Remembering Prof Aftab Ahmad

It is sad when gifted people are taken away from us.

Professor Aftab Ahmad died in the morning of the 26th, he had been attacked and shot a few days in his University residence. He was one of those brave and forward thinking intellectuals, proud and knowledgeable of his religion, and not, as is too often the case in this country, afraid to think with it. He was the ex VC of the National University and a professor of Political Science at Dhaka Uni. He was an illustrious son of Noakhali. May Allah accept his good works and sacrifice, forgive him for his mistakes and raise him in the akhira. May Allah continue the works he was involved with and grant his servants in this region a little more clarity of thought, unity and efficacy.

Coining very catchy slogans like "Joi bangla" and "Amader Thikhana, Padma, Meghna, Jamuna", he was an active physical and intellectual freedom fighter in '71, sustaining a gunshot wound for his efforts. After the war was over, he opposed more and more of what he saw going on, starting a newspaper going to jail, yknow ... the usual! In 1983, he wrote a doctorate thesis at the University of London on 'The Mujib Era', when i get home i dearly want to check it out. People of most political leanings will have heard of him or worked with or against him at some stage in Bangladesh, as he was into the lefty thing as a student leader, which was a rite of passage here.

For his time as VC of the National University, he was in the favour of the present government. The falling out, about which my knowledge is sketchy and secondary at the mo is important to investigate. Generally the group in power are stubborn, ignorant and understand only money, especially the 'younger section'.

So Who-dunnit? and Why? Between the complete ballsup concerning treatment at the military hospital, the profs spinefulness and orientation of thought theres enough to sustain a healthy speculation. Prof had no doubt made some enemies amongst the ultra nationalist block over the years with his ability to penetrate nationalist taboos, but its hard to identify who carried out this act of jahiliya, and on who's instruction. This is not an 'Islamist' alleged operation either, so i would not expect any hue and cry in the overseas press. What chance have the small people of this country got of being 'tolerant', when the high ups are so senile?

The last time i saw him in the flesh was before leaving dhaka for a bit last month, he said to fetch him something by ibn miskaweh (on political ethics) from a library. I fished it out but didnt have the chance to reach it to him in person, in fact i was going to see him before my recent trip to a ganj in the north, but his wife said he had gone out and i needed to catch my bus. Later i find out that he had received it. I did however catch him on the TV, on the very night he was shot on ATN Bangla (prerecorded slot on the election commission controversty). He was on good form.
The Muslim Ummah really needs to nurture its brains in the current era, this week however, Bangladesh shot itself in the head, again. There are plenty more bullets where that came from, but maybe not so many targets.

His janaza was held at Dhaka University Central Mosque, amid all sorts of posthumous respect (too little too late i reckon) from all the usual suspects (government kitchen cabinet, Dhaka Teachers, vc of dhaka uni ...).

Riding through the Uni campus later that day, I notices that the Liberation War statues were wearing black blindfolds. Later I inquire as to what this symbolises...This was apparently to symbolise the blindness of those in power.

The impression of Dhaka Uni teachers amongst the ordinary citizenry has been defined of late by the late Dr Humayun Azad (Bangla department). He recieved (nonfatal) , severe injury near his uni residence ~18months ago, in apparent retribution for his anti-islamic, pro-atheist stance (Danish cartoons are nothing on what used to allegedly come out of his mouth concerning the prophets). I cant be bothered to recount the chap's history. If you like, read his own contribution on his own terms in the universe of this very bitter nutjob bangladeshi 'freethinkers' forum and see for yourself.

I bring this up because, in a conversation with a random, i heard something along the lines of 'Bhalo hoise, tara shob nasthik' (a good thing happened, they are all atheists).

Bit of a bummer approach to things, but it gives us an idea of how different the values of this portion of the Mukti group are to the identity of local people. Its a bit like the Taliban i guess, winning an independence war against a formibable foe with outside help and then falsely imagining they could run a country and failing, bringing ruin upon the society.

Anyway, Prof Aftab's assassination sets a further precedent of assassins going into a teachers home and shooting them.

It s political showdown time in Bangladesh, anything is possible, chances are that he was removed as a precursor of what might come to be.

Anyway what a time to check out of here, Ramadhan.


jai Gaibandha (i'm off)

Armed with my maps (ooooh that was a time consuming aquisition) and a gps, I spent the past ~7 days in Gaibandha, 'ganj-tripping'. Covered the required ground, albeit on very slow forms of transport and in the wet. this area isnt so affected by the main branch of the jamuna, it tends to get the smaller threads(ulnike further south), which you'd expect would make it easier to control. NOT REALLY. next time im there it will get juicy as I get my self up the noses of the engineers and politicians.

