Who really desecrated the Qur’an?

25 March 2015 | 2 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Muslims across the world are going through a very difficult phase due to the wrong and un-Islamic actions of a few terrorist groups. These days it has become all the more important for every Muslim to spread the true teachings of Islam so as to present the true face of our religion to the world.

In such a situation, a brutal incident that took place in the war-torn Afghanistan came to the fore. According to media reports, a group of thugs held a woman and accused her of desecrating a copy of the Qur’an. They brutally tortured her and set her on fire. Most likely she must have had succumbed to the injuries caused due to the torture long before she was set ablaze. It has been reported that the deceased woman was known for being mentally ill. Sadly, none of the self-appointed custodians of faith who committed the act had reportedly seen the woman desecrating the copy of Qur’an.

It all started when a group of women shouted and accused the lady of burning the holy book. Some men outside heard the accusation and within minutes the woman was lying lifeless. Vigilantes, who apparently did not have a proper understanding of the true teachings of Islam, killed her in the most brutal manner.

Exactly two years ago, in my article published in the Arab News “Do Muslims really understand Islam?,” I had raised this question. Apparently, many Muslims don’t understand the true spirit of Islam.

In the current global situation, it would be difficult to convince non-Muslims after each and every incident that the crime might have been committed in the name of Islam by Muslims but such brutalities have nothing to do with the true teachings of Islam. Of course, how could they believe us? The Internet is replete with videos of horrific acts committed by so-called Muslims against Muslims and non-Muslims.

The question is: Who really burned the copy of the Qur’an and who really desecrated it?

The Qur’an was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through angel Gabriel. It was revealed gradually over a period of more than two decades. The first word that was revealed is read. In the Arab and Muslim world, Qur’an is a book that you will find in every room of every Muslim’s house, classrooms, hotel rooms, automobiles, shops and mosques. As a matter of fact, many non-Muslims across the world also keep a copy of this book to learn about Islam and many non-Muslims have genuine respect for Islam and Muslims. During the past few years, some incidents of Qur’an’s desecration had been reported in the media. In the wake of such incidents, we witnessed riots leading to some deaths in many Muslim countries. We tend to forget one important fact that Muslims are taught that Qur’an is protected by Allah and not by humans.

Islam does not encourage Muslims to carry copies of the Qur’an to places where it might be desecrated due to negligence or misunderstandings. But sadly just by looking at the damages done to mosques, schools and houses in the Arab and Muslim world during the so-called Arab Spring or sectarian violence elsewhere, it could be inferred that hundreds of copies of the Qur’an must have been burned by Muslims themselves.

Beating and killing a woman without any evidence has nothing to do with respecting the Qur’an. Respecting the book is to understand the true meanings of its contents. The holy book should not only be read thoroughly like a parrot but we should try to absorb the meanings of its verses. We have seen war planes flown by Muslims, armored tanks driven by Muslims, powerful explosives carried by Muslims that damaged mosques, schools, houses and other buildings that are full of copies of the Qur’an in Syria, Libya, Yemen and other Muslim countries. And in the wake of violence in these countries, damage has been done to thousands of copies of the Qur’an. So who really burned and desecrated the Qur’an? If Muslims really read and understand the Qur’an, the Muslim world will be free from sectarian violence, sectarian wars, political chaos, corruption, poverty and killings in the name of Islam. We should bear in mind that the world judges what we do in the name of Islam and not what we say about Islam.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Who really desecrated the Qur’an? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Ode to Ali M. Al-Baluchi

25 March 2015 | 12 comments | Reunions | by

Ode to Ali M. Al-Baluchi

If your path has crossed dear Ali’s
Then you will surely know
When he wants to make “it” happen
“It’s” always good to go!
He has a way of working
That leaves you in no doubt
His plans will clearly come to pass
And find a gainful route!

But what is it that makes him reach
Across the sands of time
To touch so many hearts and lives
No longer in their prime?
What is the thing that drives him on
To join them overseas,
And gather friends from far and wide
To reunite with ease?

How does he motivate and lead
A team both old and young
Who hail from all the globe around
And toil for praise unsung?
What is this magic sense he has
That all shall come to pass?
A quiet confidence and strength,
A self-belief steadfast.

There are so many qualities
Of his that claim respect:
An active mind, perspective clear,
Ability to connect.
Much energy and wisdom rich,
Loyalty deep and true,
A love of family, national pride,
Company man right through.

But most of all we hold him dear
For his kind and gen’rous heart
That reaches out across the world
To draw friends long apart.
These Gath’rings nurtured by his hand
Are blessed by his great care,
And demonstrate to everyone
A fellowship most rare.

