Ramadan: The month of Charity

Ramadan is the month of charity. Although it is not obligatory to pay Zakat in the month of Ramadan, most Muslims pay their Zakat in Ramadan. Besides Zakat, there is obligatory Fitra to be paid to the poor before the Eid Prayer. Besides these two obligatory charities, lot of Sadaqa (Voluntary Charity) is paid during Ramadan. It is not that one is not encouraged to do charity throughout the year and do it only in the month of Ramadan. However, it was the Sunnah of the Prophet to do more charity in the month of Ramadan. It is reported that during the month of Ramadan the prophet used to do so much charity that he was likened to fast blowing wind.

It is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) “The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most generous amongst the people, and he used to be more so in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel visited him, and Gabriel used to meet him on every night of Ramadan till the end of the month. The Prophet used to recite the Holy Qur’an to Gabriel, and when Gabriel met him, he used to be more generous than a fast wind” (Sahih Al Bukhari: Book No. 31: Hadith No. 126).

Qur’an exhorts the believers to do charity and equals it to load given to Allah which will be returned in multiples on the day of Judgement.

“Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? And it is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:245).

At another place Qur’an explains the benefit of charity by giving the example of grain of corn. According to Quran:

The likeness of those who spend their money for Allah’s sake, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn), it grows seven ears, every single ear has a hundred grains, and Allah multiplies (increases the reward) for whom He wills, and Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures needs, All Knower(Surah Al Baqarah 2: 261)

Those who spend of their goods (in charity) by night and by day in secret and in public shall have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve” (Surah Al Baqarah 2:274)

The literal meaning of Zakat is purification and growth. It is a specific amount of money due to be spent on specific accounts after the passage of specific time. There are numerous spiritual, psychological as well as economic benefits of charity, especially zakat.

Spiritually it brings the giver closer to the Creator. There is no denying the fact that physical ibadah (worship) does not affect a person as deeply and does not put as much burden on him or his resources as parting with hard earned money. It is also a form of informal social insurance system which takes care of the basic needs of the poorer sections of the society by the wealthier section. In this way it bridges the gap between the rich and the poor which may lead to many unwanted situations. It creates a feeling of love and brotherhood between the rich and the poor and thus reduces social tensions also.

It has a psychological dimension as well. It has a positive affect of the giver, the receiver, and the society at large. It purifies the property and assets of the giver, restraints his lust for wealth and material goods and creates in him the virtue and urge to share with less fortunate ones. It uplifts the giver from a life of materialism and self-gratification to a life endowed with a higher moral purpose.

Sadaqa and Zakat prepares one to spend in the way of Allah willingly and largeheartedly. It drives away greed and pride from the wealthy and does away with glaring income inequality and at the same time imperceptibly effects a gradual redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

Economically it prevents concentration of wealth by circulating it in the society by transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. It redistributes real income among the members of the society by redistributing a part of purchasing power from the rich to the poor. It is well known economic fact that poor tend to spend most of their income on basic necessities of life as compared to the rich who spend less proportion of their wealth on basic necessities. A major part of the wealth of the rich is spent on luxuries of life. When charity is paid by the rich to the poor it helps in the circulation of money in the economy by creating demand for basic necessities of life.

It also discourages hoarding and accumulation of idle wealth. It ensures to put the waiting resources back into economic activity by pushing every bit of idle wealth into production activity by increasing the cost of waiting.

Let us pay our Zakat and give Sadaqa to reap the spiritual rewards in the holy month of Ramadan. Let us reach out to the less fortunate and make a difference in somebodies’ life. Let us make this Ramadan more fulfilling and satisfying.

Take Me Home, Country Road

Country Roads, take me home

To the place I belong

Dark and dusty, painted on the sky

Misty taste of moonshine

Teardrop in my eye

Country roads, take me home

To the place I belong ………

I get a feelin’

That I should have been home

Yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home

To the place I belong

(Take Me Home, Country Road. Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert and John Denver, 1971)

We are witnessing a huge migration of labourers from Indian metropolitan cities to their native villages. It is estimated that almost 40 to 50% of the workers in cities like Delhi and Mumbai are migrant labourers come from outside, mostly from from other states. Television channels are beaming images of workers trying to move out of the cities back to their villages. Majority of these workers are in petty jobs and have a hand to mouth survival. The lock down, thought essential for containing the pandemic, has rendered them vulnerable. Whatever meager savings these workers had have been finished by now, thus, the desperation to go back home.

The big cities provide jobs to the millions of job seekers from the hinterlands but do not provide any social security to the workers to fall back in times of needs. Most of those who work in cities maintain their ties back home. In the villages back home, they know that they can rely on social network and can fall back on extended family and friend network to survive these tough times. That is the reason, they are moving in thousands using every possible means. They are going on trucks, auto-rickshaw, bullock carts, handmade carts with wheels etc. Besides there is a huge majority which is sampling walking back home. Some of them are willing to walk even up to 1400 kilometres. They are ready to undertake this journey because they know that once home, at least they will have two meals a day. Lets hope that these poor and vulnerable find solace once they reach home.

Hey its good to be back home again

Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend

Yes, ‘n, hey its good to be back home again

(Back Home Again, John Denver, 1974)


Using interest money to help the poor and the needy

Darul Ifta at Darul Uloom Deoband (Islamic Seminary, India) has issued a Fatwa (religious opinion) that it is permissible for Muslims to use interest accrued on bank savings to help the poor. The fatwa was issued in response to a query from Karnataka which stated that “there is enough money from the interest in the bank account of our area’s mosque. And at present, many poor are suffering because of lockdown and they have no ration in their homes. In such a situation, can the needy persons be helped with this money?”. The reply of Darul Uloom Deoband was that:

According to Islamic laws, the interest given by banks is haram (prohibited), it can not be used. But the interest money can be given to the poor and disabled without any intention of sawab (reward).  So if bank account of the mosque has such interest money and its management wants to give to poor and needy people or wants to buy ration for them during the lockdown, there is nothing wrong in it”.

This is a welcome decision and clarification coming from Darul Uloom. These are difficult times and people are going through hardship. Muslims should use this opportunity to help the poor and the needy. This help must be given without any discrimination or prejudice. It should be given to people of every faith and colour and gender, Poor is a poor and needs to be supported.

Personally, I have being doing this for almost two decades now. I always use the interest money to help the poor. However, I believe that this should not be confined to only during lockdown period. Personally I have given interest money mostly to schools. That there is very high level of illiteracy among Indian Muslims is well documented. What better way of  using this money lying in banks than helping somebody get educated. As they say instead of giving somebody fish, teach the person how to fish. When a person gets educated instead on depending on charity for life that person will become charity giver in future. If all the interest money lying in banks is used it can help educate a lot of children who cannot get decent education because their parents are too poor to afford school fees. This will not only strengthen the community but also the Nation.

There was always a large percentage of Muslims who were apprehensive of using interest money and used to leave it lying in banks. The concerns and apprehensions of such people have been addressed in this fatwa. Let us all use this opportunity to help our fellow citizens to get better education and have a decent shot at life. Let us help the poor to get educated, Let us build the Nation.

Kyon Zyankar Banoon, Sood Faramosh Rahoom

Fikr e Farda na Karoon, Mehve Gham e Dosh Rahoon


Mohd Dilshad (6 May 2020) Can use bank interest to help the needy, says Darul Uloom. Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/75562934.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.  Accessed on 8 May 2020.

Lets celebrate Eid 2020 with true spirit

Somebody forwarded me the news from Hyderabad and Lucknow that Muslims are planning to scale down on Eid festivities and related buying this year and rather spend the money on helping the poor and the needy. It is reported in newspapers that the Muslims in Hyderabad are preparing to celebrate this year’s Eid without new clothes. This is to show solidarity with the poor affected by the Corona Virus. The money thus saved will be used to help the poor and the needy and to save for future. There is a WhatsApp message circulating in Hyderabad “I am not buying clothes this Eid. Will you?”. In an open appeal to the Muslims of Hyderabad, Nawab Najaf Ali Khan (descendant of Last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan) has requested them not to buy new clothes even if lock down in lifted and shops are open. His appeal says “Let us pledge to exclude our materialism and gloating and be mindful of the underprivileged around us. Let’s say no to excessive and unnecessary shopping for Eid. Keeping in mind the current situation due to the ongoing lock down for Covid-19, most of us are at home, but the poor and needy are left to fend for themselves without a job as everything is shut down”. This is indeed sane advice.

