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Archive for November, 2011

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839)

Known as the Lion of Punjab he earns his rightful place in the Hall of Fame for the enlightenment he brought into a country whose bane was lack of vision among rulers who roughshod over subjects in order to prove their exalted position. He was a protector of the weak and poor in a state that he established where he proved by example the strong were as just and their strength was in making the weak feel secure.
Succeeding his father at the age of 18 he wielded the Sikh Raj a region straddling the border into modern –day People’s Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or the Kingdom of Kabul as it was known then.
In his reign lasting nearly forty years he had conquered vast tracts of territory strategically juxtaposed between the limits of British India to the left and the powerful Afghan Empire to the right. The land that eventually became the Kingdom of the Sikhs had been ruthlessly subjected to the worse kind of atrocities by invading armies coming through the Khyber Pass into the Indian sub-continent, over eight centuries. Among his conquests most notable achievements were in his conquest of Lahore in 1799 and he made it his capital, annexed Kashmir (1819). He wore out the Afghan army by sheer doggedness won from them the control of Peshwar in 1834.
The extent of his kingdom steadily broke away after his death and the sway of Great Britain had become all too powerful to break. But one lasting legacy of this great ruler was his religious tolerance. The empire of the Sikhs was most exceptional in that it allowed men from religions other than their own to rise to commanding positions of authority. Besides the Singh (Sikh), the Khan (Muslim) and the Misr (Hindu Brahmin) feature as prominent administrators. The Christians formed a part of the militia of the Sikhs. In 1831, Ranjit Singh deputed his mission to Simla to confer with the British Governor General, Lord William Bentinck. Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, Fakir Aziz-ud-din and Diwan Moti Ram ― a Sikh, a Muslim and a Hindu representative ― were nominated at its head. Rather than caste merit was considered for appointment to important offices.
‘At present, flushed by a series of victories, they (the Sikhs) have a zeal and buoyancy of spirit amounting to enthusiasm; and with the power of taking the most exemplary revenge, they have been still more lenient than the Mohammedan were ever towards them.’(Masson, Charles. 1842. Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and the Panjab, 3 v. London: Richard Bentley)
Maharaja Ranjit Singh is remembered for uniting the Punjab as a strong nation and his possession of the Koh-i-noor diamond. Ranjit Singh willed the Koh-i-noor to Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa while on his deathbed in 1839. His most lasting legacy was the golden beautification of the Harmandir Sahib, most revered Gurudwara of the Sikhs, with marble and gold, from which the popular name of the “Golden Temple” is derived.
He was also known as “Sher-e-Punjab” which means the “Lion of Punjab” and is considered one of the three lions of modern India, the most famous and revered heroes in Indian subcontinent’s history. The other lions are Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Chhatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler. The title of “Sher-e-Punjab” is still widely used as a term of respect for a powerful man.
Captain William Murray’s memoirs on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s character:
Ranjit Singh has been likened to Mehmet Ali and to Napoleon. There are some points in which he resembles both; but estimating his character with reference to his circumstances and positions, he is perhaps a more remarkable man than either. There was no ferocity in his disposition and he never punished a criminal with death even under circumstances of aggravated offence. Humanity indeed, or rather tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instance of his having wantonly infused his hand in blood.”
Many famous folk stories about Maharaja portray a leader and the inspiration Maharaja Ranjit Singh was. In one famous incident, when Maharaja was about to cross the badly flooded river near Attock (now in Pakistan and called Kabul River). One of Maharaja’s generals reported this fact to Maharaja, saying that the river cannot be crossed and it is now an Atak (an obstacle in Hindi) for us. Maharaja retorted “eh Attock uhna lai atak hai, jehna de dillan wich atak hai” or “This river Attock is an obstacle for those, who have obstacles in their hearts”, then crossed the river successfully. The army and other generals followed his lead.(ack: wikipedia)
benny