For Ali also understands
That in this changing world
Friendship is a powerful tool
A flag to keep unfurled.
So when we see our common ground
And think on life we’ve shared,
We all can raise a prayer of thanks -
Most of all that Ali cared.

by Alison Hooker

An evening with Engr Dr. Abdul Azim Akbar

24 March 2015 | 2 comments | Pakistan | by

Engr. Dr. Abdul Azim Akbar

It was Sunday the 15th March 2015. We were invited to a garden party by Engr. Azim Akbar.

When we reached there, we were welcomed by Engr. Azim and his son Atif. The garden was artistically decorated. Since it was spring time, one could find a variety of beautiful flowers in their full bloom.

I took the opportunity to get some information on the life of Engr. Azim. He had invited a lot of his family members and friends and we were the early birds. I found some time to ask Doctor Sahib about his early education and life.

He told me “I was born in India, at a city called Raipur. It was April 1947. I wanted independence, so after 4 months, Pakistan came into existence in August 1947. I was hardly 8 months old when my parents migrated to Pakistan with the whole family. My father had to work very hard to set up home and cater for family needs in new environment. His foremost mission was to provide his children with best of education.”

Engr. Dr. Abdul Azim Akbar

I asked “Azim Sahib, where did you get your early education?” He told me “Initially, I attended Metropolitan School and later Government Boys Secondary School Kotwal Building. The standards of Government Schools those days were very good. I was lucky to have very able and dedicated teachers. When I look back, I always remember them and that how much I owe to my parents and my teachers. By the grace of God, I was not only academically a good student but also took active part in extracurricular activities. I was Vice Captain of the School Hockey team. I took part in inter-school debates and won a lot of prizes for the school. I was the school Magazine Editor and General Secretary of the students union. I secured first division and fifth position in the Karachi Matriculation Examination.

“What about your Secondary Education?” Dr .Azim was quite, for a while, then added by saying.” I wanted to acquire technical education as I was always fascinated by the role of technology in the development of human civilization. I secured admission in DJ Government Science College. It was one of the best educational institutions in Karachi. At DJ Science College, I again took active part in sports and debates. I represented the college in all Pakistan inter collegiate debates. I was elected the General Secretary of Karachi Speakers Forum. Those days a lot of efforts were made to prepare the speeches and this resulted in excellent intellectual development. It was during those days that I began my interest in poetry and literature. Poetry of Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz fascinated me and awakened the poet in me. Bertrand Russell, Ibn Khaldun, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, were my favorite writers. I secured first division and second position in Intermediate exams in Karachi.

Engr. Dr. Abdul Azim Akbar

I asked Dr. Azim “What about you’re engineering studies?” He left me for a while to welcome his guests but came back after a while and continued where he left off “I joined, NED Government Engineering College. I continued to take part in All Pakistan inter collegiate debates and won many trophies and prizes for my college. Due to good academic results, I was awarded scholarship by Volkart Education Foundation Switzerland for post graduate studies in Europe, I was able to secure admission at Imperial College, London. As soon as results of my final year engineering at NED College were announced I flew to London in October 1968 and joined Imperial College.

At Imperial College, I secured the post graduate diploma (DIC), MSc and PhD in Thermal Power and Process Engineering. Studying and doing research at Imperial College was a great experience where I not only had the opportunity to learn from the world renowned and eminent professors in the engineering field but also to meet and work with brilliant students from different countries. I learnt a lot from English society. I found tolerance, rationality, logic, coolness as the hallmarks of English society. The governance was excellent with a lot of emphasis on social welfare such as free health service, free school education, unemployment benefits, provision of housing to poor families etc. I would dream that similar social welfare system would one day be implemented in my country so that people with low income will not suffer. I was invited to take part in BBC Urdu service programs which was another great experience.

After completing my PhD, I was offered teaching job along with Post Doctorate research at the UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology).”

What about your family life? Dr. Azim after a long pause, closely looking at the flowers, said, “I got married in 1975, she had studied Home Economics. We have two sons and one daughter, highly qualified, Alhamdulillah from some of top rated foreign Universities.”

Engr Azim, please tell me something about your career? I asked.

He replied “I accepted the offer from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology as I always thought that teaching was a very noble job. I later joined M/s Parsons in their London office and worked on mega projects for Shell, Monsanto and NIOC.

I was then offered a job at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) which I accepted mainly because it would be close to Pakistan and that my children would be able to grow in an Eastern and Islamic Environment. This was the beginning of a long and great association which lasted for 35 years during which time I worked in various senior positions including as an Advisor.

ADNOC at that time was only a small oil exploring, producing and exporting Company but as it had large oil and gas reserves and oil prices were rising, Abu Dhabi thought that it was a great opportunity to not only increase its oil production and exports but also to develop the gas production and downstream oil refining, gas processing and petrochemicals industry to add value to its natural resources. This was very ambitious and challenging mission as all facilities required for the industry were also needed to be developed from scratch.