Similarly, there is a call given in Lucknow to use best clothes instead of new clothes. The appeal from Lucknow is as follows:

“Let’s wear the best clothes not new clothes this Eid

Say No to Eid Shopping this year. Instead

Feed a Family

Pay someone’s school fees

Help someone restart business

Pay someone’s rent

Let’s celebrate the true spirit of Ramzan”

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahal has appealed to the people of Lucknow to spend half of saved amount on the poor and the needy. This is a good advice as it creates a balance between the personal needs and the needs of the society. One can spend half the amount saved on helping others while can save the other half for future.

These are good initiatives. They need to be followed everywhere. Let us celebrate Eid without new clothes and shoes. And why only clothes and shoes, let us celebrate this year’s Eid with less food also. Usually a minimum of four to five dishes are prepared on the occasion of Eid. Let us do with two dishes and instead help others. Let us celebrate Eid this year in the true spirit by sharing with others. Let us go back to the Sunnah. Eid Mubarak in advance.





Ramadan: The month of the Qur’an

Finally Ramadan 2020 is here. Ramadan is the holiest month among the 12 months of the Islamic Calendar. Muslims all over the world eagerly wait for this month. The month is characterized by Fasting from dawn to dusk, charity, humility, caring for the poor, contemplation on one’s life, reading of the Qur’an and special night prayers popularly called Taraweeh.

Qur'an photo

Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz



Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


The month of Ramadan is characterized by reading of the Qur’an. Even those who don’t usually read Qur’an try to read some portion every day. And why not? Ramadan has special connect with Qur’an. It was during this month that Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). As the Qur’an itself declares:

‘Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of the Decree. And what will make you know what the night of the Decree is? The night of Decree is better than a thousand months” (Al Qur’an, 97:1-3)

Night of Decree is one of the blessed night in the last ten days of the Ramadan. Today Qur’an is the most sold book in the world. It is also the most read book in the world. There are innumerable benefits of reading the Qur’an. However, it was not revealed to be just read, decorated in fancy clothes and kept on the shelf to be taken out every Ramadan, read and kept back for next one year. Rather it was revealed to be understood and followed. Qur’an itself challenges and motivates humanity to understand it by contemplating (tadabbur) on its verses and to find guidance for this world and for hereafter. As Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Will they not then ponder the Qur’an or are there locks upon their hearts?” (Al Qur’an,, 47:24)

“This is a blessed book which We have revealed to you, (O Muhammad), that they might reflect upon its verses and those of understanding would be reminded” (Al Qur’an, 38:29)

“Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or (lying) on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying), “Our Lord you did not create this aimlessly; Exalted are You (above such a thing); then protect us from the punishment of the fire” (Al Qur’an, 3:190-191)

In fact, the Qur’an condemns those who do not ponder over it. It declares:

“Do they not look into the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all things that Allah has created, and that it may be that the end of their lives is near. In what message after this will they then believe” (Al Qur’an, 7:185)

Yes, everybody does not know Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. All of us should make an effort to at least know the basic terms used in the Qur’an. But not knowing Arabic can not be an excuse. There are lots of translations of the meaning of the Qur’an available in every major language of the world. One can start reading the translation of the meaning from them. It is true that Qur’an has deep and multiple meaning for every word in it. It requires to have a thorough knowledge of not only Classical Arabic language but history, classical Arabic poetry, sociology etc. to understand the meaning of each verse. Humankind will keep contemplating till the day of Judgement and will still be surprised to find something new at every turn. However, basic message of the Qur’an can be understood by any body and everybody. The basic concepts which are dealt with in the Qur’an are Universal and can be understood, appreciated and applied by anybody regardless of the time and the place. Concepts such as justice, equality of human beings regardless of colour of the skin or gender, taking care of the parents, helping the poor and the needy, humility, truthfulness, forbearance etc. are all universal themes which appeal to everybody.

Let us resolve that this Ramadan, we will not only recite Qur’an but will try to read it with understanding. Let us contemplate and ponder on Qur’an and get benefit as the Qur’an declares:

So when the Qur’an is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive Mercy” (Al Qur’an, 7:204)

Let us recite and read it with understanding so as to benefit from it in this world and let Qur’an be our proof and intercession on the Day of Judgement. Happy Reading, Happy Pondering.

Wo zamaney main muazzez thay musalman hokar

Aur tum khwaar hua tarik e Qur’an hokar



Ramazan, Corona Virus and the Indian Muslim Leadership

Ramazan is round the corner. It is a special month for Muslims all over the world. The moment one Ramazan finishes, they start waiting for the next one. Even kids eagerly wait for Ramzan. There is something special which one can feel immediately upon confirming the news that Ramazan is starting tomorrow. From maghrib itself, the environment changes. Suddenly, the whole environment becomes spiritual. Everybody start preparing for Isha prayer and males especially look forward to praying special congregational prayers what are commonly called as Taraweeh (The real name by the way is Qayamul Lail) and prayed in the Mosque after Isha.

When the corona virus was in early stages the countries of Middle East decided to close Mosques. Even the Haram Makki as well as Haram Madni were closed. Regarding these decisions there has been lot self-congratulatory talk at the popular level in India . When Saudi Arabia decided to close the Harmain Sharifain and other mosques it was received with not only disbelief but also disdain in the Indian Subcontinent. Not only Saudi Arabia, all the GCC countries i.e. United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain also closed all the Mosques not only for daily five obligatory prayers but also for Friday prayers. The general response in the Indian Subcontinent was that it is a sign of weakness of Iman. This was basically indirectly saying that Muslims in India have more Iman than Middle Eastern Muslims. However, time has proved that it was absolutely correct decision and there are historical precedents available in early Islamic history that this has been done before. Even for Ramzan, all the GCC countries have decided to continue with the earlier decision of keeping the Mosques closed throughout the month.

In this regard I am looking at two different advices which have come for Indian Muslims as guidelines to be followed during coming Ramazan. One is a copy of a Fatwa from Darul Ifta of Darul Ulum Deoband and other from a group of prominent Indian Muslims. Both of them have advised Indian Muslims to follow the law of the land and not to do anything which may spread the Virus. Both the advisories contain some great advice which are quite practical. It is a welcome sign. However, in both of them there are points which at least to me don’t make any sense at all.

The advisory from Darul Ifta of Darul Ulum suggests that not more than 4 or 5 people should pray in the Mosque, either the five obligatory prayers Friday prayers (point three) or Taraweeh (point four). The same point is contained in the advisory given by the group of prominent citizens (point one). I fail to understand as to how this will help in containment of the virus. If only those who live in the Mosque pray, it does make some sense but to suggest that some from the neighborhood should join them to make it 4 or 5 does defeat the very purpose of social distancing. It even goes on to suggest that in case of non-agreement as to who will join from the neighborhood, there should be a chit based random selection to avoid controversy. However, it is another point in the advisory of Darul Ulum Deoband really baffles me. It asks people to make announcement from the Mosque for the time of Suhoor (early morning meal before sunrise to start the fast) as well as Iftar (meal taken to break the fast at sunset. Point fourteen). What is the point of creating a situation which can lead to unnecessary controversy? Those who fast can find out the time anyway. Everybody has got either a watch or a mobile. One can easily see time and break the fast. Where in the world was the need for this advisory? For me it certainly defies logic. Coming to the first point, is it so important to open Mosques as to put people in danger.

There can be only two plausible explanations for this. Either those giving these advices are not competent to really comprehend what is staring at them. They are unable to really put things in historical perspective and come up with a suitable response. This is quite possible as this is what religious leadership in India has done quite a few times in the past with disastrous results. It does not mean that they have never taken correct decisions and positions. Mostly that is the case. But it must be remembered in today’s world of prevalence of social media and instant decision making, there is hardly any margin of error. We have just witnessed the drama that was played on television channels with regards to Tablighi Jamaat. The time at which the congregation took place at Markaz, there was no government advisory against any such gathering. Still, those responsible at the Markaz are now being blamed left right and center.

The other explanation is that they understand the reality and know very well as to what needs to be done but are afraid to speak so. They are afraid that if they speak the truth and advice people correctly, they may loose their followership and popularity. Both the scenarios are quite scary. If this is the quality of leadership than only Allah can save us. In such a situation it is better to err on the side of caution rather then regret later.

