Sufi Poetry Recognizing the Sacred Female

Edip Harabi, a Turkish Sufi-Poet of the 19th c., writes to reclaim the women’s voice in ‘man’s world’ (A Male Sufi writing from the prespective of a woman)

O’ Muhammad, they say we are inferior. Where is it men got this mistaken idea?
They disgrace the Prophet’s family with their false claims and blasphemy.

Our Mother Eve, is she not a woman? Beloved Khadija is she not a woman?
The Prophet’s daughter Fatima, is ehe not a woman? Is the Quran not full of praise of them?

These pure consorts of the pure heart can they be any less?
Whoever calls women inferior cannot reach the Truth.
You wouldn’t expect these ideas from one who knows.
Who is it that gave birth to all these Prophets of Truth?

God didn’t do anything absurd in creating us.
We don’t accept being seen as somehow less.
Women raised every saint that has walked the earth.
I dare you to accept this.

Don’t think this world can’t exist without men.
Think of Mother Mary just once: She gave birth to the glorious Christ, fatherless.
O’ mankind, we are more courageous than yourself because we show respect to you out of love.

We travel together with you on the Path, leave all these claims behind!
We may look different to you in your dresses.
In reality we are not trailing behind you.
And we warn you, we don’t consider it courageous to claim we are inferior.

Did Muhammad, the Chosen, come from a lesser being?
Did Ali, the Valiant, come from a lesser being?
Beware! Do not call your mother inferior.
What she prays at night might change your life forever.
Listen carefully to the speech of Zehra.
O’ men and knowers of Truth tell us:
Did we not give birth to all the masters who led you on God’s Way?

From Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi’s Blog which all of you should check out at

Edip Harabi

Waris Husain: Law and Humanity (when we lose our humanity to the letter of the law)

In the aftermath of the Pakistani Supreme Court decision to free five out of the six men accused of gang raping Mukhtar Mai, some are angered at the Court while others claim this decision was based on sound legal argument and precedent. This case reveals an instance where humans innately feel that injustice has been carried out by their judicial body, regardless of what the letter of the law states. But in modern legal thought, the abject focus on cold rationality represses the judge’s innate sensibility of right and wrong based on their love of humanity. However, the instinctual reflex in favor of justice and equality that judges posses when confronting an unjust law is embodied in the Constitution itself and must be understood more comprehensively than mere logic allows.

The case of Mukhtaran Mai displays how a legal decision may be well-grounded in law, but directly conflicts with our love for our fellow man/ woman. The story goes that Mukhtaran Mai’s family had a dispute with a higher ranking family, and the local jirga decided that she would issue an apology to the high ranking family and there would be a marriage between families. However, when Mukhtaran Mai arrived at the home to issue the apology, she was brutally dragged inside, gang raped by several men, and thrown out into the street naked as a hundred onlookers stood present.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan decided that due to a lack of evidence, only one man could be convicted of the brutal gang rape of this young girl. The case was originally brought under the Hudood Ordinance, which requires the victim to produce four Muslim males who witnessed the actual penetration in order to convict a defendant of rape. Thereafter, the Women’s Protection bill allowed for alternative evidence to be offered such as DNA. However, the courts inPakistanhave continually dealt with a lack of evidence in these cases for two reasons, both of which played a role in the innocent verdict for Mukhtaran Mai’s abusers.

First, local authorities do not conduct proper investigations for accusations of rape, and offer little protection to the victim, which leads to intimidation and violence against the victim and her family. This has created an atmosphere where most rapes go unreported, as victims know they will not be assisted or protected by the state, and the judges are well aware of this frightening trend.

Secondly, the prosecution of rape laws remains ineffective as the Hudood Ordinance continues to cast a shadow on the judgment of courts, which levy injustice after injustice against women. The evidentiary bar for a rape conviction was originally set at an impossible level of four male corroborating witnesses. This was based on a sexist and unjust logic: while the male rapist can individually deny the act occurred, the female victim’s allegations are four times as unlikely to be true, requiring four males to verify the rape occurred. This perception of the untruthfulness of female testimony continues to infect the court as it devalues DNA evidence and testimony from the victim, even though many nations give deference to the victim’s testimony in rape cases.

Yet, despite the inherent injustice in all of this, many have shown deference to the court for asserting its authority by following its precedent cases and the law. Indeed, Musharraf Zaidi, a columnist I hold in high regard, stated that a judge’s job is to execute the law not to act on emotion. This is the central argument under which the jurisprudence of theU.S.andPakistanhas developed, where one must uphold the status quo of the court’s prior decision in order to maintain stability and assert the authority of the Court. Thus, the training of lawyers focuses on repressing, as much as possible, their innate sense of humanity, fairness, and equity- replacing it with whatever status quo policy has been adopted earlier in time, regardless of its injustice.

Though scholars in the legal field pretend that their decisions are not subject to their own personal bias, it is difficult for any human with the job of interpreting words not to add their own subjectivity to the decision. Instead of attempting to cover up this subjectivity and giving it different names, an honest legal mind must accept its effect. Thus, inPakistan, when it came to issues that the judges of the Supreme Court were personally interested in, they found constitutional principles to challenge the political status quo. Yet, when it comes to the right of a woman to face her rapists in court, the Court is less willing to honor its belief in the equality of human beings.

