Indian Manuscript Microfilm Collection

Noor Microfilm Collection

This is a very promising manuscript collection for Moghul history manuscripts…

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Nihal Awad Disagrees with Atlantic Article

Nihad Awad Disagrees with Atlantic Article

n September, Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), held a press conference in Washington and, flanked by other Muslim figures, announced that 120 Muslim scholars had produced an 18-page open letter, written in Arabic, to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

An English translation of the document is a tough slog. As Awad said at the time, “This letter is not meant for a liberal audience.” He even admitted that mainstream Muslims might find it difficult to read.

The letter is an extended exegesis, heavily salted with quotes from the Koran and the Hadith, arguing point by point about the nature of jihad, the slaughtering of innocents, the taking of slaves, and other not-so-savory elements of the distant past — and in the past they should remain, the text argues. It makes the case not only that ISIS was wrong to commit horrific acts of violence in modern times, but that it was interpreting Islamic law incorrectly to justify such acts….

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What ISIS Really Wants

This Atlantic article has prompted quite a bit of discussion this week, for good reason.  It’s long, but definitely worth a read:

What ISIS Really Wants

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors….

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Ozgecan Turkey Rape / Murder Victim

Murder/Rape Victim Funeral in Turkey


On Feb 11th, Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old university student, caught a bus from Adana to Mersin as was her routine from school to home. As the last passenger gets off the bus, she’s left alone with the driver, his father and his friend. Two days later, three suspects were captured and Özgecan’s body was found. Initial autopsy report shows young woman was stabbed to death after she was raped, and then her body was burnt.

Women all over Turkey are organizing protests today, claiming this is not “just another criminal incident”, but a result of a systematic misogynist state policy. Recent declarations by government officials against women’s employment, abortion, and similar statements to restrict women’s rights including even “when to go out and what to wear” have been responded to with public outrage. Also, perpetrators of rape and murder of women get the minimum sentence due to “incitement” or “consent” by the victim or “no psychological damage observed” on the victim. The extent of femicide in Turkey has once again been revealed by the murder of Ozgecan Aslan, while according to official figures murders of women have increased 1,400% during the period of AKP rule.

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Moghul Ruler Aurangzab Falls in Love

Aurangzeb Falls in Love

How the heartless emperor Aurangzeb fell in love at first sight
The Mughal ruler is usually portrayed as a calculating, warring ruler. But that is just part of the story.

Yesterday · 08:03 am

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This story is not an average Valentine’s Day tale. It is about a love affair of a different kind, of a prince known today only as strong-willed, calculating and devoid of a loving bone in his body. It is about Aurangzeb falling in love at first sight.

In 1636, Aurangzeb was a prince and the Governor of Deccan. En route to Aurangabad, he stopped at Burhanpur to pay his respects to his maternal aunt, who was married to Saif Khan, the Governor of Burhanpur. What followed varies in detail in different tellings. But all of them agree that the austere prince fell in love at first sight with one of the women in his uncle’s harem. Her name was Hirabai.

Ma’asir al-Umara, written by Nawab Shams ud Daula Shah Nawaz Khan and his son Abdul Hai Khan, in the 18th century provides a detailed description of the episode:

“One day the prince went with the ladies of his harem to the garden of Zainabad Burhanpur, named Ahu-khanah [Deer Park], and began to stroll with his chosen beloved ones. Zainabadi, whose musical skill ravished the senses, and who was unique in blandishments, having come in the train of Khan-i-Zaman’s wife (the prince’s maternal aunt), on seeing a fruit-laden mango tree, in mirth and amorous play advanced, leaped up and plucked a fruit, without paying due respect to the prince’s presence. This move of hers robbed the prince of his senses and self-control.”

Despite his extremely religious bent, Aurangzeb was a connoisseur of music and a proficient Veena player. Hirabai’s looks, combined with her musical accomplishments, proved irresistible for the prince. He is said to have been so infatuated with her that he gave in to her demand that he taste wine. But before he could, Hirabai revealed that she was just testing his love for her.

