Monday, September 19, 2016
The Moghul Hedonist, published by Editions Dedicaces, is fourth in the series of the War of Moghul Succession in India. / Emperor Jahangir reigned in name alone, while his empress Nur Jahan possessed the power to rule the emperor and the empire. /Jahangir, a mystic and a naturalist laid kingdoms at the feet of his empress, abandoning himself completely to his love for wine, both from the nature's cups and from gold flagons. / His hunger and passion for beauty in nature lured him to the paradise in Kashmir five times during his twenty-two years of reign splintered with intrigues and rebellions. /The beautiful gardens of Kashmir, some built by Nur Jahan and some restored by her, became the sanctuary of this Moghul couple, away from the royal burdens of the court intrigues. / With the exception of Jahangir's sons rebelling against him, peace and prosperity flourished during his artistic and sensuous reign. /Industry and commerce yielded great revenues./ The art of painting in detail and accuracy reached its culmination under his patronage and indulgence. /The poets basked under the sunshine of the emperor's generosity, and literature attained the heights of nobility and veneration. /Though cultural development rose to its peak, the emperor's health failed due to excessive drinking, his bane and challenge. /Two major challenges finished his life. /The rebellion of his favorite son styled as Shah Jahan, and one hundred days of captivity by his faithful vizier, Mahabat Khan. /The last blow to his frail health came from the hands of a tragedy, when his son Prince Perwiz died of his own indulgence in drinking. /At the age of fifty-eight, when Jahangir died, Shah Jahan ascended the much-coveted throne with great pomp. /Not in the least suspecting that he would know grief shortly, wedding only Taj Mahal as his lost love and bride/. The main contribution of this sequel toward scholarly pursuits lies in the fact that the emperor Jahangir steps out of the pages of history as a scholar himself./ A man of varied talents and interests, his observations about plant and animal life are worth exploring, if not his passion for art and literature./ All is vain, fleeting and perishable. /In the twinkling of an eye we shall see the enchantress fate who enslaves the world and its votaries. /Seizes the throat of another and another victim./ And so exposed is man to be trodden down by the calamities of life that one can almost be persuaded to affirm that he never had existed./ This world the end of which is destined to be miserable can scarcely be worth the risk of so much useless violence.’/ Jahangir
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Eid-ul-Adha is the second big festival for Muslims after the end of Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Kaaba)./ This festival commemorates the faith of Abraham and his absolute surrender to the will of God, consenting to sacrifice his son as God commanded. /When Abraham was about to slit his son’s throat, a ram appeared miraculously in place of his son Ishmael and so was slaughtered in his place./ In remembrance of Abraham’s faith and trust in the one God, Muslims offer animal sacrifices after Hajj to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha. /This Eid is also celebrated with feasting and entertainment. /Lambs, goats or sheep are the common offerings, but cows and camels can also be sacrificed and the cost shared by family and friends./The person who offers the sacrifice keeps a small portion of the meat for consumption and the remainder is distributed amongst the poor and neighbors. /In the Quranic revelations, sacrifices of animals are not offered to appease offended deities, nor to win their favor as atonement for sins, as believed in pre-Islamic times, but as an expression of faith—to obey God. /Muslims believe the animal that is sacrificed stands for the animal in man himself./ The Story of Pilgrimage/ Pilgrimage traces its history back to Abraham, who first built Kaaba as a shrine to the one God. /The word of God came to Abraham in a vision and it repeated the promise of land and descendants as numerous as the stars. /God made a covenant with Abraham, telling him about the lands that his offspring would claim, and also about the future bondage of Israelites in Egypt. /Abraham’s wife Sarah wondered how he would become the father of multitudes, since after ten years of living in Canaan, her womb had remained barren. /After much thought, Sarah decided to offer her Egyptian handmaid, a woman by the name of Hagar, for Abraham to consort with, so that he may have a child in order to become the father of the nations. /Hagar conceived and bore a son whom Abraham named Ishmael. /Meanwhile, Sarah also conceived and grew jealous of Ishmael. /When her son was born, Abraham named him Isaac. /Sarah’s jealousy didn’t decrease with the birth of her own son and she told Abraham:/ Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share the inheritance of my son, Isaac./ Abraham was distraught, but in a dream he heard God commanding him to take Hagar and Ishmael to Arabia. /They all journeyed to Arabia, and when Abraham was preparing to return, Hagar cried:/ Did God order you to leave us here to die? / Abraham could not speak, just pointed at the sky, his grief-stricken expression itself confessing that yes, God had commanded him./ Then God will not waste us, you can go, Hagar murmured hopelessly./ When provisions of food and water ran out, and Ishmael, still a child, wailed in hunger and thirst, Hagar went mad with grief. /She began to run about frantically between the hills As-Safa and Al-Marwah in search of water. /After her seventh trip, Ishmael kicked the ground with his heels where he lay weeping, and a fountain of water miraculously spluttered forth, a voice from above proclaiming:/ Lift up the lad and hold him in thine hands, for I will make him a great nation. / This fountain later became the well of Zamzam. /Hagar’s frantic search for water, back and forth between the two hills, is remembered by Muslims when they perform Hajj, tracing the footsteps of Hagar at Mecca, running seven times between the hills As-Safa and Al-Marwah./ Zamzam water has also become sacred for the health and well-being of the pilgrims./ Much later, Abraham was commanded by God to bring Hagar and Ishmael back to Canaan, but he was given a test of faith soon after when he was commanded to take his thirteen year old first born son Ishmael to the hill of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice to God. /Abraham was tempted by Satan in regards to this commandment from God to sacrifice his son, but he drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. /Muslims resurrect the memory of Abraham’s total submission to God when stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the rites of Hajj. /Faithful as ever, Abraham took Ishmael on top of the mountain. /When he was about to use the knife to slit the throat of his son, God placed a ram under his hand, so he was able to sacrifice the ram instead. /A voice from above praised him for his faith and granted him another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity. /Muslims commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham by sacrificing sheep and other animals to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha./ After returning to Canaan, an initiation rite was commanded by God, so Abraham’s entire household of men, including himself and his sons Isaac and Ishmael, were circumcised./ For the last time, years later, Abraham was commanded by God to once again leave Canaan with Ishmael and journey to Mecca to build a place of worship for the one God close to the well of Zamzam. /He also told him that the house of worship which he was going to build would be designated as a shrine of annual pilgrimage for all who wished to strengthen their faith in the one God. /Abraham and Ishmael built the shrine known as Kaaba, and after its completion, Ishmael was blessed with prophethood. /From then on, Abraham’s mission in life became to proclaim the oneness of God./ Those pre-Islamic rites of Hajj were incorporated into Islam by Prophet Muhammad.