved, others want to protect them for other things. Some want to action alert everything, others prefer to choose their fights more judiciously. Some want to put out every fire, others are busy developing better fire-proof material. Some prefer aid convoys in their charity work, others prefer outsourcing the work entirely. Some prefer to blog, others prefer to write mainstream. Some like petitions to change someone’s minds, others like “donations” to them to change their minds. Some prefer to quality focus on key individuals, others want to address the masses as per their time constraints. Some prefer donating money, others like donating their time and skills instead. Some believe in long-term strategy, others prefer short-term populist wins. Some like hashtag X, others prefer hashtag Y. Some adore Facebook, others think the Sun shines only out of Twitter’s backside. Indeed *some* think all social media is but a backside.

Sure, you might read the ‘Ulemā criticise peoples’ means and methods, objectives and outcomes, theories and practices, but you will not hear condemnation of the actor himself, you will not see a judgement of the intention. Do yourself a favour and follow their methodology.

Now I know many of you will be thinking that this is about me, that I am defending myself. Well, I’m sorry to shatter your dreams but I’ve got nothing to defend myself against. And I’m far too thick-skinned for that bakwas. Been there, got the t-shirt, don’t fit anymore. ‪#‎truestory‬

I actually wrote this because some folks requested it complaining to me of the behaviour of their brothers towards them on this matter, pressurising them to do things they didn’t want to do, and also what they felt were unfair attacks on public figures (one, a journalist, who I will write about later) who for some reason are meant to be “more obligated” than anyone else on these matters.

Actually, they are, and they’re not. They *are* more obligated, but not by you. They are more obligated by Allah. And He will hold them more accountable than the masses.

And they’re not. The masses can remove people who are paid to do a job for them, or officials who represent them. But your “Imams/scholars/Dā‘īs/Ustādhs”, no. You can’t. On what authority are you doing that exactly?

And by the way, if you do actually recognise them as public “more obligated” figures, then you are also more obligated to make excuses for them. That’s istidrākan direct from the Sunnah of the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

And can you imagine what it does to one’s own tawakkul in Allah and one’s creed if their own activism or actions is contingent on those in the public eye? People claim, “we are looking for leadership.” Wake up. This is the West. This isn’t the Khilāfah. Be your own leader and get out there and DO. Take good advice, make sure you don’t do anything ḥarām, try your very best to make it of super benefit, and DO. Don’t wait for others. Don’t wait for your “leaders”. Don’t wait for celebrities. Don’t wait for the Mahdi. Get out there and work.

Look at the Dawahman lad jazāhullāhu khayrah who went and sent a video to Russell Brand. Bloody hats off to the brother, he got my complete respect bismillāhi ma shā Allāh. Did I think it was worth doing? No. Did I like what he said in the video? Not entirely. Did I think it had a huge effect? I’m not too sure. Did it justify the silly “Yay! He RETWEETED IT! WE WON THE WAR!” reaction from hundreds of Muslims? Embarrassing. Did the Dawahman hold me or you accountable for not making that video, or not retweeting it afterwards? No. Did he do an act of ‘ibādah that day? Absagoodgraciouslutely. I think he was the best of us at that moment in his decision and he did it because he loves Moazzam as we all do, and he did it because this is a battle which he wanted to fight and fight it in *his* way. And I think his reward from Allah will be great iA, I really do.

Yes, I know people want to take pot-shots as folks like myself on these kind of matters, but that’s nothing new. I’m used to that now and have been for donkeys years. You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. I accept it comes with the territory, of course it does. As the wise would say, “A Ship is safe in harbour, but that is not what ships are built for.” I can take a radd almost as good as I give one when I have the time, and so please don’t waste precious time defending my honour. The good deeds I earn from unjust haters is all I am depending on when I meet my Lord.

Of course I absolutely do choose what battles I fight. I absolutely ignore people and their requests, and their campaigns and their pressure, 100%. I only choose what I feel like. Anything you see from me or read from me or hear from me, is because it came from ME. Not because of the world and its dog. Not because of any external pressure. That I can tell you, and Allah is my witness. There are only two people that if they tell me to jump, I’ll say “how high?” Those two are my father and my teacher. Everyone else, go ahead and ask, but prepare to be disappointed and just don’t take it personal man. Just get over it.

Other than being commanded by my father or my teacher, I have my own opinions, my own views, my own preferences. Some I go public with here, others don’t hit the limelight. Some you guys cannot understand why I wouldn’t support, or perhaps *refuse* to understand why I wouldn’t support, and other things you guys just cannot understand why I would write about or bring attention to. This is ḥalāl by the permission of Allah and His Messenger. And I’m not going to let the ignorant make it obligatory upon me, but being as emotional as they are I understand that these kind of decisions cause the self-righteous to get mad. I’m sorry that it does that. If you want to learn how to rid yourself of that anger and confusion, then read and digest the above slowly and carefully. Now get back to your good work and try and convince others nicely, with adab and good evidences too that they should be doing the same as well, in the manner that you believe. But don’t go where Allah and His Messenger don’t go.

Don’t go out there doing good work that you truly believe in, and then ruin it all and end up in the negative with Allah by judging other Muslims according to your own opinions.

Conclusion: my silence is not a condemnation of what you believe in and the cause at hand. My delay is not a belittling of your pain or of the cause. My living my normal life is not treason to the plight of the oppressed. My personal prioritisation is not a criticism of yours or the Ummah’s. My failure to act is not the cause of failure in general. My own private and public decisions on everything are not a renunciation of the community’s necessities. And my actions are only judged by Allah, not you.

Aerogrammes: and Other Stories

Most of us must have read short stories while growing up but as we grow up, we move towards the bigger, heavier, and lengthier stories. Some of us may consider to read them once in while, some may be indifferent towards them, and some would have left them altogether.

