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And Ramadan is upon us

Going out, you will see many people fasting and most of them are zealous about it, making up their own laws regarding the 'fast'. And then there are some who consider it only about not eating anything but they consider that other sins are surely permitted.

They are wrong and so are the former ones who make up their own rules and what not but what is more wrong is the sad truth that many people, Muslim people, still don't properly know why they fast and what the rules really are.

Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of Islam, the month when the Qu'ran was revealed. During this month, Muslims are not only expected to fast for 30 days but they are also expected to offer all their prayers on time, take responsibility for their actions, uphold the rules of Islam and indulge in charitable ventures. The month is also considered the holiest in our religion, which should incite fellow Muslims to take this one month and try to be absolutely proper Muslims.

Ramadan itself is divided into 3 parts consisting of 10 days. These parts are Rahmat (mercy of God), Maghfirat (Forgiveness of God) and Najat (salvation). Ramadan ends with the holy Eid-ul Fitr Festival and as the new month starts, Muslims are encouraged to fast six more days on Shawal (the month following Ramadan).

It should be understood that the act of fasting is supposed to bring us closer to God. It is aimed to divert our attention from worldly purposes as we indulge solely in cleansing our mind and soul, refraining from anger, lust, greed, jealousy, gossip etc. It is also highly important to keep our thoughts clean and in due time attain a level of peace and calmness. The beauty of Ramadan is that it teaches a person to sacrifice, to be disciplined and to endure. Also, one realizes the plight of the less fortunate who go all year throughout without getting sufficient food and thus the person who fasts may become more generous and take part in more charitable activities.

Smoking does result in ensuring that your 'Fast' will not be accepted and if you partake in activities considered to be anti-social or sinful that too will result in the breaking of your fast. The month of Ramadan is one month in which Muslims are given a chance to redeem oneself and when people realize the hardships of life. Therefore this month is more than just about fasting for God, but it is rather to celebrate mankind, to honour the ones who have been deprived and so that the fasting by the Muslims, united all over the world, stands as a testament to a religion that has stood the test of time, the disgrace of the corrupted, the scathing remarks of the ignorant, the fanaticism of the lost souls, the grasp of suppression and the might of weapons. Happy Ramadan!

By Osama Rahman


Shôgun

Books based on events in history or more appropriately steeped in history rarely turn out right. Sometimes the whole historical background of the novel takes a backseat to the story being told and you don't really get the feeling of the past. Sometimes the essence of the story is lost in the historical innuendo. Striking a balance the two is usually the catch in making the book worth reading. Shogun, by James Clavell is one such novel that not only awes you in terms of the brilliant story but also keeps you thinking not in terms of the real world but in terms of ancient Japan in the colonial times.

The story is set in the late 1500s to early 1600s in territorial Japan, at the height to the feudal wars. The protagonist, John Blackthorne is a seafaring English captain on a Dutch trading ship Erasmus who gets thrown of course due to a storm and ends up shipwrecked on the shores of Anjiro, a province/ island of Japan. Held captive by the samurai there he waits for the Daimyo of the province to show up and decide his faith. Daimyo refer to the feudal lords who ruled Japan at that time. While held captive Blackthorne along with his crew faces a rude awakening to Japanese culture and tradition. Dirty, smelly and unkempt the whole crew is thrown into a pit after their meeting with Yabu-sama, the daimyo, until they started behaving according to the samurai.

Meanwhile Blackthorne's ship, Erasmus is now harbored in the Anjiro bay and Yabu-sama, seeing a potential treasure trove plans to keep its presence secret from the other great daimyos of the region, specifically Lord Toranaga, Yabu's superior. He plans to use the silver on the ship to mobilize more samurai and to train to use the muskets, even though such a thought id sacrilege against the samurai way of living. However he is betrayed by a spy to Lord Toranaga who sends his own ship, a galley, to Anjiro to investigate this new ship and the foreigners. At Toranaga's orders Blackthorne, being the pilot of the ship, is taken out of the ship and taken along with the ship to Osaka Castle to meet Toranaga.

The story revolves around the feudal wars that are about to take place between the two top Daimyos, Lord Toranaga and Lord Ishido. Unwittingly, Blackthorne have become important pawns in the chess game being played for power, for the position of Shôgun. Thrown in between are the Portuguese Jesuit mission in the country and the Spanish colonial settlement in Japan. At that time the English and Spanish were at war and Blackthorne immediately becomes a target for them. At some point in the middle of all this the English pilot falls in love with Mariko-san, a samurai and wife of a particularly violent daimyo.