With due respect to  Sir Allama Mohammad Iqbal, I would like to rephrase a couplet from Shikwa and say that:

Jurrat Amoz Meri Taabe Sukhan hai mujhko

Shikwa Ulema Se khakam badahan hai mujhko

The strength of my talk (poetry) is encouraging me

May dust be in my mouth, I have complaint against Ulema

Magical Cappadocia: Two Amazing Days in Central Anatolia

After spending two hectic days in Istanbul it was time to move to Cappadocia. It was a comfortable 1 hour 35 minutes flight from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport to Keyseri Airport by Turkish Airlines. Our stay in Cappadocia was in a small city called Urgup. It is capital of Cappadocia province. Urgup is about 50 kilometers from Keyseri Airport. The drive was about 1 hour 15 minutes from Keyseri Airport to our hotel in Urgup. The landscape on the way dry and mountainous somewhat like outskirts of Muscat. There is nothing of importance between the two cities.
Urgup is town in the historical region of Cappadocia. In Turkey it is also known as the town of the Librarian with Donkey. Mustafa Guzelgoz was a librarian in Urgup. He used to travel to nearby villages with books on donkeys to lend books so as to inculcate the habit of reading in the people. Hence the name “Librarian with Donkey”. Today Urgup is a major tourist town in Cappadocia and is known for its trademark cave hotels. There are cave hotels everywhere. It’s all related to geology. Millions of years ago there were active volcanoes in this region. The lava flow of the erupting volcanoes left porous stones called Tuff everywhere. Because these stones were not very hard, people started carving homes in them. Later on when people shifted to concrete houses some of these dwellings were converted into what are today called as cave hotels. Today Cappadocia is full of cave hotels. These are fitted with every possible luxury and very comfortable as well as naturally very cool. Today Cappadocia region is known for its cave hotels, fairy chimneys, hot air ballooning, pigeon holes and ancient underground cities. Some of early Christianity’s most important landmarks are in the region thus bringing in a lot of tourists.

Urgup City Square at Night. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Hundred Year Old Turkish Hamam at Urgup

Urgup City Bath is an Urgup Institution and Landmark. It is more than 100 years old family run Turkish Hamam near city center. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


We spent two days in Cappadocia. Our hotel in Cappadocia was Roca Cappadocia. It was a cave hotel. There was every modern facility inside the cave. The rooms were naturally cool and there was not need for Air Conditioning. The staff of the hotel was very polite. Most of the staff were female and used to call my wife as hurram (the word hurram is often prefixed with female names in Turkey as a sign of respect. It actually means ‘the cheerful one‘). Special thanks to Canan and Yasemin for taking good care of us.

Roca Cappdocia Cave Hotel, Urgup

The Courtyard of Roca Cappadocia boutique Cave Hotel. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz



Exterior of our room at Roca Cappdocia. Photo Credit & ©Mohsin Aziz


Our tour operators in Cappadocia were HtR- Hit the Road. They were arranged by our main tour operator in Istanbul (True Blue Tour). I found them to be extremely professional with vehicles in top condition and excellent multilingual tour guides. First day our tour guide was Kezban. She was fluent in Spanish and English. Our group besides my family included two Spanish couples and one Singapore couple. As our guide explained every detail in both Spanish and English it gave us plenty of time to appreciate the finer points and take photographs. It was very relaxed tour and not rushed at all. Our first stop for the day was Rose Valley. Rose Valley is an isolated valley near Urgup. It is known for its rock formations with different colours. I was expecting to see lots of rose thinking that the valley must have got its name from presence of rose flowers. It is not so. The name is given because of presence pink and red colour rocks in the valley. We trekked the whole valley which must be anywhere between 3 to 4 kilometers. At many places we saw farms of grapes, apple and apricot. I also saw many almond trees but our guide told us that they were wild almonds and were poisonous.

Sweet Melon along the walking track at Rose Valley

Sweet Melons along the track in Rose Valley. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Road to nowhere at Rose Valley

The road to nowhere. Our track in Rose Valley. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz



A general view of Rose Valley. Hues of pink colour can be seen, hence the name. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


From Rose Valley the next stop was Devrent Valley near Cavusin Village (Pronounced as Kavushin). Unlike other valleys in this region, Devrent valley was never inhabited by humans. It is basically a group of rocks which have naturally got different animal looking shapes due to years of rain and wind. Just like shapes of clouds no two people agree what animal or shape a particular rock looks like. One can see rocks looking like double humped camel, dolphin or even a group of rocks looks like dancing dervishes. It is also called imagination valley. It’s fun for kids and even adults were acting like kids trying to identify and arguing among themselves whether a particular rock is shaped like a dolphin or something else?

Cavusin Village

A view of Cavusin village in Cappadocia. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


Is that a Camel or Llama. Keep Imagining @ Imagination Valley

Is it a double humped Camel or a Llama. Keep Imagining @ Devrent Valley a.k.a. Imagination Valley. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


By the time we finished from imagination valley it was time for lunch. I was a bit apprehensive as to what type of lunch are we going to get in a small village restaurant. But to my surprise the restaurant was really huge. There must have been at least 200 people already dining and still our seats were reserved. The variety of food was amazing. Of all the places I never expected to see Shahi Tukda as one of the sweet dishes. I must have eaten at least four or five pieces of Shahi Tukda. I think after 4 kilometers of walk I deserved this.

Our next stop for the day was historical underground city of Kaymakli. Kaymakli is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many underground cities in this region. Some have better defense system, some have more floors but Kaymakli is the largest one. Cappadocia lies on the silk route and other historically important trade routes hence various kings have tried to capture it. The present day Cappadocia has been at the center of some of the greatest civilizations and military power and their jostling for power. These cities are supposed to be built around 3000 B.C. during Hittites and Phrygians.  The inhabitants of this place built whole cities under their houses and would go underground to escape the marauding armies whenever their was attack.  Later on Assyrians, Akkadians, Romans, Seljuk’s,  Iranians and Byzantines vied for power in the region until the Ottomans established their rule in the region. Early Christians during the 4th century used these cities to escape religious torture. It is estimated that around 3500 people once lived in Kaymakli. There is a maze nearly one hundred tunnels in the Kaymakli underground city. It has eight floors of which four are open to the tourists.  The underground spaces are arranged around ventilation shafts so as to supply fresh air. Each floor used to serve a particular purpose. The first level was used as stable for animals. Another level was used as grain storage, winery and oil presser. One floor was used as living place. Another one has churches, chappels, graves, communal kitchen etc. We went up to four floors which are allowed for tourists. The path downwards is very steep. Although some people in our group came out from the first floor itself feeling claustrophobic. I went to the fourth floor underground and found it surprisingly well ventilated. Today these underground cities of Cappadocia are a must do for tourists to this region. 

Inside Kaymaki underground city

One of the underground tunnel at Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.



Big Round Stone carved in Second Floor Underground. It was used as defense mechanism to close the tunnel in case of attack from outside. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

Second day in Cappadocia was Eid Al Adha. I had already found a mosque named Merkez Mustafa Aga Camii near to hotel and prayed Isha (last of the obligatory five prayers. Prayed around 1 and a half hours after sunset) so as to get an idea of the place. The Eid prayer was at 6.15 a.m. I reached the Mosque at 6.10 with a prayer mat which i had brought from Muscat anticipating huge rush at the Mosque. However i was surprised to find attendance at the Mosque to be thin and i found myself in the fourth row. I counted 68 people including myself and the Imam. There were very few youngster. Most of the people who gathered for Eid Prayer were elderly. The imam was dressed in trouser and shirt with tie thrown in for good measure. The first Khutba (Sermon) was in Turkish while the second was in Arabic. The prayer was short. It was a unique experience for me. Just opposite the Mosque is a Urgup Landmark. Its Urgup Baths which is a traditional family run Turkish Hamam. 

Merkez Mustafa Aga Camii Mosque, Urgup

Merkez Mustafa Aga Camii Mosque where I prayed Eid Al Adha on 11 August, 2019. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


In fact second was supposed to begin very early as we booked hot air balloon ride for that day expecting the Eid to one the previous day. However, when the Eid was not on first day, i got my ride cancelled as hot air balloons fly only early morning. Next day we found out that anyway all the balloon rides that day were cancelled due to unfavorable wind conditions. 

