Tag Archives: Ismaili

The Quaid and the Quetta massacre

By Haider Nizamani

If Muhammad Ali Jinnah happened to be on the Quetta-bound bus of Shia pilgrims on June 28, the self-proclaimed custodians of Islam would have killed him, along with 13 others. They would do so because Jinnah was a Shia and that would have been reason enough.

Jinnah, for most Pakistanis today, is the Quaid-e-Azam — the man above any sect in the Islamic Republic. As the Republic he founded increasingly becomes a place where minorities feel vulnerable, it would be remiss to forget that the founder of the country was a Shia. Born into an Ismaili family, he later converted to the Twelver (isna ashri) branch of Shia Islam. He died in 1948 and his sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, filed an affidavit in the Sindh High Court stating that her brother was a “Shia Khoja Mohamedan”. Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, jointly signed the affidavit. Khaled Ahmed, in his book Sectarian War, documents in detail how the last rites of the Quaid were performed according to Shia stipulations. Jinnah’s Shia colleagues such as Yusuf Haroon and Hashim Raza attended the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer) at the Governor General’s House, while prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan waited outside in the adjacent room. After the Shia funeral prayer, the nascent state took the body for Sunni last rites at the grounds where now stands the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi. Miss Fatima Jinnah passed away in 1967 and in her case, too, private last rites were performed according to Shia guidelines and the state-sponsored namaz-e-janaza followed it.

Sunni militant outfits portray Shias as lesser Muslims and thus, lesser Pakistanis. This commandeering of state discourse on Islam from the 1980s onward has emboldened the militants to take up arms against their coreligionists in select parts of Pakistan.

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Persecution – Connivance at a cost

Targeted killings of Shias this time is not business-as-usual. It follows the pattern that is evident countrywide and it is linked to the Taliban finding new havens and areas of control

By Raza Rumi

It seems that Pakistan is heading towards another purge — this time a violent process of cleansing the Shia population. There is a mysterious wave of terrorism that is killing Hazara population on a daily basis in Balochistan, Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan, Kurram Agency and elsewhere.

In the last one-month, dozens of Shias have been targeted and killed as if Pakistan was a medieval land, practicing witch-hunting. The ‘banned’ organisations have taken responsibility for most of the attacks in Balochistan.

The case of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), on the other hand, has faced a virtual media blackout. Not long ago, GB was touted as the fifth province but when it comes to the vital question to protecting its population, the state is miserably failing.

The most gruesome incident took place when 15 passengers of the Shia community were taken off the buses in Chilas, Diamer district, and shot. People from the region say that GB is under attack by the Taliban insurgents from Malakand division and Waziristan. The Darel and Chilas Valleys provide them refuge. The stronghold of Salafis and Wahabis on Pakistan’s Afghan and, consequently, Taliban policy cannot be delinked from the ongoing massacre.

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One Woman’s Jihad

by Yoginder Sikand

Excerpt:

Zehra Cyclewala is a leading figure in the reformist movement against the tyranny of Syedna Burhanuddin, the head-priest (dai-e mutlaq) of the Daudi Bohra Ismaili Shia sect. Here, in a conversation with Yoginder Sikand, she relates the story of her decades-long personal struggle against priestly tyranny.

The Syedna turns 100 this month, and massive celebrations are being organized by his followers across the world to project him as a popular and pious leader. Zehra’s life tells a different story, however.

My name is Zehra Cyclewala. I am 55 years old, and have lived in Surat for most of my life. I was born in an orthodox, lower middle-class Dawoodi Bohra family. My parents had five children, and I was the youngest child. In the mid-1980s, soon after I completed my education—I did my graduation in Commerce—I joined the Saif Cooperative Society in Surat, a bank established in the 1960s by a group of Bohra traders. It was inaugurated by the Bohra head priest Syedna Burhanuddin himself, and enjoyed his blessings. I started work there as a clerk, and, gradually, rose to become its manager.

From the very beginning, the Saif Cooperative Society gave and took interest. The Syedna naturally knew of this, and he had no problem with it, although some Muslims believe that even bank interest is forbidden or haraam in Islam. However, two years after I joined the bank, the Syedna issued a fatwa claiming that bank interest was forbidden, and demanded that the Bohras working in our bank leave their jobs at once. All the staff of the bank was Bohras at that time. Because the Bohras believe the word of the Syedna to be almost like divinely-inspired law, they hurriedly complied with his order and quit their jobs. I was the only one to refuse. After all, I thought, when, from the time the bank was established till the Syedna had issued this fatwa, the bank had been giving and taking interest, and the Syedna knew about this all along, how come he had suddenly decided or realized that such interest was haraam? The Syedna himself had inaugurated the bank, and when he did so he had no problem with it dealing in interest. There was something fishy in this fatwa, I felt.

Despite enormous pressure to leave the job, I refused. I lived with my mother, Fuliben Taherali, in Surat, and was the sole source of her support, because my father had died when I was 20. I simply could not do without this job. So, despite the Syedna’s order, I stuck on. The District Cooperative Society Board appointed a non-Bohra administrator—a man called Mr. Daru—to run the bank, and I worked under him. My defiance of the Syedna’s orders was not liked by the Bohras of Surat, and soon complaints about me reached the Syedna’s religious establishment—the Kothar. …

I appeal to the Government, political parties, intellectuals and social activists, and to people in general to see through this charade of the Syedna and his cronies, who have been twisting Islam in order to promote their own interests. I ask them to stop supporting and patronizing these men. …

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