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In the evolution of man instinct came to play a vital role since Nature fine-tuned his physiology to address the question: flee or fight? The adrenalin rush of your body in sensing danger is of different make up than when you need to think seriously what is the best course for your future. In the latter case time is on your side and you may weigh pros and cons to arrive at a conclusion. This is what thinking means. You brain is not merely reptelian brain but has also complex rewiring to help you in the process. Speech, visual and other faculties are controlled from locations that can be mapped and studied. Thus nature has provided certain initial back-up to which your life among men and animals add ancillary support. The thinking machine Head has its adjunct the Heart with which your feelings reinforce your life experience. Basic emotions fear and pleasure have myriad shades of meaning to make your life significant. This is what makes man different from animals.
Such a man also has rational and irrational side to which I only need to point the wakeful state and the dream state. If you go by the latter irrational side alone you are a menace to the society and you might require supervision and medicine to keep you from harm. The point is the head should remain in its place and consequently the heart must hold its own. The relationship of State and religion is like this.
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In order to understand how poorly religion and state can hold together we only need to look at the Church of Rome.
In the Early Church the bishops elected for the office were considered as shepherds of the flock. Following the stricture of Jesus to Simon Peter they were to cater to the spiritual needs of the early converts who were mostly marginalized in society or were actively hounded out by Rome as a threat to the empire. As seized of their charge the early bishops did not dabble in temporal matters. The serious threat to the religion actually came from the time Constantine made Christianity as the state religion. He made it not out of any genuine conviction but as a matter of state policy. Such explosive mixture could only delay but not prevent the march of events. The empire was doomed to collapse and it did happen. With it the primary aim of the Church was seriously compromised.
After the fall of Rome during the “Middle Ages”, the papacy was influenced by the temporal rulers of and surrounding the Italian Peninsula; these periods are known as the Ostrogothic Papacy, Byzantine Papacy, and Frankish Papacy. Over time, the papacy consolidated its territorial claims to a portion of the peninsula known as the Papal States. Thereafter, the role of neighboring sovereigns was replaced by powerful Roman families of which I may merely mention the Tusculan Papacy.
From 1048 to 1257, the papacy experienced increasing conflict with the leaders and churches of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The latter culminated in the East-West Schism, dividing the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. While Popes were politicking the Church underwent through serious spiritual crisis among believers that came in the form of the Black Death. With such a calamity for the suffering flock the Church failed to address their spiritual confusion. They believed it was the divine chastisement and came from God. ( The Black Death wiped out nearly two thirds of Europe and the Pope sat out through this terrible times in Avignion,France. No wonder the survivors came out with a new idea of making their present life count. The Carpe Diem effect. This led to Reformation and the Enlightenment in course of time. Initiative in trade and commerce had passed from Italy to Germany, England and Holland.)
The Church was split by politics rather than any theological disagreement that quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize that showed the lie that the authority of the Pope came straight from St. Peter. The schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418).

Islam also suffers from the same tragedy. Petro-Islam is out and out buying converts who fit neither here nor there. Their head is a counting machine while their heart is far from obedience to their God.
P.S: The tragedy of putting the cart before the horse , mistaking the heart for the head led to the decline of the Church and Italy never survived the Black Death. In a manner of speaking the medieval mindset still plagues them. Unification of Italy was hampered by Papacy and the present economic crisis owe partly to it. We see conjugation principle at work here.
benny

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Wahhabism is a religious movement developed by an 18th century Muslim theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) from Najd, Saudi Arabia. He advocated purging Islam of what he considered to be impurities and innovations. Wahhabism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Abd-al-Wahhab was influenced by the writings of Ibn Taymiyya and questioned classical interpretations of Islam, claiming to rely on the Qur’an and the Hadith. He attacked a “perceived moral decline and political weakness” in the Arabian Peninsula and condemned what he perceived as idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation. Wahhabism is often used interchangeably with Salafism. They are considered ultra conservative and heretical by their detractors.
The Wahhabi teachings disapprove of veneration of the historical sites associated with early Islam, on the grounds that only God should be worshipped and that veneration of sites associated with mortals leads to idolatry. Many buildings associated with early Islam, including mazaar, mausoleums and other artifacts have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia by Wahhabis from early 19th century through the present day.
According to Riadh Sidaoui it is an Islamic doctrine which is based on the historical alliance between the political and financial power represented by Ibn Saud and the religious authority represented by Abdul Al-Wahhab, the doctrine continues to exist to this day thanks to this alliance, the financing of several religious channels and the formation of several sheikhs. Perhaps in not so distant future it will be seen how this purportedly charitable institutions bankrolled the recruits who were sent from third world,- from Malappuram District in Kerala to Malaysia, to support the Jihadist elements in the Afghanistan. Their covert mission was nothing less than bringing down the financial might of the USA.
International influence and propagation
According to observers such as Gilles Kepel, Wahhabism gained considerable influence in the Islamic world following a tripling in the price of oil in the mid-1970s and the progressive takeover of Saudi Aramco in the 1974-1980 period. The Saudi government began to spend tens of billions of dollars throughout the Islamic world to promote Wahhabism, which was sometimes referred to as “petro-Islam.” According to the documentary called The Qur’an aired in the UK, presenter Antony Thomas suggested the figure may be “upward of $100 billion”.
Does money corrupt? The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad which goes under the guise of charity. Some of the hundreds of thousands of non-Saudis who live in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf are recipients of its largesse and the fervent converts to Petro-Islam and are intended as carriers of their message.
What connection, if any, there is between Wahhabism and Jihadi Salafis is disputed. Natana De Long-Bas, senior research assistant at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, argues: the militant Islam of Osama bin Laden did not have its origins in the teachings of Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and was not representative of Wahhabi Islam as it is practiced in contemporary Saudi Arabia, yet for the media it came to define Wahhabi Islam..’ (note: . Karen Armstrong, former US “emissary” to Islam, states that Osama bin Laden, like most extremists, followed the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, not “Wahhabism”)
Noah Feldman distinguishes between what he calls the “deeply conservative” Wahhabis and what he calls the “followers of political Islam in the 1980s and 1990s,” such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad and later Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While Saudi Wahhabis were “the largest funders of local Muslim Brotherhood chapters and other hard-line Islamists” during this time, they opposed jihadi resistance to Muslim governments and assassination of Muslim leaders.’ By the same token it could be argued that wahhabism of Ibn Saud family did not forbid if global Jihad were set in motion against the Christian west.
benny