Our guide for second day in Cappadocia was Mr. Murat. He was also multilingual and besides Turkish was fluent in English and Spanish. Group members were same as previous day.  

Our first stop on second day was Goreme Open Air Museum (pronounced as Goreymey). It is outside Goreme city. The region is known for fairy chimneys. Fairy chimneys are naturally carved out rock formations. They change colour at the sunset. As I have mentioned somewhere, this was active volcanic region. The lava and ash which erupted millions of years ago blanketed the whole region in thick ash. With passage of time this ash solidified as soft rock and is called Tuff. With the natural elements like rain and wind striking them for millions of years, the softer parts were eroded away and only the harder parts remained. This process resulted in extraordinary rock shapes which go up to more than 130 feet high and are called fairy chimneys. When early Christians were persecuted by Romans, they fled to this region and realised that living quarters can be carved out of the soft rocks. They assembled in Goreme and carved not only living quarters high up in the rocks for themselves but also carved out innumerable churches. Goreme is perhaps the biggest collection of such churches at one place in Cappadocia. Christian monks built a maze of interconnected living quarters, stables, grain storage facilities besides churches. They also built individual prayer chambers high up in the rocks with steps carved out of the rock itself. Today Goreme Open Air Museum is a huge open air enclosure which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is visited by tourists from all over the world. It is particular high up in the order of Turkey’s religious tourism ladder and is almost a must see attraction for tourists on Christianity trial in Turkey. 

The churches in the Goreme Open Air Museum are also known for well preserved Fresco Art which has survived the test of time. One of the most important churches with Red couloured Fresco paintings is the Dark Church. 

Some of the older cave dwellings have also been converted into luxury boutique hotels thus providing opportunity to tourists to partly experience the life inside rocks. 

The Road Inside Goreme Open Air Museum. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Dark Church cut inside the mountain at Goreme Open Air Museum. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


close up

Fresco Paintings can be seen in this close up picture of the outside part of the Dark Church at Goreme Open Air Museum. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz



Residences of Monks at Goreme Open Air Museum. Photo Credit& ©  Mohsin Aziz.


We spent around two and half an hours at Goreme Open Air Museum. It was time to move to our next destination. Before leaving the complex we went to Museum Shop at the exit and had some snacks and tea at the Museum Shop Restaurant. Our next destination was a Small Village called Avanos in Cappadocia. Its an old village which was called Venessa in old times. It is along river Kizilirmak which is also called Red River. Red River is the longest river of Turkey. It is popularly called Red River because it carries red silt with it and deposits on its banks. Avanos is also known as pottery town of Turkey. The red silt deposited by Kizilirmak river has been used since the times of Hittites to make pottery by the people of the town. The red silt in river side mud gives a unique texture to the ceramics produced here. Today the village is dominated by numerous pottery making factories. Pottery is made using traditional method. Ceramics produced here are not only sold all over Turkey but are exported all over the world. To make the visit more interesting we were given a live demonstration of pottery making at a local factory. We were shown the different stages of pottery making up to the last step of hand painting of ceramics. We saw workers hand painting various designs on ceramics before they were put on display or were packed to be transported all over Turkey. For bigger pottery and ceramic items, most of the workshops have courier facility to all over the world.  

Kizilirmak (Red River) passing through Avanos Village

River Kizilirmak (Red River) flowing through the village of Avanos. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


Entrance of Sultan Ceramic at Pottey Village of Avanos

Sultans Ceramic where we saw a pottery making session and bought some ceramics as souvenir’s. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Ceramics inside Sultan Ceramics

Ceramics on display at Sultans Ceramics, Avanos. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


After enjoying our visit to the ceramic workshop it was time for lunch. We were taken to a restaurant next to river river. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was food at the restaurant was the best Turkish food that we had in our entire stay in Turkey. It was a small but very modern restaurant. After lunch was our drive back to our hotel in Urgup. Tonight was our flight back to Istanbul. On the way back to hotel we passed through Pasabag monks valley and also saw the pigeon valley. Pasabag valley contains some of the most striking examples of fairly chimneys some of them having two or some cases even three caps. Since they look like mushrooms they are also called mushroom chimneys.



An Aerial view of the Pasabag Valley. Photo Credit & ©  Mohsin Aziz.



Monks chamber up in the rock can be seen in Pasabag Monks Valley. Steps cut in rock can be seen leading up to the chamber. Photo Credit & ©  Mohsin Aziz.



Moonscape can be seen on the way back to hotel in Urgup from Avanos Village. Photo Credit & ©  Mohsin Aziz.



Fairy Chimney with chamber for Monks Meditation in Pasabag Monks Valley.  This  Fairy Chimney has three caps at the top. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz.


The hermits of Cappadocia in ancient times used to lead reclusive life. In order to be away from the masses so that they can meditate and contemplate they used to live in these chambers which they carved 10 to 15 meters up in the Tuffs. They used to get down for food and would go back in their chambers. On the way we also passed through what is called as Guvercinlik Vadisipigeon valley (pigeon valley). It has got its name from the innumerable dovecotes that have been carved at height in the fairy chimneys. Although such dovecotes are found in the whole of Cappadocia, they are nowhere as numerous as pigeon valley, hence the name.  In old times, these dovecots were carved to attract pigeons to sit in them. Over period of time their droppings got collected and were taken down by the farmers to fertilize their barren lands. Though pigeons don’t play important role in modern agriculture now, still many dovecotes have been maintained by the people in the Cappadocia region.

On the way back we also passed by Uchisar Castle and saw it only from outside. Uchisar Castle was used as a defense mechanism in the past against invasion. As it is the highest point in Cappadocia, the Castle provided vantage point to keep an eye on the whole region. In the past it was on the busy and vital silk route. At present Uchisar Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, nobody in our group had energy to climb up to see the place. Everybody just took pictures from below and we moved on to a small bazaar (market) with some restaurants and lots of souvenir shops. Most of the shops were selling either different varieties of scarf or Nazar (evil eye) amulets. Evil eye beads or Nazar Boncuk is a glass bead usually of blue colour and filled with a blue or black dot superimposed on a white center in the form of a tear drop. Nazar Boncuk are quite popular in Turkey. When I inquired about them from Murat he categorically stated that it has nothing to do with Islam and is only a cultural thing. Still i was surprised to see so many Evil Eye Beads being sold everywhere in Turkey.  


Dove Cots at Pigeon Valley

Dove Cots can be seen in this Fairy Chimney at the Pigeon Valley. Photo Credit & ©  Mohsin Aziz


Uchisar Castle atop a rock on the way to Hotel. Photo Credit & ©  Mohsin Aziz.

Sovenier shop selling evil eye

Souvenir Shop selling Nazar Boncuk (Evil Eye Bead) near Uchisar. Photo Credit &  & © Mohsin Aziz

By the time we reached hotel it was time for dinner. We decided to take dinner at Urgup market. We found a nice hotel named Urgup Restaurant near city square. It was usual Turkish fare and i ordered a few items. However, the old owner of the restaurant came to us and insisted that we try Adana Kebapi. Also called Kiyma Kebabi, it is made from hand minced meat of only male lamb. Mincemeat is hand mixed with lamb tail fat and charcoal grilled on iron skewers. It is served with coal charred peppers and tomato. It’s named after fifth biggest Turkish city of Adana. On his insistence, Adana Kebapi was ordered and boy did i regret ordering it? Not at all. it was worth every lira spent on it. It was the best Kebap in my entire Turkey Tour. What a nice way to end our day and tour of Cappadocia. We returned to hotel as tonight we had to fly to the coastal city of Kusadasi in Izmir province. Thus ended our two absolutely wonderful days in Magical Cappadocia. 





A day trip to Bursa from Istanbul

When I started planning my Turkey visit and started searching for information and reading reviews and blogs about must do places in Turkey, I read about Bursa for the first time. As I gathered more information, I decided that it’s going to be on my itinerary. It was a decision well made as I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Bursa.
It was capital of Ottoman Empire before the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Bursa is the fourth most populous Turkish city lying on the foothills of Mount Uludag in the Marmara region of Turkey. It is about 150 kilometers from Istanbul. It’s a city well known for its mosques and buildings from early Ottoman Empire and hence holds a special place in Turkish history. It is also called Yesil Bursa i.e. Green Bursa due to presence of lots of trees in the city and the magnificent background of Mount Uludag which is covered with lush green trees. Bursa was first major Ottoman Capital and hence the presence of Ottoman buildings and mosques from that era. During Ottoman times, the city was called Hudavendigar or “god’s gift”.

