The Pakistani Wow-man


By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

“Educate a woman, educate a nation” is a line often repeated, but educated women are a sight seldom seen. Stories of oppression and abuse, on the other hand, are in abundance. But there’s still light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, a hint of a silver lining in our otherwise dark cloud. The Pakistani woman is rising to face the challenges.

Academics, medicine, technology, politics, sports or arts – we have names to be proud of in all. The following are accounts of two such women, who faced the odds bravely and are now a source of pride.

Sughra Solangi – A Journey of Courage

After being divorced at a young age, Sughra Solangi, mother of two, geared up to face the challenges and started with pursuing her dream of being educated. After passing her matriculation exams, she applied for a teaching job which she got. From then on, her journey started. Yet, she realized that the villagers were not willing to send their daughters to school. Sughra started a door-to-door campaign in order to persuade them otherwise. She started collecting funds and giving interest-free loans to help those in need of financial assistance.

Within a year, she had around her a small but a very strong group of women and thus started realizing her dream of getting the girl-child educated. She named her group Marvi Rural Development Organization. Through this organization, she wanted to help the harassed women facing hardships in the patriarchal set-up of our society. Women were denied their right to education and girls were married off at very tender ages, with their lives unjustly dictated by their husbands. Women were also being wrongly murdered under the label of Karo Kari (a cultural practice). Such were the miserable conditions of women in Sughra’s village, from which she wanted to liberate them.

Sughra succeeded in getting the attention of donors towards the ailing conditions of these poor women. Soon, help began pouring in, and Sughra’s little group of women expanded into a bigger, stronger organization working for the betterment of the rural women of Sindh.

In 2011, Sughra Solangi got the prestigious U.S. Secretary of State’s “International Women of Courage” award, which was presented to her by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. However, this is not the end of her story. Sughra wishes for all women of Pakistan to start facing the challenges and to start speaking up for themselves.

Jamila Khatoon – The Courageous Ms. Oil

A Rickshaw driver, a motor mechanic and a hawker combined in one superwoman – this is Jamila Khatoon for you. Her journey, however, has been anything but easy.

Jamila was married off to a man double her age. Six months into their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She contacted the local labour house to help her with their household expenses. She started receiving Rs. 2000 a month to fulfill all her household needs and get treatment for her husband. This was when she put her foot down and ventured out into the man’s world. She decided to take matters in her own hands and began frequenting her husband’s oil supply shop. After her husband’s death, she completely took over his business.

Being a woman, she met a lot of resistance in the form of people refusing to work with her. Instead of giving up, this brave woman took all the matters in her hands, including the motor mechanic’s job. Fighting with people, circumstances and the society, Jamila Khatoon continued with a persistence rarely seen in a woman.

Soon she started venturing to the newspaper market along with her job as a motor mechanic. People started mocking her and calling her a ‘Ladka (lad) without a moustache’. Life went on for Jamila, and she became a newspaper hawker. But this was not enough for her. Later, defying the general norm, she started taking Rickshaw driving lessons. Jamila Khatoon is now a proud Rickshaw driver, a newspaper hawker and a motor mechanic.

Braving her way through the pitch black night, Jamila is confident of the beautiful bright morning waiting for her.

Sughra Solangi and Jamila Khatoon are just two examples of countless such women trying to face the odds in a man’s world.

A final word

In the absence of a truly Islamic and Shariah-compliant state, the lesser-privileged Pakistani women are left to their own devices, especially when male relatives, who could have assumed responsibility for them, do not step forward. Even if some men do take the initiative, they do not aid these women with dignity and honour. In such a case, women have only two options: they can either accept the injustices of the society silently until death comes to relieve them, or they can fight back to attain an honourable status (which is their right to begin with).

It hurts us deeply to see how Dr. Afia Siddiqui is being tortured at the hands of the foreigners, and today, we raise our voices in her support, for her freedom. What about the dark injustices happening on our own soil? Do we have the license to pass verdicts against anyone and assign them to inhuman treatment? Do we not fear Allah (swt)? Or, is it simply that whatever happens in our own backyard is just not worth giving any attention to?