A religious prince ready to taste wine, that shows the extent of his feelings for her.

Akbar, in his bid to regulate the harem, had ordered that all concubines should be named after the place they belonged to. So once Hirabai entered Aurangzeb’s harem she was called Zainabadi.

Grieving in solitude

In Ahkam e Aurangzeb, written in 1640, Aurangzeb’s biographer Hamiduddin Khan Nimchah recounts the Burhanpur encounter differently. According to him, the meeting took place when the prince entered the harem unannounced. He fell into a swoon and, on being asked by his aunt, described the reason for the malady and asked for a remedy. He was given Hirabai in exchange for one of his concubines.

The ensuing passion and infatuation is described the same way in Nimchah’s account.

It is said in Ma’asir al-Umara that Aurangzeb’s love affair proceeded to such lengths as to reach Shah Jahan’s ears. Dara Shikoh, who had no love lost for his brother Aurangzeb, is said to have remarked to their father Shah Jahan, “See the piety and abstinence of this hypocritical knave! He has gone to the dogs for the sake of a wench of his aunt’s household.”

But as destiny would have it, Hirabai did not live for long. Her death affected the prince greatly. She is buried in Aurangabad.

Ma’asir al-Umara records that Aurangzeb was so upset by the death of his beloved that he left the palace to go on a hunt. When reproved by the poet Mir Askari (Aqil Khan) for risking his life in that agitated state, the prince replied:

“‘Lamentation in the house cannot relieve the heart,

In solitude alone you can cry to your heart’s content.”

Aqil Khan then recited this couplet of his own composition:

“How easy did love appear, but alas how hard it is!

How hard was separation, but what repose it gave to the beloved!”

The prince could not check his tears. He committed the verses to memory after vainly trying to learn the modest poet’s name.

Incomplete portraiture

Niccolao Manucci, the Italian traveller and writer (1639–1717), too describes this period in Aurangzeb’s life:

“Aurangzib grew very fond of one of the dancing-women in his harem, and through the great love he bore to her he neglected for some time his prayers and his austerities, filling up his days with music and dances; and going even farther, he enlivened himself with wine, which he drank at the instance of the said dancing-girl. The dancer died, and Aurangzib made a vow never to drink wine again nor to listen to music. In after-days he was accustomed to say that God had been very gracious to him by putting an end to that dancing-girl’s life, by reason of whom he had committed so many iniquities, and had run the risk of never reigning through being occupied in vicious practices.”

On this Valentine’s Day, remember that Aurangzeb’s portraits may depict an austere man reading the Quran, but there once lurked in him a passionate young man who had considered the “world well lost” for the love of his life.

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Armenian Group Urges Gallipoli Commemoration Boycott

Article Link on Armenian Groups Urging Gallipoli Boycott

Boycott Gallipoli, Head to Yerevan Say Turkey Rights Groups

Turkey Rights Groups Call on World Leaders to Boycott Gallipoli,  Visit Yerevan on Genocide Centennial

On Feb. 6, human rights organizations in Turkey issued a statement urging world leaders to reject Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation to take part in ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Gallipoli  on April 24 this year. Instead, they asked that heads of states show solidarity with the descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide by visiting the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on April 24—Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

The full text of the statement is printed below:

Human rights organizations in Turkey issued a statement on Feb. 6, urging world leaders to reject Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation to partake at the ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Gallipoli this year, which will take place on April 24.

On April 24 of the 100th Year of the Genocide, Call to World Leaders: Go to Yerevan, Not Gallipoli

President Erdogan has announced that this year, the annual commemorations of the Battle of Gallipoli, held annually on March 18, will instead take place on April 24—the day that marks the 100th year of the Armenian Genocide. The president has invited world leaders to the said commemorations in Gallipoli.

Touted as a “victory” and ceremonially celebrated by Turkey, the Battle of Gallipoli is in actuality one of the many mournful pages of a war of domination into which the Ottoman Empire entered with dreams of conquest and out of which it emerged in heavy defeat. The battle is part of a painful history, of children from far-flung lands killing each other in the name of state policy.