There are various methods of reaching Bursa from Istanbul. However, I preferred a private tour which was arranged by my tour agency. Although a bit costly it allowed me complete control over the day’s itinerary. It also allowed us to explore whatever we wanted at leisure. It was our luck that the driver was not well and the tour agency gave us a trained tour guide, Mr. Yilmaz Ozluk, as a driver which really made the day tour to Bursa much more interesting. Yilmaz was right on time. We left our hotel at 8 a.m. It took almost 1 hour from Hotel to Pendik (Asian Side of Istanbul). Our hotel was in the European Side of Istanbul as all the important Istanbul landmarks are there.

Istanbul Asian Side

Asian Side of Istanbul. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

From Pendik we took a Ferry to cross Marmara Sea to reach Yalova. Ferry from Pendik to Yalova took around 45 minutes.

[caption id="attachment_166" align="alignnone" width="6000"]Parking Car in the Ferry Our Ferry from Pendik to Yalova. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Ferry from Istanbaul to Yalova

Yalova city from Ferry. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Marmara Sea

View of Marmara Sea from the Ferry. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

 Once in Yalova, it took another 10 minutes to take the car out of ferry. In Yalova, we stopped at a famous shop called Safranbolu Lokumcusu. It was a nice break and we bought some Turkish Delight, had some Turkish Apple Tea and moved on.

A View of Yalova City

A view of Yalova City outside the Port. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Turkish Delight inside Safranbolu Lokumcusu

Stacks of Turkish Delight inside Safranbolu Lokumcusu, Yalova. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

Spice Counter at Safranbolu Lokumcusu

Spice Corner at Safranbolu Lokumcusu, Yalova. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

 From Yalova it was another one hour drive to Mount Uludag in Bursa. Mount Uludag means Great Mountain. It is covered with lush green trees and has sky resort at the top. People come here for winter sport such as skiing. There is a national part also in Mount Uludag. The top of the Uludag can be reached both by car as well as Cable Car which is called Teleferik. There are two stations of the Teleferik. We decided to go to the second station with a small break at the first station. It starts at Yildirim in Bursa and goes upto Oteller as end station. Sky resort and hotels are present at Oteller. The ticket cost was 93 Turkish Lira per person for up to second station. The queue for both the ticket as well as for the cable car were quite long but because we were with a certified guide (Mr. Yilmaz), we were able to jump both the queues thus saving precious time. The total length of the cable car is 8.8 km which makes it the longest in Turkey and among the longest in the World. It was a different experience as compared to Cable Cars at Gulmarg (India) and Langkawi (Malaysia). Each has its own challenge and joy. The view of Bursa city from the Teleferik was fantastic and we could see people having picnic at higher reaches of the mountain with their families.

On the way to Mount Uludag

Bursa City. On the way to Mount Uludag Teleferik. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Ground Station of Teleferik

An Outside View from Teleferik Ground Station. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

View of Mount Uludag from Teleferik

A view of Mount Uludag from Teleferik. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

View of Bursa City from Teleferik

Aerial View of Bursa City from the Teleferik. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

Long shot of Teleferik

From First Station to Top Station of Teleferik. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

A short video of Teleferik ride can be seen here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQfsW558u2o

After enjoying our Teleferik ride we straight away went to Yesil Camii or Green Mosque. It is also known as the Mosque of Mehmed I. The name Green comes from the green tiles which are part of interior decoration. The Mosque is actually part of a large kulliye (complex) which consists of turbe (mausoleum), Madrasah, Bath and Kitchen. It was commissioned by Sultan Mehmed I and his turbe is part of the complex just opposite the Mosque. Yesil Camii is a fine example of early Ottoman architecture. Today it is one of the most important tourist destination not only in Bursa but in the whole of Turkey. It is also UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The entrance of the Mosque is a very fine example of Muqarna or honeycomb vaulting which is an important feature in Islamic architecture. Immediately after entrance and is the Office of the Mosque and the prayer hall is divided into two parts. One is lower part and other is upper part. One of the highlight of the lower part of the hall is the very beautifully carved Marble fountain in an octagonal pool. Today it is used as a Sebil. I also drank water from the Sebil. After climbing a few steps is the upper part. The mihrab is in the upper part of the hall. The whole hall is decorated with Arabic calligraphy depicting verses from the Qur’an. The mihrab itself is a fine example of architecture. The mihrab was constructed by experts which were called from Tabriz in Iran as clear from the inscription in Persian just above the mihrab. It reads “amal-i-ustadan-i-Tabriz” meaning the “work of the masters of Tabriz”.

Entrance of Yesil Cami

Entrance of Yesil Camii with Muqarna (Honeycomb Vault) at the top. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Mihrab of Yesil Cami

Mihrab of Yesil Camii decorated with Green and Blue Iznik Tiles. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

Sebil inside Yesil Cami

Richly Carved Marble Fountain inside Yesil Camii. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Calligraphy on stone inside Yesil Cami

A fine example of Calligraphy on Stone inside Yesil Camii. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

However there are two incidents that are the highlight of my Green Mosque visit. First is the honour of being invited to the Office of the Mosque and given a demonstration of Azaan. Mr. Recep Uyar is the Muezzin (the person who calls for prayer) of Yesil Camii since 2002. It was the effort of our tour guide Mr. Yilmaz who introduced me to Mr. Recep Uyar. Mr. Recep was kind enough to invite me and my family to the Office of the Mosque and give a demonstration of five different styles of Azaan. He called it Makaams and told us that this is how Azaan was given in Ottoman times. He recited for us the first line of Azaan i.e. Allahu Akbar in five different styles for each of the five daily obligatory prayers. As told by Mr. Recep, the styles for various prayers are as follows:
Fajr – Suboh or Sabahi
Zuhr – Ijaaz or Ejaaz
Asr – Raast
Maghrib – Qaseer
Isha – Ushaqi
Listening to him explain with passion and reciting the Azaan with so much love really made my day. It was one of the highlight of my Bursa tours. A short video of Mr. Recep Uyar giving Azaan in five different styles can be seen here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY7czSeQ_Z4
The second highlight of my Bursa tour was my meeting with the keeper of the washroom at the Yesil Camii Mosque. Since it was time for Zuhr (second obligatory prayer of the day prayed at noon time), we all decided to combine Zuhr and Asr  (third obligatory prayer fo the day prayed at afternoon) and pray at Yesil Camii itself before moving to our next stop in the city. I made wudhu (ablution) outside the Mosque. However my wife and daughter went to the washroom to make wudhu. Washrooms in Turkey are mostly paid. The same was true for the washroom outside the Mosque. I paid the required amount to the person sitting outside the washroom and my family went inside to make wudhu. In the meantime I realized that the person collecting money outside the washroom knew English (he was reading a book in English at that time). I struck conversation with him. The moment he knew that I am from India he asked me whether I know Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri or not. Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri has written a Sirah (Biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) by the name of Al-Rahiq-Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar). Fortunately I had read the book so I replied in affirmative. Safiur Rahma Mubarakpuri was from Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh. His next question was how far is Azamgarh from Delhi. When I told him that I am also from Azamgarh, he became very happy and started talking about other books which he was reading at that time. During the course of our conversation I was surprised to know that he not only knew English besides Turkish but he was quite fluent in Arabic as well. More surprising was that he had a large personal library. Since we had to go back to Istanbul same day and there were other places to visit in Bursa, I took his leave. Unfortunately I have forgotten his name but this fruitful meeting made me realize that we should never judge anybody by his appearance or work. Here was a man watching over a washroom in a Mosque but was not only well read but was investing his hard earned money in buying books on various subjects and had already created a decent library. I wish I remembered his name. I wish if only we had more people like him in our community. Whenever I think about him I feel really happy.

By this time we were really hungry as we had taken our breakfast quite early in Istanbul. It was decided to go to a popular restaurant. We ordered vegetable pizza and Iskender Kebap (that’s how Kabab or Kebab is pronounced and written in Turkey). Iskender Kebap is one of the well-known dishes of Bursa and takes its name from its inventor Iskender Effendi. It is layer of various ingredients. The base is pita bread. On the top of pita bread is thinly cut grilled lamb meet. It is further layered with tomato sauce and fresh yogurt. At the top is the piping hot melted sheep butter. The melted butter is poured over the dish at the table. It just melts in the mouth. Yeah I should not forget to mention that the vegetable pizza was one of the best that I have eaten anywhere so far. We ended our lunch with nice Turkish Tea.