The cries of the oppressed do reach Allah (swt) sooner than anything else. Ignorance is not bliss. Our Zakat and Sadaqat should be used to rehabilitate destitute Muslim families especially headed by women or comprising females only. They need to be empowered and educated with honour by providing long-range solutions instead of quick fixes. Tarbiyah and character-building should also be a part of this programme so they can raise contributing citizens in the society rather than those who resort to a depressed mindset.

From Paper to Pixels

From Paper to Pixels

By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

Don’t have the time to go and buy the original text of Shakespeare’s Othello for the school project? Or would you rather spend that money on something else? Fret not, for now you can get that and millions of other books free of cost in the ‘land of unlimited possibilities’ – the Internet.

E-mail has changed the face of the entire mailing system. E-banking, e-commerce, e-shopping and other such electronic equivalents of conventional means have revamped the way things worked. And now, e-books are making inroads in the world of paper and ink.

Electronic books, better known as e-books, are defined as the ‘electronic equivalents of conventional books’. Technically speaking, an e-book can take quite a lot of forms: image files, rich text format, hyper text mark-up language, CHM format, etc. To put it simply, it’s text on screen or text read aloud.

So what is it about them that makes them so interesting or rather advantageous?

Imagine a library full of books – the kind which has hundreds and thousands of books stacked in neat and orderly piles in old wooden shelves with a librarian behind the desk. How about having those heavy volumes of books in a couple of CDs? Or better yet, how about having a digital library? This is where e-books are set to bring the book industry to.

Gone are the days when one spent money on ridiculously expensive volumes, which were also very difficult to manage. Not only are e-books a cheaper alternative, they are also extremely convenient to keep. A stack of CDs might just be equal to a big library!

The Internet is one of the major sources of e-books, both free and paid for. They can be downloaded and read on screen, or they can be printed and transferred on paper. Here enters the e-book reader.

This amazing little hand-held device is all set to repaint the book reading scenario. Be it the Amazon’s Kindle or the Barnes and Noble’s Nook or any other brand, e-book readers are fast gaining popularity amongst the tech savvy book lovers. These dedicated book readers are especially designed to enhance the onscreen reading experience by having the right hardware to providing all the necessary software without additional hassle. They come with wi-fi as well to enable easy access to books online.

The trend of digital libraries is also growing fast all over the world, especially in schools and universities. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan also has a National Digital Library Programme for universities. The idea is to provide the students with access to international research journals, articles and a collection of hundreds of e-books. Apart from providing easy access to material, the digital library also ensures that latest and up-to-date collection of journals is available.

With the trend of e-books fast catching up, it’s no more a worry to find an old beloved classic online and that too at no cost at all. Most e-book websites on the Internet provide old classics, but the Pandora’s Box that the Internet is, you can find almost all titles ranging from classic novels to latest popular fiction for free!

Millions of people daily acquire electronic books by paying for them and buying them in the form of audio books or by downloading them on their book readers. Considering the time an average Karachiite spends in the car stuck in traffic jams, audio books or e-books are actually quite a good idea!

Like all other technological advances, e-books are only very slowly making themselves known locally. It’s still very difficult to get hold of a decent collection of e-books in a bookstore. Most don’t even know what they are.

However, the big question is, are book lovers really ready to switch over to the electronic medium to pursue their hobby? What about curling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and your favourite book on a Saturday night or a lazy Sunday? And that smell of new books and the yellowing pages of your grandparents’ cherished collections? Oh and what about discovering dried up flowers and bits of paper in an old book?

Also, computers, being machines, may snub you at the end of the day if they break down, catch a virus or your internet service provider stands you up. It also involves more complexity as opposed to grabbing a book anywhere and any time for instant pleasure.

Hopefully, the e-books will just compliment the use of traditional books and not replace them.