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Amir Dost Mohammad Khan (1793-1863)
emir of Afghanistan

Amir Dost Mohammad Khan belonged to the Pashtun ethnic group and was the grandson of Hajii Jamal Khan who founded the Barakzai dynasty. Coming from a family of influence and power he was cut out to play a significant role in ruling the country. His elder brother Fatteh Khan was instrumental in restoring Mahmud Shah to the throne in 1809 and was duly assassinated by him in 1818. Such treachery made the king fall out with the rest of the tribe elders. After a bloody conflict Mahmud Shah was deprived of his power and his dominion was divided up among Fatteh Khans brothers. It was thus Dosti received Ghazni and in 1826 he added Kabul the richest of the Afghan provinces.
After many years of civil war, Dost Mohammad Khan came to power and ruled Afghanistan from 1826 to 1863. One thorn on his side was Maharaja Ranjit Singh the Sikh ruler of the Punjab. The proxy war between them was in the dethroned Sadozai prince Shuja Shah Durrani whose attempts to recover his kingdom was foiled by Amir Dost. The wily Sikh king however managed to annex
Peshawar. Subsequently much of his energy was taken up in recovering this strategic fort.
Rejecting Russia’s overtures he wanted to forge an alliance with Great Britain which was rejected and it forced him to reconsider the alliance with Russia. In 1839 Britain made war against him.

During the first Anglo-Afghan War, Dost Mohammad Khan surrendered himself to the British, and was sent to India to live as a hostage. After the Afghans, led by his son, Sardar Mohammad Akbar Khan, defeated the British Army, Dost Mohammad Khan returned to Afghanistan and regained the throne. He then consolidated his power; he captured Kandahar in 1855, and Herat in 1863. A few days later after the capture of Herat, he died.
We have men and we have rocks in plenty, but we have nothing else.’ in his letter to John Lawrence.

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Man is a social animal and as such thrust of his progress can be measured in terms of the society, created by him.
If it is created measure of his success can also be determined in how sociable he has become. In the evolution of our ape-ancestors to the modern man we hold no distinction between Australopithecines, Homo erectus (which inhabited Asia, Africa, and Europe) and Neanderthals (either Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) (which inhabited Europe and Asia). We carry however in our genome something of those groups that have died out. We are humans and our achievements are part of our common experience. In short despite of evolutionary twists and turns of our origins we bear the bequest of those who did not make it. Family beginnings of modern man go far back as 400,000 and 250,000 years ago. In terms of biology we humans do not demonstrate in the least any particular divine favor that a Christian, Jew or a Muslim claim as special for himself.
But looking at our social structure we see we are fragmented in the way we have chosen to show our identity in terms of our race, religion and economic status. We went about creating a family of man and became a creature of our own conceit. Perhaps this paradox is ever in our consciousness and that would explain the perennial popularity of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.
We choose the society that we can relate to and not other way around. In accommodating members with various life experiences and interacting with them we infuse vitality into it. We broaden our horizons as a result. Nature has divised ways which would seem to follow this formula: like repels like; and opposites attract. History is replete with instances where societal collapse owed to the failure in heeding Nature’s warning. Inbreeding of Pharaohs in Egypt sowed their eventual demise and one of the serious consequences of Islam lay in the cultural stagnation. Dar-ul Islam or Global Islam means that all nations would be ruled under an Islamic theocracy, which is simply a national government set up under the rule of Allah’s divine sanction as expressed in the Qur’an and Shari’ah law. It did not happen. Historically Muslims failed to make their initial successes in world conquests to something permanent or significant. Mongol Invasion of the 13th century and Black Death had curtailed their mission. In their falling back to their old ideas a way of life they were comfortable they denied further growth. Compare between the period of Ottoman Empire at the height of its glory during the reign of Suleiman the magnificent, and the decades prior to the WWI (when it was called the Sick Man of Europe) is a sad commentary of a society that had run of ideas. It ceased to grow.
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Islam as a religion can be authoritatively dated and the flight of Mohammed is a historical date. Let us consider Islamic tradition relates Prophet Muhammad in 610, when he was 40 years old first heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, who recited to him the word of God, today written down in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, meaning “recitation.”
It is significant that Muslims believe that what Gabriel told Muhammad came directly from God;by the same token the Jews believe the promise of Israel was given by God to Patriarch Abraham indicating the extent of their promised land.
One cannot be true and the other false.
Islam says that the message was similar to those received by the early Hebrew prophets: that God is one, he is all-powerful, he is the creator of the universe, and that there will be a Judgment Day when those who have carried out God’s commands will enjoy paradise in heaven, and those who have not will be condemned to hell. As we have seen, these ideas were also part of the Zoroastrian religion. When certain ideas are common experience of man there must be something to it. But in the way these ideas are coined and given value we need to be clear that such value system is man-made and as currency holds limited use. The correspondence principle states that if one man’s revelation is accepted as true on the same scale every belief must be accepted as true.