For me reading isn’t just another pass time, it is one of my passions, it is something that has helped me become a better person. I often share the following quote with people though in my own words.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries.”― René Descartes

For these very reasons and more, I am not committed to any particular format and genre when it comes to books. For a fact, I picked up this book at an absolute bargain price of Rs. 20 and it turned out to be good read.

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Aerogrammes is a collection of short stories that feels like a well woven tapestry. The stories mostly have a contemporary feel and tone but the human emotion that each of them present is beautiful and unique,  and though I connect to some more than the others,  I liked them all.

When I finished this book I shared the following post on my Facebook page. It contains a summarized version of one my favourite story.  I highly enjoyed reading this book.

Had picked up this book for twenty Rupees at the Lucknow book fair the last time I went to it.

Written by Tania James, it’s a collection of short stories. Most of them are good.

The last one that I am currently halfway through is named, Girl Marries Ghost which is exactly what you understand by its name.

It’s been a long time that I have finished a book. I feel good, Alhamdulillah.

Uncle Rajesh Sinha

U hv written,you r half way of last story……and further u hv written that you hv finished…pl finish and tell the conclusion.I am waiting

Me- The story is that Gina is the widow whose husband died last year while riding bike, is now willing to marry a Ghost. There are ghost matrimonial, and the ghost Gina selects was a very rich and educated man, has a great tower like estate in the city who will be inherited by Gina when she marries the ghost.

Gina’s family doesn’t approve of this union, she marries anyway. She likes the marriage but is disturbed by the fact that the ghost doesn’t give her time and company in the marriage.

She finds out that he goes out now and then to visit the house his ex wife lived in. She brings her back to the house, drops her back at his house. Then says that she can’t continue the relationship.

The end is that she drives the car for a while then stops, thinking whether she will divorce him (if she gives him divorce he will have to leave this world) or whether she will give him another chance, story ends there.

This is a very summarized version sir.

Uncle- Ooooo,new type of story.Big thanks for sharing.

The Stranger

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”

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This is an apt quote to give you a glimpse of the kind of book this is.
The Stranger is the story of a man, Meursalt (which will be called M in the following article) . To be honest though I have recently (by which I mean 24,  August 2016, Yeah,  2016 was not much of a productive year when it came to reading and writing) finished this book I had to google the name of the main character, not that the character or the story was not interesting, it is a fascinating book and a short read. It’s just that the other characters in M’s life are so interesting, and his life’s philosophy is so absorbing.

I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God.

The story develops slowly,  if you venture to read it I recommend that you keep patience and give it some time to open itself to you.

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.

Story begins with M visiting the countryside where his mother who has recently passed away who lived in what you may consider an old age home. The way he carries himself in the situation is very unconventional and bewildering to say the least.

The following stays true for most of what you will read in this book, his moral compass seems to be skewed but that’s just the way he thinks.

“I didn’t like having to explain to them, so I just shut up, smoked a cigarette, and looked at the sea.”

From the wiki on Absurdism –
“The absurdist philosopher Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning. Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism.

Then there are the other characters of whom I will not give any further information. It’s a great book, a short read full of a particular kind of philosophy expressed in a fascinating way, something that I didn’t agree to on many levels but still I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read quality material and thoughts that even are, Absurd.

Algyojha

Quite a few years back, while strolling in Landmark, a book store which was one of the few good places to spend your time when visiting that particular shopping mall, I picked up a collection of Munshi Premchand stories and novels. Was it in Hindi or English, I don’t remember, neither do I remember as to why I didn’t buy it. What one does remember is, Munshi Premchand.Munshi Premchand

If you have had the opportunity and blessing of getting educated in India, chances are that you have met this man. Premchand was a prolific Hindi writer, holding the title: “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”), and has dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories to his name.

There are many things that one can not see clearly and need to be reminded about. Our indifferent attitude towards Hindi as a language does not fall under that. If only one notices in his or her life, how we flow through the days and weeks, and count how much proper interaction we are having with Hindi the indifference should be pretty clear.

I picked up this short story ‘अलग्योझा’ for the very simple reason that I wanted to read something in Hindi and having liked his writing style and stories as a kid, Premchand seemed the right choice.

The story premise is basic and one that we Indians have seen, heard, and read countless times. The classic tale of a child losing his mother at a young age and coming to terms with having a stepmother.
Don’t let the words basic premise fool you. This is Mr. Premchand’s work that you will be reading. There is great drama in it. Brotherly love, compassion, envy, care and nurture, sadness, moments of sunshine and humour.

As usual the work touches on many of the social issues that we have ourselves come to know and see. For one the fractioning of house from a joint family to separate nuclear units and how the relations that were once cherished get estranged. The title itself references to that.

I would leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy.
I read this story using this app on my tablet. You can also read it directly on this website.

Live life with your head in the clouds

I don’t recall the exact timeline,
since when I have been looking up at the skies and enjoying the view,
the great brush strokes of a painter called Nature,
that is quite creative in her trade,
and though she is whimsical in nature,
as on some occasions she picks up soul searing hues,
but by far her favorites in the palette,
are the soul endearing whites and blues.

And these few lines that just came to my mind basically sum things up.
To quote what I shared around last year-

A pointless activity which is why it is so important. Cloud Watching.

You don’t need to plan an exotic trip to find creative inspiration. Just look up, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. As he shares charming photos of nature’s finest aerial architecture, Pretor-Pinney calls for us all to take a step off the digital treadmill, lie back and admire the beauty in the sky above.

Live life with your head in the clouds.

I highly recommend that you watch the following TedTalk and see the images that he shows for yourself.

Here are few of the pictures that I hope you would enjoy watching.