Some popular e-book sources: [The HEC’s National Digital Library Program] [a meta index of e-books available online]

Needless Wants

Needless Wants

By Tooba Asim – Freelance journalist

If we change the popular question, ‘what a girls wants’ to ‘what a girl needs’, chances are the latter list of answers would be drastically shorter than the former. But who would dare to restructure the question? After all, life in these times is more about wants than needs, despite the much talked about inflation. So, what is it that makes it so difficult for us to sift our needs from our endless wants? I asked myself this question and identified the common traps most of us fall into.

(1) The cooking show culture

Nothing has harmed the kitchen budget more than these cooking shows. From expensive sauces to exotic veggies, from fancy cookware to nonsense Totkas, these shows are the perfect recipe for making the kitchen budget spiral out of control.

(2) The branded culture

MAC mascara is clearly a want and not a need, or is it? Enough said.

(3) The sale ‘whale’

Yes, the sale ‘whale’ takes in whatever comes its way, completely oblivious of what is needed and what is not. Accept it: the *up to 70% off* billboards do make you concoct a sudden need for bed sheets, towels, out-of-season clothes and what not.

(4) The supermarket culture

The colourful aisles of a supermarket lure you into piling unnecessary stuff into your trolleys, mostly in the name of bargains. I once stocked up on diapers, which were being offered at a discount, and my baby was potty-trained soon after; I still have three unused packs mocking at me.

The next pertinent question is: what now? We can’t stop watching television or making use of sales or going to the super markets, etc. What we can do, however, is to be smart buyers. It’s easier said than done, and requires strict measures and a strong will. Let’s start with the following pointers.

(1) Ask yourself the basic question repeatedly: “Do I need this?”

By doing so, you will be able to control those impulse-shopping urges. Look for alternatives based on what you already have. For example, all those fabric exhibition billboards were tempting me to no end, but a look at my wardrobe put some sense in me and stopped me from spending what I’d rather be saving.

(2) Make lists and stick to them

This, perhaps, is the most important measure to take. Make lists of whatever you need and whatever you want in two separate columns. Then decide which ones are urgent and which ones can wait. Also, promise yourself to stick to them and not be trapped by sales, bargains and special offers, unless you absolutely must.

(3) Detach

Detach yourself from television ads, cooking shows, fashion shows and from whatever provokes expenditure. The key is to watch them as entertainment shows only, once in a while, rather than ‘instructions to follow’.

(4) Avoid needless strolls in malls/Bazars

Visit malls only when you need to, rather than treating them as hang-out spots. Allah (swt) reminds us of our weak nature and instructs us not to even venture close to sin or sinful behaviour. If you are a habitual spender, stay away from malls as much as possible.

(5) Tackle peer pressure

We think this term applies to teenagers only. However, there are plenty of spoilt grown-ups walking around who just cannot reign their desires. Steer clear of all such friends and parties that make you feel small on account of your financial status or drive you to splurge in order to keep up with them.

(6) Strapped for cash

Before going shopping, make a list, put the estimated price next to next item and roughly calculate the total bill you’d have to pay. Take the exact amount with you. Leave extra cash and debit cards at home; with no money in your pocket, you are less likely to be tempted by the ‘luxuries’.

That said, it is important to treat yourself once in a while to avoid feeling deprived. That way you’d be able to distinguish it easily as a luxury and not a ‘need’ per se. And, most importantly, always look at those beneath yourself on the social ladder; it will help you to be thankful to Allah (swt) for His blessings.

Be my Guest

Jan 11- Be my Guest

By Tooba Asim

“Oh no! Not again,” I sighed, as I glanced at the clock and went ahead to check the main door. Sure enough, it was my next door neighbour. It was three in the afternoon, and no one else was brave enough to venture out of their homes in this sweltering heat. She was always an exception. Today was different, as my mother was visiting us as well. “Why the sigh? She’s your guest, and guests are a blessing from Allah (swt),” was my mom’s immediate response to my behaviour.