Man who dreams the impossible is everywhere persecuted. It is not the dream but how that dream is realized for the betterment of society is the main point. Prophet Mohammed fled to Medina and his dream was put into reality by his followers. How one would make a case for the Mormon sect, which was also founded on a spiritual experience?
This sect was founded in 1830. The Mormon pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Latter-day Saints, who migrated across the United States from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley in what is today the U.S. state of Utah. At the time of the planning of the exodus in 1846, the territory was owned by the Republic of Mexico, which soon after went to war with the United States over the annexation of Texas.

The journey was taken by about 70,000 people beginning with advanced parties sent out by church fathers in March 1846 after the assassination of Mormon founder Joseph Smith made it clear the faith could not remain in Nauvoo, Illinois — which the church had recently purchased, improved, renamed and developed because of the Missouri Mormon War setting off the Illinois Mormon War. The well-organized wagon train migration began in earnest in April 1847, and the period (including the flight from Missouri in 1838 to Nauvoo) known as the Mormon Exodus is, by convention among social scientists, assumed to have ended with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Whether preposterous or wholesome values that a religion may contain man is ready to forsake all for his liberty of conscience. It is the golden key which opens the door to the promised land.
How can Moslems expect others to accept their religion as perfect when they themselves did not keep the promise? History of mankind shall be strewn with the conflict of liberty of conscience and pursuit of pleasure whatever the term ‘pleasure’ may mean. History is not concerned with motives or dreams of man but how their dreams were realized. When the children of Islam fell back from the shared experience of the rest of the world they nullified even what was within their reach to be at the vanguard of progress.
Dreams of a prophet like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young will please many but for me to accept these under coercion would be veritable nightmare. (To be continued)
Parts of this essay was taken from my book Principles of History. B
benny

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News on the March
Irish tycoon ordered to repay bank record $560 mln-AP News
Sean Quinn was once the richest man in Ireland till he was declared a bankrupt. He had found the easiest way to reach where he wanted to be. Only that he wanted to land into a life of ease and all the luxuries the wealth could provide him. He mistook a turnstile for his home and it was his mistake. He passed through this turnstile to be declared a bankrupt. He may not know but there is a regular stampede outside to take his place and they have no clue what is going on really within.
How does the rich turn poor? For the simple reason there is no trick to juggle with figures,- and lo and behold you are a billionaire on paper, and it is what we see these days since greed is good has been declared as a mantra for the fellows who never did a day’s honest work. They were latched onto a single idea,- and so engrossed in it were they to train their hands to learn a useful trade or master some art or crafts. In all probability they would have let down those who had high hopes on them and, their teachers, dear ones who saw in them something precious. The great men in hurry are so seized with their own goals that they might fail to make some one else happy by giving something genuinely their own. Love as always is swallowed up in greed. Citizen Kane for example is a good example.
It is also quite possible they may have not felt a single emotion in their adult lives.
See one who is ambitious to make riches by playing in stocks? In the stock market the greater fool theory has already tagged him to play a fool. Naturally he acquires all the trappings of wealth on credit and when he is really shown for what he is, everything he had amassed also are taken from him. He has simply missed life, which was the greatest gift he had in the first place to call his own. John Ruskin rightly wrote ‘There is no wealth but life.’(Unto This Last)
When you see paper billionaires turn aside lest you should be taken along with these insubstantial men of shadows. We ought to be concerned with life and not false shadows that cannot substitute for life.
Tail Piece:
Tomorrow is is the Thanksgiving Day- Let Turkey be freed from fear of another quake and Greece not drip from the Euro-plate. Keep precious China out of the table.
benny

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