After lunch we straight away proceeded to our last stop in Bursa i.e. Koza Han. It is situated in the Osmangazi area of Bursa between Bursa Grand Mosque and Orhan Mosque. Koza Han is century’s old silk market built in 1491. In recent times it was in news because of Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Philip visited the Koza Han in 2008. The Ottoman architecture of the market is spectacular. In old days it was market for Silk pods. Today it is one of the well-known Silk markets in Turkey. Bursa Silk is known all over Turkey for its high quality and finesse. Koza Han is a two storey market with a rectangular courtyard. There are 95 shops, all dealing with silk products. At the center of the courtyard is a beautiful fountain with water tank. There are steps which lead to a very small Mosque above the fountain. The Mosque-cum-fountain is surrounded by small restaurant famous for Turkish Tea in the charming cobbled stoned courtyard. Like any traditional market there is fair amount bargaining involved while buying silk at the market. After visiting several shops and lots of bargaining and some purchase was the time to return back to Istanbul.

Ottoman Era Mosque near Koza Haan

Ottoman Era Mosque near Koza Han at Bursa. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

Outside Koza Haan

Outside View of Koza Han. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Arches inside Koza Haan

Arch inside Koza Han. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz


Ground courtyard from first floor at Koza Haan

Mosque cum Fountain cum water Tank in the ground courtyard of Koza Han. Photo Credit & © Mohsin Aziz

The return journey was full of fun as our guide Mr. Yilmaz started telling stories of Mulla Nasruddin to my daughter. Stories of Mulla Nasruddin are quite popular in India and we all have heard his stories in our childhood. I always thought that Mulla Nasruddin is a fictional character but I was wrong. He was born in 1208 in Anatolia, Turkey. After finishing education he became Qazi (Judge) and held the post off and on till his death. He is very popular in Turkey and known as Nasreddin Hoca (pronounced as Hodja). Hoca means teacher/master in Turkish. Over the centuries his witty tales full of satire have traveled far and wide and today he is known not only in Turkey but all over the world. All his tails look like harmless fun with wit and humor but his parables always hold some underlying lesson of abiding wisdom. It is true that all the tales attributed to Mulla Nasruddin have not originated from him but are collective wisdom and humor of not only Turkey but so many countries from around the world. So much so that year 1996 was celebrated as the Nasredin Hoca Year by UNESCO. Mr. Yilmaz is a master story teller and we enjoyed his tales of Hoca Nasreddin and we did not realize when we reached our hotel in Istanbul. Thus ended one more well spent day in our lives.

Note: My tour agency for the Turkey tour was True Blue Tour, Istanbul. They arranged the car and the driver. Their website can be visited at http://www.truebluetour.com

For more information see the following:
Daily Sabah (26 April 2019) Turkish muezzin’s adhan recitation dazzles tourists. Available at: https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2019/04/26/turkish-muezzins-adhan-recitation-dazzles-tourists. Accessed on 12 March 2020
Wilco van Herpen (25 April 2012) Bursa’s Koza Han: A center for silk trade. Hurriyet Daily News. Available at: https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/bursas-koza-han-a-center-for-silk-trade-19158. Accessed on 18 March 2020.
Scott Sherman & Bharati Sadasivam (22 Apr 2017) Bursa: Old is gold. Available at: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/WnxxvqHjoVAuDTIhENhvWK/Bursa-Old-is-gold.html. Accessed on 21 March 2020.
Ugur, Ulu (17 September 2017) Turkey: Ottoman-ear silk bazaar draws visitors. Available at: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/WnxxvqHjoVAuDTIhENhvWK/Bursa-Old-is-gold.html. Accessed on 19 March 2020.

Urdu Poetry and the times we are living in

Author: Mohsin Aziz

These days everyone is forwarding Bashir Badar’s famous Urdu couplet on WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts to highlight the concept of social distancing

  • Koi hath bhi na milaega, jo galey milogey tapaak se

         Ye nai mizaj ka shahar hai zara fasley se mila karo (Bashir Badar)

A friend of mine also forwarded the same on WhatsApp a few days ago. This led me to my diary of Urdu poetry (I keep a diary in my office. Whenever, I hear any Urdu couplet which I like, I immediately write it down). I found a lot of Urdu couplets which deal with various concepts that we are getting to know for the first time. It is true that these couplets were not written to describe the environment created by Corona Virus. However, it is also true that some of these Urdu couplets were indeed written to explain the Plague which humanity has witnessed before.

Doctors are advising us to stay at home as much as possible to reduce the possibility of catching the virus. Here are some of the Urdu couplets which I found to be relevant to the concept of not venturing out:

  • Yunhi besabab na phira karo koi shaam ghar bhi raha karo

          Ye ghazal ki sachi kitab hai isey chupkey chupkey padha karo (Bashir Badar)

This was written in a different context but the first line perfectly describes the current situation. Similarly following couplet also describes the situation in other words

  • Khudgharz hota to hujuum hota sath

         Mukhlis huun is liye to tanha hoon (Unknown)

  • Meri tanhai ko mera shouq na samajhna

         Bohot pyar se diya hai ye tuhfa kisi ne (Unknown)

Starting with China, sooner or later every major country has been forced to announce lockdown. The once bustling cities and their markets and roads are empty. Who would have thought that the busiest streets in the world would be deserted and biggest of the shopping malls and markets would be closed to contain the disease? None of us have seen anything like this before. So far there is no vaccine or medicine for Covid-19. The only way to control and contain is to close and cut off the cities from the rest of the world. I found some of the Urdu couplets beautifully describing the situation. For example:

  • Ajeeb marz hai jiski dawa hai tanhai

         Baqai shahar hai ab shahar ke ujadney main (Unknown)

  • Aur kis mausam men jab ta.un hai phaila hua
    Zarra zarra hai vaba ke ḳhauf se simta hua (Unknown)
  • Bazaar hain khamosh to galiyon pe hai sakta

          Ab shahar main tanhai ka dar bol raha hai (Ishaq Virdag)

  • Basti basti parbat parbat dahshat ki hai dhoop ziya

         Charon janib wirani hai dil ka ek wirana kya (Ahmad Ziya)

  • Sehra ko bohot naaz hai wirani pe apni

         Waqif nahin shayad merey ujdey hua ghar se (Khumaar Barabankwi)

  • Rastey hain khuley hue sarey

         Phir bhi ye zindagi ruki hui hai (Unknown)

One of the major cultural casualty of the Corona Virus is the handshake. There are notices in offices and every guideline on stopping the virus highlights the importance of avoiding handshake. Already there are articles being written on whether Corona Virus is the end of handshake. Besides Bashir Badar’s couplet which I quoted in the beginning, there are many other relevant ones which describe either the fear which forces people to keep distance from each other or which forces them not to shake hands. Here’s a sample:

  • Ajeeb daur aya hai zamaney main

        Doori rakhni padegi rishtey nibhaney main (Unknown)

  • Afsos ye waba ke dinon ki mohabbatain

        Ek dusrey se hath milaney se bhi gaye (Sajjad Baloch)

  • Ye jo milatey phir rahey ho tum har kisi se hath

         Aisa na ho ki dhona padey zindagi se hath (Javed Saba)

  • Sabhi ek dosrey se chhip rahey hain

        Waba ….. basti main aisi agayi hai (Unknown)

  • Qurbatain lakh khoobsurat hon

         Duriyun main bhi dilkashi hai achhi (Ahmad Faraaz)

  • Dil to pehley hi juda tha yahan basti walon

          Kya qayamat hai ke ab hath milaney se gaye (Unknown)

Despite all the doctors telling us to avoid handshake, there still are friends who insist on the handshake. I was surprised to find couplets on this too. They were written in a different context but fit the bill. For example:

  • Merey dushman ko zarurat nahin kutch karney ki

         Is se acha to merey yaar kiye jatey hain (Jaleel Aali)

The following couplets also describes the situation in a different way

  • Ye kahkey usney mujhey makhmasey main dal diya

         Milao hath agar waqai mohabbat hai (Unknown)

  • Marney waley to khair bebas hain

         Jiney waley kamaal kartey hain (Khalilur Rehman Raz)

  • Haal pucha na karey hath milaya na karey

         Main is dhoop main khush hoon koi saya na karey (Kahsif Hussin Ghair)

While there are people who are still not ready to give up the handshake, there are others who are genuinely worried about talking to others face to face, lest they are infected.