Guests indeed are among Allah’s (swt) blessings, but we can see from the Prophet’s (sa) example that there is a certain etiquette of visitation, which one must follow in order to fulfill the Sunnah. In our society, there are plenty of people like my neighbour, who make their hosts wary of guests instead of welcoming them.

The Prophet (sa) said: “A man visited a brother in another town. Allah (swt) sent an angel to lie in wait for him along his way. When he came upon the angel, he asked him: ‘Where are you going?’ He answered: ‘I am going to visit a brother of mine in this town?’ The angel asked further: ‘Is there any favour that you want to get from him?’ The man said: ‘No, it is only that I love him for Allah’s (swt) sake.’ The angel then said: ‘I am a messenger of Allah to you (to tell you) that Allah (swt) loves you, as you love your brother for His sake.” (Muslim)

The aforementioned Hadeeth makes it clear that visiting somebody for Allah’s (swt) sake alone and not for some personal reason is what Allah (swt) wants from us.

Keeping in mind the importance that Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa) have placed on visiting, we should certainly take some time out of our busy schedules for our family, neighbours and friends. This, however, should be done keeping in mind some important reminders.

Choose a suitable time…

…and day. Don’t pay a late night visit to someone, who is known to go to bed early or has school-going children. Don’t visit at mealtimes, unless you have been invited by your hosts.

Call before you go

It is better to give your hosts time to tidy up their place and be prepared. Also, it will save you time and unnecessary hassle, if your hosts are not at home or have other plans.

Do not grumble

If your hosts could not be contacted earlier and you had to return home, do not complain.

Take a gift

This does not have to be very extravagant or formal. You can take a home-cooked dish, a small box of biscuits or anything thoughtful that is likely to cheer up your hosts or their children.

Don’t stay too long

Respect the fact that your hosts might also have other commitments. If you’re visiting someone who’s staying at your host’s place, be extra careful.

Avoid indulging in gossip

Don’t pry about people’s lives. Everyone is entitled to privacy. Ask about their well-being, without being nosy.

Visit the sick

Visit the sick to help their attendants with some chores. This relieve them for a while and earn you Allah’s (swt) pleasure.


It is good manners to appreciate the effort your hosts put in for you, no matter how big or small. Anas Ibn Malik (rtam) narrated: “The Prophet (sa) visited some of the Anaar in their house and ate some food there. When he wanted to leave, he ordered that a place be prepared for him where he could pray. He then prayed there and supplicated for his hosts.” (Bukhari)

Good etiquettes go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships. A smile here and a kind word there are sure shot recipes for winning hearts.

The invocation of a guest for his host, as taught by Prophet Muhammad (sa):

“O Allah, bless them in what You have provided for them, and forgive them and have mercy on them.” (Muslim)

Whose Moon is it Anyway?

Every year on the 29th of Shaban, Shawwal and Dhul-Qadah, Muslims all over the globe turn their heads towards the mighty skies for that blessed glimpse of a thin sliver outline of the new moon. Or in case of cloudy skies, we sit fixated in front of our television screens, awaiting the decision of the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, while getting phone calls with news of moon being sighted in northern Pakistan. In case the decision of the committee is otherwise, a nasty game of pointing fingers and labelling the detractors as Kafirs begins.

Moreover, non-believers from all over the world pick up this opportunity to spread discord amongst the Ummah by saying things like ‘Muslims can’t even decide on a single moon’. Just last year, Eid-ul-Fitr was observed on four different dates across the globe. This, plus the fact that we have been observing two Eids in Pakistan for a number of the past years, has left everyone wondering about the real story behind the moon fiasco.