It involved development of a vision, master plan, infrastructure, human resources, business strategy, corporate governance, systems and procedures followed by management of mega projects, development of joint ventures, operation of plants, development of markets etc. I was involved in all these activities and it was not only challenging and enjoyable but it gave me a great experience in all aspects of Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Business. All was successfully achieved and today ADNOC has grown into one of world biggest Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals Conglomerate. I am proud to have taken part in and contributed to one of fastest and successful development in the history of the world. During my long stint with ADNOC, I also had to travel and stay in different countries of the world such as USA, UK, China, South Korea, Italy, Switzerland etc. which was again a great education and experience for me.

Engr. Dr. Abdul Azim Akbar

During all this time, I tried my best to do my bit for my country. I was member of Pakistan Business Council, Abu Dhabi which promotes Pakistan’s business interest in Abu Dhabi. I organized number of social events and took active part in community activities. I was invited to speak on various subjects in different functions. I was captain of Pakistan Engineers and ADNOC Cricket Teams. I had been a member of the Board of Governors of Pakistan School in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi. I had been leading the drive for donations for The Citizen Foundation (TCF) in Abu Dhabi.

In 2014, I decided to return to Pakistan and utilize my qualifications and experience to contribute full time to my country in its development. In this regard among other things, I along with some highly qualified and educationist friends, have set up a Foundation for Promotion of Education which is a non- profit organization.

The Metropolitan Institute (TMI) is the first project under the Foundation which is being set up as a world class Institute. Its mission is to engage in policy oriented research and conduct short courses on issues affecting progress in Pakistan.

As regards to Pakistan, I believe that Pakistan can be one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Agriculture wise Pakistan is one of the best in the world. Natural resources such as Coal, Gold, Copper, Shale Oil, Shale Gas etc. are in abundance. Its geo political/commercial location is great. Due to its history and great scenic beauty it could be a great place for tourism. We have great human resources who have contributed to the development of so many countries. In spite of all this it is so painful for me to see the scale of poverty and the state of poor people in my country. All we need is good management and governance. Each of us should play his part to make our country great and prosperous and to eradicate poverty from our country.

We often lament the state of affairs in the management of our country but I would like to quote the following poetry of Ahmed Faraz.

Shikwa e zulmat e shab say to kaheen behter tha
Apnay hissay ki koi shamma jalatey jatey

Which means that instead of complaining about the darkness of night, it would have been better to light a candle.

My message to young engineers can be summarized in following quotes
from J. F. Kennedy and our Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”

“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve”

We all strive to be successful in our life. We should make our best efforts to get the best education and have a successful career but I will never forget the definition of success by Ralph Waldo Emerson which is as follows.

“To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to win the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded.”

Why India Always Amazes Me?

23 March 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

A few months ago, I got an invitation to attend an event at the NASA Mission Control Center at Johnson’s Space Center in Houston, Texas, to be held by the end of this month.

I will write in detail about his event in my next column. When I first received the invite, some thoughts crossed my mind. I thought about India and asked myself why India not only amazes me but it always comes up with surprises for people around the world? You must be wondering what does my visit to NASA have to do with India?

There are many things in India that continue to fascinate people around the globe. I am not talking about the beautiful Taj Mahal, the spicy Indian cuisine, its political and electoral system or its rich and diverse culture. The Indian civilization is one of the oldest in the world and it is currently one of the most rapidly modernizing countries. It became a republic in 1950 after gaining independence from the British in 1947. In a very short span, this country progressed miraculously. This is what always amazes me about India. Let us talk about India and America’s NASA. Or in other words, let us talk about the one aspect of India that many people are not aware of.

On July 20, 1969, America landed two men on the moon. Many people around the world watched the historic event live on their television sets but a great number of Indians missed the event because many didn’t have television sets at that time. This, however, did not deter the Indians from establishing the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Aug. 15, 1969.

Interestingly, that happened only 25 days after the United States made history by landing two men on the moon — and the Indian space exploration success stories continued.

Years of hard work and small steps on this path have placed India at the forefront of the list of countries aiming to explore and conquer the outer space.

In 2008, ISRO launched Chandrayan-1 moon vehicles — India’s first lunar probe. Amazing, isn’t it?

This feat apparently did not satiate Indian experts’ hunger to strive for the best. So, last year the ISRO sent a spacecraft to Mars and with that, India joined the elite club of the most advanced countries of the world.

It is true that a few other countries were able to send spacecraft to Mars but India’s achievement was different. They were successful in doing so in their first attempt. Europe was also able to do it in the first go but it was a consortium of many countries. What astonished the world was the low cost of the Indian project. It cost India less than $80 million — one-tenth of what other space agencies paid for their projects. Some space agencies allocated and spent $750 million. It is said that in the launching of their spacecraft, the Indian scientists used and employed a slingshot method for Mangalyaan’s interplanetary journey. This is considered an unusual method.