  • Anjuman main ye meri khamoshi

         Burdbari nahin hai dahshat hai (John Elia)

However, with situation getting worse by the day, nobody is making fun of those who are avoiding to meet others or shake hand. A month back, anybody following the guidelines was seen by many as weak hearted. Not anymore. Everybody has started taking it seriously and nobody is now embarrassed not to shake hand or maintain a safe distance while talking to each other. The following couplet perfectly sums up the changed mood of the society.

  • Ab nahin koi baat khatrey ki

         Ab sabhi ko sabhi se khatra hai (John Elia)

There are some who are feeling stressed sitting under lockdown while there are others who are seeing too much news and getting further stressed out. As World Health Organization has suggested, we should not read or listen too much about what’s happening all over the world. This may further stress us.

  • Khwab ki tarah bikhar janey ko dil chahta hai

          Aaisi tanhai ki mar janey ko ji chahta hai (Iftikhar Arif)

  • Har ek jism mian maujud hashtpa ki tarah

         Waba ka khauf hai khud bhi kisi waba ki tarah (Saud Usmani)

One aspect of the lockdown has been urge of people to hoard foodstuff. So much so that in some places, there have been fighting between people at shopping stores. This one describes the situation very well.

  • Fikr to hai apni zaat ki bas alam hai nafsa nafsi ka

         Kisi ko farq nahin padta ab jiye koi ya marey koi (Manabil farouqi)

While a lot of people have succumbed to this disease there are many who had to face the situation of dying without their loved ones around them. See Mirza Ghalib’s take on this

  • Padiye gar bimaar to koi na ho timaardar
    Aur agar mar jaaiye to nauha-ḳhwan koi na ho (Mirza Ghalib

The people who are at the frontline in this fight against the virus are doctors and paramedical staff. However, despite their best of efforts they cannot save everybody. Sometimes doctors have to take painful decision of choosing between patients because of lack of resources. The most famous and most oft quoted Couplet on benefactors (usually referred to as masiha can be used as a synonym for doctors and paramedics here) is the one by the most often quoted by master poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib which goes as follows:

  • Ibn Mariam hua karey koi

         Merey dukh ki dawa karey koi (Mirza Ghalib)

Besides there are others some of which are quoted here:

  • Mehrbani charasazon ki badhi

         Jab badha darman to bimari badhi (Mubarak Azimabadi)

  • Kaun hai jo nahin hai hajatmand

         Kiski hajat rawa karey koi (Mirza Ghalib)

  • Bedum huye bimar dawa kyon nahin detey

         Tum achey masiha ho shifa kyon nahin detey (Faiz Ahmad Faiz)

  • Kya suna.en jan-ba-lab qaumon ki bimari ka haal

         Dard badhta hi gaya juun juun dava karte rahe (Unknown)

Doctors being at the frontline also means that many are themselves getting infected. There have been reports from Italy to China to India where the doctors and nurses have caught the virus while attending to the patients. Some have even lost their lives in the process. Here are few couplets which describe the situation

  • Charagar bhi jo yun guzar jain

         Phir bimar kiskey ghar jain (Unknown)

However, the most affected section of the society is the poor. It is a fact that the lockdown which has been announced in many countries has hit the poorest the hardest. Already there is news coming of poor dying of hunger because they cannot go out and work and don’t have enough at home to sustain them. The following couplets describe their pain and suffering

  • Sab pareshan hain ki aḳhir kis vaba men vo mire
    Jin ko ġhurbat ke alava koi bimari na thi
    (Hasan Naim)

But this is life. As long we are alive, we have to face one problem or the other. According to Ghalib:

  • Ghamey hasti ka asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaj

         Shama har rang main jalti hain sahar honey tak (Mirza Ghalib)

There is every chance that as it enters stage three of community spread, there will be hardships before it is controlled

  • Ibtedaye ishq hai rota hai kya

          Agey Agey dekhiye hota hai kya (Mir Taqi Mir)

Yes, these are difficult times but this too shall be over. As a poet describes it:

  • Hamesha ek hi alam main hona, ho nahin sakta

         Musalsal ka kahin akar badalna bhi zaruri tha (Muneer niyazi)

It is a lesson for us to realise how vulnerable we are as human beings. This has affected the richest of the countries with the best of the healthcare systems. It’s time to reflect on the purpose of our existence and understand that there is a Supreme Power beyond the super powers of this world who runs the show

  • Hai koi to jisney jahaan hila ke rakh diya

         Lagta tha hamary bin pattey na hilen (Unknown)

We don’t have any choice but to repent and go back to the Creator of the Universe asking for forgiveness, to help us come out of this huge calamity

  • Koi chara nahin dua ke siwa

         Koi suntan nahin khuda ke siwa (Hafeez Jalandhari)

  • Na charagar ki zarurat na kutch dawa ki hai

         Dua ko hath uthao ki gham ki raat hai (Rajender Krishan)

Many of us are wondering why our prayers are not being heard. May be this is the reason

  • Abhi dilon ki tanabon main sakhtiyaan hain bohot

         Abhi hamari dua main asar nahin aaya (Aftab Hussain)

For those who has no time and were always wondering when will they get some respite from their busy schedules and spend some me time, the poet has to say this:

  • Ae merey lamhai naraz kabhi mil to kahin

         Is zamaney se alag hokey guzarun tujhko (Ashgar Abid)

One way of restricting any epidemic (or pandemic) is to isolate those who are affected and not allowing them to move out. Still there are people moving out from their houses as well as moving from one country to another, thus spreading the virus. The following couplet describes the situation and offers advice, that:

  • Jahan jo tha wahin rahna tha usko

         Magar ye log hijrat kar rahey hain (Liyaqat Jafri)

For those of us who are fortunate enough to use the opportunity to spend time with their families and take care of others in these times may echo Mirza Ghalib once all this is over:

  • Ji dhondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din

        Baithey rahen tasawwur e janan kiye hue (Mirza Ghalib)

But till that time comes we have to take all precautions as prescribed by doctors and health experts and cut off ourselves from others as much as possible. Again it is Ghalib who are something to say:

  • Rahiye ab aisi jagah chal kar jahan koi na ho
    Hum-suḳhan koi na ho aur ham-zaban koi na ho
    Be-dar-o-diwar sa ik ghar banaya chahiye
    Koi hum-saya na ho aur pasban koi na ho

These are some of the Urdu couplets which I found relevant to the current situation. Most of the poets names I knew but there are quite a few couplets for which I did not know the name of the poet. Wherever I have written unknown means I don’t know the name of the poet. If any of the reader knows the name of the creator of these couplets, kindly tell me so that I can update. And yes there are hundreds of more such couplets proving again that very few languages in the world can match the subtlety and diversity of topics discussed in Urdu literature and poetry. It is not without reason that Daagh Dehlevi said:

Urdu hai jiska naam hamin jantey hain Daagh

Saarey jahan main dhoom hamari zubaan ki hai

(Daagh Dehlevi)












The Menace of Corona Virus: This too shall pass

It was on 31 December 2019 that China communicated to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about an unknown virus in its industrial city of Wuhan. The world did not take note of this communication. Even in China the belief was that it was recurrence of SARS Virus. However, by January 7, 2020, China ruled out the possibility of SARS and identified a new strain of Coronavirus. Coronavirus is a form of virus which causes a range of disease ranging from mild fever to severe pneumonia. The new virus was called 2019-nCov (now called Covid-19) popularly known as Corona Virus.

On January 11, 2020 China announced first death from the new virus. On January 23, 2020, Wuhan was put on Quarantine. By the beginning of February 2020, several countries started reporting their first cases. Italy was among them. It was on 22 February 2020 that Italy reported its first two deaths. As of today 25 March 2020, there are reportedly more than 400000 cases and 19000 deaths and Italy has surpassed China by huge margin (in fact more than double of China) in number of reported deaths. On 11 March 2020, WHO was forced to declare Covid-19 as pandemic. On 24 March 2020, International Olympic Committee also declared postponing the Olympics beyond 2020 to 2021.