The Court could have easily relied on constitutional principles that buttressed a sentiment of equality in the face of the unjust evidentiary bar set by for women in rape cases.  Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees the inviolability of the dignity of man, which is clearly violated whenever a woman’s accusations of rape go unpunished by the court because she can’t produce four witnesses.  Article 25 guarantees equality of all citizens and even permits for the state to make special provisions to protect women and children. Such a principle lays the foundation for the legal argument in favor of pursuing justice for Mukhtaran Mai even in the face of some evidentiary inadequacies.

The spirit of fairness inherent in human beings and the cold-rationality of the law are opposite ends of a spectrum, on which a judge should be in the middle. Both can equally guide one to make a decision that preserves the authority of the court while also pursuing justice. However, by focusing on upholding the letter of the Hudood Ordinance, the judges attempted to rely on a false veil between the law and their innate sense of right and wrong.

For legal and non-legal thinkers alike, it is important to value their innate feelings of equality and humanity rather than suppress them, as many are trained to do. The internal moral compass can help to guide a judge to the right decision when used alongside rationality and logic. The Constitution is the legal source which embodies humanistic principles, as it is created to improve the lives of citizens and promote fairness. Thus, when confronted with the requirements of the misogynistic laws which would lead to an unjust result, judges must trust their sensibility and utilize constitutional principles that truly promote equality and the pursuit of justice.


Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

Sovereign of the Week: Zahida Kazmi (Pakistan’s only female cab driver)

Story Published in BBC

Zahida Kazmi has been hailed as Pakistan’s first female taxi driver. She has driven from the crowded markets of Islamabad to the remote tribal country in the north. Here she tells Nosheen Abbas about her two decades in a male-dominated world.

In 1992 at the age of 33, newly widowed Zahida Kazmi decided to take her fate in her own hands and become a taxi driver. Born into a conservative and patriarchal Pakistani family, she flew in the face of her family’s wishes but with six children to support, she felt she had no choice.

She took advantage of a government scheme in which anybody could buy a brand new taxi in affordable instalments. She bought herself a yellow cab and drove to Islamabad airport every morning to pick up passengers. In a perilous and unpredictable world, Zahida at first kept a gun in the car for her own protection and she even started off by driving her passengers around wearing a burqa, a garment that covers the entire body.

Her initial fears soon dissipated. “I realised that I would scare passengers away,” she said. “So then I only wore a hijab [head covering]. Eventually I stopped covering my head because I got older and was well-established by then.”

Exposing herself to the hot, bustling city streets of Islamabad and by driving to the rocky and remote districts adjoining Pakistan’s tribal areas, Zahida says she learned a lot about the country she lived in and its people. The Pathans of the tribal north-west, despite a reputation for fierce male pride and inflexibility, treated her with immense courtesy on her journeys.

Eventually she became the chairperson of Pakistan’s yellow cab association. Once she was established, she offered to teach young women how to drive taxis, but there was little interest. Even her daughters didn’t express enthusiasm. “They don’t need to make a living,” she says wistfully. “They are all married.”  Zahida is not one of Pakistan’s metropolitan liberal middle class – there are plenty of educational and career opportunities for privileged women in Pakistan but not for women from Zahida’s background.

Pakistan has an exceptionally low number of women in work: 33.7% according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Most women who work come under the category of “unpaid family workers”. Pakistan’s legal system does little to protect women, so harassment is commonplace. Campaigners say it is little wonder that women do not choose livelihoods that make them even more vulnerable. “Girls shy away from non-traditional jobs in a setting where there is a particular mindset… of intimidation,” says Anees Haroon, chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women in Pakistan.

‘Curious and amazed’

But had Zahida been starting out now, things would be quite different as she would be entering the workforce in a country torn between the forces of liberalism and Islamic radicalism. Pakistan in 1992 was a more moderate place: it was opening up to the world; the dish antenna had been introduced; Pakistan had won the cricket world cup. Zahida says society felt fairly open to her.

But the Taliban presence in many parts of Pakistan has intensified over the years. Zahida has had to drive long distances on treacherous routes to northern areas such as Balakot, Chitral, Dir and even the Swat valley. “Police at checkposts would be interested in why I was driving a taxi, but they were simply curious and amazed,” she said.

Passengers seek her out as well. Adnan Waseem, a businessman from Haripur, told me that he always books Zahida for his journeys. “I saw her and the first thought that came to my mind was that she’s my mother’s age. I liked her driving and in these days where one feels insecure in Pakistan I felt very relaxed,” he said.

Another traveller, Sohail Mazhar, had to be driven through rocky terrain up to the northern city of Abbottabad. “Even the policemen who stopped us at security checkpoints also knew her… we were so happy to see a woman driving a taxi.” Although Zahida has been feted for being Pakistan’s first female taxi-driver, she still has many bitter memories of her struggles as a single mother working hard on the road.

Her own mother disapproved of her career choice and only resentfully accepted it when the media gave her positive coverage. And she is estranged from her children now. “I am old now and I get tired. It’s hard for me to drive all the time but what can I do? My sons don’t help,” she said. “If I had a chance I would have become a doctor.” Just as she said that to me, a passing taxi driver stopped his car and got out to reverentially greet Zahida. Despite her travails, she is clearly a respected presence on the streets of Islamabad.