With India’s achievements to send a spacecraft to Mars at such a low cost, may be India’s space agency will become the future transporter facilitating human travel from Earth to Mars.

At this stage, what India achieved can be taken as an example for what other countries can and should achieve for the good of our planet.

These kinds of achievements could prove to be a source of inspiration for researches and more discoveries for new things in the outer space.

India’s achievement should serve as a lesson for other countries to help them utilize their financial resources wisely on scientific projects. Let us go back to NASA. In 1960 US President John Kennedy said that America would send a man on the moon in a decade. Now, I am not familiar with the politics of India. However, many saw India dispatching a spacecraft for Mars just few weeks after the election of Narendra Modi as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. The Indian scientists’ achievement at the Indian Space Research Organization could not have come at a better time for the new premier.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Why India Always Amazes Me? reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.

Pushing ME Into Nukes Race

22 March 2015 | 0 comments | Opinions & Editorials | by

Abdulateef Al‐MulhimAbdulateef Al‐Mulhim, Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Amid the ongoing Iran’s nuclear issue debate, Saudi Arabia has taken a prominent position. Out of the blue, everybody has started discussions about the possibility of Saudi Arabia moving ahead to acquire nuclear weapons. Was it really out of the blue?

Billion-dollar question is: Will Saudi Arabia strive to acquire nuclear weapons?

And if so, then how long would it take the Saudis to plan and build nuclear reactors, enrich uranium and produce nuclear bomb(s)?

Generally, this cumbersome process takes years for completion. So, why should the Saudis spend so much time in acquiring nuclear capability at a time when Israel is already an undeclared nuclear power and Iran inching closer to realize its nuclear dream with every passing day. Truth be told, at this stage it is difficult to say whether or not Iran possesses a nuclear weapon. There are mixed reports on this issue; some stating Tehran has already acquired nukes and some claim that it is far from accomplishing such a feat.

Along with the entire world, Saudi Arabia has been witnessing the lengthy negotiations between the western powers and Iran with no clear signs of any positive outcome.

Saudis, however, are very annoyed especially after the clear thaw in US-Iran relations. In short, if the West accepts seeing Iran becoming a nuclear power, then the Saudis will follow.

As per reports circulating in the media, Saudi Arabia could upgrade its status from being a country with conventional weapons to a nuclear power within a relatively short span. And I am not sure how can the Saudis do it in a very short time but I guess it can be done. Saudi Arabia is not likely to wait for 10 years to acquire nuclear weapons.

The negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 might result in an agreement but no matter what the outcome may be, Iran will pursue it ambition to become a nuclear power at a time when there is no threat to it from any of its neighboring countries. And the latest approach by the American administration toward Iran is not making it any easier for the Saudis. The Saudis said over and over again that the Iranian nuclear facilities are located very close to the Saudi eastern shores. Iran is still a country that is not technologically advanced enough to handle or control any radioactive leaks from its nuclear facilities in case of a mishap.

It is true that Iran has many trained nuclear physicists but it is just not enough to handle a huge nuclear infrastructure. The Iranian Bushehr nuclear facility is located near active earthquake zone. It is true that Iran has a huge population and needs more electrical power so this is why Iran has to concentrate on building peaceful nuclear electricity generators but it should not continue in its quest for a nuclear bomb. Let us get real, who is Iran’s primary enemy in the area that makes it crucial for Iran to have a nuclear weapon? Tehran is not at war with any of the countries in the region. As a matter of fact, Iran is hostile to its neighbors.

Nuclear facilities are a threat to the neighboring countries no matter how peaceful the projects may be.

It would be pertinent to mention the threat issued by Norwegian scientists in view of the decaying Russian nuclear submarines and described them as “Chernobyl in slow motion.”

The Russian nuclear threat to Northern Europe is a reality even though Russian submarines didn’t even fire a nuclear missile.

The bottom line is that it is nice to see a Middle East without such a threat but if Iran reaches a deal allowing it to go ahead with its nuclear program, then the Saudis have the right to acquire their own nuclear deterrent capabilities. And last but not the least, the danger of nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities don’t differentiate between friend and foe. But when push comes to shove, the Saudis have the right to go to any extent to push back or deter any intruders. And now to close the discussion, various top political and military leaders visited the Kingdom in recent weeks.

Many political and security analysts were alerted by the visit of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye.

South Korea is a country known for its peaceful nuclear technologies. And another visit that gained a lot of interest is the visit by Pakistani top political and military officials. Pakistan is the most important strategic Saudi ally. And it is no secret that Pakistan is already a member of the elite nuclear club.

Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Pushing ME Into Nukes Race reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.