The intricacies of the Japanese culture, its history and the country's ancient heritage are shown quite clearly and the book actually teaches you about the culture through a struggling Blackthorne learning the ways of Japan. The reader is enmeshed in the atmosphere of ancient Japan and the delicate ways of the samurai.

Reading the book, you not only marvel at the intricate plot that is at once a historical and political drama and is a brilliant display of Clavell's ability to flesh out his characters. The writing style is simple and every now and then Clavell manages to bring a smile to the reader's face with Blackthorne bumbling through his Japanese lessons. Even though the plot is brilliant Clavell sometimes bores the reader a tad too much of historical innuendo. However, the book is worth reading if not for the interesting ways of the samurai then at least for the story.

By Tareq Adnan


Never stop dreaming

Partying in my house
Partying in my floor
Looking at the sky
How the birds fly
All the girls and boys
Playing with the toys
Looking at their lives
Thinking 'my life is the best'
Looking at my dreams
Wishing they all come true
And my life is the best
No doubt about it
Don't stop, don't stop dreaming
Just keep on dreaming
Till your dreams come true!

By Tehreem Mujib


Begging Independence

I cling to you
This wanton protégé
Hiding within you, beside you, around you
In the pale, hazy glimmer of your warmth
I am dependent and completely lost
Without you.

When my necrotic fingers clutch
at a final travail to segregate
I am frozen statuesque
From flesh to marble
and blood to bone
You've left me incoherent as I fail.

So lend me your mouth and hand
That I may learn to speak,
To taste and feel, for myself
You are my interpreter
And I am
Your petty thief.

By Alaka Halder

 

The Discovery

The sea looked gorgeous. The sunlight bathed its surface with its golden light. Taking a deep breath, I decided to go for it. As I stepped onto a boat after nearly twenty years, the memories came flooding back to me.

Twenty years ago, when Luis, Alonso and I were in our early twenties, we had found a treasure map. All of Sicily knew about this famous treasure, and being the high-spirited boys we were, we decided to pursue it.

We recruited a small crew of twenty men. Alonso was able to acquire a decent boat from his uncle. We spent all our savings on a load of supplies, and after an emotional farewell from our families, prepared to set sail. The three of us spent the whole night laughing and sharing crazy ideas about what our trip might be like. Yet we were very far off from guessing what lay ahead.

Apart from the men on board, we didn't tell anyone our true purpose. We knew that the poor and suffering people of Sicily would do anything to get their hands on such wealth. Therefore we were not willing to take any chances.

The first few months were magical, and we spent time laughing all day together, just like we had when we were kids. There was the occasional problem, but nothing major. The crew spent their days drinking, laughing and enjoying the many marvelous creations of god. And at night we played our instruments and our songs to our hearts content. I could see how much the men were enjoying themselves. We were truly free. And I was thrilled about all the possibilities that lay ahead for all of us.

Although the days were passing well, after a few months we started getting worried, as no land was sighted. With every passing week we grew nervous and scared. Then the men began to die one by one, and with each passing day we started to lose hope, feeling as if we were all going to die.

Then one early morning, all of a sudden, Luis started shouting "I see land". We quickly got up and looked straight ahead, and sure enough, we saw land and were overwhelmed by happiness as well as a sense of relief. I thought to myself, No one else was going to die, we were all going to get back home to see our family alive.

We waited to set foot on land with great anticipation. Every second felt like a minute, every minute felt like an hour. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and I had my two best and most trusted friends beside me. It was perfect.

On reaching land the three of us started looking for clues while the men secured the boat. It didn't take us long to find a cave with strange writings on the entrance. We made our way down the tricky path with great excitement. After an hour of careful examination, I finally stumbled onto a wooden chest. My heart started to beat faster as I opened the chest. Our eyes lit up when we saw that it was filled with gold.

As I was about to celebrate, I heard a gun shot. I stood there, completely numb. I was shocked by what I saw. This couldn’t be true, it couldn’t be happening. I wanted to believe that my mind was playing tricks with me. But it wasn't. Luis fell to the ground, clutching his chest. It hurt even more when I saw Alonso holding the gun. It didn't take me long to figure out what was happening.

A few travelers making a stop on the island, after two weeks rescued me. On reaching my home, I heard, Alonso's boat had sunk in a sea-storm on the way back. On that day I realized what people would do because of greed. I felt very sad. My two closest friends were dead. I was saddened because I saw good people selling their souls for wealth. I knew my life would never be the same again.

By Eresh Omar Jamal

 
 

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