I went to Juma in the field yesterday, a small tin shed of a mosq on an alluvial island, that had been moved several times over the past five years. These folks were not as isolated from the riverbank as most, because the government had built an embankment-cum-road connecting it to the mainland

The flood was mud with sack covering, and soft to kneel on, very kneelable indeed. There was a line from the khutbah that struck me particularly,as the gale outside squeesed through the holes in the corrugated tin. It went along the lines of 'Every day we are getting closer to Allah'.

Ive learnt heaps from all the schools, mosques and madrassas ive seen over the passed months (100+), about community, relocation, cultural reproduction and the general islamic flavourings of communities in desh. This might sound very unlike me, but...I can't wait to analyse this data and get onto the second stage.

Establishing madrassas(READ EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION) is a part of the natural philanthopic urge of Muslim societies. A family with a the resourecs and status willset up a mosque, plan for a madrassa (ebtedai (that is hybrid), or hafizia(learning the whole quran), plan for an etimkhana (orphanage). How far they get on this plan depends on how well they do monetarily their organisiational and intellectual ability.

Yes, i just used the 'i' word to give a sense of the partiallysighted leading the not-yet-even-partially-sighted.

The 'alarming growth' of madrassas that bingos harp on about, is probably more to do with the improvement of peoples wellfare to the point where they can organise their own institutions, with their own valued character. If they cant get further than a mosque, they make do with a maktab arrangement in the mornings after fajr to impart the basics of religion to their kids. Also, a lot of these institutions probably already existed but were not registered with government.

Ok, its not islamic renaissance, in the 16th Century AH ummahtic detonation wavefunction sense (the madrassa detractors im on about arent interested in that anyway), but there are quality mutlifunctional people with an islamic world view emerging from these places. Its in the alignment of the well resourced that the 'Envelope' will be extended, it would be foolish to expect otherwise.

Diversity in education is the way forward. and ongoing support, communication and synthesis between the flavours... Islamic, English and Bangla mediums.

Thursday was lost to a simultaneous storm and strike by the Awami league. Oooh well at least i did some writing and planning. Little inconveniences like rain, dumb power boards and crap roads affect locals far more boneshakingly. Many hundreds of families lost their only bread winner as tons of fishermens trawlers got caught in the depression in the bay of bengal. I dread to think how much potential advancement has been frustrated by the crapness of the road from Ullobazar to Shaggata. The crapness of the road can be attributed, apparently to the local MP. Her goons were not getting the contract so she directed 'development' elsewhere.

Now I'm back in Bogra, waiting for Ramadan totake a hold of me and polishing of 3 small, but probably institutionally rich areas before heading back to the capital. Have been watching too much TV(at least when ther was electricity at the hotel, i shall leave the story of the kanjos hotelier-engineer for another day, mosquitos are biting), some of it surreal.

'Almost Famous' is one of my favourite 70's rock road movies, it was on some random star movies channel the other night. hearing alvin and theodore the chipmunks and simlutaneously seeing arabic usbtitles was very very odd. what a sad life i..

oh, had a rather interesting journey home last night, several miles walk along the dark, rainy windy river side through bogged roads, with pretty much all my data on my person followed by dodjy rickshaw ride, followed by dodjy driver of a 4x4 microbus giving us a lift to earn some extra cash .

Thankyou Gaibandha for not bumraping me. Thankyou nokia for having very bright mobile phone sreens.

off now, Salaam, ... i wonder if this will publish.


Shababaraat, Newspaper and Collective Ijtihad

doh, I'm still in Dhaka. But to my credit I have a new keyboard now.


After Magrib today, Dhaka is gonna be getting namazi for Shababaraat.

Every year in the UK, theres a discussion on whether its an innovation in worship, or whether its ok. In Bangladesh too theres an emerging diversity of views. Some organisations take pride in ignoring it. However i think its one of those islamic cultural 'bells and whistles' that does more good than bad.

Im intrigued and looking forward to seeing what goes on. In case any hardcores wish for a justification on theological grounds Sunnipath have something for you. The concept is that is a weak hadith recommends a virtue, go for it.

If you would like to laugh at an arch secularist loony promotion of the event, read this Daily Star Editorial. Wait untill the end of it for Mahfuz Anam's 'medicine'. Awww bless

Mean while the Dhaka Ploice have banned fireworks.

Picked up an issue of the NewAge newspaper yesterday (during a marathon hour long search for a CNG scooter to go to Tejgaon), they were celebrating some knd of anniversity and had a special supplement of Education, Knowledge and politics. Sterling effort, if a little rabidly anti-Islamic organisation for one whole article. In 'The Green Serpent Rises' a journo gives a very superficial, ahistoric and incomplete portrayal of the history of Islami student activism. Political production of 'evidence', all negative, for the english readership.