To understand the issue, first, it is important to get some basic facts straight:

  • In Islam, the sole purpose of moon sighting is to begin or end the Islamic lunar month.
  • The Islamic moon is different from the astronomic new moon. The new moon is described in the Wikipedia as the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon, in its monthly orbital motion around the Earth, lies between the Earth and the Sun, and is, therefore, in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth. At this time, the dark (un-illuminated) portion of the Moon faces almost directly toward the Earth, so that the moon is not visible to the naked eye.
  • The Islamic moon needs to be sighted by the naked eye. There were no eye-glasses or optical aids in the days of the Prophet (sa) for sighting a moon.
  • Each locality has to go by its local moon to begin or end an Islamic month. This only makes sense, as no sophisticated means of communication existed in the days of the Prophet (sa) to get the news across.

There is a great deal of Hikmah in setting the moon as the deciding factor for the Islamic month, if we delve into it for a while. It is only the moon, which travels across the globe and is usually visible to the masses, without any complicated aids. Moreover, this method requires no communication satellites to spread the news, as every area can set their calendars by whenever the moon is visible to them. It also does not prefer one region over another, in order to prevent possible discord.

Sadly, with the passage of time and the advent of modern technologies, moon sighting has become a politically messed issue. Without going into complicated and confusing details, we will here try to determine, whether it is scientifically possible for a moon to be sighted at two different dates within a single country. Likewise, we will investigate the evidences our religion provides in support of this argument.

A narration of Ibn Abbas in Sahih Muslim indicates that local moon sighting alone was the prevailing method in the time of the Prophet (sa) and was a part of his teachings.

“There is a sighting of the moon for every town, the sighting at one town cannot be held valid for the other town situated at a considerable distance from it.” (Muslim)

Kurayb narrates that Umm Al-Fadl sent him to Muawiyah in Sham for something.

Kurayb says: “I went to Sham and finished the job. I was in Sham, when the month of Ramadan began, and we saw the moon the night of Friday. When I reached Madinah at the end of the blessed month, Ibn Abbas asked me about Sham. (After answering him), he then asked me, when we saw the moon. I said: ‘We saw the moon the night of Jumuah.’ He asked: ‘Did you see it as well?’ I said: ‘Yes, I saw it too and many others saw it, and we all fasted and so did Muawiyah (that is according to that moon sighting).’ Ibn Abbas said: ‘But we saw the moon on Saturday night; therefore, we will keep fasting for thirty days according to that, unless we sight the moon on the 29th.’

I asked: ‘You don’t think the moon-sighting of Muawiyah and his fasting is enough for you?’ Ibn Abbas replied: ‘No, this is how the blessed Prophet (sa) taught us.’” (Muslim)

This Hadeeth clearly shows that sighting of the moon in another locality should not be the determining factor; rather, a locally sighted moon is what sets the beginning or ending of a month. For example, if ample evidence suggests that the moon has been sighted in some parts of the country but not the others, common sense (and also in the light of the above mentioned Hadeeth) tells us that a locality will follow its own locally sighted moon, and no one else is obliged to follow it.

Scientific evidence is also in agreement of the above quoted argument. When asked about this, Dr. Shahid Qureshi (In-charge Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics, University of Karachi) said it is indeed possible to sight a moon on different dates in the same country.

The problem arises only when a certain area or province (NWFP in our case) decides to follow Saudi Arabia and takes their moon to set its own dates. This practice is a Biddat, as no evidence from the Quran or Ahadeeth can be found to support a global moon sighting. Many other countries are also indulging in the same practice, instead of following the Quran and Sunnah. Asking for a global moon sighting would be akin to asking people to pray at a universal time.

Whether or not to employ technical aids in sighting a moon, pre-determining moon’s visibility and developing a computable calendar all are sticky issues. Muslim jurists, scientists and politicians have been debating about these matters for decades, without reaching a solution acceptable to all. For the time being, understanding the basic fact that every area should follow its own moon would greatly help in easing the confusion, which arises every year.

Instead of resorting to fist fights and pointing fingers, we should get to the depths of the issue and avoid being misled by the propaganda to spread discord in the unity of the Ummah. Allah (swt) knows best!