April 24, on the other hand, is the date that signifies the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which was planned, organized, overseen in terms of its proceeding and results, and meticulously recorded so as to destroy Ottoman Armenians with all their social fabric and historical heritage. The Assyrian people too were a target of genocide—massacred en masse in the Assyrian Genocide known as “Seyfo.” The genocide ultimately resulted in the destruction of all Christian peoples on Ottoman territory, including Armenians and Assyrians—as well as Greeks, who constituted the largest Christian population in the region in the beginning of the 19th century. By turning the symbolic starting point of such a massive, irremediable, and irredeemable destruction into official commemorations of a fictive “victory,” the government of the Republic of Turkey not only scorns the memory of the victims of the genocide and their descendants, but also intends to cast a shadow on and make invisible the efforts at commemorating the genocide by human rights defenders and activists against racism and denial in Turkey.

As organizations and solidarity groups against genocide denial, we protest the president’s invitation in the days leading to the 100th anniversary of April 24, 1915. We call on world leaders to visit the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, instead of coming to Gallipoli.

We hereby entreat: Do not accept the invitation of the government of the Republic of Turkey, which to this day has carried the responsibility for the genocide by recruiting perpetrators from among the CUP [Committee of Union and Progress] to form the founding establishment, and by institutionalizing denial from the onset through legislation, history writing, and systematic official or unofficial policies. Do announce, to the world entire, that you will not desecrate the memory of the victims of genocide and trample upon their descendants’ century-long mourning by coming to Gallipoli on April 24.


Human Rights Association

Committee Against Racism and Discrimination

Izmir Assyrian Platform for Culture and Solidarity

Nor Zartonk Cultural Platform

Zan Foundation for Social, Political, and Economic Research

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New Discovery

Early copy of the Qur’an discovered

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Researchers in Germany have discovered that a manuscript of Qur’an written between 20 and 40 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death, making it one of the earliest copies of the Islamic holy book known to be in existence.

early copy of quran

Scholars at the Coranica Project, part of the University of Tübingen, examined a manuscript written in Kufic script, one of the oldest forms of Arabic writing. Using carbon-14 dating on three samples of the manuscript parchment, the researchers concluded that it was more than 95 percent likely to have originated in the period 649-675 AD.

The manuscript is one of more than 20 fragments of Kufic script held by the Tübingen University Library. This particular item was donated to the university in the 19th century.

The entire manuscript has already been digitized and can be viewed here.

The Coranica project, a collaboration between the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres Paris and the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Academy of the Sciences and Humanities, sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and France’s Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR). The project investigates the Quran in the context of its historical background using documents such as manuscripts and information derived from archaeological excavations. Click here to visit their website.

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Mecca under threat: Outrage at plan to destroy the ‘birthplace’ of the Prophet Mohamed and replace it with a new palace and luxury malls


According to the Gulf Institute, up to 95 per cent of the holy city’s millennium-old buildings have been destroyed

The site in Mecca where the Prophet Mohamed is said to have been born is about to be “buried under marble” and replaced by a huge royal palace. The work is part of a multibillion-pound construction project in the holy city which has already resulted in the destruction of hundreds of historic monuments.

The project, which began several years ago, aims to expand the al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, to cater for the millions of pilgrims who make their way to the holy city each year for the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are obliged to make at least once.

Mecca is the holiest city in Islam because of its link to the birth of the Prophet, and because it is the site of the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building made from black granite and said to have been built by Abraham. The Grand Mosque is built around it, and Muslims face towards it when they pray.

Many have looked on aghast at the destruction of hundreds of historic buildings and monuments to make way for the Grand Mosque’s expansion. According to the Gulf Institute, based in Washington, up to 95 per cent of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been destroyed, to be replaced with luxury hotels, apartments and shopping malls.

Last week, the remaining 500-year-old Ottoman columns, commemorating the Prophet’s ascent to heaven, were destroyed, Dr Irfan Alawi of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Independent.

He said that the House of Mawlid, thought to be where the Prophet was born in AD570, is likely to be destroyed before the end of the year.


