Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, March 20, 2009

God Helps Those (Especially) Who Help Themselves

Faisal says fate does not mean that one does nothing and we leave all to God

(Dr. Shah Faisal, 26, was born in Sogam village of District Kupwara. He studied at his village schools until the 10th grade and then transferred to the Tyndale Biscoe School Srinagar. Through an open merit system, he was selected for a seat in the medical college and finished his medical degree (MBBS) from the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura, Srinagar. His hobbies are reading literature (English, Urdu, Persian and Kashmiri), writing articles and plays, peace activism, and is currently involved in grass-roots advocacy for implentation of the Right to Information (RTI) in J&K state. He is also preparing for the civil services examinations.)

Divine Providence and Human Endeavour

It is very important for a true believer to understand the real meaning of "God, the Sustainer". In our daily matters of life the temptation of "leaving it to God" is often over-ruled by a tendency to "do it ourselves" and vice versa. Faith, fatalism and the fear of failure move near to and even intersect one another. Incidents that uphold both utility and futility of human endeavour come to the mind. But then, God has His own ways of doing things and man his own. God keeps him alive, and man thinks it is because he struggles to keep the death away. A creation once habituated to Manna from the heaven gets doubtful of God's mercy and omnipotence, once the Manna ceases to descend? The issue is serious.

Maulana Mohammad Zakaria has dealt with this subject in very philosophical terms and illustrated the concept lucidly. He records the story of a Kurd thief who used to plunder the nearby city along with his gang every now and then. But one day, after returning with the spoils, they decided to halt near a date tree that had no foliage or fruit left over it. While leaning against the tree, the Kurd thief was surprised to see a little bird fluttering again and again over the tree-top, although there was nothing that could have been of any use to that bird. The man grew curious and being the chieftain ordered one of his companions to climb up the tree and see what was happening. On this dead tree, there was in fact a blind serpent and the bird had been bringing small insects in his beak and feeding him. The thieves were dumb-founded. The Kurd chieftain at once realized that if God could nurture a blind serpent, why should he indulge in evil actions for the sake of survival? He became a believer, at once.

However, this story, as narrated by Maulana Zakaria, solves the problem in part only. It reinforces our faith in divine providence and the omnipotence of God. But it does not address the issue of human effort. The question remains; what is then the essence of human struggle for existence?

It thus becomes necessary to refer to Bostan, the Persian classic by Sheikh Sa'di Shirazi. Again, a story with strong philosophical and spiritual message catches our eye. Sheikh Sa'di narrates that one day someone saw a fox that could not walk. He wondered how the poor animal managed to live in that condition. Suddenly, a tiger passed by with a jackal in his claws. The tiger ate the jackal and fox scavenged the left-over. Next day also the God Omnipotent sent the fox a hearty meal. But seeing this, the man thought that strength and firmness of body had nothing to do with being alive and God was there to take care. So he sat in silence like an ant, waiting for his daily food to come from the invisible. Days passed and no one heeded him. When at last starvation threatened his life, a voice came out from the wall of a mosque. It said, "Go, O false one! Be the rending tiger and pose not as a paralysed fox. Exert yourself like a tiger so that something may remain from the spoil. Why like the fox appease your hunger with leavings? Eat of the fruit of your own endeavours. Strive like a man." Hearing this, he set out to work and search for his food.

So from Bostan-e-Sa'di we get a better picture of things. Also, when we cross over from philosophical view point to Quranic perspective, the confusion is lessened even further. The message in Quran is unambiguous. God helps those who help themselves. Allah says," there is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance dependeth on Allah. He knoweth the time of its definite abode and its temporary deposit. All is in a clear record (Surat Hud,11:6). Maulana Mohammad Shafi has noted in the commentary to above mentioned verse that even Prophet Moses(AS) hesitated for a while when asked to leave everything to God, not to speak of ordinary human beings. He narrates that when Allah commanded Prophet Moses (AS) to leave for Egypt during their conversation on the Mount Tur, Moses (AS) replied humbly that there was no one to care for his spouse back home. In return, Allah (SWT) ordered him to strike with his staff on a huge stone. As Prophet Moses struck, the stone broke into two and Allah commanded again to strike. Prophet Moses struck again and the stone split into two again. He was asked to do it as many times. Towards the end, Prophet Moses was surprised to see a small bird holding a green leaf in its beak coming out of the last piece of stone that had been struck. At this Allah told Prophet Moses that if He can sustain that bird inside a dead rock then why not his wife. Seeing this, Prophet Moses left for Egypt.

All this means that although human effort is not central to his survival, it is desirable. Secondly, assurance of divine succour applies more to those "who cannot make an effort", and not to them "who do not want to make an effort". Lastly, it can be safely deduced that what applies to an individual is true for the collectivity of people. Ironically, we either leave everything to God or keep everything to ourselves.

Let's take lessons from that fox or that thief or from the ennobling experience of Prophet Moses. We must recharge the fountain of our faith and be believers in real sense.

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