All the cliches are drawn on, the spirit of the liberation war, 'inflitration of Islamists everywhere', vien cutting and what not.

All in all, im sure that the supplement raised a little discussion about knowledge culture in this country, and its political manufacture. Its expose on Dhaka University was unusually tempered with optimistic.

This week has been a little frustrating with regards to fieldwork, its been out of my hands, i cannot complete the institutional survey without 6 more mouza maps. i've taken to reaarranging stuff , reading more, visiting people, printing some maps and business cards. This week i think i'll go up north and do a bunch of surveys (without naqsha daag numbers) anyway.

can also do some data processing of the 6 mouzas that i have all ready.

Collective Ijtihad
Bumped into the concept of collective ijtihad a few days back.

I'm reading a new version of Prof Kamali's 'An introduction to Shariah' (2006, Ilmiah Publications, KL). He is much more contextual and has an eye on the present day situation than i have noticed before. However it doesnt read like its a political piece, promoting any particular organisation or self interested actor. Parts of it read more like something from the history/philosophy of science literature. His rendering of the history of ideas in fiqh, and the archaeology of the discipline is fascinating.

What this, and i think the whole maqasid movement is about, is the kickstarting of the Islamic knowledge framework, with an eye to demystifying Islamic disciplines and promoting interdisciplinary scholarship.

Collective ijtihad is not meant as a replacement of that of individual scholars, but highlighted in order that it be recognised for its validity. It makes people of other fields more useful. Prof Kamali quotes an idea that Allama Iqbal proposed, that the Muslim Legislative Assembly would be a zone of this collective ijtihad, this fills me will hope but makes me despair when i think of how far apart the knowledge and power actors are today from this sort of culture.

"Another problem we face at present is that despite the door os ijtihad having been declared wide open, we do not see any effective movement toward making ijtihad an engaging process of law and government. A great deal has been said about ijtihad for about a century, that is, ever since the days od al-Afghani and 'Abduh, but the repeated calls for revitalisation of ijtihad has brought about only mdest results. With regard to the qualification that the theory of ijtihad has demanded of the mujtahid it is said that these are heavy and exacting. But this is, in my opinion, just another taqlid-oriented assertion by those who wished to bring ijtihad to a close. The qualifications so stated were not excessive and were frequently fulfilled, as al-Shawkani has stated, by a long series of prominent scholars across the centuries even during the era of taqlid..." p156-7
the discussion continues interestingly until the end of the chapter :-)

In short i like it cos,
-lowers the unrealisable qualificational burden on the individual
-can draw together a fuller disciplinary blending
-very 'shura'.


Phulbari coalmine, the Good list, Starfruit and mental waste

I came back to Dhaka (to get some naqsha maps i hope) before the strike concerning the Phulbari Coal Mine. It turns out that news has reached the London Stock Exchange and World newspapers. Its a story about a country with a crap decisionmaking and powersharing structure, an opportunistic opposition party, libhely left academics, daft police action... and perhaps a little justice winning out in the end.

Asia Energy (london based, with many australian share holders) wanted to start an open pit coal mine in a northwest district, it was going to displace a lot of tribals and kill many trees. both sides dispute the number. Anyhow, the desh gobht has changed its mind, Asia energy has already inbhested 24 million in the area so id imagine there will be a legal mess arising from this.

Desh does not lack energy resource, just the scaledup techno know how to exploit it in its own interest. for instance on the island of bhola, and in many other parts of the country, people drill for water, and find the added benefit of natural gas. This has been domesticated by and large in Bhola my plumber types (not engineers) , quite safely it would seem. I need to check it out. it need to be mapped and the basic piping and techniques refined to maximise safety and benefit.

BAPEX, the national exploration and eextraction outfit has been steadily immasculated obher the years by bad political decision making and the awarding of tenders to obherseas firms. it is fitting that the experise of such a body should reflect this microscale gas enbhironment as well as the meso and large scales.

Geographic intermission

The Independent, the UK newspaper, published its good list today. It is a bhirtuous play on the Times 'Rich List' and is full of noble people, a lot of them thinkers and doers. I am sure theres a lot more to each of the personalities mentioned and plenty of political critique to be written, but this list does tell us about the more enlightened section of Brit society.

For example Robert Chambers, a debhelopmenty chap whos work at IDS in Sussex has popularise the bluddy obbhious idea of participatory debhelopment.