The new royal palace is to be built for King Abdullah, the formal custodian of the mosque, for his visits to Mecca. Plans for the building, seen by The Independent, include the site of the House of Mawlid, which has recently been closed to pilgrims.

The plans have been verified by an independent source who added that many critics of the construction process are unwilling to speak publicly for fear of being punished by the regime.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by the strict Wahhabi version of Islam, which prohibits the worship of any object or “saint”, a practice considered “shirq”, or idolatrous.

The destruction of historic sites was defended recently by Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah al-Sheikh. According to Press TV, Iran’s English-language news organisation, he said the demolitions were necessary and that the nation should thank the government for the work, which is increasing the capacity of the mosque.

The rooms of the House of Mawlid are under the ground, and in 1951 a library was built over them to preserve them. This has now been closed to pilgrims. Signs on the building warn worshippers against praying. “There is no proof that Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) was born in this place, so it is forbidden to make this place specific for praying, supplicating or get blessing [sic],” it says.

Dr Alawi, one of the few voices to publicly oppose the destruction, claimed that religious police are posted outside the library to prevent worshipping. “The site of the Prophet’s birthplace has again come under imminent threat of being permanently forgotten under concrete and marble,” Dr Alawi told The Independent.

“Now that Hajj is finished, the 24-hour construction work has started again. They have finished the expansion on one side of the mosque. The royal palace, which will be five times bigger than the current royal palace, is to be built into the side of a mountain and will overlook the mosque.

“Between now and December the library and the rooms of the House of Mawlid are likely be built over. It’s inevitable that it will happen.

“It will be history. It will be gone. We are saying, ‘Let us excavate that house and preserve these rooms that are still there’.”

In September The Independent revealed that even the tomb of the Prophet – which is in the holy city of Medina in the al-Masjid al-Nawabi mosque – was not off-limits for some hardline Wahhabis.

A blueprint showing how Mecca will be developed A blueprint showing how Mecca will be developed
The article, which revealed that calls for the removal of the tomb had been made in a 61-page consultation document, caused an outcry in the Middle East, and forced a denial from the Saudi authorities, who had previously refused to comment on the construction works.

Details of that plan, obtained by a leading Saudi academic, Dr Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, were circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques. Several pages of the consultation document were published in the presidency’s journal.

The Independent has made numerous attempts to contact the Saudi authorities for a comment without success.

However, in a previous statement the authorities said: “The development of the Holy Mosque of Makkah al-Mukarramah [Mecca] is an extremely important subject and one which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as custodian of the two holy mosques, takes with the utmost seriousness. This role is at the heart of the principles upon which Saudi Arabia is founded.”

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Mongolia: Archaeologists Unearth Genghiz Khan’s Tomb (?)

Archeology, Archeology, Asia, History, Science
6 November, 2014
Mongolia: Archaeologists Unearth Tomb of Genghis Khan

Öndörkhaan| Construction workers employed in road building near the Onon River in the Khentii province of Mongolia, have discovered a mass grave containing the remains of many dozens of human corpses lying upon a large rudimentary stone structure. Forensic experts and archaeologists were called on the site, which was revealed to be a Mongolian royal tomb from the 13th century that the scientists believe to be Genghis Khan’s.

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Congo Book Review

Adam Shatz Reviews “Congo: The Epic History of a People”

Africa, it’s said, is the mother of modern civilisation, but it’s probably more accurate to say that Congo is. Consider your mobile phone. Before it was assembled in a Chinese factory, the coltan in its capacitors may have been dug by miners in the Eastern Congo, where millions have died in a series of wars over ‘conflict minerals’, though we give this no more thought than previous generations of Westerners gave to the Congolese origins of the ivory in their piano keys, the rubber in their tyres, the copper in their bullet casings or the uranium in their bombs. The mobile phones and computers that connect us to the world also conceal our relationship to it. Some would say that’s just as well. ‘The conquest of the earth,’ Conrad wrote, ‘is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much….’

Read more at link above.

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