Experts are worried about exponential curve when the cases start doubling almost every day. In the beginning it is still manageable but within a month it becomes almost unmanageable as the experience of Italy shows. This curve can be flattened by taking certain measures such as social distancing. It can be done by avoiding social spaces, keeping distance from each other and avoiding physical contact like handshake.

Strict measures have been put in place by almost all the counties. While some countries have managed to control the spread of disease by putting in control measures and information access to citizens, others were slow in taking decisions. Countries which were slow in taking tough decisions are now forced to take them albeit after the disease has already spread. Then there are places like Hong Kong which took tough measures early on and were able to control the spread but let their guard down a little bit early and saw sudden spike in cases.

Every person is important in this fight against this deadly virus as exemplified by now famous “Patient 31” from South Korea. One of the few affected countries which was able to check the spread of virus is South Korea. The government of South Korea was quick to react. The lessons learnt from MERS came in handy. South Korea tested far more people than any other country. Geo tagging of people who were tested positive was done. Laws were immediately changed. The citizens also cooperated and were ready to trade off some personal liberty for bigger social cause for the time being. The experience of South Korea also highlighted the importance of taking each case seriously. The number of people affected by the virus were around 30. Then came in the Patient Number 31 and by the time she was identified and her weekly routine traced back the number of cases increased more than 50 times within a week and the government was forced to declare highest level of medical emergency in the country. All this because she did not practice social distancing. We have to remember that the Covid-19 has very big ego. It will not come to your house unless you go out and invite it in. However, practicing social distancing is sometimes almost next to impossible. It is possible for upper class or upper middle class and middle class to practice social distancing. It is almost impossible in many poor counties and slums. The population density of slums is way too high for social distancing to be practical. Often 5-10 persons live in one room making social distancing impossible.

Every news channel and every newspaper is talking about it. People are learning new terms like Pandemic, Endemic, Lockdown, Curfew, Quarantine, Community Spread, Super Spreader, Social Distancing, Hazmat Suit etc. The pandemic has affected the whole world. Its affect is being felt in almost every aspect of life. It has tested and exposed medical preparedness of countries. It has exposed the disaster management preparedness of countries. One of the first to affected were schools as they were the first one to be closed. Suddenly teachers, kids and parents learned more about e-learning  in less than a week then what they had learned in their lifetime. It has also led to number of conspiracy theories which are flying around like anything.

Businesses have been severely affected. Supply chains have gone haywire. Production has come to a halt in many places and people have already started losing jobs. However, the biggest sufferer is tourism and allied industries like airlines, hotels, restaurants, tourist guides etc. There are going to be a number of bankruptcies in Airlines industry (flyby of UK is an early example). Stock markets have crashed all over the world. The GDP growth is going to be negatively impacted in each and every country. The biggest losers will be small and medium businesses and daily wagers. Homeless people are particularly vulnerable. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The United States Government is planning a 1 to 2 Trillion US Dollar intervention to help businesses sustain. It is equal to 5% of US GDP. The world has not seen such unprecedented government intervention, perhaps, except during 1930’s recession.

Central banks of more than 50 countries as of today have cut interest rates to support businesses. The European Unions is taking unprecedented fiscal steps to help countries overcome the pandemic. It has taken steps to suspend rules on public deficit, thus allowing countries freedom to inject liquidity into the economy as required.

While covid-19 has brought compassion of common people all over the world to the fore, on the other hand it has also brought fear resulting in racism and discrimination to raise its ugly head. Chinese in Germany and France have reported facing racist slurs and have been spat upon in many cases. So much so that in France, a citizen of Chinese origin has started a hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus which means “I am not a virus”. In India also people from north east have recently faced racist comments such as being called Corona in other parts of India. This is shameful and must immediately stop. On the other hand, we have beautiful stories of people helping total strangers. Who can forget the example of Italian Priest, Don Giuseppe Berardelli, who gave up his ventilator to a younger patient and himself embraced death. It is such stories which restore one’s faith in humanity and gives hope that this too shall pass.

There have been many unintended outcomes of the present crisis. It has forced countries to work together. Japan was one of the first countries to supply medical support to China although they have troubled past and are bitter rivals in many ways. One unlikely positive outcome of the lockdown is the lowering of pollution levels in places previously notorious for high pollution levels. It has allowed families to spend time together which at many places was not possible in the busy schedules. It is forcing people to find new methods and adopt new technologies to work and help each other. More importantly it has made the whole world to realise that at the end we all are equal. It does not matter you are citizen of which country, profess which faith, how rich or poor you are. It has brought everybody at the same level.

Important thing for us is not to panic, help the poor and the needy as much as possible, appreciate family and friends, take government instructions seriously and follow them and last but not least, ponder on the purpose of life beyond money, saving and investment. This too shall pass, Insha’Allah.


Aamir Altaf (18 March 2020) ‘You are Coronavirus’: Students From Northeast India Face Bigotry Over Pandemic. Available at: https://livewire.thewire.in/campus/you-are-coronavirus-students-from-northeast-india-face-bigotry-over-pandemic/. Accessed on 25 March 2020.

Al Jazeera.Com (2020) Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/timeline-china-coronavirus-spread-200126061554884.html. Accessed on 22 March 2020.

Ella Torres (13 March, 2020). Backlash against Asians could hinder efforts to contain coronavirus, expert saysABC News (2020). https://abcnews.go.com/US/backlash-asians-hinder-efforts-coronavirus-expert/story?id=69556008

Emiko Jozuka and Serenitie Wang (26 February 2020) China and Japan’s relationship is thawing in the time of coronavirus. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/25/asia/japan-china-coronavirus-enemies-to-friends-hnk-intl/index.html. Accessed on 28 February 2020.

Harry Stevens (14 March, 2020). Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve”. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/. Assessed on 23 March 2020.

India Today (24 March 2020) Verbally abused, spat at, harassed: Northeastern citizens come under attack amid coronavirus panicAvailable at: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/verbally-abused-spat-at-harassed-northeastern-citizens-come-under-attack-amid-coronavirus-panic-1658826-2020-03-23. Accessed on 25 March 2020.

International Olympic Committee (24 March, 2020) Joint Statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. Available at: https://www.olympic.org/news/joint-statement-from-the-international-olympic-committee-and-the-tokyo-2020-organising-committee. Accessed on 25 March 2020.

James Griffiths (24 March, 2020). Hong Kong appeared to have the coronavirus under control, then it let its guard down. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/hong-kong-appeared-to-have-the-coronavirus-under-control-then-it-let-its-guard-down/ar-BB11z2Ld?ocid=spartanntp. Accessed on 24 March 2020.

Japan Times (March 2020) How one patient turned South Korea’s virus outbreak into an epidemic. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/27/asia-pacific/science-health-asia-pacific/south-korea-coronavirus-epidemic/#.XnnDeW5uKUk. Accessed on 24 March 2020.

Kelly Kasulis (3 March, 2020)’Patient 31′ and South Korea’s sudden spike in coronavirus cases. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/31-south-korea-sudden-spike-coronavirus-cases-200303065953841.html. Accessed on 24 March 2020.

Lora Jones, David Brown & Daniele Palumbo (20 March 2020). Coronavirus: A visual guide to the economic impact. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51706225. Accessed on 24 March 2020.

Megha Rajagopalan (4 March, 2020) Men Yelling “Chinese” Tried To Punch Her Off Her Bike. She’s The Latest Victim Of Racist Attacks Linked To Coronavirus. Available at: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/meghara/coronavirus-racism-europe-covid-19. Accessed on 4 March 2020.

Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman (2020). Available at: https://www.moh.gov.om/en/corona. Accessed on 23 March 2020.

Ryan W. Miller (24 March 2020) Italian priest with coronavirus who gave his ventilator to younger patient has reportedly died. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/03/24/covid-19-italian-priest-who-donated-his-ventilator-has-reportedly-died/2906351001/. Accessed on 24 March 2020.

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel (24 March2020)’How can there be social distancing in slums?’. Available at: https://www.rediff.com/news/special/how-can-there-be-social-distancing-in-slums/20200324.htm. Accessed on 24 March 2020

World Health Organisation (12 March 2020). WHO announces COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/news/news/2020/3/who-announces-covid-19-outbreak-a-pandemic. Accessed on 12 March 2020.