Another sciencey one is John Houghton, meteorologist extrordinare who has done a lot for pushing the Climate Change science mobhement. He has had some sucess in persuading religious people in the US that Climate change is a clear and present danger. I read his text book when i was younger, studieng atmospherics. Like all disciplines i feel now that it obher emphasised the role of the atmosphere, as a geographer im feeling that natural and social processes on the earths surface and subsurface need emphasis now. How can somebody predict doom and gloom for so much of bangladesh by taking an estimate for sea lebhen rise andcolouring in an elebhation map of the country. Theres so much more going on...

Plenty of religious types on display, Md Abdul Bari from the MCB (politically correct or what?!)Bishop of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan and the young founder of Muslim Youth Helpline.

Its a great list just to communicate the range of actihity going on out there for public consumption and inspiration.

Geographic intermission 2

On a slightly different note, I brought up my star fruit fascination at my uncles house yesterday. It turns out that they grow at my baumuniz bari in Narayanganj. Folks were talking dreamily of juicing the creatures and spicing them up before consumption and ebhen about the fruit's potential with fish (chuto mas). It turns out that its quite cheap and can be found at school children fodder at the right times and places in the city.

Are intellectuals in Muslim societies always subject to humiliation and slander and criminal educational wastage.

Im thinking specifically of the Bengali Muslim Islamic thinkers that were totally shafted by the new 'Bangladesh' system. Their precense is sorely missed and is sought after. Truth doesnt matter to cultural plunderers, the misunderstandability of the public is used to ruin reputations and thereby cut the general people off from sources of enlightenment. Complex historical currents, social undercurrents and spiritual ideals are collapsed onto a single point, declared 'collaboratibhe' and cast out. Meanwhile the unibhersities corrode, with students and later the whole country losing out.

Rebholution of the fools indeed.

Seems to me, well from what ibhe read, that Syed Ahmad khan (founder of aligahr) and Yusuf Ali (famous translator of quran) passed on to the next life in 'non-ideal' circumstances. Choudhury Rehmat Ali too was rejested by the country to coined the name of, and FAzlur Rahman was chased out of Pakistan by cabhemen.

I doubt that this is a Muslim only problem, but one generally of wisdom and politics. The political construction of knowledge and institutions is one of those major flaws and weaknesses in society today. Another, better world is definatly possible, its more than probably, just need to flippin solbhe this knowledge culture issue and bust up the ignocracy first.


from 27th august

this blog will be slightly more contribhed than usual, at least for this post, wrote this a few days back, blogger.com was causing grief.


this is me killing a little time waiting for the good records office to fish out some 'CS' maps.

This mornign i had a little goose chase around the town looking for spatially relevant offices. I feel for the surveyors here the work is very tough, and theres so much to cover and nothing can be printed untill all disputes are settled...

needless to say i wont have the latest 'RS' mouza maps at my disposal as i did in Sirajganj. strange that, this place is less organised, despite being a bigger town, safer from the river hazard and home to the late ziaur rahman and seat of his son at present.

I got here(bogra) early on saturday morning, landed in dhaka from kl in the wee hours of last tuesday.Abiding memories of kl will be chillin at iium, roaming with my kl battalion and talking with syed hussain alattas (Captive minds, Sociology of corruption, the myth of the lazy lative, problems facing intellectuals in developing societies...) till silly morning hours. He is quite opposed to the Islamisation of knowledge movement, thinking it misleading, uber political and a distraction from our actual problems.

I see what he means, and what more or les everyone else means but i kinda fell for the students and people on the campus. As well as the term 'ignocracy' to describe out present day states he has a new term, 'Jargonist' to describe intellectuals hiding their lamoness and dishonesty behind obscure terminology.

dhaka was a bit cooler on return. was brought back to reality when RAB stopped our cab as we got into dhanmondhi. they were in plainclothes and zooming around in an ambulance.i think i was to monged to care at the time, they could have been anyone.
Interesting things afoot in the world.

  • Hezbulla immediately get their hands dirty in rehabilitating the southern lebanese.
  • Airliners in anglosaxon space go ape over terror threats.
  • Inzamam ul huq's heroic confrontation with a wackho cricket umpiring decision by Darrel Hair. The Zidane effect. this isnt about cricket. thumbs up to pakistan on this matter.

not so Interesting things going on in my head.

  • contemplate over the term madhab-diversity, which treid to draw attention to all the schools of islamic thought and law, which have become extinct. Maybe ive spent too long with my man shiro the ecologist.
  • am loving Khaled Abu el Fadl, here is a fan page --> http://www.scholarofthehouse.com/
  • wonder if bangladesh attracts all the secondrate foreign diplomats, development workers et all.
  • think ive typed this stuff somewhere before....anyhoo toodleoo